Books Read :: May 2018

Just a reminder that these aren't reviews, but... more like notes on the books that I feel worth sharing, some more substantial, some more review-y, some more helpful, some more personal, etc. I thought I read more this month--and I really did, but not in terms of "full books." I read a lot for a paper I wrote on Mercy Otis Warren and Susanna Rowson for this year's ALA in SF, and I read a lot for my dissertation, but I only finished a few books, it seems.

Je Suis L'Autre: Essays and Interrogations by Kristina Marie Darling
I was excited about this book because of the way it is marketed, as a sort of lyric-criticism. I liked some essays more than others, though I found some of the ways it described the works being commented on too vague, the sort of criticism that I fear slapping a broader hybrid label on texts might encourage. This being said, I find it difficult to read about a text I myself have never read but believe the right critic will make an essay compelling and specific enough that it won't matter that I haven't read the text. Some of Darling's essays did just that, and drew me in with the beauty of the promised lyric elements, yet others I found difficult to get into because of my lack of knowledge of the primary text and a lack of clear description about the text's genre or form or some other missing element.  I probably most enjoyed the opening essay and the one about Emily Dickinson. After a professor whose office was in the same hall as mine retired from our University a few years ago, I remember seeing him at a party and asking him what he's been up to, and specifically--what he's been reading. He and his wife, he said, were watching Twin Peaks and, yes, he'd been reading but "no more criticism!" he said gleefully. Perhaps there is little enjoyment in reading criticism, no matter how it is framed, but this is not something we are supposed to admit until we are retired.

Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
I read this one rather quickly--I was sort of engulfed by it during my reading of it, and following it, I read a chapter in a book I finished this month & will write about next month, American Hybrid Poetics by Amy Moorman Robbins, which bolstered my appreciation, understanding, and memory of this particular book. While I came to know Rankine through the, it seemed, instant popularity of the extremely compelling Citizen, reading an excellent book like Don't Let Me Be Lonely makes me think about all the great books out there published each year that I miss upon publication, and how many of them I've missed because I've been so, so preoccupied going to school, adjuncting, and then going to school again. At least when I got my MA I worked at, arguably, one of the best indie East Coast bookstores and therefore had a wide selection of books at my fingertips that helped fill in my reading gaps, old and new. Anyway, this book's treatment of television and popular culture was most appealing to me--how things are framed is too often how we repeat them--the television is a literal frame, I don't always think of it like that, but this book makes that fact unforgettable.

Slaves in Algiers by Susanna Rowson
I read this for the aforementioned paper I wrote and... while it's not great, I think in terms of Early American literature, it's an interesting text to bring to the table. It is surprisingly feminist for its day in age with unsurprisingly racist undertones; its story is in a way derivative, but Rowson's story as a playwright and actress, within the play, too, is compelling.

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