Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dani Shapiro’s memoir, Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage

 I love reading Dani Shapiro. A thread of of grief and self-pity runs through her work, and she often sounds on the verge of despair, but her books and essays are also gorgeously written---spare, illuminating, occasionally funny, self-mocking, brutally forthright,  and provocative. Perhaps, even more important, her words make you want to pick up your pen, open your laptop and start crafting your own work immediately.

If you haven’t read book, Still Writing, download it, order it, run to the bookstore or borrow it from a friend. I have scribbled all over the pages of my copy and refer to it again and again. Shapiro's new book  Hourglass: Time, Memory Marriageis equally terrific. For more info, check out her website,

Hourglass: Time, Memory Marriage is a slim, beautifully-written book that packs a powerful punch. Shapiro provides a sharply observed, intimate and exquisite look at the underside of her marriage. At times, you feel that she and her husband are standing naked before you, the view is that close-up and personal. Candor is her strength and anyone who has been in a decades-relationship with a significant other will recognize much of what Shapiro describes here: The longstanding love, the frequent frustration, the occasional competition, the demands of aging parents and sick children, the mutual dependency, the financial vulnerability, the tenderness, the lust, the commitment to keep showing up for each other, and the grace that comes with the gradual acceptance of imperfection and knowledge that your lover is trying his or her best, By describing in candid detail the tiny cracks in her marriage, Shapiro illustrates that these cracks don’t add up to damage, but rather to strength---an art that the Japanese call “Kinsugi” (golden joinery), in which cracks in pottery are repaired with gold, silver or platinum, so that breakage and repair are considered part of the vital history of a piece rather than something to hide. (You can find more about it on Wikipedia.) There are some gorgeous sentences in this book. Here are some of my favorites:

“Where does hope go when it vanishes?”

“At 40 my mother died. And then a long, merciful stretch of ordinary days.”

“There is no other life than this. You would not have stumbled into the vastly imperfect, beautiful, impossible present.”

“It was not the education I wanted, but it was the one I got.”

“The more dangerous the situation, the slower his pulse.”

“We were struggling contented, bewildered, joyful, full of longing, grief-stricken, fearful, searching, at peace.”

“But I can no longer say to M. that we’re just beginning. Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. That solid yet light thing---our journey—is no longer new. He identified my mother’s body. We took turns holding our seizing child. We have watched his mother disappear in plain sight. We have raised Jacob together. We know each other in a way that young couple couldn’t have fathomed. Our shared vocabulary—our own language---will die with us. We are the treasure itself: fathoms deep, in the world we have made again and again.”

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