It's been almost a year since Rumi and the Red Handbag came out and it's had its day in the sun, in all sorts of lovely ways. You can scroll through the highlights on the page here for the mentions and reviews.
Though I've nothing much else planned for the book, one never knows what might crop up. But for now, I feel I can put my reading copy away on the shelf and concentrate on other projects, other writings.
I thought I'd just say a few last words about the book, partly because this past week I came across something that I had read and which had lodged in my brain when I was writing the book, and which became one of Ingrid-Simone's mannerisms, or habits. It's from a conversation with the marvellous poet Li-Young Lee. He says, "the whole universe is humming, is vibrating. It's that hum that I want to hear. That's the subject of my poems." He goes on: "Humming supports the chair; humming supports mountains; humming supports this body. To be a poet is to reveal the hum, which is 'logos.' It's pure mantra, that's what it is."
It's interesting to go back to a book you've written years ago and try to remember what you were reading and thinking during that time. Some of it comes out directly in the book, and is referred to right there in the text. But other stuff is below the surface. When I was writing RRH I was reading about the grail (via Joseph Campbell) and I was thinking and reading about quests, spurred on by a memory of an untraceable quotation that I picked up somewhere in my time at university as an undergrad. Some male literary critic said, "men quest, women run errands." And I began to wonder about women's quests. You likely know the story of the grail quest, which in its many permutations goes something like: the hero on his quest to find the grail comes to a castle and inside the castle is a silent, wounded king. The hero doesn't know what to say, what to ask, he misses his chance, and therefore misses out on the grail.
So what happens if (in another loose rendition of the story) we have instead of a grail, a handbag. Instead of a castle, a secondhand store? Instead of a wounded king, we have a wounded young woman. etc. As I said, it's all very loose.
I was also reading Simone Weil, who talks about the grail quest in Waiting for God. I quote from the book on page 53 - the question we could ask someone who is suffering: What are you going through? For me, that question is the centre of the book.
I wanted Ingrid-Simone to be pure mantra. I wanted the reader to realize the whole universe is humming, including that small, odd person who checks through your groceries, or is walking alone downtown late at night, or working at a secondhand clothing store, and know that her hum is also your hum. And it's the same hum that holds up mountains and chairs.
That's what I was trying for anyway.