Building Solid: A Life in Stories
Rome was not built in a day, and neither is a life. Both are built piece by piece, each piece seemingly unconnected, until over a long period of time, the life emerges, as from a fog, into a whole being. Joan Rudd, in Building Solid: A Life in Stories, presents a stunningly beautiful autobiography that evokes myriad emotional states in the reader, ranging from joy to sadness.
Rudd is a sculptor who lives in the Pacific Northwest. She was born and raised in the New York City of the 1950s and moved to Portland, Oregon, to pursue her education, ultimately earning a BFA. While in the Northwest, she married and joined the back to the country movement of the 1960s, purchasing land in rural Washington and living a communal farm life. Her Jewish background influences much of her outlook on life.
Rudd’s knowledge of the physical processes of sculpting informs her approach to writing. She brilliantly constructs a written “negative” image of a sculpture. Imagine a block that is carefully chipped away until the sculpture is a completed and finished likeness. The chips, transformed into written form as stories, are gathered up to form the negative image. They are intrinsic to the sculpture because, without their existence, the sculpture would remain a block. Rudd uses these “chips” to present her life in ten categories: Childhood, Physical Strength, Autonomy, Connectedness, Resilience , Resistance, Serendipity, Perspective, Wholeness, and Unity which constitute the raw material of her collective whole.
Rudd delivers short sketches of her experiences, which form the totality of each chapter. For example, her childhood growing up as the child and grandchild of Holocaust refugees living in NYC, her early fight with cancer that makes her an above-the-knee amputee, and having Central Park as a playground, are all pieces of the Childhood whole. Throughout the book, Rudd speaks in the tone of a strong and powerful woman who has experienced both trauma and triumph. A powerful soul inhabits Rudd’s corporeal form and shines through in her stories. Nuggets of wisdom are spread throughout the book, such as “One has to learn how to be safe around sharp edges and crooked people.”
This is a wonderful book. The vignettes deliver stories of family life, the joys and fears of parenthood, the losses and triumphs of personal achievement, and the sorrow of losing connections to loved ones. Each chapter connects to the larger whole of the book, to the whole of Rudd herself. Readers will experience many emotions as they connect Rudd’s story to their own lives and experiences. If you read one book this year, make it this one. A true masterpiece.
|Page Count||478 pages|
|Publisher||Joan Rudd/Strudel Press|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|
|Category||Biographies & Memoirs|