Sarah de Leeuw
FINALIST IN THE 2017 GOVERNOR GENERAL’S LITERARY AWARD FOR NON-FICTION!Where It Hurts is a highly-charged collection of personal essays, haunted by loss, evoking turbulent physical and emotional Canadian landscapes. Sarah de Leeuw’s creative non-fiction captures strange inconsistencies and aberrations of human behaviour, urging us to be observant and aware. The essays are wide in scope and expose what–and who–goes missing.
With the insight of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, Sarah de Leeuw reflects on missing geographies and people, including missing women, both those she has known and those whom she will never get to know. As in Lynn Coady’s Hellgoing, but hell-going made real, the writing is courageously focused, juxtaposing places and things that can be touched and known–emotionally, physically, psychologically–with what has become intangible, unnoticed, or actively ignored. Throughout these essays, de Leeuw’s imagistic memories are layered with meaning, providing a survival guide for the present, including a survival that comes with the profound responsibility to bear witness.
This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language. For Fadiman, as for many passionate readers, the books she loves have become chapters in her own life story. Writing with remarkable grace, she revives the tradition of the well-crafted personal essay, moving easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family. As someone who played at blocks with her father’s 22-volume set of Trollope (« My Ancestral Castles ») and who only really considered herself married when she and her husband had merged collections (« Marrying Libraries »), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proof-reading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading out loud. There is even a foray into pure literary gluttony–Charles Lamb liked buttered muffin crumbs between the leaves, and Fadiman knows of more than one reader who literally consumes page corners. Perfectly balanced between humor and erudition, Ex Libris establishes Fadiman as one of our finest contemporary essayists.