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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Books Read :: March 2015

I know that it's halfway through April, but these are still the books I read in March:

The Great Night by Chris Adrian
I picked this book up from a thrift store because a friend of mine had mentioned he liked the author a lot. It was a "retelling" of a Midsummer Night's Dream in modern day San Fransisco and it took me forever to get into. I liked the last fourth of it a lot, but it took me the first three quarters to really like the book. I wish the resolution, which was the most intriguing part, made up more of the story. The intersecting storylines weren't as interesting as the one storyline at the end, even if it all kind of circled around meaningfully...

Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
I picked this up when I stayed over a friend's house in New York and needed something to read before I could sleep. (I read a lot right before bed, yet still, somehow, manage to be a decent reader. I, of course, don't only read right before bed... Anyway.) This collection got nominated for a bunch of prizes and I think won some and I remember, as I was reading it, thinking, yeah, I can see why. Sometimes poetry collections have visible threads like this one did: reflections on the death, the suicide particularly, of a brother. It was moving and the verse was elegant and breaking at the same time, and I was glad I read it and I was glad my friend's let me take it home with me because I wasn't finished. I still have it, but I will have to get it back to them.

Animal Farm by George Orwell
This was a reread for class-- I taught the book in a First Year Writing course and needed to reread it to teach it. When I read a book to teach it, I read it differently than I read it for pleasure? Does that make sense? I was glad to reread this book to teach it. It's fairly simple on the surface, but there's really, actually, a lot going on.

The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe
This is a book by a Japanese writer, to continue my trend of reading books by Japanese writers. It was a very understated novel with a character in it who commits suicide and then his friend trying to understand their friendship through cassette tapes he had left him before killing himself. I have read three books this year that prominently feature a suicide, though the other two were poetry books (Zeller, Rasmussen). At first, I thought that this book was going to be a magical realist novel because of the way the main character talked to his friend/brother-in law who had made the cassette tapes and the way that they kind of talked back. I thought that the friend would somehow find a way to communicate to the main character from "the great beyond" via the tapes, but that was not the case in a magical realist way--more of, in an "I-left-these-remainders-of-our-life-and-friendship-behind-for-you-in-case-I-did-this" kind of way.

We Know What We Are by Mary Hamilton
This is a chapbook of short-short stories that won the Rose Metal Press chapbook contest one year. I really liked the stories, and I was glad that I read them. They seemed to all fit together even when they didn't. I've read a lot of the winners of this contest, and, if I'm remembering correctly, I always like the stories in the same, "hm-Gigantic-Sequins-would-probably-consider-publishing-these" sort of way.

Balzac & the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dae Sijie
I think because I had been reading so many Japanese novels, I decided to stay on the continent with this short novel, translated from the French, by a Chinese-French author. It was almost like historical fiction-- I learned things about China I never knew-- but it also kind of read like a fairy tale in a way. I remember rereading the author's biography multiple times because what I was reading felt so real, I kept thinking This must've happened to the author! I would have to do some more research to confirm this. It was a great story, a quick read, and it really spoke to the power of literature, which is a theme I surely can get behind.

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