BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Wow ...

Every once in a while I will hit an absolute gem at the dollar store, and this is one of those times. I just finished this, and simply had to write about it before the glow wore off.

Now, I really wasn't familiar with Robert Fulghum, but I'd heard of some of his books (All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, etc.), still I launched into What On Earth Have I Done?: Stories, Observations, and Affirmations with some caution, as I have a low tolerance to both preachy and syrupy books, and this, from the outside, held the possibility of being either or both of those. Fortunately, it was not.

I must admit, there was part of me (that frustrated writer whose sole outlet over the past decade or so has been blog scribblings) which was VERY envious of Fulghum's wandering lifestyle, spending part of the year in Seattle, part of it in Utah, and part of it in Crete (and parts elsewhere at conferences and such), and wondering how one gets to live that way on writing. Obviously, his "hook" is reaching out and touching his readers. Of course, he had a bit of a head start with me, being an older white guy, a UU minister, etc., hitting many trigger points for me to connect with him, but I really feel that his musings would effect other readers as strongly, although possibly for other reasons.

"Musings" is what I saw most of this book as. It appears that he writes (or at least wrote this) in sort of a journal, daily or weekly commentaries on things he thinks of, encounters, or recalls. Everything in it has a bit of a misty, dream-like characteristic, full of details but not hard and sharp in the telling. The book starts with the premise of "Mother Questions", "What on Earth have you done?", "What in the name of God are you doing?", "What will you think of next?", and "Who do you think you are?", which he turns around and asks of himself. I don't know if the rest of his books are as self-reflective as this, but it is a bit like finding a personal journal in a used book store and staring through it into the writer's soul.

From his telling, this Fulghum guy is a bit of a character, a trickster, a dreamer, a big kid, etc., and sounds like the type of guy I'd like to hang out with. He weaves in and out of social situations with a playful eye, being at least reasonably non-judgmental of those who don't care to play along. Perhaps most vividly, he paints a picture of the small town in Crete where he goes to write several months of the year, running off into several sidetracks about the history and personality of the place and people, probably to give a more vivid background for his stories of interactions there. Many of his tales are quite touching, especially the one about a highschool basketball coach, and his "secret weapon" ... which I won't spoil for you just in case you do pick this up!

What On Earth Have I Done? is a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it to all and sundry. What is very strange (to me) is how this ended up in the dollar store. It still seems to be in print (Amazon has it at one of their standard discounts), and my copy even has a price sticker on the back that is more than the cover price of the book ($26.50 for a $22.95 edition) ... it's only been out a year and a half, and yet the new/used guys have "new" copies for as little as 36¢ so you know that something funky must be going on with the publisher. Anyway, if you can find it, get a copy ... I'm not sure I'd pay retail (although I'd hate to take away from the author's travel funds) for this, but it's a real treasure for the used/discontinued rate!

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Tags: book review
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