August Book Review: 'The Book of Delights'
Ross Gay’s collection of lyric essays written over the course of one year is this year’s One Book One Community selection. Dan Compton has this month’s book review of The Book of Delights.
The Book of Delights is award-winning poet Ross Gay’s first nonfiction book. It is his attempt to capture delight in his daily life from one birthday to the next. The book is broken up into what he describes as “essayettes,” some as short as a page or two. Each essayette focuses on a specific experience or observation by Gay that brought him delight. Many of Gay’s delights focus on small joys we may often overlook. He celebrates the beauty of the natural world, describing how he interacts with insects, flowers, and his garden with a poet’s voice.
Some of my favorite delights shared by Gay are the “universalish” language of baby talk, how “caretaking is our default mode and it’s always a lie that convinces us to act or believe otherwise,” and the power of self-forgiveness. Gay does not shy away from difficult topics such as the racism he experiences as a black man in America and other societal complexities such as how it’s acceptable to lie down in a public park, especially if it looks like you have somewhere else you could be, but it’s not acceptable to lie down on a public sidewalk.
Gay’s essayettes encourage us to not be afraid to live in the moment, and to do our best to focus on delight each day. They inspire us to pay attention to the good in our own lives and the beauty of nature surrounding us. They remind us to appreciate all the people we interact with each day, whether it’s the airport worker who misunderstands Gay and shouts to his friend that “this guy’s being flown to Syracuse to read palms” (instead of poems) or the young white woman who gives him a high five in a coffee shop and praises him for working on his paper.
After the tumultuous year we experienced in 2020, what better message is there right now? Ross Gay will speak to the community virtually on Wednesday, October 6th at 7 p.m. There are upcoming supporting events for One Book One Community such as a book discussion, a journal making class, and a journaling workshop for those interested in creating their own books of delight. More details can be found on the Summit County and Park City Library websites. The Book of Delights can be found in our local libraries. For KPCW this is Dan Compton with the Summit County Library.