This Week Was Lit! Weekly Roundup: December 22-28

Coming ‘atcha with your Friday roundup of literary haps on the web!

Well hello there, friends! We’re back and ready to rock after a one-week holiday-fueled social media & blog-making hiatus, with the latest installment of This Week Was Lit.

We’re moments away from 2019… really, though? For a pretty gnarly year, it sure has gone by fast, huh? This week I’ll be focussing quite a bit on representation and highlighting some awesome reading material from underheard voices in literature. Along with some other stuff as well. 🙂

To kick things off, here are a couple of awesome articles from Electric Literature:

8 Books About Women and Addiction That Are at Least as Good as Bukowski

Addiction narratives that center on women deserve a spot next to male gonzo antiheroes.

“Female-driven addiction narratives are much rarer, and different in tone; they eschew the lone wolf, the zany ’60s acid-test journey, the psyche’s abyss into self discovery and heroic downfall. Instead they prey on our deepest fears, our collective Mother Hunger, as it’s known in psychiatric circles.”

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Photo by rawpixel

While I am not a fan of the Bukowski lead-in here, I am a huge fan of this article.
Not to detract from the awesome content at hand, but I feel compelled to offer my unpopular opinion on Chuck: I really do not like the dude. Notwithstanding the fact that he is a garbage, misogynistic human being, I think his work is overrated at best. Digression complete.

Books on addiction, as a whole, are under the radar at best, but books on women suffering from addiction are hardly manifest in the public consciousness. This is a topic that is so important to face, and that means a lot to me personally, and these are voices that need to be heard. Addiction, and mental illness, are often misrepresented, if represented at all, in popular literature, and in order to de-stigmatize them, we need these narratives. We need to hear these stories. I, for one, am so thankful to have come across this list, and plan to make at least a few of these titles a priority for my reading list in the coming year.

Here are a few that I am particularly excited about:

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Black Wave by Michelle Tea

 

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Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

 

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Zipper Mouth by Laurie Weeks

 

Next up: Electric Lit is really bringing it this week by introducing us to books that give voice to silenced narratives. These need to be heard more than ever.

7 Books that Illuminate the People and Places on the U.S.-Mexico Border

A reading list to understand the thorny complexities of both sides of the border wall…

Here is a reading list of novels, non-fiction, and an especially powerful collection of border verse to understand the thorny complexities of this demarcation. Each will leave you unsettled in their narratives and prose, and perhaps deepen empathy for those that inhabit these spaces — on all sides.

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Border Wall at Tijuana and San Diego Border (Photo by Electric Lit)

 

With the atrocities going on at the border right now, thanks to a deplorably inhuman administration, these narratives are more important than ever. Reading other people’s stories, in their own voices, is the most potent tool for change.

Some especially powerful titles from the group:

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The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

Devil’s Highway is the only book here I’ve been fortunate enough to read. I also had the honor of hearing him speak about this book at the AWP conference in Los Angeles a few years back, and it was immensely powerful.

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Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
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Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera
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The Line Becomes A River: Dispatches from the Border
by Francisco Cantú

 

Next up, for starters, Brain Pickings is a must-read webpage curated by Maria Popova, which I have referenced here before, and I am always blown away by the content.

The front page this week holds the best BP articles of 2018, which I implore you to check out.

Popova’s articles and essays are profound and philosophical and a breath of intellectual and existential fresh air in an interweb full of listicles and clickbait


That said, below is an absolutely beautiful article:

Two Hundred Years of Blue

I have found myself dwelling on the color blue and the way our planet’s elemental hue, the most symphonic of the colors, recurs throughout our literature as something larger than a mere chromatic phenomenon — a symbol, a state of being, a foothold to the most lyrical and transcendent heights of the imagination.

Cerulean splendor from Goethe, Thoreau, Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Rachel Carson, Toni Morrison, and other literary masters

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Photo by Lit Hub

Oh how I love this blue-tiful article. Particularly on the heels of coming down from my Bluets high.

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Photo by Lit Hub

 

A few of my most coveted works from the list:

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A Writer’s Diary
by Virginia Woolf
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Speak, Memory
by Vladimir Nabokov

Speak, Memory… omg. As a grapheme synesthete myself, this is one that has been on my list for a LONG time.

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A Field Guide to Getting Lost
by Rebecca Solnit

 


A great article from Lit Hub for my list-lovers out there. And I’m guessing there are a whole bunch you may not have heard of!

Lit Hub’s The Best Reviewed Books of December.

FEATURING ANNA BURNS, VAL MCDERMID, SCHOLASTIQUE MUKASONGA, AND MORE

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Refreshingly, I haven’t read most, scratch that, any, of these!

Milkman, however, is going to be the Two Girl Book Party January pick of the month, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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Milkman
by Anna Burns

And, being a Los Angeles transplant, a city I’ve now called home for over a decade, I am very much looking forward to this super unique book…

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Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018
by David Kipen

 

An article from the The Atlantic this week that is IMPORTANT! And I can’t stress that enough.

‘6 Months Off Meds I Can Feel Me Again’

Kanye West has been tweeting again. And in those tweets, where he raves, as he does, about abandoning psychiatric medication for his art, Kanye West promotes a dangerous myth about creativity.

In apparently quitting his psychiatric medication for the sake of his creativity, West is promoting one of mental health’s most persistent and dangerous myths: that suffering is necessary for great art.

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Kanye West performs at the Meadows Music & Arts Festival in New York City. TAYLOR HILL / GETTY IMAGES

I never discuss my mental health here. For various reasons, but mainly that I am very private about it, yet regularly feel guilty for not giving the middle finger to the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder, and advocating for those like myself. The stereotypes are harmful. Med-shaming is downright dangerous. And Kanye West is putting us all in harm’s way with his latest crusade.


 

Last but not least, on a MUCH brighter note to lighten the somewhat heavy load above…

I love this article by Megan Crockett, creator of the awesome blog, The Spines.

How to Start, Find, and Maintain a Book Club

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As the creator of an online book club myself, which is still in the beginning-ish stages (we’re just four months newbs)—I just really love this article, and find it so fun and informative.

You can also find her on Instagram @the_spines.

Her account has been one of my favorites on there since before I had a book page of my own!

Below is her post that ties in to the article above:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnB7w2Bli_7/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

And, before signing off, here are a couple more photos that just show how rad her content is:

https://www.instagram.com/p/Brx0UVinAyY/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

https://www.instagram.com/p/BrDfe6sneDi/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet


 

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and I wish you an even radder New Years Eve!! 

Catch ya next week!! ❤

A Very Fête Lit Holiday Playlist

Merry almost-Christmas, folks! I know we’re like 3 seconds away from the big soiree, but we still have all the way up to New Year’s to get festive and pretend the rest of a longgg-ass holiday-bereft winter isn’t still to come.

 

I wanted to start by saying that I’m planning to share monthly, seasonal-ish playlists with you guys on here, because I love making mixtapes (even if they’re the digital kind!). And, well, I just think it’ll be fun. So, here is the first installment, just in time for it to not be December anymore haha.

 

If this gives you an idea of how nerded out I am about Christmas, allow me to share an embarrassing photo of myself from a Christmas morning past…

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(Photo cred: Mom)

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, on to the tunes!

This is an extended version of the winter/holiday playlist I first made over a decade ago, and have been listening to every year since. There are a bunch of newer tunes thrown in from more recent years (like The Growlers, Saintseneca & First Aid Kit <3) as well. I have made many a mixtape and mixed CD of the orig as Christmas gifts, back when that was still a thing (waaahhhh), and now I’m gifting it to you!

Here you’ll find more indie-leaning & old school fare, hopefully some stuff you haven’t heard of before, and that are off the cheesy-holiday-song spectrum. This is a winter AND holiday playlist, after all, so they aren’t all Christmas songs (and some are a little melancholy, tbh), but, many of them are!!

You can listen to previews of all the tunes right here, or check out the whole shebang on Spotify. For those who don’t use the service, I’ve also listed the songs below, so you can look ’em up and listen wherever!

 

So without further ado, grab the egg nog, throw your Rudolph PJs on, and get ready to rock around the Christmas tree like Kevin McAllister...


 

 

Now for the list…

White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes
On Holiday – Saintseneca
Lonely This Christmas – The Growlers
Wintertime Love – The Doors
Frosty the Snowman – Fiona Apple
Fjords of Winter – The Ladybug Transistor

Splitting’ up Christmas – Kevin Devine
Babylon – David Carbonara
Winter Is All Over You – First Aid Kid
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – She & Him
Christmas Card From a Hooker In Minneapolis – Tom Waits
Blue Christmas – Nicole Atkins
Christmas Must Be Tonight – Bahamas
What the Snowman Learned About Love – Stars
Sweet Winter Hello – Gregory and the Hawk
Mele Kalikimaka – She & Him
Space Christmas – Also Darlin’
Winterlude – Bob Dylan
Maybe Next Year (X-mas Song) – Meiko
Santa Baby – Daniela Andrade
Handjobs for the Holidays – Broken Social Scene
When I Get Home for Christmas – Snow Patrol
Wildwood Flower – Kilby Snow
My Dear Acquaintance [A Happy New Year] – Regina Spektor
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Frank Sinatra
Carol of the Bells – The Bird and the Bee
Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight) – Ramones
A Christmas Duel – The Hives, Cindy Lauper
Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding
No Christmas For Me – Zee Avi
The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes
Happy New Year – Camera Obscura
Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio
Aud Lang Syne – Andrew Bird

 

And, lastly, here are a few of my favorite Christmas albums.

A Fine Frenzy – Oh Blue Christmas

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For whatever reason, this one, single, A Fine Frenzy album is not available on Spotify, which is why there are no songs included here, but it’s one of my favs!

 


Belle and Sebastian Christmas Peel Session Bootleg

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The only place on the planet where this exists, to my knowledge, is on my first edition iPod Mini chilling at the bottom of a landfill somewhere in the Greater Boston area since 2004-ish, or as individual songs on YouTube. Below is my favorite song on the album, because it is extremely rad.

 

She & Him Christmas Party

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The second holiday album from Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward’s adorable little duo, She & Him. I love their first Christmas Album, A Very She & Him Christmas, as well, but this one is my fav of the two!

 

The Hotel Cafe Presents: Winter Songs

Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 12.54.16 AMJust a really lovely indie compilation from awhile back with artists who played at the Hotel Café, my old stomping grounds in Hollywood back in the day.

 

The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys Christmas Album

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Classic surf rock Christmas! Yesssss. How can you go wrong?

 

Elvis Presley – Elvis Christmas Album

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Another must-have classic. There are about 100 Elvis Christmas albums called Elvis Christmas Album, but this is the one I have on vinyl, and I highly recommend.


Christina Aguilera – My Kind of Christmas

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Ok, don’t hate. Xtina was my girl back in the day. Bye, Mariah! For an (admittedly cheesy, but whateverrr) throwback to the 00s, this is still the jam.

Not on the list:

Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart

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The worst Christmas album ever made, by my favorite artist of all time.
(This one’s dedicated to my nieceling, @galacticfoxx and my nephewling-in-law @surfpandamustdad).
Why, Bobby D… Just, why?

 

Ok, that’s it! Hope you enjoyed my first Fête Lit playlist, and stay tuned for more not-holiday-ones to come!

6 Contemporary Poetry Collections that are Lit AF

For those who want to dip their toes, or dive head first, into the strange, sparkling sea of contemporary poetry, but don’t know where to start, look no further, cuz I’m your gal! Come on in, the water is warm…

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I get asked for newer poetry recommendations quite a bit. When presented with this question, the collections here are the ones I am most excited to share. They aren’t all brand new, but they are some of personal favorite books of poetry from this decade.

Each of these has something strange and unexpected to offer, while also, I think, remaining palatable to those who may not be all that familiar with, or are intimidated by, contemporary verse. Innovative, but not opaque, each of them catch the light and shimmer in their own unique way. All of them embody the things I personally look for in poetry—beautifully crafted, devoid of cliche, innovative with language, dark and deep and thematically rich while maintaining a sense of play.

Surely not all of these are for everyone, but I do think anyone can find one or two from the pile that speaks to them. 

I’ve given a description of each below, some a little more than others. To read the publisher’s blurbs, and what other readers have to say, click on the titles to check out their Goodreads pages.

So—behold! My go-to most recommended contemporary poetry collections, in no particular order.

 

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

I’m ready
To meet what refuses to let us keep anything
For long. What teases us with blessings,
Bends us with grief. Wizard, thief, the great
Wind rushing to knock our mirrors to the floor,
To sweep our short lives clean. How mean

—The Universe as Primal Scream

If you love David Bowie, contemplating the cosmos and our place among them, and lush, strange, out-of-this-world metaphors, this one’s for you.

As a child, Smith’s father was one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, and Life On Mars sings of the universe with her eye to the peep hole, squinting in wonder at all the glittering bigness and smallness of life.

Both vast and infinitesimal, she weaves pop-culture, science, art, and history with the mundane, the familial, the political, exploring the tenuous relationships and interconnectedness of all things.

As Flight of the Concords would say, that’s pretty freaky, Bowie.

 

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Further reading:

Smith’s new collection— Wade in the Water

Wade in the Water

 

 

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession: suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke.

Bluets 

What to say about Bluets? Well, it is a love song to the color blue, the unreliability of vision itself, and everything warped and refracted through it. With this comes the subtext of everything that blue is, and everything that is blue. It is innovative to be sure. Nelson is finder of poems in the strangest of places, and Bluet’s is unabashedly genre-fluid, which is the signature of all of her work.

It reads much like a writer’s notebook, disjointed snippets of musings and analysis and lists and quotes and recollections and re-tellings—like a series of interconnected prose poems that become whole between the covers. She weaves critical theory, philosophy, psychology, science, suffering, relationships, sex, and the most tangible objects into an obsession, an immersion, of blue.

bluets goodreads

Further reading:

Nelson’s new collection—Something Bright, Then Holes

 

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Her experimental memoir—The Argonauts

 

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The Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Then, as if breathing, the sea swelled beneath us. If you must know anything, know that the hardest task is to live only once That a woman on a sinking ship becomes a life raft—no matter how soft her skin.

—Immigrant Haibun

One of the most human collections I’ve ever read, Vuong’s debut is full of beauty, sorrow, longing, loss, melancholia and joy. He explores the immigrant and queer experiences, desire, family, war, the body, moving both recklessly and deliberately through the void. His words are strange and singular, beautifully composed, visceral, each line a beating heart. 

 

the night sky with exit wounds

 

Further reading:

Vuong’s forthcoming collection— On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

 

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Rhapsody in Plain Yellow by Marilyn Chin

The moon is a drunk and anorectic,
constantly reeling, changing weight.
My shadow dances grotesquely,
resentful she can’t leave me.

The moon mourns his unwritten novels,
cries naked into the trees and fades.
Tomorrow he’ll return to beat me
blue—again, again, and again.

—Get Rid of the X

Of all of these, Chin’s Rhapsody in Plain Yellow is the most musical (as alluded to in the title), the most wild and unspooled at times, and formal and subdued at others. The book is a romp through culture, family, interracial love, politics and identity, and she is not afraid to be explicit and naked and lurid in her portrayal of these things. Her imagery is vivid and fresh and odd and, at times, uncanny.

My favorite part of this book is her Broken Chord Sequence, a series of poems within the collection that come together as an elegy to her mother and grandmother. It is a beautiful, sorrowful exploration of love and grief and guilt and the frailty of life.

I love these words so much on the page, and listening to her read her poems is another experience in itself—a completely different, almost manic, experience of the words—definitely worth checking out if you enjoy seeing poets perform their work.

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Further reading:

Chin’s newest collection— Hard Love Province: Poems

 

Hard Love Provence

 

 

 

The Boss by Victoria Chang

with stars lie to the moon for anyone to listen
punching anything in sight on some nights
the moon speaks up because it knows it will still

have a job on some nights the moon

shines its white mane on everything
I’ve never done wrong I can’t bear
to look at the light the blank doe eye
like a shadow I can’t shake

—Edward Hopper’s Automat

Of all of these books, this is definitely the most experimental, and least likely to be “for everyone.” The tone and pace and distance make it an uncomfortable read at times, but that is the beauty of it. The book was published by McSweeny’s (an independent and experimental press founded by Dave Eggars—also original creators of the literary magazine The Believer) that I really love. If you are familiar with the type of work they publish, this will give you a good idea of what to expect. They also strive to make the physical books they publish objects of art in themselves, which, when you hold this book in your hands, you will see that it is—book materiality at it’s best.

Chang uses the boss figure as an archetype, and the metaphor of the office space as a setting to obsessively and unflinchingly explore the power structures at work in our society, while the real subject of these poems is the everyone else who is NOT the boss.

The poems are heavy with anaphora, the staccato and jarring pace of repetition, calling to mind the drone of existence in the space she has built for the characters within.

Of the poems within, I was most drawn to her Edward Hopper series, scattered throughout  in a way that appears haphazard (though of course each is meticulously placed) throughout the book. These explore the same themes of loneliness in his paintings.

I was fortunate to meet Chang when she came to read and discuss this book in one of my undergrad creative writing workshops, and it was so interesting hearing her perspective on her own work. She let us choose which poems we wanted her to read and then ask her questions about each. She discussed with us her process, which is (strange and unexpectedly) often sitting in her car, writing down her thoughts with no punctuation or line breaks—just letting the words come. Knowing this in retrospect, it is evident in the collection.

the boss

 

Further reading:

Chang’s new collection— Barbie Chang

 

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Hilarity by Patricia Seyburn

I do not want the world a certain way.
The world is that way, and I am vehicle
on the road of nomenclature. I tend the road.

In my dream, all events coterminous—
no linear narrative, preceding or next.
The odd vignette, lone scene, an image
in isolation, no neighbors.

Then I awaken and pace

—The Alphabetizer Speaks

I was so fortunate to have Patty Seyburn as my mentor in my undergrad creative writing program. Not only was she an outstanding professor, but I have never met anyone with her passion for poetry—for language and sound and the exploration of humanity through words. She is tough and intelligent and funny. A true poet, through and through, and so gifted at teaching others how to hone their own talent.

I love all of her work, and can honestly say that I think she is the best of the best. This is my favorite of her collections. I am blown away by every line and image—the striking metaphor, the unexpected language, the exquisitely-tuned attention to sound and flow, the strange imagery and juxtapositions, the masterful line breaks, the wry humor. With a PhD in literature, she is a master of allusion and intertextuality, and the play between the mythical and the mundane is both jarring and so very human.

Oh, and her favorite word is cruller.

 

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Further reading:

Seyburn’s newest collection— Perfecta

 

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And finally, a collection on my reading list for December that I am VERY stoked about! Jenny Xie is one of my favorite poets, and though she’s published in many literary journals, and has a few outstanding chapbooks, this is her first full-length book!

 

Eye Level by Jenny Xie

 

Jenny Xie’s award-winning debut, Eye Level, takes us far and near, to Phnom Penh, Corfu, Hanoi, New York, and elsewhere, as we travel closer and closer to the acutely felt solitude that centers this searching, moving collection. Animated by a restless inner questioning, these poems meditate on the forces that moor the self and set it in motion, from immigration to travel to estranging losses and departures. The sensual worlds here―colors, smells, tastes, and changing landscapes―bring to life questions about the self as seer and the self as seen. As Xie writes, “Me? I’m just here in my traveler’s clothes, trying on each passing town for size.” Her taut, elusive poems exult in a life simultaneously crowded and quiet, caught in between things and places, and never quite entirely at home. Xie is a poet of extraordinary perception―both to the tangible world and to “all that is untouchable as far as the eye can reach.”
-Publisher’s Website

eye level jenny xie

This Week Was Lit! Weekly Roundup: December 7-13

Coming ‘atcha with your Friday roundup of literary haps on the web!

It’s almost the end of the year—a time for reflection and regrouping, looking both backward for insight, and forward to the self we imagine in the year to come. So, what better way to quantify everything in that most neurotic of human impulses…making lists! Haha. Seriously though, poet Ada Limón, has put together the one below, and what she has to say along with it is pretty inspiring.

“How do we count the hours as they elongate in the world’s strange suffering. What helped me navigate the world most this year (and every year?) was books. While I travel constantly and I’m often on the road or in an airport, it was living with a variety of other voices that helped me to feel grounded, less isolated.”

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Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things, and most recently, The Carrying, is a poet I admire, and I feel a kinship to her sentiments in the article below about the powerful role of reading to guide one’s life.

You can find it here at The Millions: “A Year in Reading Ada: Limón.”

 

OMG the Tournament of Books shortlist was released early!! And there are lots of surprises…

Lo and Behold, The Morning News’ 2019 ToB shortlist!

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Of these, I’ve only read So Lucky by Nicola Griffith!

Milkman by Anna Burns, naturally, was/is up there at the top of my reading list for the new year.

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For a NYT interview with Anna Burns, check out “The New Booker Prize Winner Who May Never Write Again,”

I had also planned to read The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman; The Dictionary of Animal Languages by Heidi Sopinka; The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner; Call me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi; There There by Tommy Orange; and My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

The rest weren’t necessarily on my list, but I may still try to read them, as I’d really like to participate in the festivities!

 

While we’re talking award-winning books I’m dying to read, here is an article interviewing the author of my most anticipated read for next year.

From the New York Times, a great article/interview about National Book Award recipient Sigrid Nunez, “With ‘The Friend,’ Sigrid Nunez Becomes an Overnight Literary Sensation, 23 Years and Eight Books Later.”

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Oh, my beautiful Tin House… This one hurts.

And particularly coming right on the heels of my favorite literary fiction magazine of all time, Glimmer Train, that shuttered its doors this year as well, and which I mourned in a previous post.

Tin House announces their farewell to one of the coolest independent art and literature quarterlies around: On the Closing of Tin House Magazine. They will continue to publish books and hold workshops, which is where the funds previously allotted to the magazine will be diverted.

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Photo from Lit Hub

Both of these publications were Portland native, two of the three quarterlies that I subscribed to consistently over the years, the third being Black Warrior Review. The fact that both of these gems are saying goodbye just as they are ringing in their 20th and 30th anniversaries, makes it that more of a gut punch. I’m so very sad to see them go.

 

On a brighter note, this new children’s book just legit gives me the warm fuzzies.

This beautiful book, a labor of love created by Maria Popovo of Brain Pickings, is introduced in her announcement article, “A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters to Children about Why We Read by 121 of the Most Inspiring Humans in Our World.”
It was so cool, that it sold out in like the first few days. Dang, and, I am beyond stoked about the authors included in the anthology.

A labor of love 8 years in the making, featuring contributions by Jane Goodall, Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline Woodson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mary Oliver, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Rebecca Solnit, Elizabeth Gilbert, Shonda Rhimes, Richard Branson, Marina Abramović, Judy Blume, and other remarkable humans living inspired and inspiring lives.

What a a beautiful idea to introduce children to the love of literature, and the reasons why certain works of art remain timeless. A perfect gift for the kiddos of any literarily inclined friend or loved one. The artwork is so striking and strange and magical, and the material within so special, it really would be a treasure for adults and children alike.

I love that you can also purchase prints of the individual drawings from Society 6, as announced in, “Illustrators Celebrate the Joy of Books: 11 Art Prints from “A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.”

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Art by Mouni Feddag for a letter by Alain de Botton from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Get the print.

 

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Art by Ofra Amit for a letter by Mara Faye Lethem from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Get the print.

 

The Art of Jealousy

Elisa Gabbet from The Paris Weekly wrote an article this week that I love so much, “On Writerly Jealousy.” That it begins with a discussion of Sylvia Plath’s work is what first drew me in, but what follows is even better. I appreciate the honesty in this article even when it makes her look “bratty,” as she say.s 

“There’s a bad double bind in being a writer: If you don’t write about things people are interested in, nobody is going to read you. But if you write about things people are interested in, other people are writing about them, too. Reading writers I admire writing about things I want to write about, obsessions I’m protective of, makes me feel unspecial: a bratty thing to feel, or at least to admit.”

It discusses a topic that I, too, have struggled with as a writer. For every idea you can think of, it seems someone, perhaps many someones, have already done it before, and, ones fears, better. I remember feeling this way even in college, where it sometimes seemed every idea I had that I thought was original, someone else had notice or written about it before. I even felt this way in the classroom, rushing to speak up fearing someone else might say what I wanted to say first.

So, how does one stand out?

The article also discusses a similar phenomenon in reverse—those who consume art being jealous when other people also love what they love. Those “I-found-them-first-and-no-one-else-reallyyy-understands-their-art/music/writing-like-I-do” vibes. This reminds me of ye olde hipster manifesto of “I liked it before anyone else liked it,” and once the masses think it’s cool, it’s no longer cool.

There is another interesting article I read this week as well that, despite being focused on filmic storytelling, rather than literature, speaks to some of these ideas: “Rewriting Trauma: The Business of Storytelling in the Age of the Algorithm.”

“As storytellers, we help produce what seems today a vast sea of almost limitless content; our audiences simultaneously feel the virtual presence of this infinite galaxy of stories, while at the same time they must turn away from it, and somehow drown out the overwhelming din of its endless appeals, by substituting or covering that din with the noise of just one particular story at a time (or, if they keep their phones, their laptops, and their TVs on and at hand, three or more simultaneous stories)…”

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Last but not least, a challenge I would like to participate in for the new year.

Check out Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge 2019! And here is the link to downloadable and editable PDF of all the awesome tasks!

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“The Read Harder Challenge, created and written by Rachel Manwill, is back and we’re celebrating Year #5. Book Riot’s annual challenge gets bigger every year with more and more of you discovering this reading adventure. Once again, Read Harder has 24 tasks designed to help you break out of your reading bubble and expand your worldview through books. With new genres, new authors, and new points of view, the challenge will (hopefully) help you discover amazing books you wouldn’t have otherwise picked up.”

Loving the journal so much, btw!

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A Literary Blog I’m Loving

As with much of the independent bookish content I unearth on the web, I discovered Conquistadora Books on Instagram through Yafrainy Familia’s account @conquistadora.books.

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I can’t tell you how much I love her feed. Her photos (as you can see for yourself below) are gorgeous, vibrant and impeccably composed, and the material discussed therein is intelligent, insightful, thoughtful and unique. It truly is a joy to explore.

Her blog is, unsurprisingly, lovely as well. As described by her, the site is “a bilingual space dedicated to diverse books, writing and traveling.” In it, she takes a much deeper dive into some of the material shared on her Instagram account, in the form of beautifully written and explored essays.

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Photo by @conquistadorabooks

Her latest, “On Accents, Migrating, and Jhumpa Lahiri.” Here she discusses Lahiri’s book, In Other Words, a reflection on her time spent in Italy teaching herself to write in the native language, and exploring her relationship with reading, writing, and language itself. Having loved Lahiri’s two collections of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth I’ve been interested in picking up this book for quite awhile, and even more so now.

 

A Brilliant Instagrammer, Article Writer, and Newsletter Curator

Her name is Victoria Storm, and I implore you to visit her Instagram account @becomingliterate, and subscribe to her weekly newsletter by the same name, like yesterday. She describes her mission as “pursuing comprehensive literacy via reading 24/7,”  and hers has long been one of my favorite accounts, with beautiful photos and insights to match. Her taste in literature is impeccable, and I’m often led to books and authors that I wasn’t familiar with.

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And overall, I am just so impressed with her vision and her work.

You can sign up for the Becoming Literate newsletter, HERE. I admire her approach and enjoy her voice and candor, and I think you will too.

The two articles below can be found in her Linktree on the ‘gram, but to make it easier for you, I’ve linked to them below.

The first, “The Simple Healing Power of a ‘Mental Health Shelf'” was published on the ever-cool Man Repeller. The photo below also links to her Instagram post on the same topic. AND I absolutely loved that week’s newsletter, which discussed this and bibliotherapy in general.

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Photo by Victoria Storm

 

Because that particular issue of the BL newsletter is from awhile back, and thus isn’t listed in the archive, I’ll include the link to an AWESOME article she referred to on the topic, and to a site that deals with the concept of a “sanity shelf.” Both were included, and I was secretly jealous I hadn’t discovered them myself haha.

The article is, “Can Reading Make You Happier?”  published by the The New Yorker.
The website to check out is  Girls at Library.

Finally, back to Storm’s own writing, below is her article, “How to Learn Everything You Need to Know,” which can be found at Cultura Journal.

 

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Photo by Victoria Storm

 

 

This Week Was Lit! Weekly Roundup: November 30 – December 6

Coming ‘atcha with your Friday roundup of literary haps on the web!


Starting this week off awesome with an epic roundup of Queer Lit from Autostraddle: “50 of the Best LGBT Books of 2018.”

I love this list. It is comprehensive AF, with books representing all genres—from poetry, to memoir, to both literary and genre fiction, and everything in between—on a broad range of LBGTIQA topics. There are so many voices here that may be under your radar, and so many books that are now at the top of my TBR. Hopefully a bunch will end up on yours!

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Continuing on the subject of spotlighting under-represented communities of dynamic writers, there are two great articles I want to share with you. I hope these will encourage us all to further diversify the literature we spend time with as we head into a new year.

Here is an NPR article about Glory Edim’s awesome new anthology: “‘Well-Read Black Girl‘ Turns Books Into Community.”

“I think what is really important for the movements that we are building is to focus on the things that don’t separate us, but bring us together. And that is our love for blackness, books and authentic storytelling.”

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And on the coattails of my post last week about female authors over 40, here is an absolutely lovely, and damn refreshing, post on Electric Literature this week: “8 Old-Lady Novels That Prove Life Doesn’t End at 80.”

“Late works in literature and art are often more radical, mysterious and profound, given that the creator, finally free of conformity, is brushing up against their own mortality. Now more than ever, we need to engage with these women, evolution’s wild ones, who not only survived, but managed to make world-altering work while they were at it.”

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Some thoughts on the new ways literature is covered in the media, and what that means for how we consume and understand literature.

As someone reading this blog, you are probably in the realm of those, like myself, whose whole world, it seems, revolves around books. Yet, this world we live and read in, is not home to most. An interesting article in the Columbia Journalism Review,  “What’s Behind a Recent Rise in Books Coverage?,” takes a look at the discrepancy between the societal decline in leisure reading, and the increasing coverage of books, “whether through newsy recommendations, Instagram, podcast(s), or more essays that integrate books into the culture-at-large,” in the media. 

From large news outlets expanding or creating books sections and book-related Instagram accounts, to the rise of the online book club, the buzz around books is up, yet there seems to be a move away from what work is “worthy” of critical review in the traditional sense, to what merits coverage. The question is, what, exactly, is that?

“In some ways, mainstream book coverage is coming down from its historically lofty perch to join the rest of arts coverage… To break through the noise, editors must translate old-fashioned book coverage to the lingua francas of today’s impossibly paced media climate: shareable lists, essays, digestible Q&As, podcasts, scannable email newsletters, hashtags, Instagrams, even book trailers.”

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The article mentions Electric Lit’s Read More Women campaign, BuzzFeed’s new BuzzFeed Book Club, and NYT Book Review‘s new #bookstagram page @nytbooks, among a bunch of other interesting things.

I think there are positives and negatives to this new phenomenon. I would say that, for those who want to dig deeper, there is plenty out there to be found, but in terms of increasing literacy, and guiding reluctant readers to content that will spark their interest in reading, perhaps changing with the times is a good thing.

 

While we’re talking about digging deeper…

Lit Hub, published a great article this week on our legendary, experimental Modernist, and pioneer for female writers of her time, Virginia Woolf: “What Was Virgina Woolf Looking for in the Night Sky?”

“I have some restless searcher in me. Why is there not a discovery in life? Something one can lay hands on and say, ‘This is it.’ My depression is a harassed feeling. I’m looking: but that’s not it—that’s not it. What is it? And shall I die before I find it?”

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Last but not least, a super informative and well-researched article, referencing a book I didn’t love so much, but was deeply interested in the topic—the dead girl trope.

This one from Electric Literaturesaying sayonara to the objectification, disembodiment, and assigned helplessness of women at the hands of this popular cinematic tropecertainly seems an appropriate share, given my long October with Dead Girls by Alice Bolin. Check it out here at: “Goodbye, Dead Girl—Hello, Killer Woman.”

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There are a ton of books here that I am so stoked to pick up in the coming months, including one that I was gifted in a giveaway by an awesome bookstagram pal, Hanna from @bathing_in_booksRage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly.

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