The Summer Lovin’ Challenge is all about rereading favorites, so can you blame me for squeezing in a short reread this week? After I made my list, I couldn’t resist. I love rereading my favorite books!
Wit by Margaret Edson is a quick read (I think I read it in about an hour over the course of a day), but is poignant because of its emotional subject matter. Despite its brevity, it is packed full of various implications. I’m sure I miss most of the subtle meanings when I read it, so I enjoy rereading it. I get more out of it each time.
The play centers on Vivian Bearing’s last days in the hospital as she dies of ovarian cancer, with flashbacks to key moments in her life and career. Dr. Bearing is a professor of seventeenth century poetry, specifically of John Donne’s Holy Sonnets, and throughout the play, Bearing’s fears echo John Donne’s lines. Her impersonal medical care likewise parallels her own insensitive method of teaching students.
This play never fails to bring me to tears as I read it (or watch it), and I’m not certain why I like such intense emotion. I like the connections to words and how words can comfort and provide an imagined escape. I love the childhood books that are mentioned and the parallel between those books and the emotions that Dr. Bearing faces as her life comes full circle. I like the reminder that as people we need to recognize each other as such. This play had lonely people in it, and it made me want to make sure that others aren’t feeling lonely, whatever their stage in life.
The title, Wit, comes from the type of poetry that John Donne wrote, metaphysical poetry. The Wikipedia entry for “wit” says that “wit can be a thin disguise for more poignant feelings that are being versified” and cites John Donne as a great example of this. I certainly am not an expert at such things, so I can’t really discuss it. But reading Edson’s play is inspiring to me because I realize I have so much to learn. I love the way it makes me think. And now I want to go read John Donne’s poetry in depth.
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die. (John Donne, Sonnet X)
Margaret Edson wrote Wit in 1995, when she was an elementary school teacher volunteering at a hospital cancer ward. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1999.
I also rewatched the movie this week, which stars Emma Thompson. While it is certainly an adaptation of the play, it is very well done. I’ve never seen the play live, although I’d like too. It should be noted that the play itself has brief nudity at the end, which may be a bit surprising if one is not expecting it.
- Semicolon (review of movie)
If you have reviewed Wit on your site, please leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.
Do you like to read emotional books?
Are any of your favorite books “tear jerkers”?