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Likely Stories : The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Ross Gay is a poet and the winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award among several other prizes.  The Book of Delights is funny, thought-provoking, and worthy of slow reading to catch all the minor—and major—attempts at strange and peculiar essays. 


I begin with his preface.  “One day last July, feeling delighted and compelled to both wonder about and shared that delight, I decided that it might be nice, even useful, to write a daily essay about something delightful.  I remember laughing to myself for how obvious it was.  I could call it something like The Book of Delights. // I came up with a handful of rules: write a delight every day for a year; begin and end on my birthday, August 1; draft them quickly; and write them by hand.  The rules made it a discipline for me.  A practice.  Spend time thinking and writing about delight every day” (x).  The book actually adds up to one hundred and two essays.  Most are about a page or two.

Here are a few of my favorites.  #Four: “Blowing It Off” – When I began this gathering of essays, which, yes, comes from the French essai, meaning to try, or to attempt, I planned on writing one of these things—these attempts—every day for a year.  When I decided this, I was walking back to my lodging in a castle (delight) from two very strong espressos at a café in Umbertide (delight), having just accidentally pilfered a hand full of loquats from what I thought was a public tree (but upon just a touch more scrutiny was obviously not—delight!), and sucking on the ripe fruit, turning the smooth gems of their seeds around in my mouth as wild fennel fronds wisped in the breeze on the roadside, a field of sunflowers stretched to the horizon, casting their seedy grins to the sun above, the honeybees in the linden trees thick enough for me not only to hear but to feel in my body, the sun like I guiding hand on my back, saying everything is possible.  Everything” (10-11).  This reminds me of Wordsworth’s waving daffodils.

#Nine – “The High-Five from Strangers, Etc.”  “A few months ago, walking down the street in Umbertide, in Italy, a trash truck pulled up beside and the guy in the passenger seat yelled something I didn’t understand.  I said, ‘Como,” the Spanish word for ‘come again,’ which is a ridiculous thing to say because even if he had come again I wouldn’t have understood him.  He knew this, hopped out of the truck to dump in a couple of cans, he flexed his muscles, pointed at me, and smacked my biceps hard.  Twice!  I loved him!  Or when a waitress puts her hands on my shoulder.  (Forget it if she calls me honey.  Baby even better.)  Or someone scooting by puts their hand on my back.  The handshake.  The hug.  I love them both” (29).

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay will help my readers to find a treasure trove of fun experiences.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!