Person walking along a railroad with blue sky behing

Walking the line

Notes from the December Literati meeting

During our last meeting of 2020, we found quick consensus that balance is not one-size fits all—and the materials we discussed show this range. The lists below spans scientific research and a guide for homemakers, to excellent storytelling and some much-needed feel-good watching. 

If you’re interested in getting together to talk about all things wordy in 2021, please answer our short survey to help plan the next meetings of The Literati.

Analysis and action

From psychology to sociology, these works investigate how we strive to find balance—and what happens when things get unsteady. 

Maybe you should talk to someone : a therapist, her therapist, and our lives revealed by Lori Gottlieb
A therapist who goes to therapy herself, Gottlieb sees the process from both sides as she shares true stories of people seeking equanimity. 

Mating in captivity : Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic by Esther Perel
The paradox is in the subtitle; how can eroticism co-exist with domesticity? Perel unpacks the pairing through examining what it takes to keep lust alive. We also highlighted her podcast Where Should We Begin?, where she helps real couples discuss their issues, and her YouTube channel

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The protagonist attempts to balance the roles society defines for her and what she actually wants for her life. Esther Greenwood’s electroshock therapy makes for tough reading, but the insight channeled through the main character is why Plath’s only novel a classic. 

Nonviolent communication : a language of compassion by Marshall B Rosenberg
Through psychological principles and research, Rosenberg translated peacemaking skills into everyday life with a four-step process. The Rosenberg-founded Center for Nonviolent Communication created feelings and needs inventories to help people express themselves and find balance in their relationships. 

Whose story is it? by Rebecca Solnit
Solnit explores the connection between inequality and a lack of democracy in information. The struggle to control narrative continues to unfold as more people of colour, women and the LGBTQ community shape their own stories. 

Sharing stories

Iza’s ballad by Magda Szabó
One of Hungary’s most-loved authors writes about a mother and daughter and how unbalanced that relationship can become. Pilátus, the film based on the book, was released in 2020 to critical acclaim. 

Clap when you land by Elizabeth Acevedo
A novel-in-verse following two high schoolers through loss and the discovery that they’re half sisters. The audiobook version narrated by the author and Melania-Luisa Marte is highly recommended.

Miss Benson’s beetle by Rachel Joyce
A charming narrative about two very different women who travel from England to New Caledonia in the 1950s in search of a beetle that may or not exist. 

Real-life power-ups

Superwoman by Shirley Conran
It may not be the sexiest topic, but Conran explains how to run a home effectively and clean efficiently. Super useful, although not particularly PC.

Think like a monk : train your mind for peace and purpose every day by Jay Shetty
Former monk and internet sensation takes a modern approach to meditation, encouraging his followers to notice the wisdom that pops up in mainstream culture. Shetty’s regular YouTube posts distill his philosophies into quick-hits and are popular with both celebrities and commoners.

Good habits, bad habits : the science of making positive changes that stick by Wendy Wood
A neuroscientific approach to changing habits (including developing a better work/life balance) with practical, accessible ways to hack your brain. 

More than two : a practical guide to ethical polyamory by Franklin Veaux; Eve Rickert
With advice that extends to all kinds of relationships, Veaux and Rickert share the importance of setting and enforcing boundaries and outline how to treat people with respect. 

Falling a little outside our regular scope, the Calm app features recorded sessions to help with focus, sleep, productivity and more. And their Sleep Stories deliver a contemporary take on storytelling.

Necessary diversions

A few entertaining items to balance out the bad news that so often dominates the headlines. 

Voila! Europe
A selection on-demand recordings from this festival of online interactive shows from across Europe. The Farewell Concert is particularly appropriate for coronazeit and the on-demand performances are available until December 20.

A Craigslist Cantata 
This low-key musical presents a humorous take on personal ads. The Cultch in Vancouver, Canada put on live performances (how fantastic is it to watch live theater in bed!) and the clip below from a pre-COVID performance gives a hint at the hilarity.

The Durrells in Corfu 
A single mum with three sons packs up and moves from London to a Greek Island in the 1930s. This TV series follows the families touching moments and cultural conflicts with a breath-taking scenic backdrop.

To reenter the workforce a single mother shaves a decade off her age and proceeds to live as double life as her real 40-something self and a much younger publishing assistant. 

The Kominsky Method
A sweet, well-acted comedy (with a little tragedy thrown in for good measure) about society and aging. 

The wisdom of surfing

As the discussion about the theme of balance throughout the glittering world of literature came to a close, we began to ruminate about whether it’s easier to find balance as you age. And if trying too hard ruins a sense of equilibrium. Surfers certainly know a thing or two about stability… and a common surf-saying reveals that there might be a bit of magic in it.

There's no secrete to balance. You just have to feel the waves.
Image from © Surf Expedition

What’s next

As the year wraps up, it’s time to think about what the next one will bring. Take this quick three-question survey to help plan the lovely literary discussions for the new year. The survey will run until the end of December and the 2021 meeting dates will be published in early January.

Header photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

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