and remember what peace there may be in silence.”
– The Desiderata
Nope, this isn’t one of T’s book birthdays, but you’ll indulge her excitement as she fêtes a friend-she’s-never-met. She writes lots of book reviews for other blogs, and we normally keep them separate. However, she knows some of you will really love this book, so… enjoy.
Two weeks ago, T. opened an email and read the following line: “If you are, at first, lonely be patient. If you’ve not been alone much or if, when you were, you weren’t okay with it then just wait…you’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.” She beamed to herself because, she could hear the poet reading the line. Yes. T. is one of Those People responsible for making Tanya Davis’s spoken-word song poem thingy, “How to Be Alone” have five million hits on YouTube. Visually jazzed up by artist Andrea Dorfman, this is a little video many have come back to over and over, the past couple of years. And now it’s a book, out October 22nd.
T first started kvelling about this particular piece of poetry in 2011, around about the time it was one of those short-lived viral video things. It was everywhere, because it was a poem that had come out recently in a Canadian chapbook called AT FIRST, LONELY, and the author, Halifax poet-spoken word artist, Tanya Davis, set it to music and video by the poet with a filmmaker friend, Andrea Dorfman (who also was part of the team working on the book). Only some of what we pass around the ‘net has any staying power, however, and this poem has had that for me. Readers have come back to it again and again. It is the eclectic imagery of the video, yes, the poet’s careful voice, yes, but it is also the words. The words – so lucid, so simple, so heart-full and honest – that speaks to the universal we. Readers wanted to take in that heady balance of perspicacity and intellect over and over again, until it became an intrinsic part of themselves.
And, now we can.
T thought she’d give away her copy of the book as a gift to a friend, but this isn’t that kind of book. It’s the kind of book you get for yourself – but you get two copies. Then, when someone picks up your copy and wants to take it away – which will happen, this is guaranteed – you can be calm enough to say, “Oh, sure, yeah, go ahead.” And you let it go – not like a book that’s going to be borrowed and returned, but like a book that you’ll never seen again, because you won’t. It’s not that type of book.
What it is: a short and concise bedside table book for introverts, one that you can pick up and reread and realize that you’re okay, that, living in your head is okay, and that if you’re happy there, or uncomfortable because you’re not sure it’s what you’re supposed to be doing, and it maybe doesn’t look like what everybody else is doing… it reassures you that Different isn’t fatal.
It’s a coffee table lifeline for extroverts, who might find themselves in the unenviable position of being in a place cut off from their old connections, and find themselves adrift and panicky, unable to pull in the old charm that used to work so well. It’s an under-the-pillow midnight read for the puffy-eyed, heart-cracked and bleeding newly abandoned and broken; it’s a sanity saver for the newly together and commingled – it speaks to all of us who need to find and claim space in our heads – whether it’s because we’re in a life jam-packed with people, or in a world where we seem to rattle along by ourselves – and within are clear instructions as to how.
Those who loved the video may have wondered if the its quirky brilliance would translate smoothly again to the printed page. It helps that the filmmaker is also the illustrator of the novel. Reminiscent of Maira Kalman’s work in the New Yorker and elsewhere, the hand-scripted poetic words convey an intimacy, as if this is a journal you’ve written yourself, filled with brilliance you’re ready to share. The illustrations show the journey of a single sock, a single knitter, a single tree-climber, all surviving their original-and-only-one status in a paired off and lined up world, all thriving on their differences. Especially in this world of political, financial and employment stresses we experience, where lockstep conformity is expected and desired by so many, we need to step back and reconnect with both solitude and sanity, and reaffirm our commitment to originality – even if that means going it alone. This book is an antidote for out-of-focus living. Stick a copy in your car, read it in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, or in line at Starbuck’s, and regain your mental health.
Happy Book Birthday, Tanya & Andrea! This book is out today, October 22, 2013. I received my early copy courtesy of the publicist, and Harper Collins, for which I’m grateful! You can find your copy of HOW TO BE ALONE by Tanya Davis and Andrea Dorfman online, or at an independent bookstore near you!