Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Memoirist-advice columnist Cheryl Strayed wins hearts and minds at the DMA
The author spoke as part of the Arts & Letters Live series.
DALLAS If you missed Tuesday night’s Arts and Letters Live speaker, Cheryl Strayed, at the Dallas Museum of Art, I’m so sorry. I recommend you go now, RIGHT NOW, to your local bookstore or online outlet and order her books immediately. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The 44-year-old novelist, memoirist and advice columnist thoroughly enchanted a sold-out and overflow audience in the DMA’s Horchow Auditorium (she graciously tweeted a “thanks to to all of you who filled those gorgeous blue velvet seats” after her talk).
I had read only a short bit of Strayed’s 2012 memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, about her trek — both physical and emotional -- along 1,100 miles of mountainous terrain -- in 1995. I was planning to read it soon (and now I will devour it), interested because Strayed, like me, lost her mother far too young, and her journey turned into a metaphorical exploration as well as a literal one, “the need to move forward regardless of the burden” I was 40 when my mom passed away, so I had many more years with my beloved parent than Strayed did; her mom died when she was 22. But the feelings of the motherless tribe, as she calls us, tend to coincide, no matter what age you are when you lose your mom. Here’s freelance writer Edward Nawotka story for us about the Texas connection to Wild.
Strayed read passages from the book that had us simultaneously laughing hysterically and tearing up from her dead-on strikes at emotional targets. Her husband, she says, calls her a “truth machine,” and indeed, she didn’t balk from telling on herself — promiscuity, drug use, the tendency to overpack — in sometimes unflattering detail. She amused the Dallas audience with her observation that this was the only introduction she had gotten, in more than a year of touring for Wild (which just came out in paperback), in which her past as a high-school homecoming queen was mentioned. (“If I had known, I would have brought my tiara,” she said. “This is Texas, you guys just walk around wearing tiaras, right? I tried to make my hair especially big.”)
You’ll be hearing more about Wild soon; best-selling author and screenwriter Nick Hornby is adapting the book for a movie, and Reese Witherspoon is set to play Strayed in the film.
Strayed also talked about Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love From Dear Sugar, a collection of her work as the advice columnist for therumpus.net. Her friend Steven Almond, the original Sugar, asked her in 2010 if she’d like to take over a job that didn’t pay anything, had no following, and that he was no longer interested in doing. Of course, she said “sure.” Oh, and she’d never even taken Psychology 101. So she decided, she says, “to put the full force of my humanity” into the column.
No kidding -- I started reading the book at about 10 p.m., when I got home from the DMA. Three hours later, I finished it, after having underlined at least half the book (and I usually keep my books pristine, but I knew immediately I’d want to keep this one and refer back). For someone so young, Strayed has amassed amazing stores of wisdom. I’d compare her most closely to Anne Lamott, who also dispenses life-altering sagacity spiced with wit. I warn you, after reading the book, you’ll be struck with an instant longing, if not sheer need, to take Strayed to lunch (as one DMA attendee offered) and let her pour her honey-toned honesty over all your life’s problems. She just became one of my Life Heroes.
Arts and Letters Live still has many events in its current season. Here are the next few:
- Elizabeth Strout, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge and the new novel The Burgess Boys (see my review in this Sunday’s paper), 7:30 p.m. April 15.
- Texas Bound II, with Judith Ivy, Cindy Beall and Raphael Parry reading stories by Betty Wiesepape, Alix Ohlin, Patricia Highsmith and Jack Handey, 7:30 p.m. May 6.
- Temple Grandin, author of The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum and other books and subject of an award-winning HBO film, 7:30 p.m. May 10.
For more events, information and tickets, visit dma.org/all or call 214-922-1818.
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