Books for the Soul
Okay, I haven’t been keeping up with current events. I didn’t know who was playing in the Super Bowl, and I completely blanked on the President’s State of the Union Address. But I have been reading books. Well. . . , I haven’t managed to read three books a week, but I swear in late November, early December I read four and five books to keep up with my excellent Illinois MFA graduate students.
Each week when the Illinois’ MFA candidates and I met for class (at my house) we enjoyed great food and wines. Kristin Walters (fiction) provided excellent wines and champagnes, Nolan Grieves (fiction) brought specialty handmade desserts, and Katherine Scott Nelson (fiction) brought her incredible homemade breads. Check this out:
It was a cold evening in Urbana, Illinois and we sat around drinking red wine with hot Challah bread, (above) fresh fruits and vegetables and we talked about great books. I miss hanging out with them. For grins I’ve added a picture of the cheesecake that Scott also made. We ate it the night we discussed The Lover by Marguerite Duras.
Now that I’m on sabbatical, I’m reading fewer books and on a diet. No more rich desserts while reading, just trashy gluten free, and living without (everything good) magazines. I also found an internet article on how to spoil myself with chocolate salt rubs. (It’s good to be bad.)
Ahem. Back to books. Here are a few recommendations. If you don’t do another thing this February, read poet Dean Rader’s new book of poems Landscape, Portrait, Figure, Form, Omnidawn, 2013. The lines are gorgeous, the sentiments inextricable from experience. “Here is wind as it locks and reloads above the waves. And there, the clatter of gulls scattershot across the beach. Notice the couple caught in mid-laugh as the little dog of time tags along behind them, its leash a tink tink tink in the distance.” – From “Self Portrait As Photograph Never Taken.”
Next I recommend Paula McClain’s The Paris Wife, it’s told from the POV of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife. It’s been out since 2011 but I didn’t get around to finishing it until January 2014. From Philip Carroll Morgan’s Riding Out The Storm, I learned a great deal about the Chickasaw Byrd family. I predict Morgan’s book will win awards from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.
Before you draw breath run out and buy, steal, but read The Whetting of Teeth (Organic Weapons Art, Detroit, 2012) by poet Jamaal May. His work is new for me, but now I’m hooked. Here’s a small offering. “Go ahead and squeeze, but not before you put on some tea, clean two cups, lift shades and pin back curtains. Not before the end of this song, before dawn reaches in, before you turn the page, or a woman apologizes for dialing the wrong man again — not before you learn her name, how to pronounce it, how to sing it with and without regret catching in your throat — Are you done?” – From “How To Get Your Gun Safely Out of Your Mouth.”
What can I say about the Tenth of December by George Saunders, it has received praise from everyone everywhere. Saunders is truly the Meryl Streep of the writing world. And like everyone else, I love his stories. Read it again and again, just before sleep. “Sticks” is my fav.
For everyone who thought that I was exaggerating in “I Fuck Up In Japan” in Choctalking On Other Realities, Aunt Lute Books, 2013, about how Japanese people wanted to try on my red beaded warrior coat, here’s a couple of pixs. (I have others but . . . I can’t show them.)
Next week: Reviews of Ken Hada’s new book, and Mona Susan Power’s new book!