Textbook, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Once in a very, very long while, you read something that changes you. This book did, but I can’t really tell you how exactly. Not yet, anyway. 

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Textbook is a peculiar book. Throughout the book, via cues and questions, Rosenthal invites you to interact with her. Share a thought, a memory, a moment, or a photograph. You can even win a pie! The interactions are facilitated via text messages; being from the other end of her world (and before knowing about Rosenthal’s death), I did not and merely browsed others’ contributions on the book’s accompanying website. 

But it is not these invites to interact that make this a peculiar book. It is one of many contributing factors — the book is sectioned into different subjects (Geography, Science, Music etc); the book runs the gamut of content, from poetry to riddles to art to slice-of-life recollections; it has no particular narrative; there is quite a number of tables and charts… It is unique, funny, thoughtful, thought-provoking, real, and surprising. It is part Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit, and part Miranda July

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When I finished the book, I went into Goodreads to mark the book as read. I hadn’t read any of the posted reviews of the book previously, but I loved the book and I wanted to find some comrades (the average rating was/is >4.0, so I knew I would find some solidarity). 

The first review I tapped into saddened me, not for the reviewer’s views, but because it mentioned that Rosenthal was diagnosed with cancer soon after Textbook’s publication and had passed away from the illness. It also mentioned that Rosenthal was the author of a NYT’s Modern Love article, You May Want To Marry My Husband. I remember reading that article when it first came out; it was a poignant and heartbreaking read. It was one of those things you read and never really quite forget. It was a love letter you never would hope to receive, but wish that you would be a worthy recipient if things ever go crap. 

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Textbook is the kind of book I hope I would write if I ever do write one, and when I do, I hope that I would remember her imagination, her sense of wonder, and her guts to imagine this book. 

It’s hard to say what this book is really about, except it’s about life. That sounds a little lame, so I shall share a couple of pages from the book. 

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I borrowed the book from NLB, but have since purchased the book. I bought 2 copies, one for myself and one for one of you who happens to be reading this.

In the spirit of Textbook, I’m gifting a copy to the 7th person who shares a little about their last or most memorable taxi conversation (I’ve always been a fan). I will leave the book in a Popstation locker; you will need to be in Singapore to collect the book, but no address will be needed. An email address will be required. 🙂