The premise of this slim oﬀering is contained in one of the 300 snippets: “Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book’s quotable passages.” While I deﬁnitely found some quotable moments in the quotable passages (which is kind of funny!), it didn’t really work for me as a book; it just didn’t feel crafted. Some of the “arguments” are funny or sardonic, some feel rather profound, while others strike me as throwaways. The trouble is the ones that do sound like a long book’s quotable passages just beg for the rest of the book, and the rest are fragments for the sake of the premise.
This one suggests it...more
The back story of how this novel came to be published is fascinating: originally written and edited in 1941, it was never published and was essentially lost in the archives until a graduate student at Columbia University found a copy of an essentially ﬁnished manuscript among the papers of another writer in 2009. The New York Times reported on this discovery and the process to authenticate the manuscript in 2012. Now ﬁnally the book has made it into print.
Amiable with Big Teeth captures a later point in Harlem’s Renaissance, at the time when Ethiopia was invaded by Italian fascists. It’s a satirical look at the political maneuverings of activist groups and diﬀering perspectives of race and class relations,...more
The shadow past is shaped by everything that never happened. Invisible, it melts the present like rain through karst. A biography of longing. It steers us like magnetism, a spirit torque. This is how one becomes undone by a smell, a word, a place, the photo of a mountain of shoes. By love that closes its mouth before calling a name.
I did not witness the most important events of my life. My deepest story must be told by a blind man, a prisoner of sound. From behind a wall, from underground. From the corner of a small house on a small island that juts like a bone from the skin of the sea.
While I was reading...more
Memoir in verse, telling the stories of Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood. The poems impart an impressionistic narrative, focused more on the small moments amidst the larger transitions — like the end of her parents’ relationship, moving with her mother and siblings to her grandparents’ home in Greenville, SC, then moving again to Brooklyn — and on the gradual development of Woodson’s path to becoming a writer. Since it’s written from her perspective as a child, it’s published as a middle reader book, but it’s a beautifully rich experience for grown-up readers too.
It’s easier to make up stories
than it is to write them down. When I speak,
the words come pouring out of me. The story
A disgraced college professor moves to San Francisco in the late summer of 1974 while his school investigates him for an inappropriate relationship with a student. Hoping to work on a series lectures during his exile, he rents the cheapest oﬃce he can ﬁnd and describes a dreary building with “begrimed gargoyles crouched beneath the parapet, their eyes eaten away by time.” In the marble lobby, the elevators are overseen by bronze cherubs whose eyes circle to watch the cars rising and falling. The ﬂoors are inhabited by an array of tenants behind frosted glass doors, and he settles in to begin working. After a couple weeks, he arrives to ﬁnd a new whirring noise and discovers he rented the...more
Stretching across the 1940s, 1960s, and 1990s, Southland encompasses an impressive breadth of cultural history without overreaching. After the death of Jackie Ishida’s grandfather in 1994, her aunt ﬁnds a box of old papers that cracks open a door to long-hidden family secrets and tasks Jackie with sorting them out. Almost immediately, her quest brings her to Jimmy Lanier who reveals that during the Watts riots in 1965, four black boys were murdered in her grandfather’s store — an event her grandparents never revealed to their adolescent children.
One of the boys was Jimmy’s older cousin Curtis, who he adored unreservedly, and the suppression of the crime was particularly tough for him to accept. Together Jackie and Jimmy work to uncover...more