One of the arts’ significant advantages is seeing what the self may have in common with others.
After listening to Piya Chattopadhyay’s Sunday Magazine on CBC Radio, I felt I had to write to her. The segments were excellent individually and also as a whole. They seemed to dialogue with each other.
In her new book, To Paradise, Hanya Yanagihara, a novelist rooted in Hawaii, speaks with Piya about the themes she explores in her recent work – freedom, utopia, borders, and disease over three centuries through three different versions of the American experiment, three couples of different socioeconomic backgrounds and sexual orientations. Yanagihara also comments on the damages caused by the pressures of males in our society expected to suppress all feelings.
Piya then interviewed John Koenig, author of Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, about creating new words for feelings that previously had no way to be expressed. Koenig makes new words by borrowing and joining elements from many different languages. He points out that every language brings a different perspective, and each one has the potential to enrich our understanding of the world if we only care to see it.
Piya’s next interviewee, Stephen Marche, has written The Next Civil War: Dispatches from the American Future. Marche tries to shine a light on the present state of the US political situation by analyzing data and interrogating nearly two hundred experts, civil war scholars, military leaders, law enforcement officials, secret service agents, agricultural specialists, environmentalists, war historians, political scientists, and the man-on-the-street.
Marche calls his book speculative non-fiction, reminding us repeatedly that although his book is based on “facts,” he can not predict anything based on these “facts.” In this sense, I find it more similar to Hanya Yanagihara’s imaginative fictional novel, which creates its ephemeral reality.
Yanagihara frames her book around the search for “paradise” and how the United States embodies that dream for many people.
“Paradise,” like “joy,” can be an inner state accessible anywhere. The Bible speaks about Adam and Eve’s exile from Eden. But there is a way back there for each of us. Every week on the seventh day, one can bring an oasis of paradise quality into one’s life by engineering that total escape from our mundane cares. We call it the Sabbath.
Over the long term, we all continue to pray and strive for a world free of violence, war and pestilence, the ultimate Paradise.