Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Moment edited by Larry Smith

I'm home, everyone!  I know, I know, technically I wasn't really gone, but I've been so busy that it sure felt like I was.  When you're only home a few hours a day, not counting the ones when you have to sleep, it kind of seems like I might as well have been on vacation.  Actually, I think I've had my computer booted up more often when I've been on vacation.  LOL.  I think things will be a little calmer this coming week, and in the brief few hours of weekend intermission I've managed to steal away for a few moments and produce (*gasp*!) a book review!

Perhaps you recall the recent Six-Word Memoir craze spawned by Larry Smith of SMITH magazine.  Succinct and creative as those six-word memoirs are, they didn't create quite enough space for all the stories people wanted to tell, and Smith found while traveling across the country for readings of the Six-Word Memoir series that everyone seemed to have a story to tell, a story about some singular event that had a life-changing impact on the teller.  From those stories, The Moment was born.  It started as a section of the SMITH magazine website, where life-altering stories poured in from all corners, and eventually became this book where Larry Smith has compiled 125 of the captivating tales.

Contained within the pages are a variety of life-defining moments. Some of them involve great teachers making a difference in the lives of their students, others involve falling in love or enduring the death of a loved one, still others mark the journey through parenthood.  Some of my favorites, though, are moments that are so mundane that it's hard but oddly comforting to discover that the moment that changes your outlook on life can be so small and can be brought on by seeing a simple gesture of true love or discovering you're not so very different from the moth that keeps missing the open window trying to escape from a car. 

With its very short essays written by 125 different authors from all walks of life, The Moment can't help but be a little uneven.  Some of the moments made me scratch my head and wonder just why they proved to be so life-changing.  Others I appreciated for their honesty.  Some I found easy to relate to personally, and others managed to give me chills of understanding, of sympathy, of wonder even while they helped me to understand a whole different perspective on life.  Some of my favorites included "Assembly" in which Vivian Chum discovers the insidiousness and unfairness of racism, Gregory Maguire's "Wicked Start" where he finds the inspiration for his Wicked series, Steve Almond's story of the impact of a fan latter from John Updike, Michael Castleman's story of the night his mother refused to cook dinner and he discovered the power of books, and Rebecca Woolf's "Tomorrowland" that perfectly captures that feeling between loss and possibility as she watches her son growing up day by day.  Okay - and many, many more, there are lots of powerful stories contained in these pages.

I love the idea behind The Moment and enjoyed the essays themselves, but if I had it to do over again, I would not have requested it as a review copy (from Harper Perennial, thanks!).  I would much sooner have read this book at my own pace, reading a few essays here and there between other books rather than trying to gulp them down all at once.  Many are profound and thought-provoking, and would be much better enjoyed at a leisurely pace.  As for me, I found myself pushing to get through them so I could write my review and move onto other things, and so some of my enjoyment was lost in the process. I'm confident, however, that should you happen to pick up a copy of the book and read it without obligation, you will find it as satisfying as I should have.


  1. This does sound like a book that's well suited for a bathroom or car book. I think I'd enjoy it!

    1. I think you would. Hope you give it a try, would love to hear what you think! =)

  2. This book sounds interesting, like a glimpse into what makes other people who they are.

    Regarding your comment about the book's "unevenness": the odd thing about life-changing moments is that they change that person's life, and not necessarily anyone else's. Everyone experiences everything differently, so I can see how some moments might not resonate with you -- I wonder, if you gave all these stories to a group of people, would they identify with the same ones, or would everyone's perception of the "best" or most resonant story be different?

    Gotta love the human experience. :)

    1. I'm sure different people would be attracted to different moments. Honesly, I was surprised by how many moments resonated with me not so much because I could relate to them but just by how genuinely and convincingly they were presented. They are all interesting glimpses into what makes different people tick, and I would definitely be interested to see which ones resonated the most with other readers. =)

  3. Great post! I am one of the writers (Sunset Strip, page 171) and appreciate your views.

    Welcome home!