Last Book I Loved
The only time I had the privilege to meet Jake Adam York was after a panel he participated in at the 2012 AWP Conference. The panel was called “In White: White Poets and Race,” and I was hooked. For so long I had yearned to write blues poetry, to sit down and dialogue about race and history (as James Baldwin discusses in his essay “Unnameable Objects, Unspeakable Crimes”) with other people and through poetry....more
The front cover of the last book I loved bears neither gold seals nor laurels to rest on. If you’re looking for flashy art direction, keep moving. Here, there’s just a shadowy still life photo (inventory: one open notebook, one glass ashtray, one bowl, two pens, many loose leaves of paper)...more
Building on our Last Book I Loved series, we’re teaming up to highlight Tumblr writers and the books they love.
Got a book you can’t stop thinking about? Send us a writeup – a little bit book review and a lot about why you loved it – along with a short bio....more
If Thomas McGrath were a painter, he would apply fat brushes to giant canvasses in complex color and texture. Gershwin’s gloss and the landscape of Copland are tame music compared to his. McGrath writes in the dissonance of Ives – American cacophony in contrasting threads of autobiography and cause, the red-white-and-blue Midwest against a vein of committed activism....more
Jericho Brown’s Please explores the way love and violence coexist with each other and how the two sometimes intertwine. The collection of poems is categorized by four sections: “Repeat,” “Pause,” “Power,” and finally, “Stop”; the first three sections address self-identification both psychologically and sexually, his relationships with his father, mother, and lovers, and what it is like to tame terrorized beauty....more
Of all of the people I know who own a smartphone (a majority, anymore), most of them get up in the morning and immediately reach for said smartphone from their cozy nest in bed. The first thing they do is check Facebook and/or Twitter, or they check the news and post links to news stories on Facebook and Twitter....more
As a fiction writer, and as a reader, I gravitate toward stories from the perspective of a specific, imperfect and alert, outward-and-inward-looking consciousness, a transparent eyeball with legs and, at least occasionally, uncomfortable shoes. The danger of a story centered around the drama of attention and understanding—of a character trying to see and not only act but also understand the world—is the ever present pull toward (even temptation of) a resolving moment of insight, an epiphany, that may not be necessary, earned, correctly scaled....more
I always make my students read Andrew Grace’s “Y,” and they always hate it at first. Because undergrads are undergrads and are hung over approximately one hundred percent of Monday and Wednesday mornings. Even the enthusiastic ones balk at the shores of poetry like water-shy horses....more
As a fiction writer, I sometimes get jealous of the storytelling freedom in comics.
With prose writing, everyone seems determined to fit stories into predefined boxes. A work must be “literary” or it must be “genre,” it must be “science fiction” or it must be “fantasy,” it must be “serious” or it must be “comedy,” etc....more
My maternal grandparents emigrated from Poland in 1924 after experiencing the horrors of World War I. They arrived here with pockets full of hopes and dreams and little else. I never met them; they died before I was born. I know them only through Mother’s stories and the handful of cherished items left her: three Catholic prayer books, written in Polish; a thread supposedly from the robe of the Black Madonna, a Polish saint; and a crucifix for last rites crafted in Germany....more
I read a lot in the bathtub.
This isn’t because I’m particularly drawn to cleanliness, but because I’m drawn to the readerly space that a hot tub of water can create. The stillness of a full bathtub—that sporadic spigot drip, the lazy drawdown of heat, the tiles’ passionless whiteness—spins a hive of deep focus for me....more
I am a voyeur to the core. Keep your house lit at night and I will peer in to see how you spend your time alone, or what colors you’ve painted your walls. Invite me in and I will pick through your bookshelves and look at all your family photos on the mantle while you make me a drink. Ask me to stay and I will rummage through your things for what you’ve been hiding in those closets of yours. Write me a book with characters who are so real and precisely drawn that I can feel their warmth in the seat next to me, and I will sign out of Facebook and devour it....more
Three years ago, I bought Rebecca Solnit’s essay collection, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics, on a lark.
At that time I was beginning to write, trying to find my voice. Three years before that, I had moved from the Midwest to Colorado with the boy I would much later marry....more
The problem with writing about Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is that I can’t discuss the plot. A blend of science fiction and literary narrative, the novel hinges on a secret, a secret so all-encompassing and imposing, so carefully revealed, that if I were to divulge it, I would ruin the book.
That being said, here’s what I can tell you…...more