Lisa’s Book Round-Up


Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook rested on my parent’s bookshelf alongside The Second Sex, The Feminine Mystique and The Edible Woman. As a girl, I liked to peek at the books in this particular grouping as if I could sense their power, even if I was too young to understand the feminist movement they were a part of.

I came across Lessing decades later when I read a copy of my college textbook The Story and Its Writer while my husband was working late at the hospital and my two young girls were sleeping. I read her short story “To Room 19,” about Susan, a middle-aged woman whose life revolves around her suburban life, her husband, and her children. When Susan discovers her husband is having an extra-marital affair, she embarks on an inward journey that ultimately leads to her death. I read it in a flash. I shut the book and opened it. I read the story again. Somehow Lessing knew the turmoil, frustration, and longing buried deep down inside of me.

Rest in peace, dear Doris.


Recently, Zoë Ruiz recommended 8: A Memoir by Amy Fusselman so I took 8 with me in the car to read in between errands. I consumed the entire book in the grocery store parking lot. I couldn’t stop. The narrative structure, Amy’s brilliant and zero bullshit approach to life–I’ve never read anything like it.

“Let’s make this fast. I had a pedophile and then I didn’t and then I skated for a long time and then I quit skating and then I started drinking and then I quit drinking and then I started therapy and then I got married and then I still had therapy and then I had children and then I still had therapy and finally I decided I was tired of all this therapy, all this talking like a talk machine; I wanted someone to lay their hands on me.”

I kept texting Zoë lines from the book as if to say how did you know? How does Amy know what I feel like?

“And it is with joy now that I say: thank you, pedophile. Thank you Mr. Dauth, you stupid prick; thank you for making me a writer; thank you for forcing me to be alone with my weird thoughts for so long that I didn’t think it was unusual or scary to be different; thank you for helping me to fly out of my body, to know that I could do that and live; thank you for scaring the living shit out of me so that I could be brave…”


Last week I attended the 19th anniversary celebration for Red Hen Press, a literary press founded in Los Angeles by Kate Gale and Mark E. Cull. Red Hen celebrated many writers, one of whom was Charles Yu, who read from his short story collection, Sorry Please Thank You.

Here’s an excerpt from his story “Troubleshooting”:

sorry_please_thank_you_1“A life without desire is not what you want. A life without unfulfilled desire is a life without desire. The beach, you say. You want to go to the beach? Is that really what you want? The beach. The pool. The library. You want to go to the butcher, the baker, the supermarket. You want to go to the mountains and swim with friends in the lake. To want, in the infinitive form. To want, conjugated: I want, you want, he, she, one wants, we want, you all want, they want. Have you ever thought about not wanting, just for a second? Have you ever thought about putting a question into this device, about what would happen if you asked about the world, instead of just asking for it? Who do you think you are? Who do you think I am? What do you think you have in your hands? Why would you think you have any idea of what you want? You’ve had thirty-seven years to get it right, thirty-seven years with the device at your disposal, just waiting, ready, willing, and most nights you still go to bed confused, angry at yourself. When are you going to start considering the possibility that you are exactly who you want to be?”

At the event, two young girls read poems they wrote through Red Hen’s Writing in the Schools program. One poem, “Advice from a Koala” advised us to “Live in a tree for the rest of your life” and the other, “Untitled,” concluded with:

I will make the
world a better place because I
will make breakfast for everyone
and the town will be clean every day.

Hearing the young girls read their poems was my favorite part of the event.


I want to bow down at the feet of Roger Reeves and read his recently published collection King Me all day long. Just a few lines that took my breath away:

From “On Visiting the Site of a Slave Massacre in Opelousas”

Grief, according to Dr. Johnson, is a species of idleness.
Then let me be idle—idle as one thousand orphaned oars,
vessel-less and bleached in this cornfield, idle as a field
of black women underneath the hoof and the boot of a swarm
of stallions robed in wedding gowns—

From “Close Your Eyes”:

My sister, at the asylum, is often mistaken
for a chandelier. I lied. Her hair in my hands.
Her body still at home. The house beneath us,
rancid, from ranting.

From “Epithalamium”:

The lungs are a temporary house.
And, I am housed in a breathless city.

Sister and Almanac are the next two poetry collections in my queue, as well as Carver: A Life in Poems, which my daughter picked up at Goodwill when we were perusing  for pieces of her Halloween costume.

I’m close to finishing Hilton Als’ book of “culture-crit-as-autobiography” White Girls. This piece piqued my interest about Amina Cain’s new short story collection Creature.

To celebrate the tradition of Thanksgiving, I am taking three non-traditional novels with me when I go home to St. Louis for the holiday: Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, published posthumously by David Rakoff, Misadventure by Nicholas Grider (forthcoming from A Strange Object,) and Sea of Hooks by Lindsay Hill. And I will lug The Goldfinch along because I am utterly transfixed by it. I think it may end up being my favorite novel of the year.

Lisa Mecham writes a little bit of everything and her work has appeared in Roxane Gay's anthology Not That Bad, Catapult and The Shallow Ends, among other publications. A Midwesterner at heart, Lisa lives in Los Angeles where she’s finishing a book about mental illness in the suburbs. More from this author →