• Circling the Drain

    Amanda Davis

    it’s kind of morbid that i sought this book out after reading Davis’s obituary in march. she also published a novel entitled Wonder When You’ll Miss Me.

    the stories are either pretty good or pretty darn good, occasionally with these fantastical elements that are really interesting. a couple of stories read something...more

  • Across the Bridge

    Mavis Gallant

    the april 2003 issue of Harper’s had a review of the two new collections of Gallan’s stories—being published by The New York Review of Books (one of which has just been released) — and called her an “unknown master.” at first i felt like reading the review had pushed my expectations too high; while the first three...more

  • Atomic Field

    Nicholas Christopher

    i picked this up last summer when i was temping at a publishing company, and i started to read it but never finished. the book is comprised of two extended poems, one, one dated 1962 and one 1974, each made up of 45 smaller poems. the two series of images and memories and dreamlike scenarios don’t seem like solid pieces...more

  • And Her Soul Out of Nothing

    Olena Kalytiak Davis

    undoubtedly my favorite book of poetry, though having read so little it probably means a little less than it could. though reading this, i hardly expect to find a complete work that will resonate with me as much as this. it’s calm and striking; her way of phrasing things perfectly and the sudden moments of stark understanding and images of sky and melancholy make this something to return to again and again.more


  • Sister of My Heart

    Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

    last summer, during my total short story fixation, i read The Unknown Errors of Our Lives, also by Divakaruni — it’s probably one of my favorite collections, so i was curious to read something else by her.

    this novel is such a well-spun story, each chapter just barely resolving, strongly pulling into the subsequent chapter. ceasing to read became a very purposeful...more

  • The Sweet Hereafter

    Russell Banks

    i managed to rent this movie right when my roommate received the book as a gift. i didn’t really care for the movie at all. so much of the story seemed painfully undeveloped, major events slipped in casually and then never referenced again. reading the book, it’s a novel i would not have predicted to be...more

  • Invisible Cities

    Italo Calvino

    i just read this for the first time this past autumn, so this may constitute the fastest desire to re-read a book yet. it is just so vast and focused, beautiful, brilliant. it’s pointless for me to describe it as the words will probably just sound trite. a definite favorite.more


  • The Name of the Rose

    Umberto Eco

    i read a rather obscene amount of agatha christie in junior high, and i really haven’t read anything in that vein until this murder mystery, set in an italian abbey in the year 1327. this is a weightier story than most of those books i read back then — the history is amazingly researched. every detail is placed meticulously. the story takes...more

  • South of France

    Sara Midda

    this isn’t really a book to read or even take in with a page-by-page manner, but i suddenly thought of it this morning, thinking about searching for a certain kind of striped shirt. it reminded me of a little part in here where there is a search for a blue-striped search. it’s difficult to describe this, but the title explains...more

  • The Book of Questions

    Pablo Neruda

    it’s rather pleasing to read this all at once: 74 poems composed of couplets of questions (320 in all), most of which have no true answer. there are many repeating themes, like the moon and the seasons, especially autumn. some questions are more severe: What forced labor does Hitler do in hell?

    most seem more lighthearted, whimsical: But is it true...more

  • Poems 4 a.m.

    Susan Minot

    oh, no. more rhyming poetry and about love too. at times this reminded me of marilyn hacker except that hacker has something that minot does not: certainty? only two poems were truly memorable to me (“Bulbs” and “Dawn in a Chilmark Barn”) and otherwise the themes of places and lovers seemed uninspired. maybe her voice isn’t concrete or...more

  • The Middleman and Other Stories

    Bharati Mukherjee

    directly after reading an alice munro book and the fantastic murakami collection, a moderately good group of short stories unfortunately suffers from comparative disappointment. this book had been recommended to me, and i just read and enjoyed jasmine a few weeks ago, but most of the stories here have a painful lack of development. the stories tend...more

  • The Panther and the Lash

    Langston Hughes

    hmm. i don’t really have anything to say about this, except that i’m really not into rhyming poetry. sometimes i wonder if i’d like poetry better if it were read out loud.more


  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

    Alice Munro

    alice munro’s short stories are always so well-contained — rich with detail but no unnecessary words. as a collection, these stories are less linked than others of hers, but the stories have common themes to keep them together, most predictably relationships. munro’s style is so careful, subtly stunning. most times “nothing really happens,” but there’s so much going on. every so often...more

  • Those Who Ride the Night Winds

    Nikki Giovanni

    ellipses create a whole different kind of space and cadence… not to mention this uncertainty of what might have been left out. there are two sections in this: “night winds” focuses on various people who have tried to make change; “daytrippers” follows the path of love. there the liberal use of ellipses makes the verse even more hesitant and charged....more

  • After the Quake

    Haruki Murakami

    i’ve been kind of hesitant on murakami — partially a wariness of the “genius” label often partnered with him. also because the few books i’ve read (Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart) had these weird female characters that creeped me out. friends of mine who had read other works by him related having similar responses, so i didn’t go out of my way...more

  • Jasmine

    Bharati Mukherjee

    this showed up in the mail from amanda one day, totally unexpectedly. i had mentioned wanting to read a certain book of short stories by her that someone else recommended to me. this is a novel that apparently has the same themes of lives of exiles and immigrants living in the us. at first i couldn’t believe i was...more

  • Presentation Piece

    Marilyn Hacker

    for poetry from the early ’70s, it’s nice how undated this book feels (aside for”Elegy” written for Janis Joplin after her death). perhaps because the copy i read had an amazingly early ’70s cover design, i kept thinking about this.

    the perspectives make sense to me, and i like how the five sections are subtly distinct, like five eras of a...more

  • Just as I Thought

    Grace Paley

    these are miscellaneous writings collected from throughout grace paley’s life, as a result, it doesn’t always retain a steady level of continuity. predictably the parts that were most interesting to me, in light of recent events, were about wars (mostly vietnam, but also an essay about the gulf war), as paley was very involved in those anti-war movements. the various...more

  • Everything That Rises Must Converge

    Flannery O’Connor

    vacation to the south continues, or really had been going on throughout the poetry days. these short stories share a theme of misunderstanding, especially between family members with misaligned philosophies. many parallels of characters trying to do in essentially flawed manners (trying to prove something, trying to be better than others, etc). well-crafted stories: no wasted words, all the pertinent...more

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