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Archive for the ‘read’ Category

Poetry and Owls

Oops, I bought some owls. October has been a productive month for me so far… in some ways.

I finally finished Wolf Hall; I ordinarily move through books pretty quickly (or else I could hardly be a Victorianist), but this one stalled me for a number of weeks. It was a slow read, in a good way. Unsurprisingly, a Booker Prize winner makes a terrible gym read; I’ve been stuck with wrinkled, abandoned copies of US Weekly lately, because I am utterly incapable of reading two books at the same time. I finally remembered that I’ve been meaning to read The History of Love when I stumbled upon a copy of it on the heaped high tables of discount books at Costco; I started reading it on the plane this weekend, fell in love, and then left it in my mom’s car. Hopefully, my book and I will be reunited soon.

I traveled this past weekend to exotic Newark, NJ for the Dodge Poetry Festival; we stayed with Ricky’s parents and met up with my mom, who was also in town for four intense days of poetry. I’ve gone to the Dodge, which is biennial, every two years since 2002; I never could have imagined that I would sit for ten hours of poetry in a muddy tent, or that I would excitedly chase after the autographs of poets to add to my now impressive collection of signed volumes. I missed the transcendent setting of the last festival. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center is surprisingly lovely, but I missed the more casual, outdoor events of the past; it was too hard this year to wander from poet to poet without fuss. The manicured setting also lacked some of the spontaneity that made the previous events so memorable— I can’t remember if we actually heard a bat during Mark Doty’s reading of “Pipistrelle,” but it certainly seemed possible. And that sense of possibility is so important to the Dodge, and to poetry.

I’m teaching poetry this week— perfect timing. I’m going to play a clip of Billy Collins reading “Hangover” for my students.

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summer reading update

I just finished The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I accidentally bought this book twice—once at Costco and once at a thrift store. I was able to return the (unread) Costco copy, which left me with a barely (and probably not completely) read second-hand copy that included several pages of notepaper filled with spoilers and questions about the plot. The material history of my own reading ended up being very appropriate—the whole thing is about books and bookstores and bookishness. At one point, the narrator receives the following prescription from a doctor (after he asks her about her reading habits, which include reading and rereading novels such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights):

“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. Take ten pages, twice a day, till end of course.”

This exchange reminded me a prescription that I once received from a doctor—to read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

But back to the book—it’s a rather dark and Gothic kind of thing, but I liked it. Excellent summer reading for people who like, well, the Brontës. Speaking of which (as I tend to do), I am very excited about going here

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summer reading

Recently, I acquired a Kindle. I think that I’m an unlikely candidate for an e-reader. I love books. I collect useless antique volumes that I never intend to read. My living spaces are filled with stacks and stacks of books, some chosen mostly for the covers. I often read in the bathtub; despite this suggestion, I’m wary of going for a swim with my technology. So far this summer, I’ve been reading lots and lots of paperbacks. Here’s my recent list:

Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout (melancholy but compelling novel-in-stories)

The Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff (love this strange book by a recent UW Madison MFA grad—the voices of her characters continue to haunt me)

The Host, Stephenie Meyer (I had a hard time getting into this huge volume until I took Hyperbolic Obsessive’s advice and increased my already speedy reading to almost-skimming; then, I couldn’t put it down)

Commencement, J. Courtney Sullivan (smarter-than-usual account of the friendship between four women—nostalgic for me because they are all women’s college grads)

A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick  (thriller set in in 1900’s Wisconsin—I love period fiction, especially when tricky women are involved)

The White Queen, Philippa Gregory (see above; period fiction, tricky women)

The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory (time has shown that I’ll read just about anything by this author, but this wasn’t my favorite)

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe (more with the tricky women; this time, in witch-hunt era Salem. Despite the lack of lake monsters, this book reminds me of Groff’s. I think it may be the hints of academia in each. One of Groff’s main characters is a Ph.D. candidate hiding from her work (this, I can understand); Howe’s book starts off with a Ph.D. candidate trying to get through her candidacy exams.)

The City and the City, China Mieville (ok, not a paperback: an audiobook. I loved it, though—a thriller, like “Law in Order” but in two parallel cities that share the same geographical space.)

Un-Lun-Dun, China Mieville (kind of similar to the above, but aimed at a younger audience: parallel geographies, but not so much murder. )

People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks (I read somewhere that this book is something like The DaVinci Code for smarter people; that seems a little condescending and I liked The DaVinci Code just fine for a summer read. But it’s true that this book has more style. I like the cover, too)

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