In ‘The Book of (More) Delights,’ poet Ross Gay records another year's everyday pleasures.
On this week’s episode, Ross Gay joins us to discuss The Book of (More) Delights (Algonquin, Sept. 19), a sequel (of sorts) to his essay collection The Book of Delights. In both books, the revered poet engages a particular practice of noticing and noting one delight per day, for one year, in a series of short essays written quickly and by hand. The Book of Delights begins on Gay’s 42nd birthday, Aug. 1, 2016, and documents the ensuing year. The Book of (More) Delights, which begins on Aug. 1, 2022, achieves equally winning results, Kirkus writes in a starred review: “Keenly observed and delivered with deftness, these essays are a testament to the artfulness of attention and everyday joy.”
Gay is the award-winning author of four books of poetry—Against Which, Bringing the Shovel Down, Be Holding, and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, which won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry—and three essay collections, including Inciting Joy. He is the Ruth Lilly Professor of English at Indiana University.
Here’s a bit (more) from Kirkus’ starred review of The Book of (More) Delights: “The essays are short, roughly three pages, and it’s a credit to Gay’s tone that he can captivate readers while writing about, for instance, ‘three truly beautiful spoons,’ the pleasure of petting his cat, his annual garlic planting (‘garlic’s your tiny professor of faith, your pungent don of gratitude’) and, in a separate piece, garlic harvesting. His sense of wonder at watching an NPR Tiny Desk Concert featuring El DeBarge leads him to this reflection on an Aretha Franklin cover: ‘She lets it be known, this is for the benefit of you who don’t believe.’ Gay closes with an essay sharing the same name as the first, ‘My Birthday, Again,’ in which the author writes, ‘I’ve completed another year of delights. Or maybe I should say another year of delights has completed me.’”
Gay and I reminisce about our conversation at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, in 2019, celebrating The Book of Delights, and discuss his initial inspiration for recording daily delights. We then discuss whether we might call The Book of (More) Delights a sequel or a continuation—or a perpetuation—of that project; whether he abided by the same rules this time around (essayettes must be written daily, swiftly, by hand, etc.); imposter syndrome; aspiring towards collectivism; the importance of tactility; the importance of garlic; building networks of exchange; the dangers of resource hoarding; the word mycelial; and much more.
Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, and Laurie Muchnick share their top picks in books for the week.
The Blackwoods by Brandy Colbert (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
Chinese Menu: The History, Myths, and Legends Behind Your Favorite Foods by Grace Lin (Little, Brown)
North Woods by Daniel Mason (Random House)
Also mentioned on this episode:
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman
If These Walls Could Talk (TV movie)
Thanks to our sponsors:
Circle of Night by Stephen de Villiers Graaff
The Corroding by Ty Tracey
No Skin Slim by Nessa Deen
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.