Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Birthday Club, Part Deux

I think it was two (or maybe three) years ago that I implemented the first Birthday Club. It involved people mailing me books for my birthday, under the condition that if you mailed me a book within a month of my birthday, I would mail one back to you.

It was a great success, and I received and read many awesome books, some of which I probably never would have read had I not created The Birthday Club. I can now say I read every book that a Birthday Club member sent to me that first year I did this, and I am glad I did.

This year, on March 26th, I turn 30, and for this grand occasion, I would like to bring back the Birthday Club for a second round. I really love my birthday. I am one of those crazy people that celebrates her birthday all freaking month. (Shameless plug: I am reading on 3/20 at the Tirefire Reading Series, and this feels like a birthday present somehow.) Anyway, below are the rules for Birthday Club if you would like to participate this year.

[ cupcakes also accepted. ]

1) I have to know you in some capacity. Maybe we are obvious friends or maybe I met you in real person (is that a real phrase?) or maybe we are twitter friends. You just can't be someone completely random. I have to, in some way or another, recognize your name--or you have to, in some way or another, let me know how I know you.

2) Email me, so we can exchange mailing addresses, if you want to make this happen. If you don't have my email address, use the contact page of my website to write me, which goes straight to my email inbox, and I'll write you back.

3) You have a month to mail me a book that you love and think I will love/should read, from today. I will send everyone who sends me a book between 3/15 - 4/15 a book within a month of the date I receive your Birthday Club book to me. If you would rather give me a book in person because you live in Philly/we see each other, that's okay too. We'll arrange for an exchange.

4) You really can send me any book-- as long as I haven't read it. How can you tell? Here is a list of (most of) the books I've read via Goodreads. Small press books are encouraged, but I am open to anything, anything, anything. Used books are fine!

5) Those are the rules, I can't think of any more.

If you have read this blog in the past, many a time in an entry I have said something like, "This book was sent to me by XYZ for my Birthday Club," so you may be famous on my blog for sending me a book.

I hope you help to make this the best birthday ever! I decided not to implement Birthday Club every year because there are a million books I want to read, and some of them I already own and know I want to read-- but not all of them. I am a stacker-upper and a patient completist. I am a bibliophile. I love owning books. I love getting mail, and I love sending mail (well, for the most part.)  When a book comes in on suggestion, as in, someone says, you must read this, I am more likely to read it, and I can't wait to see what you guys throw at me-- and a big part of the fun of this for me is that I get to send you something I think you'll love.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Books Read :: January 2014

Opening Remarks
I'm participating in two different self-inflicted reading challenges this year. The first is a number goal, based on Goodreads. I didn't meet the goal I set for myself last year, so I set the bar the same as I did in 2012 for this year-- 52 books. That's at least, when rounded out, one book per week, which I know I can handle, and I know I'll meet. I think it's a good LIFE goal for reading. At least one book every week, forever. Perhaps 52 will always be my goal, knowing most times I will meet and surpass it. Anyway, Goodreads doesn't always have the books I'm reading in its database, so the counting system there has slightly less books than my counting here. As usual, rereads don't count. Also, I ran into some "year round up counts" on book blogs, & I'd like to do one next year for this blog.

The second challenge is one I found on tumblr, this, which is recommended-based for each month. The challenge in January was to pick a book published in the year of your birth and read it. Below are my stats thus far for the first challenge, and below that are notes on each book I've read this year so far.

Books Read

Notes on Books Read

The Inside of an Apple by Joshua Beckman
I read a different Beckman title last year, Take It, that I loved beyond measure. I was not as in love with this one-- a lot of it was very reflective on nature-- not a bad thing, just not my cup of tea. Because I had been expecting the poems to be more in the line of the book I read last year, I don't think I enjoyed this as much as I would've had I not had the earlier book I read to hold it up against.

Lake of Earth by William VanDenBerg
This Caketrain title was sent as a gift to me from the author, as we published one of its stories in Gigantic Sequins-- I absolutely loved this book. The longest and title story in it is like a dream-- as in, reading it didn't feel like a dream, but the sequencing within the story almost felt like one of those dreams that you want to fall back into and win. Also, my reading of it has stuck with me like a dream-- I carry the ideas of it with me, around me.

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
This was a book I read for the 2014 Suggestion Challenge-- a book written in the year of your birth. I went through Goodreads and found a number of books published in 1984, browsing friends' ratings & reviews as well as reading the brief descriptions of each before, finally, choosing this book. I chose it above others because it's one of the first novels written by a Native American woman in the late twentieth century to get serious critical attention. I felt like I should have read it, should have read Erdrich in general, and was almost mad about not having done so before now. While I was reading it, at first I was afraid it would go on and on-- it's written in series of linked stories that tell a larger story, and sometimes I have trouble getting "into" books that are written that way. However, as the storylines progressed and overlapped and interweaved, AND after I found a nice family tree of the characters online for my reference whenever a name came up that I couldn't place on first glance, I particularly enjoyed reading it and instead of being wary that it wouldn't end, was sad when it did.

The Surprise in the Egg by Elisa Biagini
This is a Belladonna chapbook I bought awhile ago and began reading a few times but never fully committed myself to until recently. I began reading it in a bath I took-- I lit candles and put nice smelling things into a lovely bath for myself, a luxury I felt I needed at the time. Then, I reread much of it because I really enjoyed it and wanted to read it cover to cover-- it's a chapbook so it's short. Many chapbooks that I love almost always beg a reread and this one did. It made me more interested in Belladonna in general. Not that I wasn't originally interested in what they do, but reading such a great little book of theirs made me want to get more into their cause/works. This chapbook was translated from Italian, and I want to read more by the poet when I can get my hand on works of hers translated into English.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
This book kicked my ass in the best way. It broke my heart and kicked my ass and made me reflect on my life and made me think of the good reasons I like Mad Men and made me think of how different and how similar today is to the mid-twentieth century and then kicked my ass all over again. I didn't think, from the first ten-fifteen pages or so, that this book would have the effect on me that it did, but it really stayed with me afterwards, and I think will remain with me for awhile. I bought this book from Brickbat Books in Philly because I've always wanted to read something by Yates, and there it was. I bought it in December, and I read it in January. That's pretty good for me.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
I have had this since last Christmas. Of course, you're attracted to a title by Rowling because of the Harry Potter hype, but at the same time, I wanted to distance myself from the negativity surrounding the book initially-- maybe that negativity is something I made up, but I feel as though I heard a lot of not positive things about this title the first few months after its release. Of COURSE my fellow humans, it just can't BE Harry Potter. Nothing can "be" Harry Potter. We shouldn't even have to SAY that. Harry Potter is one of those more-than-a-book sort of things that happened. Anyway, before I go on a rant about the righteousness of the Potter books, I want to switch gears back to the focus at hand, which is this lovely novel by Rowling, which read almost like a debut novel about class conflict in small town England from a promising fiction writer. My one complaint was that there were too many characters-- and no chart I could find like for Love Medicine. It took awhile for me to remember whose side who was on and whose parents were whose. By the second half of the book, when its plot really picked up, I had everything straight and enjoyed reading it. I read it pretty quickly, which is always, with me, most likely a sign I'm enjoying something.

Small Porcelain Head by Allison Benis White
This was the book I received in the mail for the Birds of Lace book exchange. I read it pretty quickly, right after I read the Rowling novel. I feel like what I said on my Goodreads 4-star review about it sums up my feelings on it pretty well!

The Formal Field of Kissing by Bernadette Mayer
Though I am not as acquainted with the Greek/Latin originals as the Monk Books edition of this book's prologue writer, Dorothea Lasky, is, I still managed to enjoy these poems-- and knowing that something lurked beneath the depth of them that  was larger than my own enjoyment of them made them, somehow, even bigger, even better.

We Lack in Equipment and Control by Jennifer Fortin
At the same time that so many of these poems spoke to me, I felt like I was kind of missing something about them when I was finished with this book-- and I wanted to go back and find what it was that I was missing, but at the same time was vaguely exhausted by the prospect. I really liked this H_NGM_N Books title, but it's something I will need to return to in the future to really have anything real to say about it. I dog-eared a bunch of pages. There were repeated symbols and notions. The language was clinical and beautiful simultaneously at times. I would (and most likely will) read more work from her.

Friday, January 3, 2014

MUSIC! ART! Jan. 12th @ Philadelphia Sculpture Gym

I am hosting this show. Well, put "hosting" in quotation marks. I book it & I'm helping promote it. It's going to be awesome:

Because of snow, the PSG gallery opening originally scheduled for tonight has been rescheduled for this day! So it should be a blast! It's an art opening/music menagerie! I'm excited.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Books Read :: November & December

So, to round up 2013, I read some books. I've decided that for 2013, I am going to go back to making it my goal to read at least 52 books for the year. This is one book/week, and I made it happen in 2012 and believe I can do it again for 2014. So I'll be counting towards that goal again each month when I blog about what I read starting at the end of January. I also am going to do this "A Year in Reading Suggestions" that I found via twitter/tumblr. I've already picked my book for January! So here's to looking ahead.

And, here's to looking back at what I read these past two months...

The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein
I really liked this book. I read it quickly because I was interested in what was going to happen to the characters. I feel like I had a good idea where the story was going to wind up, but I wasn't 100% sure how we were going to get there. Forgiveness and questioning pre-conceived notions were important themes and

Figures for an Apocalypse by Edward Mullany
I reviewed this title for Philadelphia Review of Books. Not sure when it will be featured there, but I'll post a link!

Hunger Games/Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I reread the first book to teach it this past fall and the second because the movie was coming out, and I wanted to remember the plot so that I could talk about it. I haven't seen the Catching Fire movie yet, though, and probably won't until it comes onto Netflix.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
This was my first purchase on my Kindle. I bought this last December, and had been reading it off and on for a long time. Finally, this winter, I finished it! I enjoyed it very much-- the stories are addictive and not all of them are as memorable as others, but the characters are definitely memorable. There have been a lot of modernized-TV versions of Holmes in current culture, so I am glad to have read it to see the connections they make to Doyle's stories in their episodes. Speaking of which, 2014 brings us a new season of Sherlock! I don't know when it will be on Netflix/available to stream online, but I'm pretty excited. The first one airs on Jan. 5. Maybe I can watch it on PBS? Hmm. I really love Benedict Cumberbatch. He's "my" Sherlock.

Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I decided that since I tend to do a summer classic, as soon as it made sense for me to start really reading after the semester died down (EXCEPT for all this grading I still have to do--) I would do a "winter classic" this year, and I don't mean that I would organize a hockey game to be played outside. I have been using the excuse that the Russians aren't best to read in the summer because their books are more of a winter literature for awhile now, so it only made sense to pick up Dostoyevsky from my shelf. The scene set in the very beginning of the novel is on a sweltering July day, but other than the disappointment in the setting's temperature at first, I was extremely glad I read this book. It really gets you inside the character's head, and the way that his brain works is more interesting than most things I read all of 2013. This is one of those classics I can't believe I didn't read until now, and I'm extremely glad I have read it. It makes me want to read more of Dostoyevsky.

The Isle of Youth by Laura VanDenBerg
There is no reason for this book not to be on the many lists it graced this year, celebrating it as one of the best books of 2013. It's awesome to see a book of short stories, particularly one by a talented woman writer, on these lists. When Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in lit this year, we knew that meant good things for the short story, and specifically, again, for a woman short story writer. I'm glad I read this book, with its compelling stories about women who are in some ways trapped and in other ways more free than many who choose to live within the grid.

Black Life by Dorothea Lasky
I have trouble thinking about poetry books as books in the same way I think of novels as books, if that makes any sense. Yes, they are connected and make a whole, of course, but especially with this book I feel like I connected with certain poems on a person to poem level more than I connected with the entire book on an entire book level. My favorite poems in here were "Some People Do it" p. 32, "Things" p. 34, "Tornado" p. 44, "Poets, You are Eager" p. 58, and "I Don't Remember the Talk of Men" p. 69.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
This was the book I read to close out the year. I bought it at Barnes & Noble with some credit I had there, and I took a long time to choose. I was in a bad mood, I now forget why, wandering around the chain bookstore, trying to find something that I wanted to read right away. I am a "buy and let sit" sort of book owner. I buy books with every intention of reading them, and then they sit on my shelves for years until I get around to it. Something I would like to do in 2014 is read more books that have been recently published. I want to get into some sort of unstructured routine where I read something new and then something from the past, back and forth. I would like to subscribe to a few small presses to accomplish this, but I am in a "frozen money" mode where I'm not 100% sure when my next paycheck is coming (#adjunctprobs), so I can't do so yet. But I digress-- this was the perfect book to end the year. I read it almost in one sitting, in one day. It's the perfect book for that sort of thing. I think Gaiman is a master storyteller, and this book helps illustrate that. The only trouble with a book like this is that it begs a sequel/reread-- you get caught up in its characters, in the world he weaves, and then when it's gone, the magic is static, it's inside those front and back covers. You don't want to close the book. You don't want to leave the magic. But, ah, it's 2014. I look forward to a new year of reading, filled with its own sort of magic...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ten Books That Have Stayed With Me

This is a meme going around facebook. I like lists, but I also like annotating lists. I, in fact, have made annotated tracklists for mixtapes/CDs I've given to friends. So, this. Notably, this is in "no particular order". It also considers that I have been a "reader" since I learned to read. Ostensibly, this list should be much longer & books that have stayed with me have been edited from here. "Stayed with me" is sort of a hard designation. There are books I love, books I consider my "favorites" that aren't on this list. This is because sometimes I read something and love it, but the plot/characters/etc. go out the window when I think back on it. Often I can tell you why I know I love the book, but not much else about my own personal relationship with it. Does that mean it has "stayed with" me? Not so much as the books on this list, which I can relate facts about AND tell you why I loved it. I tried to avoid books that stick with me because I teach them again and again unless one of the reasons I teach them is because they had already stayed with me. So, these are the ten books that have stuck with me "the most", if such a statement is possible.

Without further ado...

Ten Books That Have Stayed With Me

1- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
My education dictated again and again that I read this book, and every time I read it, I fell a little more in love with it. When I read it in high school, it did not mean as much to me as it did in undergraduate, and then teaching it to my gen-ed lit students after having read it again in graduate school was another step up on how important I feel this book is. It's such a classic that I can't really say much about it that hasn't been already said, but there's one part of this book that will always make me cry/get emotional. If it ever doesn't, I will feel as though I have lost something.

2- On Beauty by Zadie Smith
This book made me believe in modern fiction. Perhaps I wasn't giving it a fair chance before I read and loved this book, which was also before I became such a large supporter of the current literary scene and small press titles. Smith's book isn't a small press title, nor is it bizarre or absurd like many other modern works of fiction I have come to love. But I love this book for its fair representation of fictional Boston academia that it presents. I love the blend of high and pop culture that the book enlists to help tell its story. And I love her characters-- they are beautifully written, and I remember feeling a true sense of loss after first reading this book, like I no longer could hang out and learn about the lives of these people that I had gotten to know so well.

3- The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Suess
I think I took this book out of the library more times than any other book in elementary school. It has always stayed with me-- the plot, the illustrations, the craziness of the hats getting wilder and wilder, poor Bartholomew, who followed the rules and was nearly punished for something entirely out of his control, and perhaps most of all the absurdity of it. Suess books were generally set in strange unfamiliar worlds, wherein this book felt familiar yet bizarre rather that completely otherworldly.

4- Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
This book KICKED. MY. ASS. I had trouble at first getting into it because of the genius way that Kesey switches between perspectives and his interesting/unique use of italics, but once I got rolling, I couldn't stop. This book devoured me. This book broke my heart and then broke it again and then broke it again and then healed it back up only to break it again. I finished it sitting on the floor during an exam my grammar students were taking, and it took everything in me, every cell in my body, every neuron in my brain, not to stamp my feel and noisily emote when I finished. The book ends like when you are hyper and you can't stop being hyper and just when you think you are going to crash you just can't stop and then suddenly you are underneath a kitchen table in a house that isn't yours because you can't even take it, anything, you can't take anything. To me, his book rivals Huck Finn for "Great American Novel". A friend of mine recommended it, and even though I had difficulty getting into it at first, I persevered and have never been happier to have trusted a recommendation as I was when this book kicked my ass.

5- Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
I was going to try to find a way to say the whole series, but the list dictates "book". Of all the HP series books, this was the one that made me realize that these books were special. When I have reread the series in the past, I have often skipped the first two. They are children's books, written for those of the early YA age. However, this third book in the series really steps up the game. While the movie is one of my favorites, the complexities that it leaves out that do exist in the book are important to the series as a whole. This book opens up the series to be something darker than it had started as. While I won't say that this is my "favorite" book in the series (I think my favorite is Half-Blood Prince), I feel like my eyebrows raised in an "oh. OKAY then. Alriight, Rowling" way more in this book. I had come to expect that of her by Book 6, but this one is where it all began. It only improved from here.

6- On Grief & Reason by Joseph Brodsky
As a poet, maybes it's strange that I don't have any books of poetry on here, but there's a reason. Generally, a BOOK of poetry does not stay with me as well as individual poems do. If I were asked to make a list of Ten Poems That Have Stayed With Me, I definitely could. Perhaps I will do that on a future date. But this book of essays by Nobel-prize winning poet Joseph Brodsky has stayed with me since I read it. I return to these essays again and again, sometimes rereading one in particular, sometimes browsing it to reread my underlinings and marginalia. I have, on various occasions, retold anecdotes and quotes from this book. Brodsky has a true relationship with language, evident not just in his poetry, but also in his essays, which often though not always discuss poetry.

7- As You Like It by William Shakespeare
I am not the biggest fan of plays, generally. I teach (and love to teach) Beckett each semester to my lit students, and I love teaching that play somehow. But one semester, in addition to Waiting for Godot, I decided to teach "my favorite Shakespeare". Upon rereading this book, I wasn't surprised at how much of it I retained from reading it senior year of high school-- I played Rosalind in a group project for English class, so it made sense that I recalled many of my lines & the plot overall. What did surprise me, however, was how hilarious the book really was. Yes, there's cross-dressing, which leads to false/mistaken identities, which tend to be humorous, but even on a sentence-level, this book is quite funny. I was extremely glad I revisited it. I think it will always be my favorite Shakespeare and because of my memorization of its lines and plot, it will always stay with me.

8- Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
I remember sitting at the info desk while the guy who normally worked there was on break when I worked at Strand and picking this book up off of the counter in front of me while I waited for customers to ask me questions. I remember reading the first ten pages or so of "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" and literally laughing out loud at how great Salinger's prose is, how well he paints a scene, and how much meaning he packs into his sentences-- gestures, thoughts, dialogue, etc. When I teach stories from this book, I lead my students towards the underlying anti-war message that perforates this text. When I tell people this, they often say, "I didn't really read it that way." I don't think I did the first time, either, and perhaps when I read these immaculate stories again, I will find something else in them. This is part of that I love about them-- the endless yet relevant interpretations that can come from them. I will continue to read and teach this book throughout my lifetime, and I bet I will find more and more within the lines. Franny & Zooey was always my favorite Salinger book because it got me through a really rough patch of my senior year in high school. But Nine Stories is superior & lasted longer for me, elevating Salinger from someone who helped me when I needed him to a master storyteller.

9- The Once & Future King by T.H. White
I used to tell people this was my favorite book. We read it for summer reading the summer before my sophomore year of high school. I remember being intimidated by its length, but White's versions of the Arthur stories have stuck with mer perhaps more than Disney's The Sword & the Stone. There are quotes from this book that are still powerful and important to me today, and that I recognized their impact at such a young age and kept the ideas within the book inside me since reading it, and only reading it once, speak to its power. This is one on this list I could afford to reread, as I have only read it once and it captivated me so. In my poetry, I often return to the mythologies that this book tells so well.

10- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
This is one of the two books on this list that I have only read once. A part of a book "sticking with" me appears to be that it was so good, I went back to it for one reason or another, sometimes not by choice but because a class I took asked me to. I had read Woolf before I read Mrs. Dalloway, but this was the first time I loved her. Reading this book helped me, I think, to understand what Woolf was trying to do with her stream of consciousness writing. It made me appreciate To the Lighthouse more when I reread it and also gave me room to better understand and enjoy Between the Acts. This was another book I couldn't put down, each page begging the next. I wrote a poem that references this line. It's one of those poems that you write & you yourself as a poet appreciate and love but in and of itself, the poem is not my best work. I think this helps strengthen my connection with this book. I was sad when I was reading this book, I was in a sad place in my life, and this book-- and that poem-- helped.

Runners Up:
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Waste Land & Other Poems by T.S. Eliot
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine

Closing Thoughts on this: I think this is something I should do every ten years. Let's see if I remember in 2023. I will TAG "2023" in the labels. There is a chance that may help me remember.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Books Read :: September & October

I never get enough time to read. I am always reading what I've assignment students or reading submissions or reading student papers. This is what I've managed to read since the beginning of the semester this year:

The Demon Room by J.E. Reich

I bought this for my Kindle because Jaime is a GS contrib from issue 3.2, and I love supporting my GS contribs. I read it, taking a break from what I've been reading on my Kindle since January, The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I love Holmes and Watson, but I can only read so much of it before I feel like I know the answer to every mystery before it's been solved. Anyway, what a pleasant surprise this little book was! It's done like a character sketch almost with a devious plot which jumps back and forth in time in just the right ways. It takes you to early twentieth century Europe and invests you in an artist who's haunted by personal demons. I think this would be a great book for someone traveling who wants something to read in its entirety during a trip.

The Hanging on Union Square by H.T. Tsiang

This book is reviewed in Gigantic Sequins 5.1, scheduled to go to print in January 2014. While our Book Reviews Editor, Craig Chisholm, wrote the review for it, he lent me his copy, and I decided to read it. I need copies of the books we review to help when I'm copyediting the journal, but I really love reading what we promote in GS, too. This is a new print of an old novel, written by a Chinese-American Marxist about the great depression. Its time period aside, it remains relevant in this day and age.

Bury Me in My Jersey by Tom McAllister

I reviewed this over at Poets on Sports. Read up!

The Pine Barrens by John McPhee

My friend Elise sent me this book about my home state, and I couldn't have been more happy to read it. She said it made she and her husband want to visit NJ, and it makes me want to get to know the state I was born in more than I already do. Along with appearances in the book of places I already know and love in the Pine Barrens like Mt. Misery, Gabriel Davies Tavern, and Whitesbog Preservation Trust (where Geoff and I originally wanted to get married) that I loved reading more on, I was also thrilled by all the facts and history about them that I hadn't heard about before. Particularly thrilling for any NJ resident, past or present, is any history, large or small, of the Jersey Devil.

Percussion Grenade by Joyelle McSweeney

I bought this in NYC at St. Mark's Bookshop because I needed something to read and I was in a rush. Had I not been in a rush, I would have read the preface where McSweeney tells her readers that these poems/plays are meant to be read outloud, and I probably wouldn't have bought it. Her writing is very conceptual, which isn't really my thing. I enjoyed certain sections over others, particularly the second to last section, which was a play. The rest of the book seemed like very well done wordplay that I couldn't "get into"-- I'm not sure if one is supposed to "get into" poems like that in the way that I like "getting into" books. I was just doing it wrong, I think.

Into the Snow by Aygi Gennady

This was the book I finished before I bought McSweeney's book. It's a book of poems by a Russian. I liked them for the most part, except I can generally never get past the fact that a book's been translated.

Thursday by Ariana Reines

I bought this at AWP this year because it was cool looking and I'd always wanted to read something by Reines. The way the book was bound made it hard to read, as I feared I would "break" its binding. It was chapbook-length and I kinda wanted more from it when it was done.

Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy

GS Fiction editor Zach Yontz gave me this book for my birthday club. I think I remember saying in the recent past that I had read all my birthday club books. That was clearly a lie, as this was the last of them. I really loved this book. It was about a man who gets on a plane and winds up in a country where he can't understand the language at all. The main character is a linguist, so it's especially frustrating to him that he can't figure out the language, and therefore doesn't know where he is, how he got there, how to leave, and how to attempt to live once he realizes the language barrier is preventing him from getting, ultimately, to the conference he thought he was headed towards.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Books Read :: July-August

I began doing this every two months because at one point I was reading very little & had very little time to shout about the very little I was reading. I always want to blog more than I actually do, to turn my blog into a better way to communicate my ideas, especially on the culture that I consume. But it isn't something I prioritize. I'm not sure why. Anyway, as usual, the writing about each book below shouldn't be read as reviews of these titles, but thoughts/feelings on them generally.


Darling Beastlettes by Gina Abelkop :: Gina sent me this book in the mail, and I read it this summer because it has been sitting on my bedside table for awhile. It was under a couple of other books that are still on my bedside table that I haven't begun or started, including a tome of Joseph Brodsky's poem, for which I have one poem left to read but it's very long and I can't bring myself to find time to really concentrate on it. I'm not sure why I didn't write a Goodreads review for this book. I thought I did. I dog-eared a bunch of the pages to go back to. That's my favorite way to read poetry books, to read the whole thing and then go back and reread the pages I dog-eared. There was something of a modern, very female-centric myth about this book that pulled me into it. I felt like reading it was helping keep the myth of its women (and their unearthed darknesses, at many points,) alive.

Taipei by Tao Lin :: I guess I read a lot of books by "people I know" this summer, now that I'm looking at this list. I'll always read Tao's books because I've always liked his unique perspective/how his writing style reflects that perspective. This was a really sad book and it made me want to find Tao and hug him, but then I felt lame, like he's grown, he can take care of himself, or something. I am always GLAD when I read Tao's books that I've read them, like they're important, even when they aren't my favorite things I've read recently. I didn't read many novels this summer, and those I read were all REALLY drastically different types of books. I did write a Goodreads review of this book.

The Narrows by m. craig :: I bought this at Brickbat in South Philly because it was a small press title and I really loved the cover. There's no dust jacket copy explaining what this book about, there was just the lower-case author's name, the cover image, and the brown-paper-bag texture of its cover for me to go on. It sat on my shelf for maybe a year, maybe more, I'm not sure. I'm a big reader, but I'm an even bigger purchaser of books. Many people buy books and read them right away. I have a bad habit of not doing so. I am trying to break this. I have a plan to break this. I digress: this book could be genre-fied. As in, you could throw it into a category and say, this book is this type of book belonging on this type of shelf in Barnes and Noble or wherever. But I feel like that's not fair, that it was better than its genre. Not that there are many books that could be classified as lesbian steampunk necessarily, but again, I don't want to call it that because I want people who wouldn't think to pick up a lesbian steampunk book to pick up this book because I really liked it and thought that it was both well written and moving. My Goodreads review of it is here.

Robinson Alone by Kathleen Rooney :: I bought this book at AWP this year from Trident. I think I showed up late to see Kathleen read and was sad but then went with her and other Emerson alum folks & friends to a bar near Emerson and had a good night anyway. This is something like a "novel-in-verse" where we follow a character, based on a real life poet who disappeared, from relative poet-normality into disappearing. The lovely thing about this poetry-book-with-a-plot is that the poems themselves often could stand alone. Shereen Adel reviewed this book for Boog City earlier this year.

Applies to Oranges by Maureen Thorson :: This little Ugly Duckling Press gem was something I ripped through and really enjoyed. I felt like these were poems that if I were a different person, I could have written them, and there's always something appealing to me (albiet a bit obviously selfishly) about that. I think that's a long way of saying that some of the poems in this book inspire me.


Ava by Carole Maso :: This was one of my "Birthday Club" books from 2012, one of the last few I had left to read. I wrote a review of it on Goodreads because I had a lot of feelings about it. Instead of listening to me repeat said feelings here, the review is here. But yeah, even on Goodreads, my "reviews" aren't necessarily "reviews" though they're called that there.

Rise in the Fall by Ana Božičević :: I also bought this book of poetry at AWP this year from the great Birds LLC whose table was next to ours. The illustrations by Bianca Stone in it are amazing, but I kept having to flip quickly past them on the train because there were naked people in them and I didn't want people to see me looking at illustrations of naked people. Then, I realized there were totally naked people on the cover, too. I didn't stop bringing the title on the train. I dog-eared a bunch of pages. I felt like this book's tone was hard at first to grasp but as I went along, I got used to it. I feel like they were written by someone I'd maybe have trouble reading at first, but then really want to be friends with but then not be sure how to approach the person at all. I liked the way that the poems were sectioned off by the drawings rather than titled or numbered. that worked really well for me as a reader.