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100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,397 ratings  ·  236 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 218 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Faber & Faber (first published December 11th 2012)
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Start your review of 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much that it is hard to write about it. Also, so much of it spoke to me so deeply that I kept thinking of people in my life I should buy it for. And I'm tempted to buy my own copy (I borrowed it from the library) and to carry it around in my purse to pull out in moments requiring succor, laughter, or simply elegantly phrased insight.

It's funny that right now I am also reading David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks, which is such a ginormous tome and a self-conscious attempt to wri
Dec 04, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was only three stars to me because it was not what I expected. However, if you are a theatre person, I have full confidence this will be a four or five star book to you.
I read this book on a whim, and thought it would be a series of 100 thoughts on random things like, well, umbrellas and sword fights. While these objects were briefly commented upon in the beginning, the book was not about ordinary things as much as it was about the author's thoughts on how plays should be conducted and
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
Initially I thought Ruhl's concept was brilliant - but after a couple dozen of these I started wishing she had written fully formed essays instead of 1-2 page sketches. And after reading about 50 of these abbreviated essays they started to feel tedious. ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, creativity, work, play
Sarah Ruhl writes essays about the things she knows best: the stage, her children, writing plays. Writing for the stage is the main focus of these pieces, but her look at writing for the stage comes from the edges---privacy, the place of rhyme in plays, the reversal of nobodies and somebodies (you have to read the book if you are curious about this), the decline in cast sizes, the audience. Ruhl addresses some questions no one else thought to ask: Is one person an audience? Is there an objective ...more
Adrianne Mathiowetz
Feb 16, 2015 rated it liked it
The cover and title would make you think this book is light, goofy fare. Whoever's job this was failed -- the essays may only be 1-3 pages in length, but the majority of them are dense philosophical treatises on playwriting and the world of theater, and deserve a place in the college classroom.

On the one hand: I have never been curious enough about the playwriting process to warrant reading an entire book on it, and often throughout this book, I struggled to care about what Ruhl so passionately
Dave Schaafsma
Sarah Ruhl writes in one of her essays here that she hates the words "whimsical" and "quirky" as they are used to describe works of art, especially works of art accomplished by women. They are dismissive words. Maybe even the word "funny" might be included in this list of words dismissive of women playwrights. Now, I have heard Ruhl does not read reviews of her work, but she must know these words are used to describe her plays, her world of ideas. And to call them quirky and whimsical and merely ...more
Nov 16, 2014 marked it as did-not-finish
I’m giving up on this about halfway through. I’m bored and can tell it will be just more of the same for the next 100+ pages. The title is a bit misleading, as has been noted elsewhere. Most of these very short pieces (I hesitate to call them essays) are about or connected in some way to the world of theater – playwriting, acting, audience/actor relationships or some other aspect of that field – which I have little experience with and too little interest in to become engaged. There are also a fe ...more
Tried before to write about why I love this book so much and so fiercely, but failed then as I will likely fail now. I don't know Ruhl's plays at all (though I've since picked up a few to read), and I am not a playwright, but her essays here are wide-ranging and wonderful.

She writes about theater here, sure, but also about parenting, and sickness, and, hell, umbrellas, and about tons of minutely observed things that she opens out into a greater significance. Some of the essays are so short that
Marina Sofia
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. It's a real mish-mash of the trivial and the profound, of the everyday and the extraordinary. Funny, sarcastic, winsome and bold. I felt like underlining nearly every page and will be returning to it, dipping in and re-reading. ...more
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, in-en, non-fiction, art
Don't let the title get you. This book is first and foremost about theatre and everything connected to it. With a touch of parenting. And yeah, she mentions umbrellas and dogs at some point. ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Finished: 03.07.2019
Genre: essays/musings
Rating: B+

Officially only about 3 of the writings are 'real' essays.
The rest are Sarah Ruhl's short musings about plays, playwrights
motherhood and children.
I'm not complaining....this was an excellent
book to drag me out of my 'reading slump'.
Stepping into Ruhl's thoughts
through the pages of this book
…widens my appreciation of her craft...playwrighting.
Whether we choose to spend our time
with literary prizewinning essays or
...this light ente
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It wasn't surprising to me when, halfway through this book, Sarah Ruhl mentioned she'd originally wanted to be a poet: each of these brief essays is like a poem itself. One of the things I love about reading poetry is the shock of recognizing yourself, feeling that the poet has said exactly what you would have, if you only had the words. There is plenty of that in these essays, along with a number of very smart observations about narrative, stagecraft, and child-rearing. Poetry mourns the loss o ...more
Jan 08, 2018 added it
Recommends it for: people who love performance art and plays
“But what if lightness is a philosophical choice to temper reality with strangesness, to temper the intellect with emotion, and to temper emotion with humor. Lightness is then a philsophical victory over heaviness. A reckoning with the humble and the small and the invisible.”
Christine Prevas
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This remarkable, gorgeous love letter to life as a theatrical artist has cleansed from me the muddied ambivalence towards theater with which Kenyon's drama department left me after four Aristotelian years. ...more
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am so glad I read this. It was lovely, it made me think of things in so many different really feels like a book I'll come back to again and again. ...more
Maggie Downs
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
What a delightful little collection. I'm happy I bought a hard copy, because I have a feeling I'll be flipping through this book, rereading it, and loaning my copy to friends for many years to come. ...more
Alex Beige
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can't explain why this book is so magical! I can only say it is, and hope you think so, too. ...more
Jennifer Gaber
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Like a kick line in a show or taking in a favorite album in a dark room, these essays triggered emotions, excitement, thoughts and questions. Sarah Ruhl doesn't force a viewpoint but tells great stories and prompts with questions left by those stories. Nothing reads like lessons-learned lectures. We are not having anything explained to us. Like good theater itself, we're told many brief stories and asked many whys and what ifs opening our minds to really consider so many aspects of creating some ...more
I have been a fan of Sarah Ruhl's plays since college. When I saw this collection of essays in the bookstore, it was an instant buy for me. I wanted to learn more about this playwright I admire so much and her life and her insights. I got all of that and more -- I feel like 100 essays was a lot and there was a lot of information and thought. However, I underlined and dogeared so many essays and fantastic lines. It made me laugh and think and I have quoted it several times over the last four days ...more
Laura Misch
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've never read any of Sarah Ruhl's plays, but this essay collection has me intrigued. This book makes me think she would be a very interesting person to meet and have a conversation with. She sees things in such a nuanced way, and I appreciate her insight.

Here's one of the passages that stood out to me:

"A suspicion that lightness is not deeply serious (but instead whimsical) pervades aesthetic discourse, But what if lightness is a philosophical choice to temper reality with strangeness, to te
Leah Heath
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked some of these essays, and some of them were meh. It's a really small book though if your looking for a quick read. I liked all of the ones where she mentions her family. Those essays always had suprising little thoughts. Like just because you think everyone wants something materialistic doesn't make it true. This book is also by a playwright about (mostly) plays. Some topics I found interesting some not so much. I think I just like references I understand though and when I don't know who ...more
Blair Macmillan
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ruhl approaches musings on theatre, performance, and creation through an innately human lens. Reading this book, I was reminded of how often we shy away from reflecting life in our work, preferring to build castles and watch from afar, choosing instead to forgo the impulses at the root of play.
Some ideas simply felt outdated- or perhaps just out of my reach generationally- but nevertheless, the book felt present and current. I'm also a personal fan of the one page essay, makes me feel speedy an
Nicola Waldron
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this little book--it's like one of those tomes you find in high school or college and keep close to you, imagining it was written just for you; you secretly keep opening the covers to dip into it for just one more dollop of delicious, perfectly confected wisdom...if you've ever loved theatre or writing or being a woman, a mother, a human, if you've ever loved letting your thoughts simply roam, and the wonderful surprises that emerge from the miracle that is your mind, this is for you... ...more
M.A. Reads
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is definitely written for theatre nerds (and parents, I guess). It's a bit inside baseball at times, but still a wonderful and poignant look at the art of theatre and the art of parenting. ...more
Mia Rosenfeld
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a joy to get to live inside Sarah Ruhl's brain for 215 pages! ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the essays on the author's real life - these were far more relatable for me. Several were over my head but seemed likely to appeal to more theatre-minded people! ...more
Keith Moser
Read this as part of my 2017 Reading for Growth Challenge. I had almost purchased it last year after seeing in on the shelf at NYC's Drama Book Shop. I've wanted to read more of Sarah Ruhl's plays (The Clean House is the only one I've read so far) and the title caught my eye, but for some reason (probably the other 6 books I bought that day) I didn't pick it up. When I saw "essay collection" on this year's challenge, I knew what to buy and read!

It's probably more of a 4.5* book, but I rounded up
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fresh and parent friendly (very short!) essays about non-musical theater, parenting and life. I’m very interested in how much emotional impact can be pulled from two pages or less. My favorite piece is the one about the velvet covered stool.
Oct 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Brian by: nytimes book review
Shelves: grbpp
(3.0) Already forgotten most of this, a lot about being a playwright, not so much about being parent

But some of the good stuff:

On melting your heart:
"I have an umbrella with a picture of the sky inside. My daughter Anna said, when she was three and underneath it, 'We have two skies, the umbrella sky and the real sky.' When I went out with her in the rain recently without an umbrella, she said, 'It's all right, Mama. I will be your umbrella.' And she put her arms over my head."

On plays (and art):
India Braver
Dec 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
The essays are short. Really short. I feel as if they could be so much more interesting if they were longer, and perhaps arranged in a more meaningful order- the order seems arbitrary, which is fine, but coupled with the shortness, it is hard to extract any meaningful impact from this collection. I would start an essay and then almost immediately finish it due to its brevity and then move on to the next because I wanted more- but it's thus really hard to properly digest any of the essays because ...more
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Sarah Ruhl (born 1974) is an American playwright. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a distinguished American playwright in mid-career.

Originally, she intended to be a poet. However, after she studied under Paula Vogel at Brown University (A.B., 1997; M.F.A., 2001), she was persuaded to switch to playwriting. Her fir

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“I found that life intruding on writing was, in fact, life. And that, tempting as it may be for a writer who is a parent, one must not think of life as an intrusion. At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing, and much to do with life. And life, by definition, is not an intrusion.” 13 likes
“the theater is one of the few places left in the bright and noisy world where we sit in the quiet dark together, to be awake."

Ruhl, Sarah. 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater (p. 103). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.”
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