Citizen Wausau

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Reader Searches for a Word for Wausau

by on February 15th, 2009

I love books. If there is one thing that is a constant in my life, it is books. They have been in my life as long as I can remember, and I can turn to them during any condition or mood. I began reading words at the age of three (thank you Sesame Street!) and have not stopped. I love the smell of books, the feel of their cool covers and soft pages and the look of their comfortable, worn bindings. I am Katie, a lover of literature, a student of books and a citizen of Wausau.

I am somewhat of a book snob, usually opting for things on top 10 lists or books that have received stellar reviews, or simply choosing a classic. Having studied English for years, I find I usually can’t go wrong with a classic, with my favorite authors being F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Hardy. But such high standards require a break from time to time, right? I will try to read something relevant to Wausau each week: a selection from a library book club, Janke’s pick of the week, a book from a local author or any suggestions from Wausau locals.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert (nonfiction)

I picked this out after hearing much about it. In magazines, from friends, at bookstores, on Oprah. Because if you’re going to read a book, Oprah should dictate which one. Plus, I’ve been to Italy, and I like to eat and love. And sometime pray.

The story chronicles the author’s travels, beginning at age 34. After a difficult divorce, she decides to travel for a year, spending four months each in Italy, India and Indonesia. The purpose of the visit to Italy is simple pleasure by savoring all of the country’s delights: food, wine, relaxation and good conversation. This is a fun segment of the book, reading of her struggles to learn the language and her affinity and overuse/misuse of the beautiful word attraversiamo, meaning “let’s cross over,” her connections with the locals, her touring of historic and well-loved areas.

Then it’s on to India to achieve communion with the divine at a sacred ashram. This section lagged for me. The beauty and warmth of Italy is a tough act to follow, and I found this section to be less interesting. Finally, she travels to Indonesia to achieve balance. She studies with a jolly medicine man and is charmed by a local and finally achieves some serenity with herself.

I enjoyed the book for the most part, but at times, the author struck me as the typical spoiled American. Though she doesn’t do anything too inconsiderate, she does devote many chapters to complaining about her marriage and her subsequent depression, and the book is littered with “I.” Almost all situations, comments and anecdotes point to herself or her personal problems, and I would have liked to see her view widen more as she visited these exotic locales.

Through all of these travels, the most interesting concept to me was a conversation she had with an Italian, where he suggested that “Maybe you and Rome just have different words. Don’t you know that the secret to understanding a city and its people is to learn- what is the word on the street? Every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there. If you could read people’s thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought. Whatever the majority thought might be- that is the word of the city, and if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don’t really belong there.” He went on to claim that Rome’s word is SEX, that Vatican City’s is POWER, and the author chimed in that New York City’s is ACHIEVE, while her Swedish friend said that Stockholm’s word would be CONFORM.

Which got me to thinking, what is Wausau’s word? I think of something like GROWTH or CREATIVITY, and I feel I fit in here. What do you think Wausau’s word is? Is yours different than Wausau’s?

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