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Friday, February 6, 2015

Books Read :: January 2015

As Goodreads keeps track of my "2015 Book Challenge", I won't be doing so here. Instead, I'll just be writing about the books I read each month. Note that I don't really consider what I write here to be "reviews" on what I've read, but more like notes and thoughts.

Anyway, I spent most of the month reading a novel that I am still not done with: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. It's excellent, and I can't wait to tell you more about it when I'm through. Though I am so enveloped in its world, I am not necessarily looking forward to being finished with it. That's how I know I am really loving a book. Here's what I DID finish reading last month:

BOOKS READ JANUARY 2015

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Little Brown, 2002)
I was nearly done with this towards the end of December, but the holidays kind of got in the way with  finishing. I didn't want to rush just to finish it by a specific calendar date. I loved the narrator in this book. That might be a weird thing to say, but it's definitely weird when there's a dead girl narrating a book from heaven-- and it's well done. When I say heaven I mean "heaven". There's nothing overly "God"-centric about this book to make it unreadable. The idea of god in the book is more like a "higher power" than anything central to one religion, hence making the book appealing to agnostics to christians to buddhists. I can get down with that. As long as you're willing to suspend your disbelief (or pump up your faith, whichever you choose.) ::Spoiler Alert:: I wanted, as I so often do with books, MORE from this book. The narrator knows the identity of her killer for the whole book, so the readers do too. Many characters in the book also seem to have it figured out, but they can never quite catch the guy, which is frustrating. I can't imagine how difficult the ending to this book was to write for Sebold, but I wish that there would have been more resolution on earth, rather than just in heaven. Perhaps this is selfish of me! The best scene at the end is with Ray and Ruth by the sinkhole and then at Hal's motorcycle shop. There's also a great scene at the end with Buckley and the father. These scenes do provide some sort of closure, and I was definitely crying a lot at the end during both of them. Perhaps tying everything into too neat a knot would have taken away from the insane power of these two excellent scenes? There's a movie that goes along with this book. I want to see it.

Man vs. Sky by Corey Zeller (YesYes Books, 2012)
This was the first poetry book I read in 2015 and day-amn. I got this book because we published Zeller in GS 5.1, and I wanted to read more of his great work. The prose poem we published isn't included in this stunning collection, which is written in the voice one of Zeller's friends who committed suicide. What a hard thing to write about, and Zeller does it with such clarity and grace and truth that literally I was saying "damn" a lot when I was reading this. Some of the poems (I almost called them "Chapters") were more mystical than others that were more visceral/literal and still others that were haunting but cheerful maybe at the same time? Here's a line from "The clock on the bed and the white horse sad as the island":
"Finally, I have become what I always wanted: a room without a door, a field without a sky" (43).
I want to write more about this book at some point, but I needed to step away from it. The book was sort of glowing like hot coals when I was done with it, and I needed to put it down before I got burnt out on its wonder. That sounds crazy, but I have a strong attachment to its subject matter, as does anyone who has been touched in any way by the difficulty of knowing someone who has taken his/her own life. This is an extremely powerful book of prose poems; read it.

Driftology by Deborah Bernhardt
Bernhardt came up from Knoxville to read at the GS/PSG Impossible Instructions opening night show/reading, and I bought her chapbook and full-length that night. She has a way of writing poetry that, to me, lets me in on how freaking amazingly smart and talented she is without it feeling like showing off. I feel like, in a totally different way, Natasha N. Nevada Diggs can do the same thing. I feel like both of their poems are penetrable, but only when I'm really willing to work-- that was what taking a class with Avital Ronnell at NYU felt like, too. I loved it because everything was so illuminating because my brain doesn't necessarily work like that. I like a poem--or a series of them-- that makes you work but rewards you at the same time. The poems in this chapbook that I read that were my favorite were the one that referenced Twin Peaks ("Driftology [Episode 3"]) and "Aktionspreise".

Outlook Good by shoney lamar
This chapbook-length comics collection was a long time coming. GS published one of shoney's comics in its 2.1 issue, and it was radical to read them here. They are definitely what one could call "poetry comics", which is what GS is running a contest for RIGHT NOW so I felt it was amazingly accurate that I was reading this book during the poetry comics open submission period! (It's open 'til March 15th.) Anyway, shoney sent this to me in the mail, and I read it all in one sitting and then went back and reread some of it and it's probably something that I will keep returning back to over time. The characters are almost all both likable and unlikeable at the same time somehow-- this makes them appealing in a variety of ways. The language is always precise and if not poetic on point. The drawings are black & white & minimalistic but effective. I also enjoy the handwriting.

Activities by John Dermot Woods (Publishing Genius, 2013)
I accidentally read this collection of comics pretty much back to back with Outlook Good. I needed something shorter than 1Q84 to bring with me to work, and I happened to grab this off of my "why the hell haven't you read this yet" shelf which is also kind of my "to read" shelf but it's too full hence why I am calling it my "why the hell haven't you read this yet" shelf. This book of, probably also poetry comics, is something I also believe I will find myself coming back to again and again. There's something sad, strange, and/or beautiful on every page, and most pages have all three. I am so glad there are books like this in my life.

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