My favorite reading from the month of February…
Essay Collection: Tell Me More
Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan is smart and funny and humble and insightful. Corrigan’s essays made me laugh and cry and gasp, and highlight, highlight, highlight. They’re cathartic in the very best way: I feel both drained and refreshed when I put the book down for the night.
Corrigan on her pre-teen daughters:
I have to come clean here: something terrible happens to me when my girls cry, more so now than when they were infants and I was able to remind myself that crying was their only method of communication. I didn’t like it back then, who does?, but, aided by what Edward dubbed a Red Lobster pour of icy cold sauvignon blanc each evening at five, I managed. Now? Crying that indicates existential pain? The possible onslaught of unhappiness? Isolation, despair? That kind of crying is more threatening to me than a lump in my breast. It’s like being skinned alive.
Lorrie Moore is one of my favorites. I admire everything she writes (which is mostly short stories). The story that haunts me the most is “People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babblings in Peed Onk.” It’s part of her collection Birds of America, but this link includes the full text (you’ll find it under the introduction and study questions).
The narrator on the discovery that her baby has cancer:
Perhaps, she thinks, she is being punished: too many baby-sitters too early on. (“Come to Mommy! Come to Mommy-Baby-sitter!” she used to say. But it was a joke!) Her life, perhaps, bore too openly the marks and wigs of deepest drag. Her unmotherly thoughts had all been noted: the panicky hope that his nap would last longer than it did; her occasional desire to kiss him passionately on the mouth (to make out with her baby!); her ongoing complaints about the very vocabulary of motherhood, how it degraded the speaker (“Is this a poopie onesie! Yes, it’s a very poopie onesie!”). She had, moreover, on three occasions used the formula bottles as flower vases. She twice let the Baby’s ears get fudgy with wax. A few afternoons last month, at snacktime, she placed a bowl of Cheerios on the floor for him to eat, like a dog. She let him play with the Dustbuster. Just once, before he was born, she said, “Healthy? I just want the kid to be rich.” A joke, for God’s sake!
This is Water is actually a commencement speech that David Foster Wallace gave in 2005 (the PDF of his speech is here and a longer version is available here). Yoga teacher Benjamin Sears said this essay embodied yoga, and I completely agree, although Wallace never even mentions the practice. It’s a short piece about how to live, and how to think, and it’s extraordinary.
Wallace on being aware:
Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.
What did you read this month? I’m always looking for a recommendation…