I think people crave being a part of history. We learn about historic events and wonder what it would be like to live through it. Think about (or rather guess) how we might have behaved given the same circumstances.
Of course, this is a romantic notion. Because living through a pivotal event can be difficult and messy. In hindsight, we might be a percentage of the person we hoped we’d be. But we are human. Humans make mistakes.
These are some of the ideas that rolled through my brain while reading "What Unites Us" by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner. The book is a collection of essays, reminders of the past and telling observations on the cultural and political landscape of America today.
While I appreciated and enjoyed many of the sections—Freedom, Community, Responsibility, and Character—the section of the book on Exploration particularly resonated with me.
I realize I’m biased, that is clear from the impetus to even do this book-a-week project, but "What Unites Us" made clear to me is that I’m on the right path for my own development. I’m still reading the news, seeing movies, and generally being a part of popular culture, but the commitment to reading a book a week is about taking the time to fill my own creative well. Consulting books and art exhibitions and theater performances is a way for me to see different interpretations of what is happening around me. To expand my view of the human experience.
So, as I took this book in, I am again reminded to do what is in front of me. I’ll remember the essay titled Steady in the Character section. How there are times of anxiety, worry, and fear in life. When these happen, I'll remember to steady myself. To stay balanced, to be sensible. To do the things I can to make my life, and the lives of those around me, positive.
Read more. Create more. Participate more. Keep my senses attuned to what is happening. And, of course, vote.
I saw The House Theatre’s "United Flight 232" a few months ago, the story of an airplane crash told through interviews. Interviews with people on the doomed flight—flight attendants, passengers, pilots—created the script. It’s a fascinating story of hope and terror. The verbatim text from the interviews knotted together the tension, emotion, and immediacy. The audience was part of their event. Albeit in the safety of a theater, not in the grip of staring down death.
This comes to mind because braiding stories together is a tried-and-true way to add dimension and appeal. And I thought about all of this while reading “The Girl on the Train”.
Told from three different perspectives, the three women control the narrative throughout “The Girl on the Train”. Yet, the men they love (and lost) were so present, the story felt fleshed out from all angles. Particularly because one of the men - spoiler alert - is a pro at gaslighting, a process of manipulating someone by convincing them to question their own sanity.
I’m typically not a mystery gal, but a handful of pages in, I knew I’d see this one to the end.
Reading “The Girl on the Train” was a reminder of the strength of multiple viewpoints and unreliable narrators. Because, really, aren’t both of those true of stories in everyday life?
** Throughout 2018, I’ll be reading a book a week and posting about each book here. I’m not promising any revelations, just my musings. And a record, for me, of each read. Happy New Year!
Mali Anderson is a Chicago-based content creator. She creates blog posts, web copy, original photography, and feature articles.