This week at Lenny HQ we're reading It's Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort, The Age of Grief by Jane Smiley, and Sounds and Sweet Airs: the Forgotten Women of Classical Music by Anna Beer.More
As a lifelong hypochondriac with a death obsession, it surprised me to learn that reading about the topic does the opposite of panic me. It familiarizes me with this universal, and therefore essentially beautiful, truth that we are all headed to the same place and it's what we do with that journey that matters. I first came to love Nora McInerny Purmort through her lovely blog, where she detailed life with the man she loved dearly (who also happened to have terminal cancer). She took us through dating, marriage and motherhood with Aaron — and through the unimaginable trials of his illness and eventual death. But she did it with a humor, even a whimsy, that can only be described as courageous. And now she has lent that spirit to her debut memoir, It's Okay Though (Crying Is Cool Too). This story will compel you to both laugh and cry, just as the title promises. May we all bring Nora's honesty, passion and hope to the greatest tragedies of our lives.
Whenever I go to San Francisco I make sure to stop by Green Apple Books. It's a marvelous new and used bookstore that always has something unexpected and delightful. This trip I picked up a copy of The Age of Grief, a book of Jane Smiley short stories and a novella published in 1987. This is Smiley at her best: Masterfully plumbing the ambivalent intimacies between couples. The novella, which shares a title with the book, is about a pair of married dentists with three young children and a fraying attachment. It's told from the point of view of the husband, and it's full of fine domestic details and true affection for his spouse. This isn't a histrionic, one-sided portrayal; it's a musing on a deep, decade-long bond, full of insight, not just into this particular relationship, but into the nature of marriage itself.