Dani Shapiro’s “Hourglass” captures a sliver of life

By: Tom Rupp
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I started writing on Jan. 1, 1970, as a 10-year-old. It wasn’t much at first, just a calendar block. I would write the weather and, once in a while, a special event that occurred.

In 1975, it became a full page-a-day diary, and that continued for many years. As time progressed and I grew, I added other regular writings. At one point, I was writing in three books a day. That isn’t happening anymore – just two a day now.

In addition, sometimes I write out an entire page as a Word document. I have several files full of these as well. And as the years and pages rack up, the question begins to arise - why write?

Then I recently read a book from our library that helped to answer that question. “Hourglass,” by Dani Shapiro, is an excellent example of what a memoir can be and do. It is not a full lifetime memoir, but rather more of a “my marriage-and-family-so-far.”

Shapiro has written for the New York Times, New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, and authored eight other books, three of which are also memoirs. I enjoyed her writing style in prose that flows.

Her 145 pages of conversational text reveal her to be the sharp writer she is in that. After you have read it, you feel as if you know her as a friend, or at least a good acquaintance.

While she opens with a quote from Virginia Woolf – “My head is a hive of words that won’t settle” – and she intersperses a few others throughout, the bulk of course is her own.

One important insight about marriage that Shapiro concludes is that “we have nothing to fall back on, but each other.”  Her revelations are discreet, but necessary to the flow of the story. You can sense her respect for her family’s privacy.

She later confides that “this life that (we) have built together is flimsy, the world merciless, and time, time, unrelenting.” Check out her webpage at

After reading “Hourglass,” you may be inspired to make notes of your passing days in an effort to observe, to tune in, to experience more fully the passing parade of days.

After all, as Shapiro says, “There is no other life than this.” And you may likely conclude about some aspects of your life, as she does, that “It isn’t what I wanted, but it’s what I got.”

Tom Rupp is a resident of Folsom and a weekly columnist in the Folsom Telegraph. You can reach him at