REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books

‘The Book of Delights’ By Ross Gay, Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 288 pages, hardcover, 2019, $23.95

By DONNA MCCROHAN ROSENTHAL

If ever we needed delights, we surely do now. Ross Gay, National Book Award finalist and Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, set about gathering a year’s worth of them, from his forty-second birthday to his forty-third.

These 102 lyrical essays run the gamut of topics from bobbleheads to “reckless air quotes” to espresso shops to Loving v. Virginia, though some favorite themes emerge: “My mother is often on my mind. Racism is often on my mind. Politics. Pop music. Dreams. Public space. My garden is often on my mind.” His breathless style of “accruing syntax” reads much like observant, quirky, casual, run-on conversation as he savors life’s little moments, some finding roses mingled with thorns.

When he sees plants growing though cracks in asphalt, “some bow their heads, like they’re listening.” Upon spotting a sign in the front of a church – “forbidden fruits create many jams” – he thinks it advertises a jam sale fundraiser. On a lovely evening, he describes “the hiding moon lighting up a cataract of clouds.” As he watches a crossing guard escort pedestrians, he imagines her directing them across the River Styx. He considers his “airplane rituals…that I am certain keep the airplane from falling out of the sky.” He recalls, at age four, swinging a Godzilla toy at his brother “whom I loved, but I didn’t yet know how to express that love.”

In chronicling these snapshots of gladness and revelation, he wonders “if this impulse suggests – and this is just a hypothesis, though I suspect there is enough evidence to make it a theorem – that our delight grows as we share it.”

Ultimately, he learns from his project, “The more you study delight, the more there is to study,” and herein lies a monumental lesson for us all as we drag through the frustrating pressures of COVID-19.

You don’t have to snag a Nobel Prize to start your own journal of joy. Use this time to suddenly rediscover and jot down childhood memories. Open your eyes to glorious things you long ago stopped noticing.

Appreciate “The Book of Delight” for the response it triggers in you. Let Ross Gay inspire you to tune into your own delights.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Other than during the COVID-19 crisis, meetings are held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Ridge Writers’ books “Scenes from Lives of Service: High Desert Veterans of WWI through Desert Storm” and “Planet Mojave: Visions from a World Apart” are available at the Historic USO Building, Jawbone Canyon, Maturango Museum, and Red Rock Books.

Story First Published: 2020-06-05