Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Currently Reading: Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Hi there. Hope your summer's been going well. Haven't been super interested in blogging lately, but I've still been reading and buying too many books. I started working on my manuscript again... and then put it aside because I think it would be better served in a different medium. (But I'm excited to work on this project and I'll do my best to post sporadic updates as I continue to make progress.) I've also been getting back into the swing of reading books that I might not normally pick up – i.e. non-YA. It's been nice to read works that reexamine the human experience.

I'm reading Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal for my book club at work. It's the first book I've wanted to read since Everything I Never Told You way back when. (Wow, it's been a year already.)

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is delightfully quirky and very charming – and I was getting ready to write it off as an easy, breezy read, until I got to one particular paragraph in a chapter narrated by a character named Jordy. For various reasons, I'm not going to republish that paragraph here, but I will say that it's the first time in a very long time that I had such a strong personal reaction to something that happens in a book.

I've cried over characters before – their stories, their trials, their pain – but I've almost always had this undercurrent of awareness that those characters are separate from me. That they exist in a different context, a different plane. That they belong to the world of beautifully complex, well-crafted stories. Perhaps my emotional response to those characters is amplified by the startling and heart-wrenching awareness (or denial) that they are not, in fact, REAL and that their stories and the remainder of their lives are forever unknowable and untouchable, fixed and immutable.

By contrast, my reaction to Jordy's chapter – and not even the whole chapter... it's literally one sentence – has actually very little to do with Jordy and everything to do with the unexpected precision with which it accounts for a really universal human experience... I wish I could explain it better though. This sentence, it's such a small detail – a throwaway paragraph, even – but it comes up out of something that, for me, rings so clear and true. It's like the author was tying strings to words while I wasn't watching, reviving old memories and emotions and personal experiences in my subconscious mind, just orchestrating everything behind my back, and then all of a sudden – he tautened the rope and stopped me cold and all of those feelings came rushing out like a dam.

Maybe it's one of those you had to be there moments... or maybe you just have to be me to fully get this particular instance. But I do hope that this – in general, being knocked back by the unexpected truth/resonance in a work – is something you've experienced while reading. Or just something you can relate to... It doesn't often happen to me, but it's these kinds of moments when I feel like I'm becoming more of who I am... more in touch with humanity (the beauty/ugliness, the joy/suffering, the exquisite within the ordinary), with the people around me, with myself.

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