Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

This lovely little book, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, is exactly what it says it is, although I think it would be a mistake to read the word “ordinary” as, well, ordinary. It’s only ordinary in the sense that no doubt, many many people have lives such as this, which she chronicles in Encyclopedia form, and includes numerous details about what goes on in the life and the mind of an “ordinary” person like herself. I think she is being somewhat humble, in that her life is a little less than ordinary – she’s a wonderful observer of herself, of life, of the small details, but I think she has a great gift for engaging with her readers and the world – she left 150 numbered copies of her book around Chicago for people to find, asking them to report back to her on where they found it, and there are numerous points in the book where she invites the reader to respond in one way or another, at one point offering to Fedex a home-baked pie to the 100th person to write in, or to send samples of her favorite perfume to the first hundred readers. Anyway, I couldn’t put it down because it’s the kind of book that’s so easy to relate to, and even if you disagree with her, it makes you think about what your opinion is on all the things she writes about, and want to write them down yourself. (Look for this in posts to come, although my posts are already on the Krouse-Rosenthalish, if Cranesque, side, which is probably why I like her so much.) Plus, and getting back to the original point, her life isn’t all happy and shiny, it’s “ordinary” – she grows up, makes mistakes, has kids, has opinions and feelings, people die or get sick. Ordinary. Above all I think this is a book about joy – which is a subject I have been increasingly interested in and so am really glad to see it captured so well here – but it’s a lot about really small joys, what seem to some like the mundane details of life, and also about how it’s almost impossible to separate out the sadness from the joy and that’s fine, even when it doesn’t seem like it’s fine.

Super weird PS that is very AKR-like: When I put in the link to Powell's for her book, right under her book there's a suggestion from Powell's to check out my own book!

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