from The Book of (More) Delights


A Rumpus exclusive excerpt from THE BOOK OF (MORE) DELIGHTS by Ross Gay | forthcoming from Algonquin Books on September 19, 2023


The Clothesline

There are so many simple pleasures, simple delights, and maybe the goal, the practice, is to be delighted especially by them, the simplest of things. For instance, today, among the many, I offer the clothesline, not only for its utility, how it keeps the house from getting hot in the summer, how it saves a little energy and burns a little less CO2, but also for how it reminds you that your grandma in northern Minnesota loved to hang her sheets on a clothesline in the winter for how they smelled after they froze, and that your mother loves the smell of anything hung out. But also this, I’m thinking today, as I admire my T-shirts and shorts and drawers and towels blowing in the wind like Tibetan flags, like a ramshackle and sometimes threadbare rainbow: that a clothesline reminds you how often we make of our simple daily labors (hanging clothes, folding clothes, washing dishes, arranging the fridge or the cupboards, chopping veggies or wrapping the bread, sweeping up, or mopping) an art.

(Aug. 11)


The Full Moon!

Friends, I am forty-seven years old, nearly a half century of living under my belt, and it was only today, reading about herbs and tinctures and planting schedules and various other astro-agronomical affairs, that I learned, I am so shy to admit it to you, that the moon wanes into blank. I knew it waxed into full, but the waning part into no moon, which they call new moon, somehow eluded me, which I’m guessing it didn’t you. You probably learned it, and kept it learned, in fourth grade or something. Not me. For some reason I was under the impression, clearly not the observational impression, that it goes from super bright (full, werewolves and such) to off. Like hitting a light switch.

I mean, look: I am only now learning this despite the fact that, among other things that might have hipped me (like my eyes), despite the cognitive acrobatics I have been doing to keep my understanding in place (like not believing my eyes), I believe 1000 percent that the moon, given as it affects the waves in the ocean, and given as we are mostly ocean, affects us profoundly. The moon may have chosen a few of the words in that last sentence. I am all the way on that team, and have been for a little while now, even though I was quite slow getting there, committed atheistico-materialist I aspired to be, pretending (or hoping?) everything was a machine that could be parsed and tinkered and decoded and conquered and possessed by the human intellect, figured out, I guess, myself especially I wonder (no luck). What is that about?

I mean, my god, I wonder if I would’ve been in my youth a congregant in the Bill Gates et al church of the-earth-is-a-halfwit-machine-we-can-outsmart-i.e.-lube-up-to-make-spin-better. (And-make-a-killing-while- pretending-to-do-so.) I really wonder. Maybe kinda I was. Though wayward, or black-sheepishly, given as I could never not take my dreams seriously. Given as though I refused palm readers and astrologers and their occult ilk because, I testified, I didn’t believe them, it’s really because I believe them.

Anyhow, alas, thanks to my boundless, bottomless, boundaryless ignorance: goddamn and holy shit! Waxing and waning! Have you heard?!?! The world again is made to me anew, which, in a certain kind of way, my friend Penelope explained to me, if I heard this right, is how Descartes thought about wonder: wonder requires the novel, or the new, he said. He also evidently said wonder is without a companion or opposite emotion, the way happiness has sadness, and excitement has lethargy, etc. In this and probably some other things I disagree with Descartes, because wonder’s opposite emotion is know-it-all-ery. The know-it-all’s job is to put a stake in wonder’s fat and gooey heart. Nothing new under the sun, etc. Which, of course, most everything is—new—or becomes so when we look longer or closer. And so—in addition to touching toes, expressing need, speaking in tongues, getting everything all over the place—wonder, being perpetually wonderst(r)uck, is another thing the very young are our gurus at. It’s why they walk so damn slow. And never stop with the questions.

(Aug. 26)



Author photo by Natasha Komoda

Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, winner of the PEN American Literary Jean Stein Award; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. In addition to his poetry, Ross has released three collections of essays—The Book of Delights; Inciting Joy; and his newest collection, The Book of (More) Delights. More from this author →