Sometimes I sink my teeth into one novel and become engrossed in it. Other times I read clusters of books– usually that have some connection to each other. Friends of mine find this to be a disgusting habit and abhor watching me sit at a cafe table and read 10 pages of one thing and abruptly pull out another book. Here’s a cluster that I’m working through now. What do these books have to do with each other? Intimacy? Romance? I think maybe it is something about self-discovery and its interplay with the relationships we carry or break.
The Mountain ~ Paul Yoon
I loved Paul Yoon’s Snow Hunters so dreadfully much that I eagerly grabbed this new short story collection from my library shelf and looked around to make sure no one would try to wrestle it from me. His writing seems to be about something in a real yet elusive way. And his sentence-level writing is sparse, intriguing, and inventive. For example, in the first story in The Mountain, called “The Willow and the Moon” he writes, “He was smaller than I was, but he moved like a dancer to me,” and I think, towards me? Is the character moving closer? But later, he repeats, “He was strong to me,” and I realize that Yoon has embedded perception and in fact love so seamlessly into description that only the repetition explained it. Fantastic craftsmanship.
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Where Angels Fear to Tread ~ E. M. Forster
Light, light, light fiction. We are not plumbing the depths here, people. We are interested in conventionality and propriety, and we are titillated by the breaking of those things. I am reading this book (as I am keenly aware) to gloss over life and I am investing very little in it. However, some good things are happening– characters seem to be reversing their nature as they are explored by others who get to know them. And there’s a duality between Italy and England and the manners of each that Forster played with here, in his first novel (published 1905). If you’ve read A Room with a View, you’ll know that he eventually arrived at a masterful rendering of these themes.
Tremble ~ C.D. Wright
I’m a bit startled by the eroticism of most of Wright’s works here. She is undoubtedly a master. I grasp some of the poems easily, which usually results in a smile and a re-read. Others take me some time to puzzle out, and many are out of reach and I don’t understand them at all– which helps me to understand what my students sometimes feel when we read poetry that they find unforgivingly cryptic.
Writing Down the Bones ~ Natalie Goldberg
I think I’m a little too analytical to wholeheartedly embrace Goldberg’s methods, which involves zen meditation and letting the writing flow through one in an organic, inspired way. I have not been writing much since school started, and I’m kicking myself a little to do the daily, purposeful practice that Goldberg recommends. Rejoice– today I finished a series of poems that have been brewing for two weeks!
Far From the Madding Crowd ~ Thomas Hardy
I paused my Hardy reading for quite a while, as you may remember. I’m back now, and the second part of the novel is beginning as Gabriel and Batsheba are in the flipped social position. The nonsense with the valentine, though… having been NOT one of the popular girls in school, I can’t quite get over the unkindness of sending a valentine that you didn’t really mean. But oh, such romance is awaiting me as I progress through this story. It’s quite thrilling.