Friday, June 19, 2015

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

I am in the middle of All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews and am really enjoying it.

Several years ago, my partner and I discovered Miriam Toews on a trip to Canada when we found and her book Complicated Kindness. Reading this one now reminds me what a good writer she is.


Here are a few passages from All My Puny Sorrows that I love. In this one, I love how this woman takes care of her old dog...

Shadow the dog is too old and arthritic to run but is still very excited by the idea of running so Julie plays a game she calls Run for Shadow and it involves her saying things like shed or fence and then running there herself while Shadow sits still in the yard and barks excitedly. When Julie has exhausted herself playing Run for Shadow she plops down beside me on the back steps and finishes her cigar.

In this next passage, Yoli talks to Elf, her older sister, who is in the hospital after trying to commit suicide...

I came across a man playing his guitar in the park the other day and a lot of people, just people who happened to be in the park, were singing softly with him, so beautifully. I stopped to listen for a while.

What was the song? asked Elf.

I don't know, I said, one line I remember was we all have holes in our hearts. Or maybe he said lives. We all have holes in our lives. And this impromptu choir of park people singing along with him, repeating the lines we all have holes in our lives...we all have holes in our lives...

And then I thought that people like to talk about their pain and loneliness but in disguised ways. Or in ways that are sort of organized but not really. I realized that when I try to start conversations with people, just strangers on the street or in the grocery store, they think I'm exposing my pain or loneliness in the wrong way and they get nervous. But then I saw the impromptu choir repeating the line about everyone having holes in their lives, and so beautifully, so gently and with such acceptance and even joy, just acknowledging it, and I realized that there are ways to do it, just not the ones I'd been trying.

So now you're going to stop talking to random strangers? asked Elf.

I guess so, I said. That's why you're so lucky to have your piano.

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