A necessary, gleeful interjection in daily life experiences

Ross Gay
Undated photo of author Ross Gay, author of The Book of Delights. (Photo: Ross Gay's website)
When first introduced to The Book of Delights by Ross Gay, I was a junior in college, in early 2019, overwhelmed by classes, continents away from family, yearning for something, perhaps a spark, in my life, and definitely unaware of what would be in store in just a few short months (read, global devastation). اضافة اعلان

Gay, an American poet and professor was, at the time, visiting my college campus a day before I was set to take off for conference in Boston. By pure luck, I was able to attend one of his readings — and help my English advisor set up a station to sell Gay’s books — and I was in awe.

Gay’s wisdom spills over in his lighthearted and welcome writings. As life would sometimes have it, his book was exactly what I needed, a gleeful interjection in my daily life. It still is a faithful companion that I frequently re-read.

In the 274-page book, Gay jots down almost daily his life happenings in the course of a year, from birthday to birthday, in a series of essays. His goal is to show gratitude for the things that bought delight to his life; he does it by critically and enthusiastically writing his thoughts on people and occurrences, taking time off from the arduous demands of his daily life.

First handwritten then copied into a word document, Gay’s book encapsulates honest delight at big and small; at the rare trust shown by people who leave their bags in a train unattended for long periods of time, or at the elegant movements of a praying mantis. He also astutely, but never bitterly, hints at his experience as a Black man in America or at perception, often biased, of one’s acts.
The stories and anecdotes both offer an escape and are a stern reality check; a reminder that delight exists where we look for it or create it, and why we must always seek it out.
Gay’s delights over the course of a year — with a few days missing here and there — are not an emotionally insensitive rant of toxic positivity. This book is not a self-help book; rather, through essays of different lengths and a great deal of emotional intelligence, readers are invited to assess and reshape their daily interactions and ideals, acknowledge the impact ignored people, emotions, and even plants growing in the cracks of an old sidewalk may have on one’s being and, like Gay, simply enjoy the gift of life.

The language of the essays, highly intellectual but also accessible to most, does not shelter one from daily struggles. Blunt, veiled, conversational, philosophical serious, or sarcastic, it is used to create writing of various lengths, which makes it easy to read and, like Scheherazade’s stories, is a fascinating page-turner.

Readers have access to Gay’s thinking, come to similar conclusions and enjoy the interjections sprinkled between the paragraphs. The “limited” perspective — that of the author — does not dull the writing, which stays constantly charming, relatable, and attractive.

Reshaping our perceived reality, Gay himself is a delight that reminds us of the magic in daily life without the unrealistic rose-colored glasses. 

This book is an excellent addition to every personal library; it gives much-needed joy at a time joy seems to be sorely missing.

The stories and anecdotes both offer an escape and are a stern reality check; a reminder that delight exists where we look for it or create it, and why we must always seek it out.

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