Finishing the Hat

December 25, the newspaper delivery is late. I don’t begrudge the delivery man a later morning,and in fact today I should thank him for it.

I was between books and knocking around the house looking for something to read with my coffee and picked up Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) the new book by Stephen Sondheim that I gave Jim for Hannukah. The books contains more than lyrics from his many songs and shows. The subtitle continues: with attendant comments, principles, heresies, grudges, whines and anecdotes. 

Mr. Sondheim is sort of a secular saint in my house. His acts are prodigious and mostly miraculous to Jim, Emilia, and me. And as an aspiring lyricist, I read the book as he intended it: as curriculum. Of course, this book is not just for people who want to put words to music. As he writes, “Choices, decisions and mistakes in every attempt to make something that wasn’t there before are essentially the same, and exploring one set of them, I like to believe, may cast light on another.”

I find not only light but also inspiration in this kind of exploration. I’m often flummoxed by what to write about in this blog. So I’m going to try and write about the experiences, books, conversations, movies, etc., that inspire me. I hope the discipline of this attempt will remind me to pay better attention to what does that. Maybe it will alert you to what fills you with wonder, too. Whoever you are, whatever you want to do.


  1. Dawn on January 13, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    I also got this book recently (for my birthday this week!). Watching and listening to Sondheim explain his process in interviews always always always inspires me as a writer and he is my favorite of the Broadway composers, (which is a little painful to write because I love others so much, too). Heck, just the line “content dictates form” does a lot for me!!

  2. Anita Diamant on January 13, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I just finished the book. (Sick days are good for that.)

    Can’t wait for Volume 2.

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