Reading in (Later, Grayer) Autumn

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: my desire for reading grows as the days get shorter. It’s dark now before 5, and my chilled soul gets joyous as I turn the heat down, curl up in my armchair with coffee and a book and maybe some jazz on the tape player.

If this sounds idyllic and perfect to you, please temper your expectations with the knowledge that I only reach this hallowed state once every few days. These days are busy, busy! I’m lucky enough to adore my job, but it does take a lot out of me. Not to mention the necessity of getting a second job for the extra holiday cash and the rehearsals and concerts I’m singing in. Thanksgiving was a welcome break and calm before the storm of December time. So I am attempting to slice out little places to write and read and keep up the care of myself.

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThis is a second attempt for me, which is in itself odd– usually I am of the opinion (looking at the 500+ books on my to-be-read list) that if a book doesn’t enchant me, it’s probably worth putting down for good. In this case, I think I just ran out of time to return the library copy and gave up. I’m trying again because I find Thomas Cromwell’s character intriguing (a cynic, a politician, a heartbroken moralist?) and because the world of Tudor England is so strikingly painted in such detail. The book follows Cromwell, an advisor to first Cardinal Wolsey and then King Henry VIII as Henry deliberates divorcing his first wife, Katherine, and marrying Anne Boleyn. Obviously, as with most historical fiction about well-known figures, we know what will happen, but I’m drawn into the chess-like negotiations of politics nonetheless. In terms of brutal, murderous royal intrigues, I am more a fan of this than, say, Game of Thrones…. (there are no dragons yet, though). One of the things I appreciate about a long novel is that I have to accept that I’ll be living with the book for awhile, and robbed of the immediate drive to finish the book, I instead enjoy picking it up again and again.

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The All of It, by Jeannette Haien

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I finished this odd little book today. I found it on some list of “underappreciated favorites” and decided it was intriguing. The book takes place in Ireland, with a widow, Enda, who still remembers the countryside before cars took over, telling her story to her priest. The essence of her story is that her husband, Kevin, who has just died, was the other party to a secret that’s never been shared. Once the secret is revealed, the book continues to waft through Enda’s homey way of speaking her memories. That part was lovely. What wasn’t quite lovely was the priest, who is on the edge of a conniption every other second and who has some unresolved issues which eventually get worked out through fishing. Or maybe they don’t get worked out through fishing. I don’t think I understand fishing. Anyway, I’m not going to give away what the secret was or what happens with the fishing. This book is worth reading if you want that magical feel of someone leaning in and telling you a story.

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Marina Keegan’s Story “Cold Pastoral.”

 Read it here in The New Yorker.

I found this devastatingly close to home, from the millenial classic of an undefined relationship, to the confusion of loss and the instructions on how one is supposed to grieve, to the fear of rejection and the sinking knowledge of oneself in another’s eyes. I know that some may say Keegan’s plaudits as a rising talent have been unduly magnified by her tragic death; this is the story that convinced me most of her ungodly genius. She is, I’ve concluded, not overrated. I am sad once again that she has gone. My generation needed her light.

Ada Limón – Bright Dead Things

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And I’m continuing to savor bits of Ada Limón’s book as I go through these days. My favorite so far is “State Bird,” which I’m adding to the “Love” section of my poetry class this spring.

If you were a state, I’d be that state’s bird

What could capture devotion more purely?

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