In this sweet month of books, Leslie Jamison (THE EMPATHY EXAMS) thrills me, too

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I said I would give myself August just to be. To read the books I choose to read. To think the thoughts I choose to think. To daydream. To celebrate the achievements of others.

To chase nothing that cannot wait until September.

To worry not about mounting bills, disappearing clients, uncertainties.

To let the world come to me, which is to say all those hummingbirds, and so many wonderful friends, and conversations with my son, and a stirring quiet thrill over the art my husband is making, which I will, in time, share with you.

And what a glorious few weeks it has been. Not just the conversations, but the books—one outstanding book after another (it all began with Anthony Doerr) after another and more and more. The tiny blue bucket of my life had gone catastrophically dry. There is the gentle slosh of water once more.

Today I read Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams. Today I marvel at her precision—these memoiristic essays, these life investigations, these raw enchantments of ideas. How do we care for others? How do we respond to quiet hopes and shrill demands?

There's just so much here. But for today, right now, this, from a conversation Jamison has with Merve Emre in Paris Review Daily. The sort of thing that I must read at once to the next students I have, in the month that won't be August.
In certain ways, as a writer, you do profit off your own experiences of pain. There's an inspirational way to see that profit—turning pain into beauty—and a cynical way to see it—"wound dwelling" in some corrosive or self pitying way. For me, the honest vision dwells somewhere in between.


Lindsey said...

Love the idea of your August! And was very moved by Jamison's book. xoxo

Serena said...

I'm so glad that you have taken August to just be and to read what you want!

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I love that quotation because I think those are not just two ways to view pain in writing, but they are two ways we experience pain in life. Sometimes we learn from it; it serves as a gateway to something larger or more important. Other times we get stuck in it.

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