Books Read :: April 2018

Haven't done one of these in a while! But I managed to finish quite a few books in April. Here are some thoughts...

Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media by Marjorie Perloff
It took me a long time to read this book, but I was determined to get through the whole thing, since this is a subject I am interested in--and I'm especially interested in how it ages. What about the way we viewed media (TV, radio, advertising, the internet now, etc.) was true of the 1980s, 1990s, now, and how can we examine, if we can examine it at all, its affects on us or how we perceive it or how it was perceived and how can we look at the way poetry engages with language and the way media engages with language next to each other and why doing so is important--Perloff covers this for a time earlier than today.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
I even managed to fit a novel in during April! For funsies! What sort of graduate student am I... one who needed a true break over Spring Break & power read this easy-to-read novel about Lizzy Borden. Told from a variety of different perspectives, out of time order, and alternating between not only the days surrounding the murders and characters affiliated with them, but also sometimes between years, I just kept wanting to know what really happened, and I suppose my own conclusions I drew are to say something about me, not necessarily the book? I had to restrict myself from looking up details about the case--except where it was set because that was driving me crazy for some reason--and I enjoyed coming into and making it through the novel with the fictional world the novel creates around the history as primarily the only "version" I knew any real details about. Perhaps others with more outside or historical knowledge or Borden and her story would feel differently--and either way, either like this novel more or less than I did. I can't be certain. What I am certain is that for me, it successful does the job that you want from a work of historical fiction, which is to inhabit creatively and with some sort of purpose the minds, emotions, intentions, and otherwise impossible to truly know details of a historical circumstance.

Genre (The New Critical Idiom) by John Frow
I read this as a sort of crash course in genre theory after reading an essay by him in the genre issue of PMLA. Though that's what I got out of it in some ways, it's not a true reference book in that way, as Frow interjects with his arguments about the importance of context in terms of genre--and also uses the history of genre theory he is presenting to further his argument. That being said, it's still a great crash course, and I most agree with what Frow says, though I think once or twice found something either too vague to be true or slightly contradictory. I support when you are writing a text of this nature that combines so many different arguments over time in such an otherwise well organized fashion, those things are bound to happen, though, so I would recommend this for anyone interested in how to understand or discuss genre today or, more specifically but not regulated to, anyone interested in genre theory. This book makes me want every single book in the New Critical Idiom series because... I'm that kind of person. They'd look so nice all in a row. 

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
I kept feeling really behind while I was reading this book, as in why had I not read it sooner and what was I thinking not having read it sooner when everyone else had read it and couldn't stop talking about it because it was so good and so much and also so very good. Less fragmented, to me, than her Bluets, the vignettes that make up this book tell a series of colliding stories; talk in necessary ways about gender, desire, family, and motherhood; and invoke conversations between the outside texts it references in a way that borders on academic but ultimately avoids that label.

The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová by Kelcey Parker Ervick
I wish I'd read this excellent Rose Metal Press volume sooner to when I got my copy, which was at AWP in DC last year, so I suppose it gets grouped in that one way with the above text. Its creative genre also groups it there: the press and writer call it a "biographical collage." Whenever I am talking about my dissertation, title TBA, I often reference this genre label because I think it's really smart because that's exactly what this text is: a hybrid of biography and collage. It's beautiful inside and out, tells its story in a unique way, and was, for many nights for me, un-put-down-able--not in that way that you need to find out what happens, as the collage nature of it means in many ways it lacks narrative, but just for the sheer joy of reading about the rediscovery of this Czech writer for the author, and also for literature's sake.

The Envelope Poems by Emily Dickinson
This was a nice little bedside tome-- I have her collected, also, by my bedside, and this small (as in, smaller than an average-sized book in height and width) collection of her envelope poems is a smaller, much more manageable book to read lying down and also... well, to finish. It's a decorative, much shorter version of The Gorgeous Nothings, which is like a coffee table-sized book that I now VERY MUCH want, containing all of Dickinson's envelope poems.


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