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I Love a Broad Margin to My Life (Vintage International) Paperback – February 14, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Told in free verse reminiscent of one of Kingston's idols, Walt Whitman, this uncommon memoir of the artist at 65 is informed by the wide margins on the pages of the Chinese editions of her works (margins her father used to write in). Kingston revisits characters, like Wittman Ah Sing, the monkey from her first novel, and themes from her books: her pacifist, feminist activism; the challenge of stereotypes; East and West. Though this homage to aging, with wisdom gained through a freewheeling reflection on family, the past, fate (karma, we're reminded, means "work," not "doom"), and self-reliance (which is a translation of Kingston's Chinese name, Ting Ting), often rambles, it also has the cohesion and intricate logic of a musical composition. The artist is a mental traveler, presenting her life as a dreamlike journey that culminates in a listing of "my dead," some 50 names, which both pulls Kingston toward oblivion ("Each one who dies, I want to go with you") and inspires seven reasons to live. The desire to create recedes ("I regret always writing, writing") as the memoirist sees herself becoming "reader of the world," a "surprise world" that frees her from the need to create it with words. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* The title is from Thoreau, and it is the perfect credo for Kingston, a gentle advocate for justice and peace, an innovative creator of unconventional, mythic, and captivating tales. The very structure of her affecting memoir involves broad margins as Kingston channels musings and memories into one long, streaming poem. Some may quail at the prospect of a narrative-in-verse, but Kingston’s language is so natural, lucid, and subtly rhythmic, reading it is as effortless as breathing. Revered for the candor of her groundbreaking creative nonfiction, beginning with The Woman Warrior (1976), and her playful and profound fiction, Kingston gracefully entwines both genres as she reflects on turning 65, shares piquant stories of family, and catches up with her characters, especially Wittman Ah Sung, who first appeared in Tripmaster Monkey (1989). Kingston’s descriptions of the timeless beauty and evolving struggle of village life in China are mystical and incisive, while wry humor shapes her account of being arrested during a 2003 peace demonstration at the White House. Looking back to her California childhood as the daughter of immigrants, Kingston remembers wanting to ask others, “How do you feel being you?” That is the writer’s great question, and the wellspring of Kingston’s artistry and deep compassion. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
This is a gentle book, an inspiring book. Often, when I read such a book, especially as well written as this one, I thrill for having read it, and despair of ever writing anything again. This book has inspired me to write my own memoir as I face my 72d birthday coming sooner than expected ;-)
I Love a Broad Margin to My Life is a free verse poem, filled with music as she writes about her life, where she's been, what she's done, the whys, and the wherefores. There are many tidbits of fun and useful information scattered freely throughout. Did you know the meaning of the word karma is work, not doom? She lists reasons to live and take joy in life.
If you are a reader of Thoreau, as she is, you will recognize the title as a line from one of his books. The saying hangs over her desk. It will soon hang over mine, and this book will always be close to my hand, and bound within my heart. I am not sure what Thoreau meant when he wrote that line, or what MH Kinston meant when she adopted it, let alone what a 'broad margin to my life' means to you, but to me, it means to surround myself with space to think, to write, to create, to quilt, to learn, to be, to live. Thank you, Ms. Kingston for showing the way.
One of the charms about the book is the feel of poetry, from the staccato sentence structure, abrupt turn of direction, and the choice to use whatever language best conveys the completion of the thought. It's next to impossible to imagine what's going to happen next and relaxing that part of your brain to just follow the story is a peaceful way to take a break from the day.