A collection of long-form essays on joy, in which Ross Gay turns his curious mind to everything from skateboarding and cover songs, basketball and race, dancing and academia, death and laughter, and, always, the garden and the natural world.
I worried. From gratitude to delight to joy … had becoming a best-selling author turned this man’s beautiful mind into a brand? ... With Inciting Joy, which inspires us to look beyond the miseries of our era to envision a more welcoming future, Gay vaults over the possibility of treacle to offer a concept of joy akin to what Audre Lorde conceptualized in her essay Uses of the Erotic ... I kept writing quotes down and sharing them with whomever was near ... May these quotes plant seeds that flourish. His final metaphor (which I will not describe, to preserve for you the elation made possible by an unforeseen volta about farming) stirred in me a shimmering fire that was banked but not doused by time ... Get yourself a copy of Inciting Joy, then gift yourself the great pleasure of giving it away. The deepest joys are those we share.
He writes movingly, even urgently, about contributing to a shared project, whether building a communal orchard or sharing seeds, plants and gardening know-how with others in a community. There is also a generosity of spirit ... These essays are intellectually rigorous, informed by other writers and thinkers, as well as by musicians and athletes, and by Gay's family and friends. But it's also possible (and delightful) to see his poetic tendencies peeking through. His prose is constantly engaging with the ins and outs of language, trying to find just the right word to express a particular idea, and often circling back again and again to qualify, clarify or refine his meaning ... Gay is also playful in his use of footnotes --- in an essay on masculinity and its relation to sports culture, whole parallel narratives play out in a series of footnotes --- and the kind of wordplay that delights poets and readers alike.