All My Puny Sorrows

I recently finished reading Miriam Toews’ newest novel, All My Puny Sorrows, and wanted to share a passage that especially touched me. Yoli, the narrator of Toews’ masterpiece, is interviewing her sister Elfrieda, a concert pianist who I relate to in ways I’ve only ever been able to relate to with fictional characters made up by my favorite authors, when the following conversation ensues:

Yoli: “Okay, I said, what’s so hot about playing the piano?”

Elf: “…the most important thing was to establish the tenderness right off the bat, or at least close to the top of the piece, just a hint of it, a whisper, but a deep whisper because the tension will mount, the excitement and the drama will build…and when the action rises the audience might remember the earlier moment of tenderness, and remembering will make them long to return to infancy, to safety, to pure love, then you might move away from that, put the violence and agony of life into every note, building, building still, until there is an important decision to make: return to tenderness, even briefly, glancingly, or continue on with the truth, the violence, the pain, the tragedy, to the very end.

…Both choices are valid, she said. It depends where you want to leave your audience, happy and content, innocent again, like babies, or wild and restless and yearning for something they’ve barely known. Both are good.”

Read it again, and read it slowly. I feel like anyone who has studied or played piano will understand why these couple paragraphs brought me to tears.

But I also believe this passage perfectly describes the creative process and purpose behind many forms of art, especially writing. As writers, we are given a similar, thrilling freedom when it comes to telling our stories. In my opinion, there is no greater feeling of power than taking the reigns of readers’ heartstrings while on an adventure in which the outcome is controlled by only me. And Toews captured that feeling so brilliantly here.

Leaving Las Vegas

Trying to wrap my mind around the past five years and what it all meant. I’ve got nothing. Except for this excerpt from one of my favorite books, by one of my favorite authors:

“Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run…but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.”

– Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”