If I was a poet, I had become one because poetry, more intensely than any other practice, could not evade its anachronism and marginality and so constituted a kind of acknowledgment of my own preposterousness, admitting my bad faith in good faith, so to speak. I could lie about my interest in the literary response to war because by making...more
I hadn’t thought about Ruth Ozeki much in the many years since I read My Year of Meats. A Tale for the Time Being has some comparable elements, including multiple points of view and semi-parallel story lines as well as similarities to Ozeki’s life and identity. Though this one takes it a bit further with a main character named...more
As with most historical traumas of abuse, the perpetrators — the state, our families, the media, private industry — have generally pretended that the murder and cultural destruction of AIDS, created by their neglect, never took place. They pretend that there was nothing they could have done, and that no survivors or witnesses are walking around today with anything to resolve. They probably...more
It’s been a while since I read a book focused on writing. Many writing books are useful for thinking about creativity in general or for applying to any type of writing, but this one is geared toward ﬁction, at least in the speciﬁcally advising sections that are technically the core of the book. I actually skipped much of those,...more
A curated exploration of “Personal Geographies And Other Maps of the Imagination,” I appropriately read and browsed through this while visiting a city that I used to live in, wandering old neighborhoods, piecing together streets, and layering new experiences over the mental cartographies. There are a few essays and textual maps in this book, but most of it is visuals.
One map from Kathy Prendergast shows the US and its state borders and topographical details but the only labels are places that involve the word “lost,” suggesting a country of disorientation, missed opportunities, or even the land that was colonized away from native people.
I remember hearing about Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead years ago, probably when it was published in 2004, and it’s probably still on some misplaced reading list somewhere. But it wasn’t until friends were recently appreciating Housekeeping, her ﬁrst, so eﬀusively that I was reminded.
The western mountain town Fingerbone is almost a character on its own with its glacial lake...more
Katherine Anne Porter
I stole this book for my own reading list from the responses to a friend’s request for book suggestions not too long ago. While trying to determine what to read and skimming through my list, I browsed some synopses and reviews of Pale Horse, Pale Rider and found this comment: “Katherine Anne Porter is a woman who spent a great...more
After no Pulitzer Prize for ﬁction was awarded last year, people who care about such things worried that it could happen again. Instead this novel set in North Korea was recognized for 2013, one of a few awards it’s garnered so far. Initially I wasn’t too intrigued by the reviews, but I guess I was swayed by the accolades.
As someone who ﬁrst learned of Grace Coddington from her feisty presence in The September Issue, I felt appropriately chided by the introduction where Coddington declares it “the movie that is the only reason anyone has ever heard of me.” That claim is mostly untrue in terms of the fashion world, but then the average person who saw that...more
I loved Winterson’s ﬁrst, semi-autobiographical novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit when I ﬁrst read it as a teenager. Her slightly ﬁctionalized Jeanette struggles through her religious upbringing with her crazy adoptive mother and a diﬃcult coming-out experience. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is partially the memoir version of the same story, up until the...more
It’s hard not to think of Benh Zeitlin’s beautiful ﬁlm Beasts of the Southern Wild while reading this book that is also centered around an impoverished bayou community bracing for an approaching hurricane. The heroines also have similar ﬁerceness nestled in vulnerability and struggle with the absence of their mothers but the presence of wounded fathers.
But Salvage the...more
I assumed that I’d love this graphic novel due to its book-as-object nature, so much so that when I recently read Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s description of it being “not an actual book so much as a twee art project,” I also assumed that was an unnecessarily harsh opinion. Yet once I spent some time with it, I found myself agreeing...more
When I read the excerpt from this book in The New Yorker a couple years ago, I wasn’t particularly drawn to read the whole thing. But a copy showed up in a giveaway pile at work, and I wound up turning to it between library holds. I thought I’d put it aside when something else came along but instead...more
Partway into this collection, Teri tweeted a link to this comment thread on a Hairpin advice post, prompting a brief discussion of Díaz and how autobiographical his work might be. Since I haven’t read much about him as a person before, I wasn’t aware that his character Yunior, who is the centerpiece of this collection of stories, is...more
I always feel I should like George Saunders more than I do; when The New York Times emphatically declared this “the best book you’ll read this year,” I thought perhaps these would be the stories that would teach me to love him. The ﬂaw in this thinking being that I read several of them when they ran in The...more
For some reason I’ve never read any Louise Erdrich novels before, so I was glad to get to The Round House and later ﬁnd out that many of her books are centered around the same ﬁctional North Dakota reservation and the community there. It’s impressive to know that this book is grounded in a well-established history, but yet it can...more
Feeling pleased at the wintry theme at the time, I bought Snow with Winter’s Tale — now the association with Helprin’s novel is not at all ﬂattering, but luckily they have little in common beyond cold weather. And whereas Winter’s Tale is best at the beginning, Snow felt rather tedious at the start and got better after the story was established....more
It’s that time of year when I tend to think of Portland and my time living there — now ﬁve years distant; so it was ﬁtting that Nicole’s new book came out right now. I read it in one snowy evening, ﬁnding many old familiars of that city and of the people. Nicole is someone I knew there, through mutual friends as...more
I started reading Storming the Gates of Paradise early last year, but since it’s not a light read, the library wound up wanting it back before I could ﬁnish. Only thanks to having added it as my “currently reading” book on Goodreads was my memory jogged enough times to get another copy and ﬁnally read the rest. An anthology...more
In many ways W. Reginald Bray could be considered a mail art pioneer, as he sent a bevy of interesting items through the post including, as the title reveals, himself — twice! He also posted his dog and various objects with addresses and stamps applied directly to them, as when he traveled to Ireland and dug up a turnip and etched his...more