From The Odyssey to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, here's what I read over the summer and how it did (or didn't) change my life.
I look forward to a time when we bust the categories — male, female, black, white, gay, straight — wide open to make room for the complicated, contradictory, nuanced experiences that live inside and between those boxes.
What if you Instagrammed not the Martha-Stewart-worthy antipasto you crafted with radish rosettes and a frisée garnish, but the clotted, eggy mess that was your first pass at omelet-making?
If you navigate life by GPS, what happens to the ability to find your way by intuition and memory, by landmarks that, over time, acquire totemic significance?
We learn others’ languages to remember that we are not the hubs of the universe, that different people have their own disparate experiences, their own idiosyncratic modes of expression. When you learn a second language, you glimpse your own strangeness.
Poetry isn’t a cure, and it isn’t a miracle. But there are words, phrases, whole poems that — in the grimmest, loneliest, most broken moments of my life — have offered me a tiny lozenge of light.
These sixth-graders knew about ducking from danger; they live on tragic turf (sorry, no table for alliterations, either). They go to school in a city whose violent crime rate in 2012 was three times the national average, a place where nearly 30 percent of the residents squat below the poverty line. And when they wrote, their poems blistered with loss.
There we were, reading an 18th-century poem on a smartphone while driving an electric car past lava tubes that, two million years ago, bubbled with volcano guts. Suddenly, time felt not like a continuum, but more like a pleated fabric, the long-ago pressed hotly against the now.
We all carry self-fulfilling stories, tapestries of what we’ve been told, where we’ve triumphed and where we’ve gone wrong. The stories can boost us, but just as easily they can halt us mid-step. They shut us up. They keep us on the tame side of creativity, of daring.
It would be easy to skewer all this as one more sick sign of commerce gone amok. But hold on just a moment, and think of your grandmothers. Or mine.