Ross Gay

Ross Gay
The Book of Delights

I hereby nominate Ross Gay for Delightmonger Laureate of the United States. To read his words is to drench yourself in joy.

Over the course of a year, beginning on his 42nd birthday, Gay created a series of “essayettes” documenting the moments that “truly filled [his] heart with fiamingos.” He had intended to write an essay a day, but as one of his avowed delights is inefficiency (“blowing it off”), he ended up with 102. Along the way he learned this tiny but significant truth: “The more you study delight, the more delight there is to study.”

You might imagine that, as a Black man, Gay would have more cause for bitterness than celebration. Not so. Gay is no Pollyanna, but he has elevated appreciation of the commonplace to an art form. Appreciation for the father who defended him so fiercely against playground bullies—and wept while watching Ghost. For the nuances of “negreeting,” the subtle ways that Black people acknowledge each other’s presence. For a flight attendant calling him baby.

It helps that Gay is a poet by profession, “hovering in the liminal space between sensitivity and paranoia,” attuned to the small and specific in his “dalliance with delight.” To wit: Licking dribbles off the rim of a coffee cup. Debating whether whoop-de-doo can have positive connotations. Finding flowers in the outstretched hand of a Hoagy Carmichael statue, a sign of “our inclination . . . to make of the world a bouquet.” High-fiving strangers. Drowsing in public. Watching a skater “carving wakes of joy into the sidewalk.”

Then there’s his conversation with the 15-year-old who, asked what she finds so annoying about the behavior of a particular person, yells, “It’s the annoyingness!”

And throws her gummy bears at him.

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