Friday, 5 January 2018

"Something is Always on Fire" by Measha Brueggergosman

   I was ready for something light to read over Christmas and found this biography.  I had seen Measha on Canada Reads- first in 2004 and later in 2017.  She is an opera singer and she opened the Scotiabank Giller Prize Ceremony in Toronto this year.   I didn't recognize her at first and realized that she had lost a lot of weight.  I knew there must be a story there.

   Her book begins in 2009 with open-heart surgery.  Yes, there was a story there.

   She had been molested twice before the age of 10.  As a result of being bullied, she had a complicated relationship to her body and also to food. By 28, she weighed 350-370 pounds.  She paid no attention to this. "Opera singing has a tradition of big voices in big packages".  Her career was doing well and her husband loved her unconditionally.  From denial, she turned to obsession, eventually having bariatric surgery, followed by joining Bikram yoga.  She lost 150 pounds.

   Measha had decided that she wanted to take a leadership course in yoga.  It was an intensive, 9-week course in hot yoga in Las Vegas- practicing twice a day in 42 degree heat for 90 minutes, plus learning anatomy and history in three languages.
  Although Measha had realized from a very young age, that she would spend her life singing, she needed to find the right education as well as private teachers, and later it was important to get managers and agents, that could help to mold her career.  I didn't realize that there were so many genres of music and she was interested in more than one.
  She had great success with her singing career but always struggled to keep a balance of career and family.  She lost twin babies and went on a 10-day silent retreat to work through her grief, rising at 4:30 every morning and retiring at 9:30- no talking, no reading or writing or any form of technology.  Meditating for 9 hours and 45 minutes each day.
  Towards the end of the book, she talks openly about the lovers that she has had (while married),  admitting that she is selfish and uncompromising.  She describes her husband in glowing terms but had been separated a few times and expected the marriage would not survive.  She wrote, 'It never occurred to me to be faithful".  I find that hard to believe.  Both her father and brother were Baptist ministers and she grew up in the church.
   This is just what I don't understand about memoirs.  Everybody, but everybody now knows all your inner secrets. What motivates people to tell the world every stupid thing that they ever did?  It is now a public record- for children, grandchildren, etc., etc.
  And...she admits that she had never read a memoir!

I will end with her quote:
"Here's the thing: either you write an imperfect book that is done, or you write a perfect book that never materializes.  You can be messy and classy.  You cannot be wise without making a ton of stupid mistakes, it's impossible.  I just sat down and said, "This is the book that I'm writing". I worked very hard to make sure that I could stand by it".

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