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The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon

por Donald Hall

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1657125,979 (4.21)18
Donald Hall's celebrated book of poems Without was written for his wife, Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995.Hall returns to this powerful territory in The Best Day the Worst Day, a work of prose that is equally "a work of art, love, and generous genius" (Liz Rosenberg, Boston Globe).Jane Kenyon was nineteen years younger than Donald Hall and a student poet at the University of Michigan when they met.Hall was her teacher.The Best Day the Worst Day is an intimate account of their twenty-three-year marriage, nearly all of it spent in New Hampshire at Eagle Pond Farm - of their shared rituals of writing, close attention to pets and gardening, and love in the afternoon.Hall joyfully records Jane's growing power as a poet and the couple's careful accommodations toward each other as writers.This portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall has written, is laid against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months.Hall shares with readers - as if we were one of the grieving neighbors, friends, and relatives - the daily ordeal of Jane's dying, through heartbreaking and generous storytelling.The Best Day the Worst Day stands alongside Elegy to Iris as a powerful testimony to both loss and love.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 7 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
I first read this book years ago, long before I lost my wife to cancer as well. It was a painful read then, but without Vicky in my life, rereading it was hellish at times. If her death hadn't redefined the term heartbreaking so intensely, I would have applied it to this book. Hall describes his life with Jane Kenyon, from meeting her to losing her on her deathbed, where he slept every night thereafter. ( )
  jphamilton | Jan 7, 2020 |
Mostly the story of his wife's dying, and thus not the easiest thing to read. The poems in Without cover the same territory, but this is more plain and everyday, and all the sadder for it, ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 19, 2016 |
This is heart-breaking reading, in a mourning for Margaret kind of way. Few lives together, it would seem, could be as blessed as those of Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon. Their love and passion; their friends, travels, and adventures; their farm, pets and gardens; their many shared loves; their individual talents and achievements; their freedom and independence - their lives together were très riches heures indeed. Together they flourished in spite of many health related issues including bipolar depression, diabetes, impotence, and metastatic cancer. Even these travails seemed to have brought them closer. Then she was diagnosed with leukemia and a few very trying months later she died.

Hall structures the book not as one arc, but as two parallel, alternating narratives: the account of their deepening relationship over a couple of decades is set against the story of their life after the leukemia diagnosis. In this way he achieves a literary illusion of equilibrium - "in balance with this life, this death". In fact he was, inevitably, crushed by her death, though his epilogue would indicate that things were somewhat better some years later. The book could have been an anguished scream, but instead it is a consoling read. In an interview with Bill Moyers, Jane Kenyon describes how sad poems can bring consolation: "There's the pleasure of the thing itself, the pleasure of the poem, and somehow it works against the sadness". In this book Donald Hall has achieved much the same thing, and I hope that the act of writing it was consoling for him.

One cannot read this memoir without, at a readerly remove, feeling deep affection for Hall - his constance is remarkable. As for Jane Kenyon, I did find it difficult to get the measure of her from the book alone. It is clear from the devotion of Hall, her friends and their families, that she must have been an impressive presence: intense, articulate, frank, passionate, and loving. The book could not convey that, it was more about "life with Jane Kenyon" than Jane Kenyon. Then I got hold of her Collected Poems, and the Jane in the book became more vivid for me. Reading about her struggles with depression must pale beside reading Having it Out with Melancholy. Whenever a poem or collection was mentioned in The Best Day The Worst Day, I read it, and that has made all the difference. ( )
  maritimer | Sep 10, 2011 |
My review? It's on my book blog, MyShelves.This book is available at Teton County Library, call number BIO KENYON J HALL. ( )
  csmirl | May 1, 2011 |
Although this is so overtly a chronicle of losing a loved one, about the horrors of cancer and its various treatments, it is also a very real picture of what makes a good and lasting marriage. Although Hall and Kenyon knew the odds of their union lasting were very slim, given the 19-year age difference and her bipolar illness, they took the plunge, Hall noting that "all marriages start in ignorance and need; what matters is what you do after you marry." Fifty-five pages later, Hall affirms what makes their marriage last -

"What we did: love. We did not spend our days gazing into each other's eyes. We did that gazing when we made love or when one of us was in trouble, but most of the time our gazes met and entwined as they looked at a third thing. Third things are essential to marriages ... Each member of a couple is separate. The two come together in double attention."

He speaks further of what, for them, constituted those "third things" - John Keats, the BSO, children, pets, or Eagle Pond. The twenty-three years Hall and Kenyon had together had their ups and downs to be sure, but in the end love prevailed. This book is Hall's very personal love song, written just for Jane. Read it and learn what love is really all about. ( )
  TimBazzett | Apr 26, 2009 |
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Donald Hall's celebrated book of poems Without was written for his wife, Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995.Hall returns to this powerful territory in The Best Day the Worst Day, a work of prose that is equally "a work of art, love, and generous genius" (Liz Rosenberg, Boston Globe).Jane Kenyon was nineteen years younger than Donald Hall and a student poet at the University of Michigan when they met.Hall was her teacher.The Best Day the Worst Day is an intimate account of their twenty-three-year marriage, nearly all of it spent in New Hampshire at Eagle Pond Farm - of their shared rituals of writing, close attention to pets and gardening, and love in the afternoon.Hall joyfully records Jane's growing power as a poet and the couple's careful accommodations toward each other as writers.This portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall has written, is laid against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months.Hall shares with readers - as if we were one of the grieving neighbors, friends, and relatives - the daily ordeal of Jane's dying, through heartbreaking and generous storytelling.The Best Day the Worst Day stands alongside Elegy to Iris as a powerful testimony to both loss and love.

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