Read The Most of It by Mary Ruefle Online


“[Mary] Ruefle . . . brings us an often unnerving, but always fresh and exhilarating view of our common experience of the world.”—Charles SimicFans of Lydia Davis and Miranda July will delight in this short prose from a beloved and cutting-edge poet. Here are thirty stories that deliver the soft touch and the sucker punch with stunning aplomb. Ducks, physicists, detectives“[Mary] Ruefle . . . brings us an often unnerving, but always fresh and exhilarating view of our common experience of the world.”—Charles SimicFans of Lydia Davis and Miranda July will delight in this short prose from a beloved and cutting-edge poet. Here are thirty stories that deliver the soft touch and the sucker punch with stunning aplomb. Ducks, physicists, detectives, and The New York Times all make appearances.From “The Dart and the Drill”:I do not believe that when my brother pierced my skull with a succession of darts thrown from across our paneled rec room on the night of November 18th in my sixth year on earth, he was trying to transcend the notions of time and space as contained and protected by the human skull. But who can fathom the complexities of the human brain? Ten years later—this would have been in 1967—the New York Times reported a twenty-four year old man, who held an honor degree in law, died in the process of using a dentist’s drill on his own skull, positioned an inch above his right ear, in an attempt to prove that time and space could be conquered . . .Mary Ruefle’s poems and prose have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The Best American Poetry, and The Next American Essay. Her many awards include NEA and Guggenheim fellowships. She is a frequent visiting professor at the University of Iowa, and she lives and teaches in Vermont....

Title : The Most of It
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781933517292
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 96 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Most of It Reviews

  • W.B.
    2019-05-08 19:42

    Mary Ruefle is THE poet of the improbable, the impossible and the impish. To know her is to love her--and to be weirded out by her on numerous occasions. I mean that as a great compliment. It takes a lot to weird readers out today. We've been some really weird places thanks to recent cinema and the current leanings of television programmers. And yet there is that OTHER weirdness, what the surrealists called le merveilleux, because it is marvelous, which lifts one's spirit outside of life's mainframe of normalcy for a few moments, makes everything suddenly scintillate. Those are the moments Mary Ruefle specializes in.And this collection of prose poems (or are some of them short fiction?)has it in spades. Many of these prose poems or short stories are extremely funny, like the diary she kept for over a month, where she simply studied every bird with with she came in contact. Here are some sample entries: "Aug 26: They come for breakfast and they come for dinner. WHERE DO THEY GO FOR LUNCH?" "Sept 4: I would look it up in a book, but it is a sin to look up that which you love in a book." "Sept 18: Although all poets aspire to be birds, no bird aspires to be a poet." Eccentric, not grease, is the word for these little parables. In "A Certain Swirl" she meditates on the plight of a sentence left abandoned on a blackboard. The opening piece, "Snow," is a classic and will probably be anthologized long after the poet has been recycled by nature. The first two sentences of this prose poem or short piece of fiction are "Every time it starts to snow I wold like to have sex. No matter if it is snowing lightly and unseriously, or snowing very seriously, well on into the night, I would like to stop whatever manifestation of life I am engaged in and have sex, with the same person, who also sees the snow and heeds it, who might have to leave an office or a meeting, or some arduous physical task, or conceivably, leave off having sex with another person, and go in the snow to me, who is already, in the snow, beginning to have sex in my snow-mind." And it just gets better from there. The author's mind has a metaphysical bent, so many of these stories end up coming off as having been written by a person who is a strange melange of the Steve Martin of Cruel Shoes and the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus. Some times there are even glimpses of Joe Brainard's candid sensibility, especially in the many, lightly-toasted mini-essays of "A Half-Sketched Head." I can't recommend this book highly enough if you like the odd perception and the beautiful sentence. Because Ruefle delivers both up with all the unpretentiousness and friendliness of a waitress who knows she has the winning Lotto ticket in her pocket, but is going to take your order just the same before walking out the door. Because she believes it's funny to flatter form. Even if she knows what a crock form really is.

  • M. Sarki
    2019-05-17 19:40 recently listening to a couple of podcasts this past summer featuring Mary Ruefle I decided to give her poetry a try. For the record I confess to initially being more interested in her collected lectures Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures. But in my predictively addictive newfound curiosity in an attractive writer near my own age, whose clear and comforting voice sounded like Patti Smith to me, and who seemed to have a grasp on what I feel most important in the writing I read, I instead decided to try these little prose pieces collected in The Most of It as I waited for a more affordable copy of her revered lectures to come my way. But what began as an exciting delight in reading her short prose slowly turned into boredom, and then, almost abruptly, her lines took a left turn and morphed into indifference. I felt completely hornswoggled. And I should have known better than to have purchased this book anyway when the publishing promo proudly stated: Fans of Lydia Davis and Miranda July will delight in this short prose from a beloved and cutting-edge poet. The book proved to be severely lacking in everything but burdensome disappointment. Mary Ruefle teaches writing. She has the credentials to prove it. And she should demand much better of herself. I was woefully surprised.

  • Carlene Kucharczyk
    2019-05-09 17:31

    Everything I want.

  • Dan Butterfass
    2019-04-28 16:35

    It wasn't until reaching page 61 and reading the title passage, The Most Of It, that it spontaneously dawned on me exactly which book this book of prose passages, of vignettes, was strongly resonant of the whole time I was more and more falling head over heels in love with this book as I read it. While reading the last, long and marvelous section, A Half-Sketched Head, I was truly hooked. It's brilliant, highly entertaining, provocative stuff, dealing with the narrator, Mary's, retreat with an anchorite, who is one of the most interesting characters I've ever encountered in American Literature. Who knows? Maybe Ruefle made him up entirely? Up until that point on page 61 I was drawing some comparison between this book and Rilke's sincere and beautiful prose poem passages that are so often excerpted from his autobiographical novel, and only prose work, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Yet Mary Ruefle's own "first book of prose" - made of fairly discreet yet loosely connected passages - is more comic in tone than Rilke's passages - it is somewhat like reading Rilke's but not at all like reading Rilke's passages except reading Ruefle would be somewhat similar to reading Rilke's if Rilke had had her sense of humor. Which is to say nothing more than Ruefle - at least on paper - has a more developed and deeper and a more peculiar sense of humor than Rilke. But to categorize this as an essentially "comic" work would not be right. Perhaps a better way to describe these passages as a whole would be to say that it is a deadly serious work, but one that also often revels in an uncanny sense of wit and humor about fairly serious matters, such as poets' tendency toward suicide. So this is an unflinching as well as humorous book. Though some readers will be tempted to call this a book of "prose poems" it really is a book of prose which quite often approaches and meets the conditions of poetry. Maybe "paragraphs" - which is what "prose poems" use to be called - would be putting a more apt name to the genre in which Ruefle appears to be writing, as hers resurrect something of that old-fashioned spirit of the "paragraph" - its cheeky humor, for one; its philosophical bent, for another; it's imaginative inventiveness, for a third. (But I doubt Mary Ruelfe would care a whit about such arguments, finding them rather pedantic.) But then there is a continuity of character throughout, and the connectedness of scenes from the protagnist's childhood, and emergence of bit characters such her mum and dad, and an overall sense of interelatedness that make this book more than a series of "paragraphs", in the old sense. While most books fall short of being original within a definable genre, this book's originality stems at least in part from its seamless blurring and blending of elements of many genres - prose, poetry, the prose-poem, paragraphs, (and to a lesser but still apparent extent) the short story, diary and journal entry, the (handwritten) letter and essay. But that would all be for naught if the content and style of her writing were not interesting and original, too. It is an intuitive, at times emotionally raw, and very polished book of novella-like yet plot-less prose passages. Who are some of the influences, or forerunners, to such work? Gertrude Stein and her theory and practice of insistence (repetition of words or a phrase with poetic variation within a paragraph), which greatly influenced the early style of Hemingway, come immediately to mind. And of course there is Rilke. Which is to say that in this book Mary Ruefle is a poet who is also a "prose stylist" of a high order, and who like all prose stylists of a high order (e.g. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Flannery O'Connor, Capote, Thomas McGuane, McCarthy and etc.) is really a poet whose poetry is written as prose. But on page 61 as I was reading the title passage, The Most Of It, I suddenly felt a keen resonance, a spirit of kinship, between this book and Richard Brautigan's short and captivating novel, Trout Fishing in America, which is also made of discreet yet interrelated passages. In that book Brautigan, of course, is a very fine prose stylist, too. And like that book, The Most of It, feels like a small masterpiece that’s at once sensitive and quirky, irreverent, wry and worldy, full of hidden depths, pathos, pith and jest. The overall spell it cast over me was one of a clear-minded delirium that I didn't want to end. Any book of literature that has a solid chance to gain a slow but steady "cult" following and become a “cult classic” is likely a remarkable achievement in this time of fractured attention spans, so glutted with books.

  • Sienna
    2019-05-11 14:42

    Mary Ruefle blew me away when she came to Wellington last month. She acknowledged that it's both a blessing and a curse to be a talented speaker (especially one reminiscent of the log lady), but I have to confess that I only half-believed her when she said it could render irrelevant the quality of the poetry she read — Ruefle's live presence wouldn't be nearly so potent if she didn't have such a remarkable way with words, with ideas, with the gossamer thread of meaning that links them.These short prose pieces strike the perfect balance between observation and insight, humor and profundity. I laughed out loud, broke my cardinal rule against dog-earring books, read passages to my husband in bed. (He listened politely and chuckled where appropriate though I think he was keen to return to his own book.) They succeed to varying degrees. My two favorites — the two that made my heart ache even as my mouth formed an involuntary smile — are "A Minor Personal Matter" and "My Search Among the Birds." Sorrow, thy name is sparrow.

  • Marina Woollven
    2019-04-30 18:28

    For a book labeled as prose, it is in fact overwhelming poetic. Mary Ruefle even confesses to having written poetry before, and the influence of that past is clear in each page. It's an unflinching look at daily life. The things taken for mundane, from feeding birds or buying benches, are written through a thoughtful, precise eye that revels the deeper intimacies of these small events. Something as simple as craving a glass of water is thrust into a more serious, but surreal, narrative that will leave a reader looking around their home and life with more consideration if only for a moment. Melancholic, frighting, witty, and fantastical, 'The Most of It' is a book that should be read and kept close.

  • Nicola
    2019-05-16 20:45

    Thoroughly enjoyed this delightful book. Her flights of fancy and thought are idiosyncratic, endearing, and insightful. It might be tempting to belittle this small, associative, lyric book-it doesn't overtly take on the big themes and tropes of literature. But Ruefle isn't interested in the big, she's interested in the small, everyday, and particular. And this lack of pretension, this naivety, this deepening of the identifiable, allows the big-our perceptions and perspectives and stitching of the world around us-to enter in the work more playfully and organically. Enjoy the ride!

  • Tara
    2019-05-08 13:38

    Mary Ruefle is one of the most brilliant and clever and extraordinary writers. When you hear her give a reading, you are in a dream where everything makes perfect sense and nothing makes any sense and you walk away feeling like someone has been singing you a lullaby that only later, hours or years later, will you fully understand the meaning. Her book, in my hands, is one of life's greatest delights. Read in wonderment.

  • Jen Maidenberg
    2019-05-13 12:46

    I really enjoy Mary Ruefle. Madness Rack and Honey is one of my all time favorite reads of late, definitely tops my favorite books of essays. But The Most of It didn't keep my attention as much. Half of the essays were meaningful to me and some were laugh out loud funny (The Taking of Moundville by Zoom) in the silly, "is she in my private thoughts" sorta way. I definitely recommend this to skim or pick up and put down. But I wouldn't say this is THE Mary Ruefle to read.

  • Hans
    2019-04-25 19:35

    I loved this collection. I feel like I need to buy 3-4 copies to start distributing to people...while adding a copy to my shelves. Humor, brilliance, imagination. I will be reading a lot more of Mary Ruefle. A few favorites: The Diary, The Most of It, The Taking of Moundsville by Zoom. There is something startling on almost every page. Damn!

  • John Woodington
    2019-05-11 14:43

    Ruefle ignores the things that make great literature great (compelling characters, plot, style, prose, punctuation) and leaves us with this abdication from all that is good for the sake of artistic experimentation. She should've thrown these writing exercises in the "never-show-this-crap-to-anyone" file drawer.

  • J.A.
    2019-05-13 19:25

    Mary Ruefle's first book of prose was my first reading of Mary Ruefle, and it was delightful. Very Lydia Davis, very Miranda July, very droll yet often openly sentimental. Excited to read her poetry next.

  • Mia
    2019-05-04 13:28

    Travesty to say this, I know. I'd delighted in many of these lyric essays (prose poems? "pieces") when read here and there before. ("Monument" !!! for example. So wonderfully uncommon.) But somehow, collected, they begin to feel clever, and the shapes and surfaces rote.

  • Robert
    2019-05-13 14:36

    I love this book of prose poems or "pieces" or whatever you want to call them. It's my favorite book by Mary Ruefle, and "The Monument" is one of the best.

  • Aran
    2019-04-23 19:33

    I love you. Where have you always been? Will you stay?

  • Dc
    2019-05-09 18:33

    some people just use words better than 99% of humanity.

  • Scott
    2019-05-15 14:24

    I loved this.

  • Kelli Trapnell
    2019-05-23 17:34

    This book teaches you how to notice and how to write. Necessary.

  • Samantha
    2019-05-16 15:44

    This book was truly fantastic. I had read it for my contemporary fiction class, and I fell in love with its beautiful poetry-like prose. Truly recommend it.

  • Caleb
    2019-05-17 19:28

    This is my first venture into Ruefle’s work, which every algorithm and shopping app has suggested to me. I am happy and disturbed at their rightness. Mary’s mind is one that is pleasant to parade around in. Her thoughts are deep and new. The experience of reading her is one of wishing already for another go. I imagine that I could read any one of her works many times and still find unexplored crevices of meaning and signification. By that same token, it is totally approachable. There is a supreme lack of artifice, in that all the thoughts she wishes to suggest are just there without pretension or excessive context. There is a sense of immediacy and depth, simultaneously, that few poets can achieve. There is a sense of significance and beauty directly on the flesh of the text, but also an invitation to explore the bones of it. This is the kind of text one can enjoy in one pleasant fireside evening, spread over a weekend, or mull over a lifetime. I am excited to delve into her longer works and see how this small volume compares to her more ambitious works.

  • Ashlyn Lee
    2019-05-12 15:27

    What can I say? Ruefle is my favorite poet. She is real and funny.

  • mel burkeet
    2019-05-23 19:38

    A perfect little book. Charming, clever, & odd.

  • Nicole des Bouvrie
    2019-05-23 18:30


  • Phyllis
    2019-04-23 20:25

    Let me begin by stating that this book was a stretch for me, so some of my response may be a pulled muscle. Har har. My reading diet used to include some poetry, but I rarely read it in middle age. Some list or other recommended "The Most of It," and I thought it was worth a go. This collection of poem/essays is something. And that something is often not very good, such as "The Diary," which had me rolling my eyes from sentience one; it was like the output of a junior high writing exercise. Babyish, really. Other times, the thought of the narrator are just dumb and spiral out of control dumbly, such as in "A Glass of Water" or "Hard-Boiled Detective." I am not irritated by a lack of education here, but the author trying way too hard to present thoughts that are just trying way too hard. Spare me from such stuff!! When I throw a book down in disgust (a library book, so I wasn't as violent as I would have been with a book I owned), that is a clear indication. From time to time, the imagery or stream of consciousness presentation did work, such as "My Pet, My Clock" or "Woman With a Yellow Scarf." Even those two pieces, which did stick to my ribs a little afterwards, fell apart at certain points. Just to make sure I wasn't being too closed-minded or thinking things through, I read both selections that I felt were bottom of the barrel and top of the heap to my boyfriend. Subsequently, we discussed the poem/essays and I found that I could further crystallize exactly what was lacking in this book and where the few shining moments were. I will not present the dissections here, although I'd love to further discuss this book should the opportunity arise. To sum up the lab results, the selections carry a good idea or image that just never gets fleshed out OR, even worse, are just plain ruined with nonsense. Not Wodehouseian nonsense, either. "Surely you can tell I am pretending to write." [from "If All the World Were Paper] That quote pretty much sums up what Ms. Reufle is doing; lame attempts at whimsy, too sloppy (at least not in that good way), and not worth the hour taken to read it.

  • Julene
    2019-04-29 12:48

    I enjoyed reading this book of poems.A few of her lines seemed good for prompts:“I have the distinct impressionI am being watchedNot worth mentioning except ---“Things my therapist told me years ago…still struggling with.”Some words I looked up:Trepanning—surgically cutting out disks of bone from the skull using a trephine—derives from the art of mining rock by using a similar tool for sinking shafts.Anchorite, N. a person who has retired into seclusion for religious reasons. (to withdraw)Novitiate, 1) the period of being a novice 2) a place where novices live.Eucharist, N. 1.a. a sacrament and the central act of worship in many Christian churches, which was instituted at the Last Supper and in which the bread and wine are consecrated and consumed in remembrance of Jesus’ death. Communion.Homunculus, N. 1.a. a diminutive human being. 2. a miniature, fully formed individual believed by adherents of the early biological theory of preformation to be present in the sperm cell.I enjoyed this book of poems very much. It was loaned to me so I don't have it around to reread, but it is a book worth rereading.

  • Lisha Adela
    2019-05-03 19:28

    What luxury to sit, let your mind wander to the most absurd details in any given moment, and get published no less. Moments around a refrigerator light, a monument, the length of a bench... This is beautiful writing, don't get me wrong, but really, when I walk away what does the author want me to remember,"petty art moments?" The incisor reality of stepping on an insect at the water fountain, designing a flaming cherries memorial for the war dead is great for someone who doesn't deal all the time with the public with real problems like food, shelter or the human touch. I know Mary Ruefle has great capacity as a poet of insight and as a fabulous though delicate writer. Yet, I have missed the point of this beauty. The importance of a nod at the post office, a pregnant woman count, wrens eating french fries from a frisbee. What does all this acute observation mean to the larger picture of life? I obviously need all this to transcend but right now it is beyond me. Form meets content, "Peek-a-Moose."

  • Abraham
    2019-05-15 16:43

    I wonder if I started out with the right first Ruefle book. This is a collection of prose poems and it takes a while to figure out where she is coming from - at first I thought she was dead serious, then it became clear that there was a James Tate-esque whimsy to everything, and that she was not necessarily to be trusted. This was an interesting experience - the moment of changing my attitude toward the work, of recognizing that I had to take the information in in a different way. I suppose we only get to do this once with each author. After this, the book was wonderful for a while, until the last poem which was long and seemed to fall neither into the camp of meaning nor into the camp of fun. What was going on there?Still, I am motivated to read other Ruefle books, if anyone has a recommendation.

  • Philip
    2019-05-08 12:31

    Blending the world between poetry and prose, Ruefle takes it one step farther in her masterful way. She takes on the conventions of the short-short/microfiction, and places them neatly on their head, on their side, and leans them into configurations many wouldn't agree to recognize.Regardless of what form is form, there is a resonance in these that feel like another collision: dreamt meets lived. I find finding works like hers to be finding something new about me.The title story, The Most of It, I will return to, again, and again, and again.

  • Ilsa archive
    2019-05-18 18:40

  • Taube
    2019-04-23 20:54

    ON BURIALThere are only two tombs: the tomb of Jesus and the tomb of Tut. Roll away one stone and you will b e given everything: food, clothing, shelter, gems, cloth, seeds and oil, a replica of the world in pure gold. Roll away the other stone and there's nothing.