Saturday, April 3, 2010

Quarterly reading check in--Title, Author (Notes to Remind)

What I've read so far this year...

I like my new feature of what amounts to a <10-word personal "review." I'm a list-maker, a haphazard organizer of things, mostly words. I have this idea that everything I've ever read will be useful to me forever. I keep a notebook of quotes I like from books I read. I should say notebookS; you should see the stack of them. I started doing this when I was about 10. I should have known then that words would be what my life was made of, but I kept thinking psychology, neuroscience, then photography, before I got irritated at artists s**t-talking each other at some party and decided to focus on what had always diverted my attention anyway: writing. I'd always written stories. When I was a kid (often sent out of the house for the day) I would take a notebook and re-write stories I liked. I never had any interest in remembering them the way they were told exactly. I retold them, sometimes adding characters, plot twists. Then I started re-writing events in my life, making them turn out differently, better. Then I saw that better didn't make the story better.

Anyway, I have this idea that in twenty years, thirty years I will see some book cover or someone will mention Wallace Stegner or Maggie Nelson at a party and I will think, yes, I've read that/those book/books and will return home to look through my lists and have a good time remembering the read based on my ten-word description of it. So if you see me at that party and I have a faraway look on my face I'll either be conjuring this list, or forming a new list for something onto which I'm placing our conversation.


1. Trust – Liz Waldner (Not quite as engaging as Dark Would. “Passing”=amazing.)
2. Counterfeit – Christine LeClerc (Smart. Pop culture references. Nods to theatre.)
3. A Thief of Strings – Donald Revell (a bit of nature, a bit of the war)
4. Plato’s Bad Horse – Deborah Woodard (Long lines, excellent sounds, erudite references.)
5. The Most of It – Mary Ruefle (Short short prose from an excellent contemporary poet.)
6. A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat – Arthur Rimbaud (Woah. I want the Revell translation now.)
7. The Totality for Kids – Joshua Clover (Echoes of end of the world; pop culture.)
8. The Lack Of – Joseph Massey (As always, genius. I want more.)
9. Jane: a murder – Maggie Nelson (Poetic examination of aunt’s unsolved murder. Stunning.)
10. Wrong – Reginald Shepherd (Best moments=when sounds overtake him.)
11. The Red Parts – Maggie Nelson (Memoir, written shortly after Jane, while the murderer was being tried.)
12. Bluets – Maggie Nelson (She’s in love with blue; I’m in love with her. Paragraphs numbered remind me of Coetzee’s second, In the Heart of the Country.)
13. Angle of Repose – Wallace Stegner (Novel of the “frontier west.” Grandma Susan’s lesbianish friendship explored; both women married men.)
14. Fifty Poems – Liana Quill (Spareness I don’t get. Birds and trees.)
15. Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence for Past Lives – Tom Shroder (Journalist’s examination of guy who examines scientific evidence for past lives—Ian Stevenson.)
16. Are We Lucky Yet?: Stories – Jane Bradley (Made me remember high school. And feel like a straight girl.)
17. The Black Swan – Thomas Mann (Mann’s feminine look at his imminent mortality.)
18. The Mere Future – Sarah Schulman (Satiric social commentary; only killers gain acclaim, riches.)
19. I is to Vorticism – Ben Mirov (“interstellar ventriloquism”=meaningful absurdity)
20. Otherhood – Reginald Shepherd (cover reminds of a Pgh photograph I once took)
21. Other Prohibited Items – Martha Greenwald (Best=Amtrak holdback; office poems also had excellent lines.)
22. Minimum Heroic – Christopher Salerno (best of the three)
23. The Muse is Always Half-Dressed in New Orleans – Andrei Codrescu (“Not born but snapped”; best moment=showing book jacket as I.D. to cop)
24. Housekeeping – Marilynn Robinson (beautiful language I would have appreciated more if not for the voice of the woman on the audiobook.)
25. Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story – Paul Monette (coming out story; language)
26. Six Seconds in Dallas: A Microstudy of the Kennedy Assassination – Josiah Thompson (most interesting to see the questions we do have answers to that the writer is asking in 1967; good math)
27. The Book of Frank – CA Conrad (feels like my childhood; maybe I am Frank)
28. Letters to Wendy’s – Joe Wenderoth (comment cards blossom epically)
29. Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories – ed. Robert Shapard & James Thomas (a few nice pieces)
30. Personationskin – Karl Parker (terror and comedy of ambiguation; lots of caps)
31. Spar – Karen Volkman (prose poetry narrative interspersed with regular line-break poems; like)
32. Fast Lanes – Jayne Anne Phillips (title story one of the best ever love stories/relationship stories)
33. Half Girl – Stephanie Dickinson (swine princess; excellent metaphors)
34. The Preservationist – David Maine (retelling Noah’s Ark)
35. Savage Love – Dan Savage (compendium as of ’98)
36. Ka-Ching – Denise Duhamel (first section so good, money; parents’ mishap with escalator stunning – unable to look away)
37. Silkscreen Techniques – J. I. Biegeleisen and M. A. Cohn (a future project)
38. Family Dancing – David Leavitt (early 80s, standard storytelling, very consistent)
39. The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa (tender, fascinating conceptually, 80-minute memory, mathematics prof.)
40. OK, Goodnight – Emily Kendal Frey and Zachary Schomburg
41. I Have to go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl – Karyna McGlynn (girl in the pool, yes)
42. World Famous Love Acts – Brian Leung (Loved, “Leases”=woah)
43. The Blue of Her Body – Sara Greenslit (Sex, drugs, and birds of prey)

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