The Monday Book – Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke

Guest review by Janelle Bailey, retired Literature teacher.

This is truly a gorgeous graphic construction of an extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking non-fiction work of literature. And the fact that it is all, coincidentally, built and written by a Bay Port High School grad/once a local, to boot, is awfully cool! Way to go, Kristen!

A lot about this book reminded me of Mira Jacob’s Good Talk, so I was only pleasantly surprised to see her acknowledged at the end of this book.

I reflected on so much while reading this, prompted by very intellectual assertions by its author, as she investigated concepts as diverse and wide-ranging as American “cowboys,” the current declining enrollment in civic organizations, railroad building and travel, and more, while also pondering her own family members, her own personal history, and the lives of these individuals matching or not those around them.

The entire book is just plain smart and thoughtful, and I may just read it again to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time, for how densely loaded it is with good stuff. It truly sparked my interest in and thoughts about the included diverse topics. And that made me realize how much work Radtke must have done not only researching her ideas but then also determining which to include and how little or much of each, for this could have been a far longer work, given all she mentions and touches on. She does a fine job of whetting the reader’s appetite and interest for these ideas, addressing them a bit, but not dwelling or overdoing any, only initiating the thoughts and ideas at times.

This book also addresses a long-held idea I have processed myself that true loneliness is much less about being physically “alone” than it often is about “feeling” alone, even at times in an actual crowd or physically surrounded by others. It made me think about an essay I used to teach in my classroom about the value and lost art of solitude. Personally, I still feel like being in my own house all alone and able to breathe deeply and differently is a relished and rare treat, something to treasure, and not at all lonely…for me. And yet I have been in numerous situations when I have been literally surrounded by plenty of people but feel completely alone…in my thinking, my values, my understanding of things, my great wishes to be, then, anywhere else…or even alone instead. Loneliness is a mindset, I think, and has very little to do with a magic number of people in a particular place at a particular time.

I think that in this current world, isolation is of greater concern than loneliness, and hopefully others also see…and seek…the value of virtual connection and togetherness such that they do not have to feel any more alone than they wish to.

Kudos to Radtke for creating this beautiful, thoughtful book!

The Road and the Miles to Bristol – VA

Jack makes it on time again – maybe this will be a habit – – –

We’re in the process of buying a ‘new-to-us car. One day I looked out into our driveway and thought, ‘three is too many.’ We had Wendy’s Prius (Old Faithful, a 2010 with coming up for 200K miles on it) the Black Dodge Journey (Angus – think about it) and an inherited farm truck – so big we carry a stepladder to get in and out. We use that for hauling firewood from our backwoods property and carting around rubbish.

 The truck, with its raised suspension, stays because to get to said backwoods property, one has to cross through four fords of varying depth and ruggedness. It’s a little like the Billy Goats Gruff, but with bridge danger instead of troll danger – by the time one gets to ford number four, you’re above the wheel rims. Even in that Ford, fording the ford…

A good friend works the sales department of a Honda dealership an hour from us…. Friendship is important in this life, but we wanted another Prius. Gingerly addressing the question with Heather, she gave a nod.

“Leave this with me.” Within a few days she had located a low mileage Prius Prime Advanced at a good price and negotiated taking in Old Faithful and Angus as trade ins. (Ehm, loyalty doesn’t really extend to vehicles, you know; once they’ve done their time, it’s time to let them move on. And the way Wendy drives, they will probably be happy to retire from our household anyway. I have twice stopped Wendy from editing that to “The way Jack drives” by the way.)

I’m old enough to remember when cars were much simpler and you learned how to service them yourself – changing points and plugs mostly and sometimes brake shoes. The most advanced previous car I had was a SAAB 9000 but when the coke got spilled into the power window switch panel life got interesting – and so did the windows!

Our new Prius has a host of sophisticated ‘bells and whistles’ – all controlled by an on-board computer. It has heated and cooled seats, a back-up camera, a side mirror light that tells you when someone is in your blind spot. The thing practically drives itself. Best of all, it has a heated steering wheel. This is luxury enough to shake my Calvinist roots to the core. Does God approve of heated steering wheels? Well, at least God might approve of the new car’s gas mileage – stunning! It will even do 25 miles on pure electricity. I’m looking forward to getting the car, which is white. We are already looking for names. Snow White was quickly discarded. Snowflake likewise. Milky Steed is in the running. Anyone?