Life Work

Life Work

by Donald Hall

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807071335
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication date: 04/14/2003
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 136
Sales rank: 765,605
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.40(d)

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.

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Life Work 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
phebj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Donald Hall is a poet, essayist, editor, and a writer of children¿s books and memoirs. Life Work is a series of essays about the pure joy he gets out of doing this work. It¿s the process of working more than the final product that thrills him. He¿s so eager to start his day playing with words that he has to restrain himself from leaping out of bed before 4:30 in the morning.Since 1975, Hall has been a free-lance writer, working at home, which is on the farm of his maternal great-grandparents in New Hampshire. Throughout these essays, he ruminates on the connection between his love of writing and his grandfather¿s love of farming. ¿It is the family farm . . . that provides a model for my own work; one task after another, all day all year, and every task different.¿ Hall loves to redraft the things he writes. With one poem, ¿Another Elergy,¿ he talks about doing 600 drafts of it over a number of years. "I am swept away: I am happy; I am manic. . . . Who else counts the number of drafts?" Later he talks about helping his grandfather with scythe mowing on the farm. ¿Finding a meter, one abandons oneself to the swing of it; one surrenders oneself to the guidance of object and task, where worker and work are one: There is something ecstatic about mowing with a scythe.¿For Hall, "contentment is work so engrossing that you do not know that you are working." He regrets that his own father hated his work doing the bookkeeping for his father¿s dairy business. He wanted to teach but succumbed to the pressure to join the family business. ¿It pains me to think of my father's work. . . . He always loathed his work at the dairy. . . . He detested what he did.¿Fortunately, for Hall his father made sure this would never happen to him. ¿He hated what he did and I love what I do. Opposites are never accidental. He shook his fist over my cradle, I was always told, saying, `He'll do what he wants to do¿--and he stuck to it years later even when it turned out to be poetry that I wanted to do.¿This is an outstanding book and the only reason I¿m not giving it 5 stars is because the second half is not as good as the first. This is understandable--Hall finds out his cancer has returned and isn¿t sure how long he has to live. Luckily, for us, he is still here 17 years later. Highly recommended--4 1/2 stars--and one of my favorite books of 2010.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago