What we hear.

Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.

 

Norton Juster

 The Phantom Tollbooth

I have started quietly reading…

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Jesmyn Ward has won the National Book Award for Fiction twice here in the US. The first time was for Salvage the Bones (2011) and the second is for this book released last year. Ward is the only female author to win the award more than once. Last year she also received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” Her essays and other nonfiction work have received high praise as well.

I don’t actually remember all that much about Salvage the Bones, but I remember feeling like it didn’t make much of impression on me. I am, however, excited to read this novel. I have enjoyed the first few pages which introduce us to biracial 13 year old JoJo and some of the complicated male and female family figures in his life in Mississippi–all of whom occupy a decaying, dreamy and malevolent landscape.

A lot has changed in America between the writing of Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing. This feels like a book of its time.

My fiction book group selected this novel as our book for June. I have five days to read it to be ready for our discussion next week.

I will be reading it quietly.

And I will be reading it quickly.

 

On a Sunday, I am quietly reading…

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I have had this book on my radar for several years. It was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize as well as the 2015 National (US) Book Award and came highly recommended by friends. A Little Life weighs in at over 800 pages, making it a nonstarter for my book group. The challenge has been to sneak into my reading schedule while also reading our group choice for the month. While it has received many accolades it has also derisively been described as “abuse porn” for it’s truly harrowing depiction of childhood trauma.

It took me a while to get into this novel about a group of four male friends who meet in college. But 294 pages into it I am finding that it is one of the most absorbing and affecting books that I have ever read; love, friendship, connection, trauma, survival, brotherly bonds, what it means to be a family.

The Guardian UK recently had an excellent article about the author, Hanya Yanagihara, who is also a senior editor at the New York Times.

Don’t try to read this one on a bus to work or in a busy cafe.

Set aside some time to quietly read A Little Life.