Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

One hot afternoon during the era in which you've gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up in heroin, you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She'll offer you one of the balloons, but you won't take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You're wrong.  You do.  --Cheryl Strayed

I have always been an avid reader of advice columns.  I came of age reading Dear Abby and Ann Landers, loved the dry wit of Miss Manners, found special wisdom in consumer help columns and most recently, fell in love with the modern practical humor and wisdom of Dear Prudence.

I read them religiously, pose my own questions (in my head) frequently, and curiously wait to see what their responses will be. What will mine be?  What set of moral values do they set their standards by and do they follow them?  Advice columns are an endless source of story and inspiration.

As you may recall, a few months back, I read a great travel memoir by a new writer named Cheryl Strayed.  Her voice was clear and compelling as she told her story of backpacking on the Pacific Coast Trail, and I looked forward to her next writing.  I stumbled upon it this week in the bookstore and bought it without question.  (This is how much I like her writing.  I knew I would want to own it and keep it.)

Cheryl Strayed writes an on-line advice column under the name Dear Sugar.  Dear Sugar writes clear compelling advice to her readers (in response to letters of course) but also writes her own memoirs and tiny stories as a way of illustrating life lessons.  Nothing here is boring.  All her responses feel spot on and you sense her empathy and conviction through the power of her words.  I loved every letter and every response.  She eclipses any other advice columnist in beauty and compelling argument.  I am going to buy these by the bundle and give them as gifts for all occasions.  Marriage, baby, job crisis, death in the family, middle age is all right here. Look no further. These are real letters from real writers and her responses are her own: a collection of columns that is both help, self help and memoir.  Look no further for a great summer read.

This is the best book I have read this summer, and I put Ms. Strayed on my list of writers to see if I am ever able. She is so honest and forthright about her own failings and grief that you cannot help but love her.  The epigraph at the top of the page--written in second person--is her own story.

 You can borrow this from me but if you wait long enough, I might buy it for you.

1 comment:

Steph said...

I am very embarrassed to say I missed her at Powell's recently!