Books I have read this year

31 Dec

Here’s a picture of some books I’ve read this year, it is not exhaustive. IMG_2840I haven’t finished Hayden Carruth’s “Last Poems” yet, so maybe that doesn’t count. I heard Carruth’s name mentioned twice from random people in the last few months, so I knew I had to see what he was about. This collection of poems takes the last poem from each of his published books (which number a lot), and combines them with poems written at the end of his life. With a poet career spanning six decades, there are many poems diverse in their structure.

That splashy pink book? A friend wrote it, Jeff Jackson. How exciting! The book is broken up into six sections, usually what we would call chapters. The structure of narrative changes between chapters, and jumps through passages of time and place. The story told is fast-paced with first person narrative, full of grime and mystery. There are oracles, wild youth and hard liquor, bonfires, one schizophrenic musician, cadavers, cassette tapes, and there is hunting and running. If someone asked me to find a theme to this novel, I would say, hunting and running. It seems that some of my very favorite novels (Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz) are touching and brutal at the same time. I would put Mira Corpora in that realm also. Although I had to put Oscar Wao down for a moment because it was so caustic, I didn’t have a hard time reading this novel, nor did I need to put it down. My favorite section is in chapter five, in which there appears to be a dead body on the floor. There is a party going on, and we are told to ignore the dead body, “It’s just earning a living”. So captivating and strange. Also captivating is that the protagonist’s name is Jeff. Jeff Jackson. I don’t know what this means, as that is also the author’s name, but it seems to be a daring move, and I am intrigued. I’m going to interview Jeff for Fab Oversight sometime here in the New Year, so perhaps I will ask him about that decision. I also really want to know how he came up with the name Mira Corpora, and what it means. Stay tuned. If you want to read some new and interesting fiction (or is it fiction?) I highly recommend Mira Corpora.

“Hermit in Paris, Autobiographical Writings” by Italo Calvino talks about Stalin and politics a lot, and is probably one of the last books to take to the beach, but I did. I’ve read three of his novels, and have always enjoyed his humor, and now I want to read more. This collection of writings gathers twelve items, essays, and interviews, that have been published in several other books, as well as an unpublished piece, “American Diary”.  Serendipity led me to read his comments on Savannah, GA, from “American Diary 1959-1960”, which inspired me and Hana stop off for a few hours to explore the city on our way back from the beach. I can agree with Calvino when he said, in capital letters no less, “AND IT IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CITY IN THE UNITED STATES.”house2Dmoss

I just finished a book of boxing essays, yes boxing, “One Ring Circus, Dispatches from the World of Boxing” by Katherine Dunn. I read it because I love Katherine Dunn, and she really hasn’t written a whole lot. It was thoroughly enjoyable and read like a short and dirty history of boxing, and now I want to watch me some boxing!

I have read John Holt before, “How Children Learn” was a gift from a friend when I was pregnant. Holt gives me a cramp in my brain, he’s so thoughtful and completely outspoken against everything that seems logical regarding children and school. He basically started the un-schooling movement in the ’70’s and I totally recommend reading his work if you have a kid, and didn’t like school when you were young. The book I just read, “How Children Fail”, is just him relating experiences of teaching children in school, and his thoughts on what is going on. Here is what he said April 24, 1959, “If children come to feel that the universe does not make sense, it may be because the language we use to talk about it does not seem to make sense, or at least because there are contradictions between the universe as we experience it and as we talk about it.   One of the main things we try to do in school is to give children a tool–language–with which to learn, think, and talk about the world they live in. Or rather, we try to help them refine the tool they already have. We act as if we thought this tool of language were perfect, and children had only to learn to use it correctly-i.e., as we do. In fact, it is in many ways a most imperfect tool. If we were more aware of its imperfections, of the many ways in which it does not fit the universe it attempts to describe, of the paradoxes and contradictions built into it, then we could warn the children, help them see where words and experience did not fit together, and perhaps show them ways of using language that would to some extent rise above its limitations.  Loot at adjectives– some are, so to speak, absolute: round, blue, green, square. But many others are relative: long, short, thin, thick, heavy, light, high, low, near, far, easy, hard, loud, soft, hot, cold. None of these have any absolute meaning. Long and short only mean longer and shorter than something else But we use these words as if they were absolutes.If fact, there must be many times when a child hears a particular thing called long one day and short the next, or hot one day, and cold the next. We use words as if they were fixed in meaning, but we keep changing the meanings. The soup that has become cold is still too hot for the baby… The big kitty’s name is Midnight; but don’t be rough with him, he’s too little. Horses are big animals; see the little horsie (three times the size of the child)… Children adjust to this kind of confusion; but is it an intellectually healthy and useful adjustment, or just a kind of production strategy? Would it be useful to talk to first-graders about why we call a certain mountain small and a certain kitten big? Or is this easy stuff for them?” Whoa. See what I mean about brain cramp?

On a totally different note, I finished the publication “Vestoj, On Fashion and Shame” sometime early this year. I got it for my birthday last year (a terrific gift from my terrific husband, by the way). I was reading a lot of Harper’s Bazaar, well, not really reading it, just looking at the pictures. There’s not much to read in a Harper’s Bazaar… and my husband went and got me something to actually read, on fashion. This journal is pretty great, it combines art, essays (some by doctorates nonetheless), an interview, and micro-fiction on the subject of fashion and shame. Essays on what fashion meant to prisoners in “Docile Bodies: A Study of Prison Uniforms and the Dress of Subservience” by Anja Aronowsky Cronberg, or how slaves  are effected by clothes in “Dressed up and Laying Bare: Fashion in the shadow of the Market by Anna Arabindan-Kesson. There’s an essay in the middle that you have to take a letter opener to, to un-slit the pages that are still bound. This is pretty cool reading y’all. I recommend checking it out.

I put Moby Dick in that stack because I started it sometime this year. I have certainly not finished it yet. Anna Karenina took me roughly nine months to read. This may take me longer. In related news, if Moby Dick is one of those books you think you should read, but know you never will, you should check out Moby Dick Big Read.

I also finally finished “Bicycle, The History” by David V. Herlihy. Everything you ever wanted to know about about the Boneshaker Era, The High Wheeler, and finally, the Safety Bicycle. Bicycling has not always been easy, y’all. The best part are all the old pictures, of which I planned to take pictures of to show you, but did not.


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