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The Book of Delights : The life-affirming New York Times bestseller - Ross Gay

The Book of Delights

The life-affirming New York Times bestseller

By: Ross Gay

Paperback | 8 September 2020 | Edition Number 1

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A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

As Heard on NPR's This American Life

'The delights he extols here (music, laughter, generosity, poetry, lots of nature) are bulwarks against casual cruelties . . . contagious in their joy' New York Times

The winner of the NBCC Award for Poetry offers up a spirited collection of short lyric essays, written daily over a tumultuous year, reminding us of the purpose and pleasure of praising, extolling, and celebrating ordinary wonders.

Among Gay's funny, poetic, philosophical delights: a friend's unabashed use of air quotes, cradling a tomato seedling aboard an aeroplane, the silent nod of acknowledgement between the only two black people in a room. But Gay never dismisses the complexities, even the terrors, of living in America as a black man or the ecological and psychic violence of our consumer culture or the loss of those he loves. More than anything other subject, though, Gay celebrates the beauty of the natural world - his garden, the flowers peeking out of the sidewalk, the hypnotic movements of a praying mantis.

The Book of Delights is about our shared bonds, and the rewards that come from a life closely observed. These remarkable pieces serve as a powerful and necessary reminder that we can, and should, stake out a space in our lives for delight.

***

'These charming, digressive "essayettes" surprise and challenge more than a reader might expect . . . experiences of "delight," recorded daily for a year, vary widely but yield revealing patterns through insights about everything from nature and the body to race and masculinity.' New Yorker

'Pure balm for your soul. Savor one at a time every morning, this summer, or wolf them all down en masse on a gorgeous sunny day.' Celeste Ng

'A reminder of what the personal essay is best at: finding the profound in the mundane . . . His delight is infectious. It's hard to read Gay and not to be won over.' Seattle Times
Industry Reviews
The delights he extols here (music, laughter, generosity, poetry, lots of nature) are bulwarks against casual cruelties. As such they feel purposeful and imperative as well as contagious in their joy - The New York Times Book Review

These charming, digressive 'essayettes,' in the manner of Montaigne, surprise and challenge . . . Gay, an award-winning poet, knows the value of formal constraint: his experiences of 'delight,' recorded daily for a year, vary widely but yield revealing patterns through insights about everything from nature and the body to race and masculinity. The fruits of this experiment-for which gardens and gardening provide a frequent, apt metaphor-attest to an imagination cultivated in hostile conditions. Gay's optimism is as easy as it is improbable, his 'heart cooing like a pigeon nestled on a windowsill where the spikes rusted off. - New Yorker

Ross Gay's poems are little celebrations of joy, and this book of mini-essays - each centering around a particular 'delight,' from sleeping in your clothes to planting tomato seedlings to the nod of greeting between the only two black people in a room - is a pure balm for your soul. Savor one at a time every morning, this summer, or wolf them all down en masse on a gorgeous sunny day.

The shock of Gay's writing . . . is his seamless shift from breezy, affable observation to sober (and admittedly still affable) profundity . . . I want to say that Gay's writing is magical because that's the way it feels when I read it. But . . . calling it magic undercuts Gay's craft, the effort that goes into producing literature that feels as fluent and familiar as a chat with a close friend. His voice has integrity, in both senses of the word: a completeness or consistency, true to itself; and an honesty and compassion so frankly subjective that it produces an incorruptible vision. Gay's loose-limbed sentences diagram his delight, partaking in numerous asides - some as paragraph-long parentheticals - and equally numerous asides within asides, as well as nested subordinate clauses that are the purview of intimate conversation, not written prose. They are clauses and asides in which, as Gay writes them, you feel his hand on your arm, you feel him lean in toward you, conspiratorially or simply to emphasize his meaning - The New York Review of Books

Everyone could use a bit more delight in their days . . . Gay, who is the winner of the NBCC Award for Poetry, is here to provide just that, with essays celebrating everything from air quotes to candy wrappers to pickup basketball games - New York Post

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