LIFE BREAKS IN by Mary Cappello
Kirkus Star


A Mood Almanack
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The author aims “not to chase mood, track it, or pin it down” but rather to “listen for it.”

In these captivating essays, which meld memoir, philosophical meditations, and reports from excursions far, deeply interior, and wide, Cappello (English and Creative Writing/Univ. of Rhode Island; Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them, 2010, etc.) explores the abstract, amorphous notion of mood: “a jagged conjunction of a furred creature of a feeling” that, she cautions, “cannot be explained.” Because moods are “personal and quirky,” Cappello ranges freely as she considers how moods are experienced, evoked, and changed. As a child, she noticed her father’s “perpetual mood,” which was sour, tortured, anxious: in a word, “lousy.” Happily for her, she did not inherit his predilection, but she notes her own variable moods, depending on what she is doing (looking through a View-Master, for example, whose “scenes invite the hue of some broken-off part of a mood”), hearing (sound and silence feature significantly in many essays), or reading (the picture books, for example, of Margaret Wise Brown). Cappello discovers in Brown’s Quiet Noisy Book a passage that seems to her the perfect definition of mood: “the sound of a person about to think.” Cappello also responds, moodily, to where she is, taking readers on a long, digressive journey to the L.C. Bates Museum in Maine, a crazy house of taxidermy, Orientalist esoterica, circus-model miniatures, ivory busts of famous figures, and assorted, seemingly valuable porcelain. “The world is out of joint and yet all the world’s conjoined, the carefully documented mishmash seems to say,” and it generated for her “a mood of madcap,” in stark contrast to the “mood of reverence that is the result of decorum, protocol, convention,” such as that found in a church. Cappello’s fresh inquisitiveness and surprising trains of thought may well remind readers of the ruminative writings of Adam Phillips or Alain de Botton.

An illuminating celebration of enveloping moments of being.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-226-35606-8
Page count: 408pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2016


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