“Cinderella Sweeping Up and Other Essays” by Erin Chandler (Rabbit House Press; 190 pages, $15.95)
The Chandler family is the Kentucky equivalent of royals. An overview of their history checks the classic boxes: service for the Commonwealth and the nation (including a baseball commissioner); old-school wealth in signature industries; and lines of the family both quirky and straight-laced rubbing elbows with entertainment celebrities. And, over the years, the public has been given various views into how the Chandlers have kept life interesting — and vice versa.
Erin Chandler’s branch of the family may draw particular attention for their adventures and lifestyle choices. The author returned to central Kentucky not long ago, after stints in Vegas and LA and Texas. The period of her homecoming has been marked with a return to formal studies: especially the creative writing program at Spalding University, which seems to have delivered a clearer voice to a naturally compelling creative spirit. She’s had a memoir published (“June Bug Versus Hurricane”) and now her columns from The Woodford Sun newspaper have been compiled.
What’s a Chandler column like? Typically, it will be far removed from any expectations of back-page content for a county weekly. Sure, there might be a profile of a local figure, perhaps a teacher. But it’s much more likely that the two- or three-page piece will take a gently instructional look into how to practice gratitude and positive views and how Chandler self-examines to find sources that maintain an open and curious outlook on life.
“I have outgrown the vices which in the past hindered my inner strength. I no longer stuff my pain, fear or even excitement with cigarettes and booze. My insides are too clean, too pure to sully. The hurt even feels strangely good now as I examine emotions rather than fall victim to them.”
So, no introductions to new bourbon cocktails. Or complaining about new local ordinances stomping on unofficial regional traditions. The author’s a spiritual seeker who is as likely to apply the philosophy of an ancient teacher as about the not-so-simple bemusement of actor Jeff Bridges.
The book isn’t dominated by navel-gazing exercises. Metaphysics aren’t particularly indulged. How people of all stripes came into the orbit of the Chandlers is as likely to be a subject as how the author finds a cautionary tale in the life of Chris McCandless (a modern wanderer whose off-the-grid life choices are seen in the film “Into the Wild”). The fates of Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Elvis Presley and numerous others are recounted without a pat understanding — and you can just imagine that someone up the editorial chain would press for that and for more consistent choices of sunnier topics — but it would be a shame to interrupt the unique experience of Chandler to bring light to the tough business of personal maturation.
“From the moment we can attach meaning to objects, we begin to attach meaning to ourselves. This is a hard habit to break but if we really want to grow, it is an important issue to address.” People open up papers looking to see what they might attach their gaze to, or perhaps their discussions with friends, or perhaps their charity efforts. When this slightly bedraggled veteran of fame-and-fortune’s backlash shows up to share her homecoming in writing — at the point where she’s learned how to frame her personal lessons (including the open-ended ones) for public consumption, this is a gift to the readers who recognize that they are prepared to see how such journeys occur. •