in january it's so nice while slipping on the sliding ice to read

I am now teaching an American English Grammar course at Rowan University, and as much as I do not like to admit it, it has seriously affected the amount of time I usually spend reading. However, in January I read and enjoyed all of the following books.

books read: January

Complete Minimal Poems by Aram Saroyan
I read a review in the nyt of this book awhile ago. This book, as much as a book of 'minimal poems' seems also an ode to the typewriter. While minimalism is something easily faked, Saroyan is a true original. His poems are akin to a Jackson Pollack painting, in that the untrained eye will scoff, "my five year old could do that!" True, but he didn't, and could never do it that well.

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
I picked this up to read for a failed book club. I read the whole thing, but was highly disappointed, and wish I had instead read a class Pynchon that I haven't gotten my hands on yet. This is a detective novel set in 1960's California with too many characters, not enough substance, but too much substance abuse. Don't waste your time unless you love complex detective pulp or want to experience one of our greatest authors highly disappoint you.

The Life & Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee
I read this on a suggestion to read any Coetzee book. The only one I've gone through in the past was Foe and that was for an undergraduate course and at a point where I was not giving my reading all of the attention I should have been. This book's lyrical prose at first seemed an obstacle-- because I am a poet, when I read fiction, I feel the need to be driven by dialogue and plot. However, the near reticent character of Michael K soon grew on me. The story is set in South Africa during a Civil War in the later twentieth century. The war time order and what Michael K sees as the order of nature and life are not parallel. He has a physical deformity, a harelip, and is slower than most others; these two things, though, do not weigh his humanity down. This novel's pace and eloquence leads its readers to explore what it is like to be human, in someone else's shoes.

His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
I had been waiting for the proper time to indulge myself in another young adult fantasy series. This trilogy in particular has been on my life for awhile, and I finally got to it. The first part in it, The Golden Compass, is exhilarating. It shows you a world you've never seen in young adult fantasy and brings it to life with an incredibly likable main character, Lyra. The next book, The Subtle Knife, is probably the best of the three, where Lyra and her friend Will begin to open doors to new and different worlds in a power struggle with organized religion. The last book, The Amber Spyglass is the most disappointing of the three and leaves a few questions unanswered. It is the hardest to get into, but about a third of the way through it picks up in pace. However, the questions that the series forces both young adults and its older readers to pick apart are what make this series stand out. The series can be lauded as one that not only questions organized religion, but explores its structures as unstable and debilitating to life. If god is not the center of these universes, than who is? If god is an impostor, than how easily could a lesser being defeat him/her and take on the ultimate role? Is not having values that are just and kind more important than worship of any kind? Let Pullman guide you through these questions. If you don't feel like answering them, well the ride along the way through different dimensions, I assure you, is a fun one.

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