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Thursday, June 9, 2016

For Everyman

Memoirs have mostly lost their luster for me. "Blood, Bones & Butter" (2011) by Gabrielle Hamilton is a clear exception.

"And that, just like that, is how a whole life can start."

That elegant sentence of one syllable words - describing how a random event led Hamilton to her calling - stopped me cold. I clearly remember thirteen year old Pat being told - not asked - to learn to play drums; my middle school friends needed to complete their fledgling rock n' roll band. And my whole life started.

"The inadvertent education of a reluctant chef" is the subtitle of this strong debut. How perfect is that? Although this human tsunami author appears to have a limitless store of energy, she regularly reveals her ambivalence, her vulnerability and - her word - bitchiness. No air brushing in this memoir.

"It's the way only someone in the industry talks about food. by almost not talking about it, but just throwing out a few code words and signals - like a gang member flashing you his sign."

Take that sentence and replace the word food with your industry or your passion. You see the way a talented writer makes the specific universal? What a gift.          

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to twist this one a bit. Let's replace the word "food" with "literature" - clearly one of your passions. Was thirteen year old Pat ever told- not asked- to read a specific book that grabbed him, hook in cheek? Did his passion for writing kick in at the same time? I would love to know more about the reading and writing experiences of your youth. For now, I'll leave you with an excerpt from Neil Gaiman's nonfiction collection, The View From The Cheap Seats:
    "The hardest part of being a writer, particularly being someone who writes fiction for a living, is that it makes it harder to reread a book you loved. The more you know about the mechanics of fiction, the craft of writing, the way a story is put together, the way words work in sequence to create effects, the harder it is to go back to books that changed you when you were younger. You can see the joins, the rough edges, the clumsy sentences, the paper-thin people. The more you know, the harder it is to appreciate the things that once gave you joy.
    But sometimes it's nothing like that at all. Sometimes you return to a book and find that it's better than you remembered, better than you had hoped: all the things that you had loved were still there, but you find that it's even more packed with things that you appreciate. It's deeper, cleaner, wiser. The book got better because you know more, have experienced more, encountered more. And when you meet one of those books, it's a cause, as they used to say on the back of the book jackets, for celebration."