Margin Notes



What I Was Reading:

The Book of (More) Delights by Ross Gay is based on the same premise as his previous collection, The Book of Delights: a year’s worth of brief essays, beginning and ending on his birthday, that celebrate the delights he encounters in his daily life. Gay explains that for the second collection he “kept to the same constraints—write them daily, write them quickly, and write them by hand—though truth be told, I was a little looser with those this time around, for one of the delights of a constraint, or a rule, is breaking it.”

Also like the previous collection, these essayettes as Gay calls them, are filled with inspiration for developing our own personal practice of delight by tuning into and documenting the small and large things that bring us joy.

Gay’s prose often reads like his poetry—alive with rhythm and energy. His sentences are complex, filled with strong imagery and emotion, and uniquely punctuated. This sentence is just one of a hundred I marked while reading:

As is my mother’s way sometimes, she offered this dime of wisdom as we were driving home from a sweet Christmas at my brother’s, almost in passing, dipping into a serious or serious-ish conversation, grave maybe is the better word, as is common for us, when she said—describing her grandchildren, now sixteen and fourteen years old, who will forevermore call her Munga, which is precisely how the oldest couldn’t say Grandma, both of whom still sometimes like to sleep over, or come over for a meal, and for whom she always bakes a this or a that (that requires some clarification: the best pound cake, eighteen kinds of cookies, etc.), and goes to games major and minor, traveling often quite far to sit on the hard stands despite the arthritis creeping into her lower spine, and worries on their behalf, for she changed their diapers and bathed them and when their parents were off early to work she was the one who got them off to school, which included, after waking them up very gently, soothingly as a loon singing their diminutive names, I kid you not, making for them whatever breakfast they wanted, I think they called it putting in our orders, usually eggs and bacon for the one, and chocolate chip pancakes for the other, and who still not infrequently takes them to doctor’s appointments and always makes the award ceremonies and the concerts, and if ever their folks are caught up she’s the one takes over—They saved my life.

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • There is a lot going on in this sentence punctuation-wise!
  • One of the unique elements of Gay’s style that I really appreciate is the way he interrupts himself in his writing. In this sentence, Gay pauses his original thought to add background details about his mother and sets them apart with a pair of dashes. It feels as though we are in conversation and he has veered off mid-thought to give me the important backstory.
  • When I read this extra-long single sentence with its variety of punctuation and combination of phrases, I could feel the energy behind the pacing. I felt myself inhale with the first dash and exhale when I reached the second one.
  • At first glance, this appears to be a giant run-on sentence, but it is really an exemplar for comma use and transition words.
  • This sentence would be perfect for a fluency mini-lesson that invites students to describe how the punctuation guides their reading expression.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Notice and name other interesting craft moves in this passage.
  • Explore the types of punctuation and their unique purposes in the sentence.
  • Identify the transition words and explain how they connect parts of the sentence to the whole.
  • Reflect on how the punctuation impacts the way you read it. Watch for interesting pacing strategies in other texts you read.
  • Use Gay’s technique of interrupting a shorter sentence by adding details such as anecdotes or examples.
  • Revise a draft in your writer’s notebook by incorporating some of the craft moves you notice in this excerpt.



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