Friday, February 08, 2008

have you hugged your reader today?

There’s a pattern to my reading list lately, which is Books That Give Me A Big Hug, like the one I wanted to give Hillary (the hug I wanted to give her, not the book—although giving her a book would be less likely to get me slammed to the ground by the secret service).

The latest hug book is The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty. It has a picture of a girl’s face and a flower on the cover, and promises “an endearing [narrator] with a wholly refreshing way of looking at the world.” My friend Daisye gave me the book years ago, saying something along the lines of, “It’s a good book, but not the kind you need to keep after you read it.” Also, there’s a blurb on the back from O, The Oprah Magazine. I thought, So it’s that kind of book.

And yes, it reads like a book O, The Oprah Magazine would like—charming and plucky—but it’s also much more tightly structured than it seems initially, and it advocates deeply for kindness toward people who are dealing with more than they can handle. It’s a coming of age story set against the backdrop of the early Reagan years, a time when the zeitgeist was anti-kindness.

These days I am trying to be pro-kindness. It’s easy to be superficially kind. I mean, I was a cheerleader in high school. I did back handsprings of joy even though I hated football and 50 percent of my cheerleading squad.

It’s harder to be genuinely kind—not just Good but Kind. Not just Kind To Other People While Secretly Making Little Guilt-Tripping Jabs but genuinely kind to myself so I can be genuinely kind to them.

I’m also reading Haruki Murakami’s short story collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, a Christmas gift from Jamie. He writes beautifully, but he does not hug me. He tells me odd and exquisite short stories, then leaves me to start the next odd and exquisite short story. But he writes a lot about sadness, and I think there’s something I should look at there, after I’m on square footing with kindness.

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