Late December reading update (part two) and early January too

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To continue on with the great December reading binge of 2015, I must confess to no longer being able to resist the hype surrounding the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. I must also confess that one of the things that put me off the novels for the longest time was the unattractive covers. Really and truly. I do just books by their covers and these were just, well, let’s say lacking.

I worked up my nerve and cracked the cover on the first one, My Brilliant Friend, not sure I really liked it and then found myself plowing through the remaining three novels, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, The Story of the Lost Child—still unsure I really liked them. I enjoyed them and I’m still perplexed as to why. At a sentence level, the writing doesn’t appeal but reading along, watching the drama unfold…therein lies the appeal. The way Ferrante writes about women, especially friendships between women, is what kept me turning pages.

My first read of the new year was Kate Morton’s latest, The Lake House. This one took a little while for me to get into but in the end, it was typical Kate Morton with an intricate plot, secrets revealed, a grand manor.

Brooklyn is quite possibly my favorite Colm Tóibín novel yet. Set in Ireland and Brooklyn in the early 1950s. Eilis leaves Ireland for Brooklyn leaving her mother and sister behind. The novel focuses primarily on her strength and resilience and gives a credible look into this young woman’s mind.

I usually fly by the seat of pants when picking my books, culling through my stacks of books to be read to settle on one which looks promising at the moment. But this year, I have a plan (sort of). At least through the first few months I have a plan. More on that soon.

What are you looking forward to reading this year?

January Postcard

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Hello from late January.

I’m not big on making resolutions and such with the New Year but rather as my birthday approaches, I tend to think more and more about the year ahead, my dreams, my goals. I’m waiting for those to solidify into something, to take shape if you will as now they’re like vapor coming into view, backing away. I know they’ll appear, fixed and clear in my mind, when the time is right. Until then, I wait. Patiently. All the while I write, I read, I wash dishes, I do my work, I shuttle kids to and fro, kiss little toes, and silently say hallelujah every night when the kids are tucked in, the wine is poured, and the house is quiet.

More soon.

Late December reading update (part one)

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“Some of my old memories feel trapped in amber in my brain, lucid and burning, while others are like the wing beat of a hummingbird, an intangible, ephemeral blur.”

—Mira Bartok, The Memory Palace

When the going gets tough, I make a nest in the corner of the sofa where I curl up under an old quilt and read myself blurry-eyed. December 2015 merited drastic and prolonged escapism.

I began with Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and The Story. I was thoroughly enjoying it when I went to a friend’s where I was sent home with Gornick’s Fierce Attachments, Bartok’s The Memory Palace, and Richard McCann’s Mother of Sorrows.

Little did I know a storm of epic proportions was brewing with my family and that reading these stories of mothers and daughters would be a life raft of sorts while I sat nestled in the corner of the sofa. These books—handed to me on a whim—were balm for this wounded soul.

Beginning anew

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The last six months have been some of the most difficult of my adult life. I withdrew. I worried. I read. I journaled. I regrouped. After a hiatus of sorts, I am ready to begin anew in this space which I have cleaned up (am still cleaning up), simplified. Ready to add my voice to the conversation, to hear from you, to feel connected again.

More soon. Until then, a blessed and happy 2016 to you.

 

 

Merry Merry

I’m writing you while sitting in the dim glow of Christmas lights, a baby asleep in my arms. I have yet to purchase a single Christmas gift nor hang a stocking but there is still time.

I’ll be quiet in this space until after the New Year. I have a stack of books waiting to be read and some editing and writing to do if I can tear myself away from my own reading. My goal is to ride out the rest of this year in a relaxed manner—reading, to wrapping myself in the comfort of my family, putting pen to paper. See you in 2016!

Mid-December Reading Roundup 2

But the fact is that writing is the only way in which I am able to cope with the memories which overwhelm me so frequently and so unexpectedly. If they remained locked away, they would become heavier and heavier as time went on, so that in the end I would succumb under their mounting weight. Memories lie slumbering within us for months and years, quietly proliferating, until they are woken by some trifle and in some strange way blind us to life. How often this has caused me to feel that my memories, and the labours expended in writing them down are all part of the same humiliating and, at bottom, contemptible business! And yet, what would we be without memory? We would not be capable of ordering even the simplest thoughts, the most sensitive heart would lose the ability to show affection, our existence would be a mere neverending chain of meaningless moments, and there would not be the faintest trace of a past.

— W.G. Sebald

Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn is a reread for me. I think it  has been a fair number of years since I first read it but this time around with the accretion of years and experience and layers of memory in my own life, it resonated in a way it failed to do the first time around. 

The Rings of Saturn is a different literary experience; it’s a hybrid book full of biography, art criticism, history, literary criticism, and even photography. Should you decide to pick it up for yourself, remember to let go and lose yourself in the text. There, in that liminal place between astute reading and reverie, you’ll discover the joy within these pages..

 

 

Mid-December Reading Roundup

Maybe scraps are all we’ve ever had; threads of mycelium working through forest duff, a woman made from a crumb of clay. These fragments I have shared, these pieces I have squirreled away. I have wished for sharper ears to hear the rasp of wasp chewing wood into paper, to hear water pumping through the arteries of thin-barked beech trees. Have wished for a body more sensitive, to feel the slow swelling of yeasty lava that lifts the mountain a little more every day. Sometimes I swear I can feel the earth rising, bearing me up.

— Joni Tevis

I have been on a bit of an essay bender of late. A bender I began when I picked up Joni Tevis’ The Wet Collection.

The Wet Collection is a  blend of  memoir, of essays, of Tevis’ thoughts on the wonders of the natural world, history, and the personal. The collection is at once eccentric and familiar, a deft blend of prose and poetry that was not only engaging but deeply intriguing. The connections draw upon Tevis’ adventures (a summer spent working as a cemetery salesman) and personal experiences (coping with homesickness) and left me wondering why we don’t see more writing (and thinking) of this caliber.

I immediately plunged into Tevis’ next collection, The World Is on Fire. The title is misleading as most of the topics she writes on are apocalyptic. Essays range from the atomic bomb to Buddy Holly, to miscarriage but once again Tevis proves to be a passionate observer of the world around her and is writing at the top of her form.

What are you reading?