I’ve been a terrible, terrible blogger in the last few months. A terrible book blogger, specifically. It all comes down to, as it has in the last few years, my desire to finish, but inability to concentrate on, a classic book. This time, it’s Middlemarch. I dropped a class in college right before we got to Middlemarch and never picked it back up. I’d heard such wonderful things about it from such varied people that I was pretty sure I’d read it, with relish, in a few weeks. But, although I don’t hate it, I’ve beens stalled just past the halfway mark for months. I was trying really hard not to let myself read anything else until I finished, but finally, I cracked. First, I inhaled The Secret Life of Objects by Dawn Raffel.
This book is a memoir, told in tiny snippets sparked by various objects in the author’s possession. Each chapter is inspired by a different thing and titled accordingly: “Soap,” “Peacock Feathers,” “The Mirror,” “Garnet Earrings.” There are also chapters that challenge the premise like “The Phonograph That Proves That My Memories Were Wrong.”
The writing is simple and beautiful, but it’s biggest feat is it that it is unsentimental. To fill these little vignettes with meaning and emotion without making them precious or cloying is a challenge that Raffel meets. Also, that she was able to put all of these pieces–all of these objects–together to form a larger narrative is remarkable. I won’t ruin the end, but the final object–a dictionary–holds within it much more than words.