Lauren Winner first drew widespread literary attention in 2004 with the spritely spiritual memoir Girl Meets God: A Memoir, which told the story of her conversion first to Orthodox Judaism and then to a Christianity of a Jesus-loving-Anglican-intellectual-evangelical kind. That book, with its fun and its chatty tone, snuck up on me like a charming guest at a cocktail party.
A striking and apt image enhances the cover of this new collection of interviews with 19 leading American poets. An antique chair sits half in shadow; its cane seat, crossed by a beam of light, filters bright intricacies onto the legs, the dowels, the timbered floor. The message here is illumination, from a source offstage.
My fifth-grade son used to walk around the house pretending to be texting. Rehearsing what has become a central practice of 21st-century life, he would move his thumbs across a cast-off cell phone that no longer worked. Finding no solace in the fact that he had the rest of his life to be beholden to gadgetry, he had decided that feigned distraction was better than no distraction at all.
Accumulation of wealth beyond meeting our basic needs doesn’t make us more content, studies show. Dr. Michael Finkelstein says that contentment takes practice. Think back on a time when you felt a sense of contentment, he says—it likely didn’t come from material possessions. “Our task is to simply discover where [contentment] resides” and focus on those times and places. It helps to “practice thinking, believing, and saying that you’re grateful and thankful for what you’ve been given” (excerpt from Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness in Utne, July).