Tag Archives: Essay

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li (review by Andrew ’17)

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your LifeDear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A few months after I finished Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, the Chinese-born writer Yiyun Li’s 2010 story collection, only one piece lingered in my mind: a novella, entitled “Kindness,” about a girl’s complex relationship with her female commander in the Chinese army. The storytelling style of “Kindness” is pretty run-of-the-mill realism, but there was something in the narrative, some hint toward a deeper melancholia, that stuck with me. Li’s brand-new memoir, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, helps pinpoint what that profound sadness is and where it comes from. Li wrote these essays during her years-long struggle with suicidal depression, but most often she presents recollections from earlier in her writing life. One essay deals with her decision to forsake Chinese entirely and write in English, another with her unlikely friendship with the legendary Irish writer William Trevor, a third with her mentor at the Iowa Writers Workshop, a man just as flawed as the commander from “Kindness.” The publisher bills this memoir as a “richly affirming examination of what makes life worth living.” It’s not. The essays here are pained and painful, meditative and often oppressively sad. Readers willing to brave all that will find insight on nearly every page into the particular somberness of Li’s life and art. – Andrew R. ’17

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Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris (review by Monica K. ’14)

Let's Explore Diabetes with OwlsLet’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David Sedaris manages to pull off a combination screwball comedy and thoughtful introspection within each of his essays. Featuring tales of dentist appointments and swim meets, a few morbid short stories, and, yes, a stuffed owl, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is a collection of short essays based on Sedaris’ personal experiences. While the topics may sound mundane, Sedaris has a knack for transforming the remotest details into complex narratives about relationships and life. My favorites include Atta boy and Loggerheads. Less tasteful and more over the top are the fictitious short stories interspersed between essays. Overall, I guarantee that there will be at least one story that will make you laugh. – Monica K. ‘14

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The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche (review by Sean K. ’14)

The Tibetan Book of Living and DyingThe Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rinpoche introduces and applies the values of Tibetan Buddhism to the Western world in a revolutionarily practical way, drawing from his lifetime experience as a monk. Contrary to many religion-oriented texts, Rinpoche’s spiritual classic does not attempt to convert the reader. Rather, it seeks to draw from Buddhist teachings and texts (primarily The Tibetan Book of the Dead) to create a guide to life and death from which people of all religions and faiths can draw upon for peace and consciousness. Moreover, Rinpoche’s frequent excerpts from the lessons of his teachers add a charming personality to his own wise writings. His use of modern scientific research and acknowledgement of current global realities make the book accessible to even the most skeptical Westerners. To the reader who must cope with a recent or near death, or just to someone who might appreciate a refreshing approach to dealing with the stressful ordeals of our materialistic society, I highly recommend this book. – Sean K. ‘14

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