30 November 2016

Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live by Peter Orner

Summary from Goodreads:
“Stories, both my own and those I’ve taken to heart, make up whoever it is that I’ve become,” Peter Orner writes in this collection of essays about reading, writing, and living. Orner reads—and writes—everywhere he finds himself: a hospital cafeteria, a coffee shop in Albania, or a crowded bus in Haiti. The result is “a book of unlearned meditations that stumbles into memoir.” Among the many writers Orner addresses are Isaac Babel and Zora Neale Hurston, both of whom told their truths and were silenced; Franz Kafka, who professed loneliness but craved connection; Robert Walser, who spent the last twenty-three years of his life in a Swiss insane asylum, “working” at being crazy; and Juan Rulfo, who practiced the difficult art of silence. Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, Yasunari Kawabata, Saul Bellow, Mavis Gallant, John Edgar Wideman, William Trevor, and Václav Havel make appearances, as well as the poet Herbert Morris—about whom almost nothing is known.

An elegy for an eccentric late father, and the end of a marriage, Am I Alone Here? is also a celebration of the possibility of renewal. At once personal and panoramic, this book will inspire readers to return to the essential stories of their own lives.

Oh look, another book of essays about books and personal reading.  Yes, please.

Am I Alone Here? is an interesting collection of personal essays. Orner contrasts what he is reading - or finds he NEEDS to read at times - with his personal life.  His relationship with his dying father is complicated and his relationship with his ex-wife (who appears to have bipolar disorder) both come under scruitiny.  The writing gets a bit navel-gaze-y on occasion, but the range of authors Orner reads and writes about is really awesome (particularly the short story writers). Orner has a toss-off line that states he prefers literature where families have trouble communicating and it's a through-line between his reading and memoir.

Another great book from Catapult.

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book.

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