Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Devouring Dani

I still remember the brilliant summer afternoon that I cracked open my first Dani Shapiro memoir, Devotion. The sky, cobalt. The air, dry and cool. I sat on the back deck with the warm sun pounding my face and arms. I had no idea the fabulousness that awaited me...nor did I know that I'd fall in love with Dani's writing. She is now one of favorite authors, EVER.

The only good thing about just discovering Dani is that she'd already published many other books; huge, glittering gifts, just waiting to be devoured.

Dani, she creates such transcendent phrases and sentences that I felt as I'm being led by a skilled dancing partner. Her talent and tenderness are phenomenal. From the first sentence of Devotion, I was in love. I sat the book down and ran into the house to grab a pen because I desperately needed to be able to highlight her words that spoke to me, that whispered to me, to parts of me that are dark and hard to reach.

I almost find my own words if I cannot do her words justice. Dani Shapiro hypnotized me as she took me through her spiritual quest to live now, and to live the questions. Dani writes,

If I opened myself-as an adventurer, an explorer into the depths of every single day? What if--instead of fleeing--I were to continue to quiver in the darkness? It wasn't so much that I was in search of answers. In fact, I was wary of the whole idea of answers. I wanted to climb all the way inside the questions and see what was there.

She elegantly cracks open her inner-most self and through her honest reflection, her words acted like a I nodded through her story, I felt normal. And whole.

This book came to me in my nascent journey and attempts to live within my moments and as I read,
I tried not to lean so far into the future that I squandered the present, my pours opened and I exhaled. I've often wondered how I can manage and plan the necessities of the future while being present and appreciating what this moment gives. I felt as if she articulated my insecurities, my challenges, my spinning worries with laser accuracy. But, when faced with the spiraling angst, Dani wrote that she gently reminded herself that she was, always, held in the infinite arms of the present. And I, therefore, felt as if she reached her hand out to me, handed me a flashlight bearing her words, and illuminated the next steps on my path.

I am tempted to fill this post will all of the passages I've marked from Devotion. But then this post would be really, really long...and there would be the issue of copyright, I will leave you with one of my favorites:

Sometimes I want to run away: have a few drinks, take a sleeping pill, but those overpriced stiletto heels. Anything to sedate myself--to mute the endless loop of stories. And sometimes I give in, and do exactly that. The clarity is too painful, and I want to forget. The problem is, it doesn't work. Not in the long run. There is no permanent forgetting. Though the world of things is persuasive and distracting, the stories always come back, circled in neon. They are all the more alive for having been hidden.

I've had many neon colored forgotten bits in my life. The colors definitely fade once thrown into the bright, harsh light of honesty. Through Dani's journey, I realize that with careful attention, and with wide open arms to the infinite possibilities of now, I will learn. And grow. Thank you, Dani, for this gift.

ps--After telling my friend Lindsey that I feared Dani Shapiro had ruined me for all other books, she urged me to read Dani's other books. So, I've started devouring them. I finished Black & White (fiction) in two days. It is amazing. Next on the list are Family History (also fiction) and then Slow Motion (another memoir)...I wonder if I should start a Dani Shapiro fan club...


Lindsey said...

I'll gladly join the fan club ... as you know, Devotion moved me deeply too, and I'm so glad to hear your reflections to it here! xo

Justine said...

I would join you in your fan club.

I also read Devotion this summer and was blown away. I planned to write a post on what I took away from the book only I don't think I could ever do it justice, so I haven't even tried. There's just so much to say. She moved me so profoundly with her words and insights and while there is a lot to say in response to the journey that she has inspired within me, I just simply want to say THANK YOU.

What an incredible writer. Book. Woman. Journey.

Thank you for sharing this with us. It's a pleasure, as always, to read your musings.

Corinne said...

I'd join as well :) I need to read more, read Black & White also, and just loved it...

Anonymous said...

I haven't read Dani's work yet, and am saving it for this fall when I'll have some time to focus. I really can't wait, especially with your incredible words of inspiration. We writers need to champion each other, and you did just that. Thanks for informing what I'm putting on my reading list next. yrs. Laura

Anonymous said...

You already know how much I also loved Devotion...and I feel there is still much I want to write about it too. To focus on little nuggets and expand and relate in my own blogging space. There is such beauty and eloquence in her words. I can hardly wait to read her others...but I'm trying desperately to tackle my already big pile of purchased books before getting any other. Finding time to read is a challenge these days.

I also HIGHLY recommend Lit by Mary Karr. You'll love, she speaks with a similar kind of voice. It might be a bit more harsh than Dani, but she weaves sentences, images and thoughts in a truly magical way.