Friday, October 02, 2015

Oh For Life-Changing Magic

A huge non-fiction best-seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up had the distinction of being featured in a recent New Yorker cartoon. I tried to copy the cartoon to display in this post but was defeated by electronics. So I will just include the caption:

The Life-Changing Magic of Shoving Everything into a Huge Hefty Bag and Leaving It For Somebody Else to Deal With.

I wanted to read this book and tried to get it through the library. Believe it or not, there were already 147 holds on the copy. I wasn't willing to be the 148th in line and ordered it through Amazon. Not only was I willing to pay good money for the Japanese author's slender little instruction manual, I had already listened to it on an audiobook. I even started folding underwear and my socks vertically and started sorting items for Goodwill by category.

My life is basically the same. I do some things well and some things poorly. I have good days and bad days, but mostly my days are pretty satisfying and on the whole I'm a happy person. I have a lot to be thankful for. The book had some great hints, but the "life-changing magic" seemed to bypass me.

So what in the world happened to make such a simple little book zoom to top of best-seller lists? I think that the author was Japanese lent credibility. We associate Japanese d├ęcor with uncluttered simplicity. Simplicity is appealing to those of us who are overburdened with the demands of our stressful societies and our plethora of electronic gadgets.

The book has a serene cover with a blue sky. It promises happiness. Serenity. A perfectly ordered house with everything in its place. There is a compelling narrative. The author, Marie Kondo, started down this decluttering path when she was in kindergarten. At the age of five, she could not wait to get home after school and begin organizing her things. It's her passion. She built a business out of organizing stuff.

She's the ultimate authority and very opinionated. No one else could have written from the same point of view.

But making a fortune from tidying up! Who would have thought?

This is a simple book. There is a lesson here for beginning novelists who complain that they are stuck in ordinary towns with ordinary uninspiring people. The greatest writers see the stuff of stories right in front of them. It doesn't take great adventures to come up with great fiction. And the same could be said of non-fiction.

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