The Secret Life of Objects/Dawn Raffel: Reflections

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Long ago, in my snowy city, Dawn Raffel read from her then-new novel in a Walnut Street bookstore.  No, Dawn did not read from her book.  She evoked it, reciting the words without ever once consulting the bound pages before her.  It was extraordinary.  A writer in tune with the rhythms of her story.  A book night I will always remember. 

Just as I will always remember my own sweet yesterday afternoon as I read Dawn's new book, The Secret Life of Objects, to myself. This enchanting Jaded Ibis Press production, illustrated by Dawn's son, Sean Evers, is a suite of miniature essays about things—found things, lost things, remembered and misremembered things.  The rocking chair.  The lock of hair. The nesting bowls.  The moonstone ring.  The glass angel.  The father's hat.  It is an exploration of attachments, a series of prose poems, a little bit of memoir as well as commentary on memoir.  It's an archeological dig, of sorts.  It's scrapbook and philosophy.

And it is so easy to love.   Its sweet brevity.  It's uncoiled profundity.  It's kindness toward others.

Secret Life is an original book, destined, I think, for classic status.  It's a perfect teaching book; I know precisely how I'll use it next spring at Penn.  For now I share the essay that hit me hardest.  It's a paragraph, only, three sentences.  It is the right enough:

The Frogs

My husband saw me looking in the window of a store at five wooden Balinese frogs, each playing a musical instrument.  A week later, on our anniversary, those frogs were on our bed.  This is why we're married.


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