Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Even the Stars Look Lonesome by Maya Angelou

In a genius plan (involving my bookcrossing bookshelf and a several randomly chosen numbers) for picking what book to read next and possibly branch out and read something I probably wouldn't normally have picked, I ended up picking this one. This is obviously one of the books that my mom picked up during her stage of Oprah worship and definitely a departure from my "usual" reading, so I guess I was successful in my endeavor.

Even the Stars Look Lonesome is a book of short essays ranging in topic from African art to sexuality in old age. While several of the essays illuminate important life themes, many of the essays were irrelevant to me as a young white person. Angelou spends a good deal of time expounding on Africa, on slave history, on African-American culture, which is to be expected, of course, but left me cold.

Of twenty essays, I found only about three that I could relate to on a personal level, and Angelou deals with these topics wisely from her own experience. These were "A Song to Sensuality" where she tells us how as she ages she appreciates sensuality almost as much or more than sexuality, "Vacationing" in which she observes that even on vacation people can hardly resist working, and finally the title essay "Even the Stars Look Lonesome Sometimes" in which she tells us, essentially, that it is okay - even good - to be alone with ourselves sometimes.

Despite the seeming irrelevance of much of this book to me personally, the quality of Angelou's writing is undeniable. She has a beautifully poetic prose that absorbs readers and lends itself in some measure to being read aloud.

From "A Song to Sensuality" (pg. 36)...

I would have my ears filled with the world's music, the grunts of hewers of wood, the cackle of old folks sitting in the last sunlight and the whir of busy bees in the early morning. I want to hear the sharp sound of tap dancing and the mournful murmur of a spiritual half remembered and then half sung. I want the clashing of cymbals of a marching band and the whisper of a lover entreating a beloved. Let me hear anxious parents warning their obstreperous offspring and a pedantic pedagogue teaching a bored class the mysteries of thermodynamics. All sounds of life and living, death and dying are welcome to my ears.

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