Sarah Ruhl is a mother of three and one of America's best-known playwrights. She has written a stunningly original book of essays whose concerns range from the most minimal and personal subjects to the most encompassing matters of art and culture. The titles themselves speak to the volume's uniqueness: "On lice," "On sleeping in the theater," "On motherhood and stools (the furniture kind)," "Greek masks and Bell's palsy."
100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write is a book in which chimpanzees, Chekhov, and child care are equally at home. A vibrant, provocative examination of the possibilities of the theater, it is also a map to a very particular artistic sensibility, and an unexpected guide for anyone who has chosen an artist's life.
In these meditations, anecdotes, and stories, award-winning playwright Ruhl (Stage Kiss) hits upon the ideal gimmick for the time-starved author and overburdened reader. Ruhl praises the "beauty of smallness," showing in pithy probes that "small, forthright words... might have an idea buried in them as large as the most expansive work." As in her plays, her wide-ranging subjects some treated in no more than a paragraph, line, or single word tend to be the subversive. She rallies her readers to "fight the mania for clarity and help create a mania for beauty instead." Parenting scenes provide the book's tenderest moments, while discussions of playwriting and theater offer valuable instruction on craft. The two themes converge not just in their similarities "both parenting and theater involve an embrace of impermanence, and both are embodied art forms" but also in Ruhl's belief that theater, playing to the childlike love of illusion, can deliver pure joy. In bold, incisive strokes, she advocates for the creation of art that captures the "humor and the desperation of life," and for the observation that the tiniest details, in the hope that smallness can "wreak transformation at the most vulnerable, cellular level... in order to banish the goliath of loneliness."