February 10, 2016

Ack, having one of those times where I somehow get myself reading like 10 books at a time! Putting them ALL down for a DO-OVER, allowing myself one fiction—The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood—and one non-fiction—F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice For Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems by Harvard trained psychiatrist Michael Bennett and his comedy writer daughter Sarah Bennett (there is no chance a book with that title is not being plucked off the library book shelf by me!).

For now, two of my recent reads:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This is one of those books I had in my queue but then picked up on a whim knowing I wasn’t going to be able to put it down and probably finish in two days. Yip. Fabulous. 

Wonder, a children’s novel, is the story of August Pullman (I think I’ve loved every book I’ve ever read with a character named August, Auggie, Augustus, and definitely Augusten…), a ten year old starting fifth grade in a mainstream school for the first time. Before now Auggie has been homeschooled due to medical and social issues surrounding his severe facial deformity, and entering his new school is in itself an act of raw courage. He is a character you love right from the first page when he reveals that he considers himself ordinary despite the fact that kids run screaming from him in playgrounds, and that he won’t describe what he looks like but, “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

As Auggie begins to navigate life among peers, more themes emerge than I would have ever thought could be so deftly handled by an author in one book (and from different perspectives as the book has several narrators): friendship, compassion, bullying, kindness, betrayal, forgiveness, loyalty, guilt, unconditional love, selflessness, community, respect, excitement, fear, empathy, acceptance, inspiration.

Besides Auggie, there are so many characters to love in this book: his sweet friend Summer, goofy friend Jack Will, protective sister Via, devoted dad Nate, wise principal Mr. Tushman, encouraging teacher Mr. Browne, but the one I felt most connected to was Auggie’s mom, Isabel. Every mother walks the earth with a part of her heart outside her chest. But sending August to school because she wants him to live his best life required Isabel to hold her beating heart in the outstretched palm of her hand. She was the picture of love.

I think there could fairly be some criticism of Wonder presenting too many lovable, supportive characters, too neat a story line and triumphant ending for what someone who looks like August would actually face in reality. I was more than willing to suspend my disbelief. It was beautiful.

 

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

I was never a fan of Gilbert’s mega-hit, Eat, Pray, Love, but I very much like her public persona, and I really wanted to like Big Magic, a book of reflection, advice, and encouragement for living creatively. And…

Yay!

Some of her thoughts that particularly resonated with me: 

A few of the dichotomies of creating: “Creativity is sacred, it is not sacred; What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all; We are terrified, and we are brave.”

Creativity is probably enhanced best by not expecting it to make a living from it.

You don’t have to suffer to create, and creating doesn’t have to make you suffer.

And best of all: “Recognizing this reality—that the reaction doesn’t belong to you—is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? If people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud?” [Or I might add in my case, one of your best friends of 25 years completely severs your relationship with no more than, “Your book hurt my feelings.”?] “Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

So there’s some wonder and magic, now on to dystopia and f*cking feelings. Alrighty then!

Happy Reading! 

LP