While I am on track with my reading, I have become wildly and embarrassingly behind on my reviews.
My 2017 reviews will definitely spill into 2018, but I am working on getting them out as quickly and frequently as possible! (AKA I will be invading your inboxes over the next couple of weeks),
My 2018 list and 2017 recap will be posted on the 1st.
Happy Holidays and have a wonderful New Year, everyone!
One of my favorite books from last year, and the inspiration for my end of year personal essay, was Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. I applauded Lawson for her bravery and wit as she tackles and relates her battles with mental health. She became a hero of mine; up in the ranks of Carrie Fisher. This year I am thrilled to have found another fiercely witty and courageous babe to add to that list: Sabrina Benaim.
I discovered Sabrina Benaim via Button Poetry’s social media (check them out here and here and here, and support up and coming poets) at 2:30AM while feeling anxious and descending the Facebook video rabbit hole. Most things I grow to love during the wee hours of insomnia end up meaning nothing to me after a solid night’s sleep, Ms. Benaim’s words were for keeps. I ordered Depression & Other Magic Tricks the second it came out.
Benaim’s collection beautifully and poignantly captures the day to day realities of living with depression, anxiety, and, well, the general emotional stresses of being human. She is uninhibited in expressing her truth, quirks, and struggles; and does so with a welcoming warmth as if she were saying “these words aren’t just for me – I want you to feel less alone.” While Benaim’s words can break your heart, you can take comfort in the strength that comes from her level of unbridled honesty. It isn’t easy for anyone to speak up, speak out, and create art that screams “this is who I am at my most vulnerable;” oddly enough, society as a whole tends to judge those who openly own their personal messes as weak instead of applauding them for being bold enough to do so. Benaim’s vulnerability throughout Depression & Other Magic Tricks is stunning, sharp, empowering, and, at all the right times, hilarious. She uses her words wisely and purposefully; she uses them to make sure she is heard. To make sure you are heard.
I could go on all day about how brilliant I think Depression & Other Magic Tricks is, and how in awe I am of Benaim’s creativity, pluck, and heart – but, you should experience all that Sabrina Benaim has to offer for yourself. If reading poetry isn’t your thing, I strongly, STRONGLY, recommend watching Sabrina Benaim’s readings. I look forward to witnessing this incredible woman grow into her art even more.
the loneliest sweet potato (watch here)
explaining my depression to my mother a conversation (video that made me fall in love: here)
seven small ways in which I loved myself this week
the slow now (watch here)
Rating: 4 Condiment Aisle Tap Dances
I started writing the review for John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany 10 times. Literally. I’d get a sentence in, and then lose all direction. It has been frustrating. To be clear, I enjoyed the book. More than enjoyed, I devoured all 600 pages in two days. I am a longtime fan of John Irving; he’s the king of New England (catch that reference?). I blame A Prayer for Owen Meany for why I am so behind on my reviews; for a while I refused to write anything else until I could justly capture and comprehend the mess of feelings I have for this magical little boy.
I am a compassionate person, but I am known for tamping down this quality in myself and frequently default to cynicism and eye rolling at writings of the saccharin and sappy nature. My sense of romance and magic is offbeat (as mentioned in my review of The Princess Bride). I do, though, have an embarrassingly large soft spot for Meg Ryan romcoms (pre Kate & Leopold), but that’s a whole different bag of self-contradiction to unpack. After doing some digging, I realized this is why I had difficulty reviewing A Prayer for Owen Meany. I didn’t want to admit that the damn kid got to me. He got to me hard. And he got to me on a very personal level.
The reason John Irving is so popular in American culture is his ability to highlight the good in humanity without overselling it. None of Irving’s characters are perfect or one dimensional. They exhibit compassion and the capacity to grow. A Prayer for Owen Meany uses it’s titular character to bring out that compassion in those who surround him. As much as it would be easy for one to say that an Owen Meany type is such an extreme character, he could never exist in the real world. The truth is, we’ve all come across that person (or persons) in our lives; the ones who display that little bit of magic and inspire us to be more open with our benevolence; the ones who remind us there are no tragedies or shortcomings (no pun intended) so large that we should forget what it means to extend a hand to others; the ones that unite us through our love of them. The ones who are simply too good for this world.
A Prayer for Owen Meany hit on something specific to my life, and Irving sold me on his portrayal of it. So I don’t want to taint this beautiful and cathartic moment with addressing the weaknesses of the novel, though there are some. All I want to say is, if ever there was a time we needed the Owen Meanys of the world, it is now. So do yourself a favor and introduce yourself to him, and pay his magic forward.
Rating: 4 Armadillos
I dedicate this review to CD. All of those who knew you, even if just for a moment, use their hearts to love a little stronger, extend a little further, and embrace a little wider, because of the magic you brought to our lives. Your goodness will always live on.