.I've been getting a lot of nonfiction from the library lately—too much to read it all all through. But I have been reading it—more than half the pages but less than half the words, generally. But that's what Unfinished Books is for. Because these books too deserve attention.
Not finishing this book goes right against its very principles. Among other things, it's about slowing down and listening. All things that would lead to finishing this slim volume.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs clearly has a fascination with marine mammals, but she also clearly had a page count to fill and so spent some time on Wikipedia looking for additional metaphors. But find them she did! Even just reading a healthy percentage of this book I learned a) a lot about marine mammals I did not already know and b) a lot about how those mammals' lives can apply to how we choose to live our own.
This is a terrific little volume and while it does have some annoying bits (like the final chapter, which is a bunch of activities that smell like your least favorite professional-development meeting), largely those were because I was in a rush to learn about some dolphin species I'd never heard of instead of sitting with the previous mammal and learning from it's dermal traits or whatever. Blame me.
Ken Jennings takes us to 1000 afterlives, which is a fun gimmick and good way to survey religions and literature and teevee and whatnot, but it's also kind of a lot. If I owned this book it would take me six years to read, never leaving my nightstand.
But I don't own it. And nine weeks isn't enough time to want to return to it that many times. So I largely read the ones I already had familiarity with or a yearning for familiarity with.
These short chapters each have an epigraph and the epigraphs are frequently brilliant. They sometimes say more than the three pages McCann wrote to accompany them.
Which sounds like a slam on McCann and it's true, maybe. Some of the chapters are more poetic exercises than helpful advice and some of the advice is sometimes as elitist as Joey Franklin was sometimes pro-amateurism.
But on the other hand, the book was also frequently beautiful and useful. And although Colum McCann may be overly persuaded by the world's measures of success, he is generally right. But one imagines he can be a little smug in person.
Some real laugh-out-loud moments in this marriage guide on how to be married to his wife (generalizations to your marriage not guaranteed) by stand-up Dustin Nickerson. I didn't think I had any familiarity with him until a page near the end where I read a version of a bit Lady Steed has shown me before because she feels it very deeply. (I find it very upsetting. This is not a point we agree on.)
Although (of course) this is a deliberate work of creation, it also feels like a deep honesty runs through it. There's great stuff about sex and kids, and he gets into issues of faith, which one doesn't often bump into (or at least I don't, unless I'm looking). Some chapters interested me more than others (honestly, most comedians' books should be skimmed rather than read) but the parts I read most thoroughly I most enjoyed. Perhaps because I selected well; perhaps because I selected at all. I can't say.
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