it doesn’t all have to be about Christmas –

I have already told you about my experience with Dani Shapiro’s excellent book on writing called Still Writing (2013). Reading it made me curious about Shapiro’s authorship, so I went on to read Devotion – a memoir (2010).

I seldom read memoirs, it’s not that I actively avoid the genre – it’s just that memoirs seldom appeal to me; it might have to do with my own age? I mean; maybe it gets more and more interesting to read about other peoples lives as one self get more experienced in living? Shapiro’s Devotion might be a sign that I’m ready for it

I really like Dani Shapiro’s narrative voice. I like her way of telling, and also the way she organizes her stories into short chapters. Cutting things up into sharp fragments gives her book a momentum, urgency. Devotion is a personal memoire; it is – at times – very intimate and almost painful to read.

Two themes stand out for me, the first has to do about having a sick child, the other has to do about finding ones own place in the world – both as part of a long family tradition and as an outstanding individual.

For me it’s very easy to identify with Shapiro’s reflections on being the mother of a seriously ill child. I have been (I am) there. Because the thing is, as Shapiro very elegantly shows in Devotion, that the fear of devastation – the angst, the feeling of living on the edge, never really leaves the mother who have once been face to face with utter trauma. One keeps on being in a state of alert – very anxious, very easily alarmed. Too tightly strung.

This shared experience of upheaval might be one of the reasons I share Shapiro’s search for inner tranquillity. Shapiro tries several routes; Buddhism, yoga and going deep into the Jewish tradition.

How to be Jewish is an enormous challenge for Shapiro, it is a challenge I do not share. And at times I have difficulties understanding her need for becoming a part of a tradition from which she seems to be very much estranged. It is incomprehensible. But then again – so many things in our life are – .

2 comments on “it doesn’t all have to be about Christmas –

  1. I think that caring for and loving and being responsible for the well-being of another person shapes the human heart in ways so significant and so intimate that it is difficult to express them in any form, even through art. So many things are incomprehensible, and yet compassion develops among us in just those hard-to-know places.

    • Absolutely, it gives life a very special kind of intensity. But sometimes the anxiety just gets too insurmountable, big, threatening. I guess this is why learning to center oneself is so very important – to all of us.

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