This is me:
Since joining Blair last fall as the Sales & Marketing Intern, I’ve graduated to Publicist. This is me publicizing:
I hope you all have enjoyed The Book that Smacked Me Upside the Head series. Everyone at Blair has been a great sport, and I’m so grateful to work with such easily suggestible people. And because they’ve been so honest about discussing their life-changing books, I think I should repay them by ‘fessing up to my own. So here it goes:
World, I’m a voyeur.
Ok, that sounds bad. Let me clarify. Not this kind of voyeur:
More like this kind of voyeur:
One of the first books I remember finding and buying on my own, a truly independent adventure, was Sharon Olds’s The Unswept Room. I was in junior high and was both shocked and enthralled by the intimate details she included in her poetry. I couldn’t believe she walked around in the world without a permanent blush! (For those who aren’t poetry nerds, Sharon Olds could be classified as a present day confessional poet in the vein of Sylvia Plath.) Bottom line, I was hooked. I wanted to know everything about everyone’s personal lives (including my writing professors who became completely different people in their books and the perfect source of gossip with my other writing friends).
Eventually, I expanded my voyeurism from poetry to creative non-fiction, where I found another book that changed my life–The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. In this book, she recounts the year following the death of her husband and revisits the event again and again, sometimes with clinical distance and at other times with emotional desperation. She ties in their daughter’s illness, who at the time of John’s death was in a hospital, unconscious and suffering from pneumonia and septic shock. But the book becomes more than a portrait of Didion’s marriage or a cry for answers. She reflects on what it means to age, exploring how John’s presence changed the way she saw herself: “Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time. For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age.” In addition to coming to terms with his death, she must also reconcile herself as an older woman, not a girl in her twenties. And she finds herself with “magical thinking.” She writes, “We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes.”
I admit that it’s pretty dark to spend your nights and weekends reading about death and grief, but reading books like Didion’s helps me to understand myself and the human condition. It brings home poignant thoughts like “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” It’s admirable for an author to write this honestly; doing so makes reading an intimate experience, a chance for the reader to peer into the lives and thoughts of others. But to me, this very voyeurism is the reason why books are important. It makes us see the world and ourselves in a new way. Being #booksmacked shapes us.
This blog took a pretty hard right turn into seriousville so happy booksmacking!