I write to you from Chicago where I am waiting for my next train to NYC. On my trek I’ve already finished two books: 1) Everything Happens for a Reason and other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler and 2) Three Poems by John Ashbery.
Bowler’s book caught my eye because of the appendix in the back– something about things to never say to someone who is dying / sick. Bowler is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at the age of 35 with a 2 year old son and husband. She has her dream job at Duke University and suddenly loses control of her whole life.
Her age is striking as part of the story, since she is terminal, but her voice is only graceful. Her sense of humor feels like it must be part of our generation– to laugh off the awful and continue despite the horror. Kate’s story reminded me that we never know what problems will come our way, but it is in our response that we can thrive through the worst.
Kate is a historian who studies the prosperity gospel, which is a concept she weaves throughout her narrative– she is married to a Mennonite, and their culture and family rituals are also deeply integrated into Kate’s story. It’s a beautiful piece of writing that also will make you laugh.
Ashbery’s Three Poems caught me by surprise– The first, “The New Spirit” is over 50 pages but if you keep the title in mind you start to feel like the poem is about a new era– a new approach to living? The second, “The System” was my favorite — it totally captured me for it’s also 50+ pages. I felt like this poem was about “the way things are” and I think Ashbery does a good job of capturing that feeling through this long poem. Lastly, “The Recital” is considerably shorter but rounds out the first two poems– drawing us conclusively towards love, which is a central theme of all three works.
Why is Ashbery so good?
I have an advanced reader called The Farm by Joanne Ramos that I might dig into on my last leg tonight and tomorrow. I saw my library already had it on the “new fiction” shelf so I am hopeful!
Hope your summer reading is off to a good start.