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Reading and Trying to Read

August 4, 2014 by Carley


Short, impressionistic thoughts on the ten or so books I’ve either read or am trying to read this summer.  No particular order here.  I don’t rank.  :)

Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo.  Favorite book all summer.  45 year-old-indie former indie darling Anna Brundage attempts a come-back tour.  Will it work?  D’Erasmo creates a totally believable adult woman artist with a day job teaching! who fucks, rocks hard, and loves deeply.  My review for Pank is coming soon.

All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior.  Here, watch the Ted talk.  Now, go buy the book.  It’s about the difference between happiness and joy and the unrealistic goals American middle-class birthday parents have set for themselves.  It made me cry several times and it got me through a particularly challenging six-year-old birthday party weekend.

How to Sit by Thich Nhat Hanh.  I’m trying to learn how to meditate this summer, or perhaps I should say, “I’m cultivating a meditation practice.”  It’s very hard, slow, and I only do it like once a week for five minutes or so, but this book is a simple and small (I love a pocket book) foray into what it’s like to sit.  That’s all, just sitting.

The Middle Passage by James Hollis.  My friend and blogger, Yukie Ohta (of the Soho Memory Project) told me about this over dinner way back in June.  Hollis is a psychoanalyst who wants to reconsider the whole notion of a “mid-life crisis.”  He argues (I think, cuz I’m only about ten pages in) that the middle of life is a passage and not a crisis–a time where we can release ourselves from the roles our parents envisioned for us and truly become ourselves.  Lots of poetry references too, which I like.

Ursula or University by Stephanie Young.  A lyric, essay poem about Occupy Oakland.  Intriguing to far.  What does middle-class activism look like?

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante.  Oh boy, so intense.  Read 20 pages at 1 am a couple of nights ago and couldn’t sleep.  A mother of two.  Her husband leaves her for a younger woman.  She’s consumed with jealousy and rage.  Has to figure out how to live on her own.  I like it, but I also find myself longing for new narratives about the ends of marriages.  I’m getting a little bored with the whole woman is left by a cheating husband story, though I know it happens all of the time.  I want to read more books about cheating wives!  Or marriages that just kind of die slowly.  I know, I know, Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, but something new.  Any recs?

Love Dog by Masha Tupitsyn.  It sits on my nightstand.  I read it like a tonic.  Dip in and out.  All the time.  Helps me think about love and attachment and the movies and music.  Hoping to have her at Studio Dynaco this fall.

Communion: The Female Search for Love by bell hooks.  Bought this because I love bell hooks (mostly Teaching to Transgress, Black Looks, and Art on My Mind) and Love Dog reminded me of this book.  I got a little distracted by the history of women’s feminism (the 70s and 80s which I know well), but it’s good to revisit those struggles and to read about hooks’ belief in female desire, love, and eros.

The New issue of Fence.  Haven’t read it yet.  I will this week.  Excited for new poems by Evie Shockley, Jennifer Kronovet, and Andrew Durbin.

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner.  I am always reading the first one hundred pages of this book.  It’s like my Swann’s Way.  It’s not Kushner’s fault.  She’s a genius.  I want to write a book about Cuba too and I get jealous of her, so I put it down and then I start over.

Rebel Girls by Jessica K. Taft.  My favorite sociologist.  Gonna teach this in Youth in Revolt:  Case Studies in Global Activism this fall.  She studies five different groups of teenage girl activists in North and South America.  So smart.  So what I want Girls Studies to be!

How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti.  Second attempt.  Also, not her fault.  Might be too young for me.  I might be distracted.  But I love the fragments, the whole “Sheila” as both character and artist, the passing of every day life, friends, walking around, just regular happenings, not major plot-devices and antics.







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