Archive | Book Matters

Life as a Ladies Humor Paperback

Yesterday a 23-year old-woman asked me what I’d tell my younger self if I could go back in time. “Moisturize your neck,” I answered promptly. “My neck is like Dorian Gray’s picture.” After she walked away, clearly disappointed, I realized I’d turned into one of the Erma Bombeck paperbacks I’d scoop up at yard sales as a child. Or am I now a Nora Ephron? Whatever, man. The grass is always greener over the septic tank.

Dear Delia: A Reading List of Dissent and Love

Recently, my fourteen-year-old goddaughter, Delia, asked for a reading list. I knew she was serious because she sent the request by snail mail – the millennial equivalent of engraving a message in stone. “I didn’t even vote for this president and he’s ruining my future,” she wrote. “I need books to get woke.” Obviously, an equally serious response was in order – one that acknowledged the gravity of our national turmoil without exacerbating her fears. So with the help of far smarter friends, I assembled a primer of essential “consciousness-raisers” that are neither condescending nor obtusely phrased, and I organized them into three categories I thought might appeal to her. I think this list will support resisters of all ages, for one of literature’s greatest services is to re-rear the scared, angry kids we each carry inside us. But in the spirit of James Baldwin’s epistolary essay, “Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation,” the “you” to whom I refer is my goddaughter in the wake of the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. Continue Reading →

The Church of Rilke’s Door

It’s been a while since I played literary tarot, in which you randomly plunk a finger on a page of a book randomly opened and read whatever turns up. But after a hot, clattering Saturday in the city, I had a beautifully unfettered, beautifully long sleep under freshly laundered sheets, and I’m feeling magical.

Here’s what a page from Rilke’s Stories of God has to say.

The moment they passed out of the door they were changed men. They walked in the middle of the street, a little separated from each other. Their countenances still showed traces of their recent laughter, that strange disorder of the features, but the eyes of all three were already serious and observant. They understood at once.

This I love, for as much as I hate hallways, I adore emerging from them, and open doors have been featuring prominently in my superconsciousness. I read this passage as a confirmation of my last dream and of an omen visited upon one of my favorite sirens recently. I’m tucking it my pocket as I venture into this cool, dreamy morning.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy