Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
On the cover of Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life are some words from the foreword that sum up the book: “I have no survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story.”
What an intriguing concept! How could anyone ordinary write a whole book about themselves? What would they have to say? And what chutzpah to think anyone else could ever find it interesting!
But it is interesting. The author, who I think of as Amy (justified, I think, given the personal nature of the book), took a bunch of her memories and observations, gave each an explanatory title, then alphabetized them. Sometimes she included little bits of artwork or tables that break up the text nicely and make the whole thing look more like a real encyclopedia.
This is a love it or hate it book, or so it seems browsing through the online reviews. The people who hate it just don’t seem to get the point, and they say, “Yeah, Amy. You didn’t survive against all odds, or live to tell, and that’s why you shouldn’t have written a book about yourself!” But I think everyone has interesting thoughts, at least once in a while. OK, I admit that I found small sections of it dull, but the beauty of this book’s format is that you can easily skip to the next entry to see if it’s more to your liking, and there’s plenty to like.
To give you an example, here’s what Amy says about doing things.
It is so much easier to not do something than to do something. Even the smallest task, like filling out a Scholastic Books order form or putting away the butter, requires time, focus, and follow-through. It’s astounding, actually, that anything gets done at all, by anyone.
Yet. Still. Somehow. I am encouraged to see that despite the colossal effort, despite the odds against one, despite the mere constraints of time and schedules and sore throats, houses do get built, pottery gets glazed, e-mails get sent, trees get planted, shoes get reheeled, manifestos get Xeroxed, films get shot, highways get repaved, cakes get frosted, stories get told.
I’m a lifelong procrastinator, so I get what she’s saying here. Doing something, anything, always feels like a pain in the butt. The fact that I get anything done (like this blog post) is truly amazing. I’ve always wondered, actually, why no one else seems to think that doing things is such a chore. Now I know at least one other person out there also realizes the effort required to do the simplest things.
I liked Amy’s encyclopedia. I recommend it. I also heartily encourage others to follow her lead. Write down the stories of your life!