What We Love

What We Love Will Save Us

What We Love Will Save Us offers moments of transcendence and hope, told in personal essays that are tender and funny, searching and human. This book is about keeping faith and experiencing darkness:

There’s a random dangerous rightness abroad in this wide shining world. It’s a rightness, not a correctness.  We don’t need so much to counter other people’s errors as to bring the light and joy of that right and beautiful world:  what we desire for our planet and ourselves. What we are doing instead of hating and denying and bombing.

Our job is to work on what we love. Daily. With precision and determination.

David Oates finds wildness and grace breaking out in unexpected places – from city streets to mountain peaks – offering a crucial balance to his dramatically personal account of what it has been like to be a “citizen of the regime” during eight years of unprecedented propaganda, torture, waste, and war. What is the right response, when the government that belongs to us goes seriously off course? How does a person’s private and creative life relate to the life we share in common?

Brief and beautifully intense lyrical essays explore hope, pleasure, and creativity (and the outrage that must never be allowed to eclipse them).  Readable, memorable, smart but straight from the heart – these essays give voice to our shared experience of a dark and frustrating time in the nation’s life. They should find a wide audience.



Praise from advance readers:

What We Love Will Save Us is a journey.  David Oates knows what kind of place he’s looking for—a place for hope and truth, imagination and renewal. What We Love Will Save Us is. . . compact and expansive, erudite and carnal, playful and angry and full of subjunctive dreaming and inescapable facts.”

– Ana Maria Spagna, author of Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus: a Daughter’s Civil Rights Journey and Now Go Home: Wilderness, Belonging, and the Crosscut Saw.

“Personal honesty, humor, zinger endings. . . This is a stirring, creative collection of essays stoked with ideas, some of them urgently of our time and place, some timeless. People with regard for language will reread passages for their genuinely beautiful writing. I got a lump in my throat (and had to take a walk) after I read the final six words: ‘Brief lists, perseverance, and long vistas.’ AMEN. A mantra for our century.”

– Jeff Gersh,  founder and principal of NarrativeLab Communications

“There is a tightly wound lyricism to these very American essays, crafted out of bumps and bruises and sheer joys.  David Oates is a writer companion you’ll want to have as you hike across this beleaguered planet – testy on the switchbacks but more than congenial around the fire; at the end of the day, he always chooses the best campsite.”

– Paul J. Willis, author of Bright Shoots of Everlastingness: Essays on Faith and the American Wild.



Brief and intense lyric essays, longer explorations: I hope the reader will find these delicious, moving, and (occasionally) provoking. . .


Imagine knowing that our fate is each other… Imagine doing what you’re good at and in love with, even if it doesn’t pay so well. That would be like coming back to life, wouldn’t it?

Six Good Places

What makes a good life in the city?

Forgiving the Present

Here we are in the murk of the present. It’s like the fog of war, except that the war is over there and the fog is here. Here in America we’re unable to find our way, frustrated, baulked, angry, guilty. Yelling at the TV.

Red Door

Resurrection isn’t automatic. It takes an act of extreme imagination, steely and wholly unlikely.


The lie of power is that it is total and will last forever. It wishes to fill the horizon and blot out all other thought. Resistance, at its core, may be simply remembering that this is indeed a lie, an empty pompous boast.

It is the beginning of summer 2007, and no effective voice in America is raised against torture. Democrats quail and fold, unable to find the boldness of fragility. Progressives speak in soundless vacuums. I try to write in hope, but I cannot see what good it will do.

I wonder if any of us can be saved.

After Rendition… Silence

Maybe [these essays] will serve in retrospect as a marker, like what you see in towns that have been flooded: a muddy line on a wall. Perhaps a scrawled message – We were here. This is how high it got.

Under Pressure, We Make Lists

We will need to make poetry of our desperation, as the Founders did. We will have to love our moment, declare our values, and act for the generations.

Night Thoughts and Music, Three Days Before the Election

Our collective self is not only a mob, a direct-mail target, an object of self-interest and manipulation. Sometimes we are the instrument of transcendence.

City Gods and Sacred Waters

Wherever wildness breaks out is grace and a glimpse of the spirit – whether in tangled bank or cityscape – ecosystem or mind, art or music, solitary ramble or solidarity of the plaza.

Things I Have Experienced but Do Not Believe In

I can’t really say what it meant. But the sage smelled like blessing – resiny, fragrant, unexpected. I can smell it still.

I had no idea how much blessing I would soon be needing (no one ever does). Nor how much I would find, stronger than my obtuseness and deeper than any jargon or borrowed mysticism: blessing woven it seems right into us, and into all the world besides.

SOME MORE TITLES to tempt readers…

On Pleasure

Empty Pods and Pleasant Graveyards

Poetry on the Elliptical

Unlocking the Hips

Un-hating the Muir Trail

Lacking the Subjunctive

Threat Level: TEAL

When Denial is Public Policy

O Felix Obama

How to Be a Progressive (Without Believing in Progress)




Kelson Books
paperback – $11.95 / pages 191 / ISBN 978-0-615-31419-8
publication date: September 16, 2009
(available via bookstores, amazon.com, or direct from Kelson Books)
distributors: Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble (returnable)

CONTACT: Peter Doyle, Creative VP or David Oates
EMAIL: kelsonbooks@gmail.com
PHONE: 503-327-9733

Order a signed copy from me through PayPal

$11.95 special: no s/h charge for this book