Possibility: Essays Against Despair

Patricia Vigderman, Author
Patricia Vigderman. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-1-936747-54-2
Reviewed on: 02/04/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
Ebook - 184 pages - 978-1-936747-53-5
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Though the book’s title might resemble that of a self-help book, the essays in Vigderman’s (The Memory Palace of Isabella Stewart Gardner) collection dwell not on despair, but on the project of translating chaotic experience into art or memory. They pay tribute to favorite writers, artists, and films, lingering on the pleasures of literary digression and exploring, through the works of Marcel Proust and W.G. Sebald, and the ability of a book to transport us to its singular world, no matter when or where we pick it up. Vigderman shares her experiences supporting a depressed friend and contemplates the inscrutability of nature in a Florida spring teeming with manatees, a deer gleaning the weeds in her yard for breakfast, and a boy who’d do anything to touch a snake. She is enthusiastic about beautiful language and new words—and her writing, lyrical and graceful, shows it. Some of the book’s shorter pieces lack a raison d’être, content to revel in the silk ribbon of their phrases: one devotes a page or two to a son’s science project; another vaguely recalls a, departed someone. But her chronicle of Henry Adams’s trip to Japan shines with wry wit, revealing his deep mourning for his wife beneath Adams’s sardonic grumblings about the country’s “fetid odor” and “unutterable noises.” Though always pleasant, Vigderman’s delicate prose is strongest when anchored to a sturdy subject. (Apr.)
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