Books Read :: June, July, August 2018

Because of my dissertation writing (and reading), I didn't read as many books cover to cover this summer, and those are always the only ones I write about/note as "read," so I'm combining all the summer months here! I definitely read a lot of excerpts from books, but this isn't the place for that. See: My dissertation! When it's done! Someday! Not too far in the future!

American Hybrid Poetics by Amy Moorman Robbins
I agree with so much of what Robbins says in this book, and it's provided a fruitful background for my research, though the way she uses the word hybrid makes me a little crazy because it seems to cover too much ground, and she never really defines how she is using it in a way that is clear to me. If it were only ever an adjective/modifier, I think I'd be fairly on board with most of the argument she is making, but she uses it occasionally as a noun in a way that gets me. I won't give away my entire dissertation, though, and instead I'll say I found the later chapters to be excellent-- the Harryette Mullen and Claudia Rankine chapters had so many great points and ways to look at the work these two writers are doing. The Laura Mullen chapter, also, was good and made me want to read the text that Robbins discusses at length. The Stein chapter felt the least connected for me, though I understand having it there helps to prove her point that radical feminists have been utilizing hybrid poetics for a long time and before so many of the (male-penned) texts that are in hindsight considered hybrid works.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Here's my GoodReads "review":

I really loved this novel--its voice and its disjointed narrative both kept my interest through the end. The setting made me want to visit or grow up where it was set. When I finished, I kind of wanted more, but I am not sure what exactly more I wanted. I am not sure if this is a criticism of the novel, or a compliment!

I feel like the LANDSCAPE OF THIS NOVEL is so important to it, and I remember that so well thinking back on it. The main character, the narrator, was interesting and kept my interest for a few reasons--I am still not sure which name is her birth name or if the name she gives Cleo is a nickname or what, which is something I found confusing when I realized I still, even at the end of the novel, wasn't sure--I also was fairly certain the main character would "come out" at some point in the novel, and I'm not sure if that's me over-reading the novel or a really sly job of the novelist to have the character remain closeted, maybe even to herself? But these comments are like my GR review, where I'm not sure if they're criticisms or compliments. The former perhaps a super minor criticism or indication of my own less careful than usual reading. The second--I don't know.

Writing is an Aid to Memory by Lyn Hejinian
I read this long poem really quickly, and the parts that jumped out to me where when she addresses genre--but this is likely due to my dissertation and the fact that I think it's important to read some texts by Hejinian in preparation to write it, though I will probably only be mentioning her briefly. This poetry book is weirdly... not memorable as a whole because it really jumped around for me. It was like reading one long poem that had all of these fragmented parts that were separately mostly enjoyable to read but didn't add up to anything substantial, except for the theme that is the title, that allows for me to say much about it except what I'm saying now, which doesn't seem like much.

The Constitutional Convention: A Narrative History from the Notes of James Madison
I started reading this to prep for my Hamilton class this past semester, and--even though it took me nearly half a year to read through it--it was a fascinating look into the minds of the Wealthy White Men who are considered America's Founding Fathers. Most of them didn't want people who didn't own property to vote, a point that came up again and again, and something that really stuck with me. Who gets to decide on who gets elected to each part of congress was also a big, long, drawn out debate with lots of opinions offered. So much of what they decided is still in practice today, despite their extremely narrow-minded, to put it nicely I guess, view of the capabilities of who, now especially, makes up the American population. At the same time, a lot of what they decided is no longer in practice. Reading this really gave me a good glimpse into the foundation of our government, and made me think a lot about why parts of that foundation are so important. At the same time that a lot of thought went into the backbone of the U.S. government, so much of the impetus behind what they decided doesn't apply today, yet it seems notable that some of what they decided is still in practice today, though much of it has changed. I suppose there is no possible way that anyone could or should be blindly devoted to any government, and if they are, it's likely they do not know or understand its history and how over time the government has changed and, we hope, evolved. Do you remember realizing for the first time that change and time moving forward are not necessarily equated with progress? Do you remember realizing for the first time that your wish for something to Be The Way It Used To Be was simply nostalgia rather than backed by worthwhile cause or reason? I feel like reading this evoked both of these feelings.

Afterglow (a dog memoir) by Eileen Myles
This book is really like no other-- hence its own genre designation in the subtitle--and just, an emotional and lyrical and powerful and political ride forward, centered around a god/dog. I remember Eileen reading from an early draft of this at the very first Philalalia, and I'm so glad to finally have been able to hold this excellent title in my hands and read it cover to cover. My Mom bought a copy of it, too, but I'm not sure if she started it yet. It's definitely accessible despite its strangeness, so I am looking forward to what she thinks of its not-straight forwardness. I cried a few times on my journey through this one.

My Life by Lyn Hejinian
Sort of a pleasure to read in some ways, though I wish I'd read it straight through because of the ways the memory-driven nature of the text overlaps themes/images/ideas. Definitely a book of prose poetry (or... lyric memoir?) worthy of deeper attention than my quick reading gave it, though I really feel like I got to know the speaker/author or at least a lot of about her childhood from the read.


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