Wednesday Wordplay: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My book review of Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugarby Cheryl Strayed is short: It's a series of advice columns that were published on It's moving. It's heart-wrenching. It's radically empathetic. It's occasionally disturbing. I think you should read it.

At points, it's very very serious (from prescription drug addictions to all kinds of abuse to kleptomania) and she's very liberal with her f-bombs. I still think you should read it, because it's about real lives of real people and working through all different types of struggle (loss of a child, loss of a parent, jealousy, depression) and rising from those struggles.

I thought more effective than a full-fledged book review would be to share quotes from the book. Since she has a stellar vocabulary, we can learn from it as well. These quotes will be a little longer than normal for WW sentences, and some of the words might be a little "easier" but I picked them for the sake of the quote. Consider it a two-for-one. ;) Page numbers simply for my future reference (of if you want to pick up a copy of the book and check out specific letters!)

incendiary - adj. 1. used or adapted for setting property on fire. 2. of or pertaining to the criminal setting of property on fire. 3. tending to arouse strife, sedition, etc; inflammatory. 4. tending to inflame the senses.

"I know your connection feels powerful, rare, and incendiary. I know it seems like this woman is your own personal intimacy messiah. But you're wrong. True intimacy isn't a psychodrama." (266)

transcend - verb. (used with object) 1. to rise above or go beyond; overpass; exceed. 2. To outdo or exceed in excellence, elevation, extent, degree, etc.; surpass; excel.

"I know you know what it means to transcend
You did it in your own life when you made a whole man out of the fractured boy you once were.
But the thing about rising is we have to continue upward; the thing about going beyond is we have to keep going." (316)

unimpeachably - adjective. 1. above suspicion; impossible to discredit; impeccable.

"You don't need me to tell you how to be human again. You are there, in all of your humanity, 
shining unimpeachably before every person reading these words right now." (281) 

visceral - adjective. 1. of or pertaining to the viscera. 2. affecting the viscera. 3. of the nature of resembling the viscera. 4. characterized by or proceeding from instinct rather than intellect.

"Putting faith in that stuff might pay the rent, but it's never going to build your house. 
We are here to build the house. 
It's our work, our job, the most important gig of all: to make a place that belongs to us, a structure composed of our own moral code. Not the code that only echoes imposed cultural values, but the one that tells us on a visceral level what to do." (302)

canard - noun. a false or baseless, usually derogatory story, report, or rumor.

"By generalizing your problems regarding sex and sexuality, you're running from yourself. You're covering your wounds with a classic it's-okay-if-I'm-f*cked-up-because-everyone-is-f*cked-up canard. It's a lie you've told yourself that has flattened down whatever hurts. 
But what hurts remains." (302)

magnanimous - adjective. 1. generous in forgiving an insult or injury; free from petty resentfulness or vindictiveness. 2. high-minded; noble.

When prompted with the question "If you had to give one piece of advice to people in their twenties, what would it be?"

To be ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of being. Your life will be a hundred times better for it. This is good advice for anyone at any age, but particularly for those in their twenties. (147)

And although there aren't many big flashy words in it, I'll leave you with (probably) my favorite quote from the book. (It was, of course, hard to pick just one)

"You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself...Nobody's going to do your life for you. 
You have to do it yourself, whether you're rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, 
the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. 
And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. 
No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things have befallen you. 
Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. 
It's up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out." (202)

Just to be clear, Cheryl Stayed uses a bunch of very empathetic, compassionate, and caring language in Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar as well - I chose to pull some of the more powerful quotes.

And that's a wrap! Happy WW, friends! Thanks to everyone who shared words with me, don't worry, I haven't forgotten about your words! I have a stockpile ready to go for future weeks - and would always love more. :)

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