Life Work (Paperback)
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The distinguished poet on the meaning of work, solitude, and love in this "extraordinary nobility and wisdom" (The New York Times)
When Donald Hall moved to his grandparents' New Hampshire farm in 1975, his work as a writer and a life devoted to the liteary arts must have seemed remote from the harsh physical labor of his ancestors. However, he reveals a similar kind of artistry in the lives of his grandparents, Kate and Wesley. From them he learned that the devotion to craft—be it canning vegetables, writing poems, or carting manure—creates its own special discipline and an "absorbedness" that no wage can compensate.
In this "sustained meditation on work as the key to personal happiness" (Los Angeles Times), we see how the writer has modeled his own life on his family's lives of work, solitude, and love. When Hall comes face to face with his own mortality halfway through writing this book, we understand both his obsession with work and its ultimate consolation.
About the Author
Donald Hall (1928–2018) Was the author of many volumes of poetry spanning forty years, including The One Day, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, essays, children's books, and criticism.
The best new book I have read this year, of extraordinary nobility and wisdom. It will remain with me always.—Louis Begley, The New York Times
"A sustained meditation on work as the key to personal happiness. . . . Life Work reads most of all like a first-person psychological novel with a poet named Donald Hall as its protagonist. . . . Hall's particular talents ultimately [are] for the memoir, a genre in which he has few living equals. In his hands the memoir is only partially an autobiographical genre. He pours both his full critical intelligence and poetic sensibility into the form."—Dana Gioia, Los Angeles Times
"Hall . . . here offers a meditative look at his life as a writer in a spare and beautifully crafted memoir. Devoted to his art, Hall can barely wait for the sun to rise each morning so that he can begin the task of shaping words."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"I [am] delighted and moved by Donald Hall's Life Work, his autobiographical tribute to sheer work--as distinguished from labor--as the most satisfying and ennobling of activities, whether one is writing, canning vegetables or playing a dung fork on a New Hampshire farm."—Paul Fussell, The Boston Globe
"Donald Hall’s Life Work has been strangely gripping, what with his daily to do lists, his ruminations on the sublimating power of work. Hall has written so much about that house in New Hampshire where he lives that I’m beginning to think of it less as a place than a state of mind. I find it odd that a creative mind can work with such Spartan organization (he describes waiting for the alarm to go off at 4:45 AM, so eager is he to get to his desk) at such a mysterious activity (making a poem work) without getting in the way of itself."—John Freeman’s blog (National Book Critics Circle Board President)