Books Early 2017

…to read about these epic finds go here to Ampersand Books and LitHub Bookmarks

Here are the links to some reviews of the ones I’m really excited about reading:

  • Future Sex (essays): Emily Witt on Love and Sex and Orgasmic Meditationzxxxssssssssslithub review:  “…Does the title of Emily Witt’s new book Future Sex refer to her own, or everybody’s? The answer is wonderfully complicated. Despite the intriguing sex-toy-centric cover art, Future Sex is less an exploration of technology and futuristic pleasure toys than it is a fierce and fearless foray into how our culture’s views about connection and intimacy are changing—and whether or not Witt herself is getting any in this brave new world that has such orgasms in it.However, Witt doesn’t ignore tech in her essays, which include one about that greatest of digital commodities, porn, and how social media shapes what we see as erotic. So it’s fitting that we managed to connect via smartphone through the ether while she was in Brooklyn and I was in France….
  • A book of essays exploring modern sexuality focusing on Internet dating, Internet pornography, polyamory, and avant-garde sexual subcultures as sites of possibility for the author.”–lithub

 

  • For the Woman Alone by Ashley Inguanta —ampersand books
  • (my personal favorite): Enigma Variations by zxxxxxxxxxddddAndre Aciman link here

  • “A novel divided into five novella-length sections, each focused on a different erotic obsession and possibility….”
  • and
  • The project is one of recognition and revelation within the reader: the book wants nothing less than the dissolution of your consciousness into its pixellated moments of psychological precision … the third section, ‘Manfred,’ grows a little tedious. Unlike Aciman’s steamy first novel Call Me by Your Name, most of the skin-to-skin contact in Enigma Variations occurs in the narrator’s head, and in ‘Manfred,’ Paul wallows longwindedly in the agony of delayed avowal … Intriguingly, as we witness Paul repeatedly rearrange his life around a new magnetic north, it becomes clear that his bisexuality abets his serial monogamy … Aciman has captured Paul’s bridge life delightfully well.
  • A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women  –Siri Hustvedt

    Siri Hustvedt’s essay collection–A collection of essays on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy from prize-winning novelist Siri Hustvedt.a-woman-looking-at-men-looking-at-women_siri-hustvedt_cover

“Siri Hustvedt, an authoritative and independent-minded writer on the arts and sciences, brings the felt experience into her smart, stimulating and hefty new collection of essays … What’s exciting about Hustvedt’s work is her desire for us to see the world anew … Hustvedt does not resolve her many questions, but her exhilarating conclusion testifies to the virtues of doubt … the strength and lucidity of Hustvedt’s good thinking calls us to have confidence in our own instincts, to be alert to delusions and inherited traditions, and to realize that many truths are fiction, and only exist to the extent that we believe them.”–lithub review

  • The Refugees by VIET THANH NGUYEN:

    The Refugees, is as impeccably written as it is timed … This is an important and incisive book written by a major writer with firsthand knowledge of the human rights drama exploding on the international stage — and the talent to give us zxxxxxcinroads toward understanding it … There is no effort to avoid the identity of ‘refugee’ — this book interrogates the term on political and spiritual levels, and the results are saturated with pain, memory and beauty … In this collection, towns are altered by war, relatives by time. In some stories, decades pass between letters home to Vietnam, as in ‘Fatherland.’ There is a thorny dissonance between past and present. The living protagonists are often forced to carry traumatic visions with them as they try to make their way in a new country … Nguyen is skilled at making us feel the disorientation and alienation of these characters navigating displacement … The Refugees is a surprisingly sensual book, despite operating in difficult political and emotional terrain. Nguyen crafts sentences with an eye toward physicality and a keen awareness of bodies and their urges … In an era where writers and readers debate who gets to write what, it is refreshing and essential to have this work from a writer who knows and feels the terrain on an intellectual, emotional and cellular level — it shows. Nguyen offers stories of aftermath, but also of complexity. He gives us human beings weary of pity and tired of sharing rehearsed stories that make them seem like ‘one more anonymous young refugee.’ In topic and in execution, The Refugees is an exquisite book.

(featured image http://sissyjupe.blogspot.com )

Advertisements

You Be Henry Miller & I’ll Be Anais Nin

NinandMiller

A Literary Kick (books, links, poets and authors)

I’ve been on a crazy literary kick and I thought I’d share my findings, including some INCREDIBLE books (and links, author blogs, literary websites and magazines/journals).

For starters, I want these books (many of which were found at Ampersand Books and Brain Pickings):

Letters of Note –Shaun Usher (and his awesome Letters of Note blog)

A Writer’s Diary–Fyodor Dostoyevsky

As Consciousness is Harnassed to Flesh: journals and notebooks (Susan Sontag)

MeaningofHumanExistenceMech.inddThe Meaning of Human Existence (BOUGHT IT!) by Edward O. Wilson

–and here’s a review by the Washington Post

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace (Anne Lamott) —BOUGHT IT!

Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery by Jeanette Winterson

Dataclysm: Who We Are (when we think no one is looking) by Christian Rudder —BOUGHT IT!

The Life of the Mind by Hannah Arendt

Changing My Mind: Occassional essays by Zadie Smith

(poetry) Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Gluck —OWN IT9780374152017_custom-c010e93aece861fd1783b68ce6c0eabdc7044d67-s99-c85

****The Muse of Abandonment: Origin, Identity, Mastery in Five American Poets by Lee Upton (…bought it)

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit —BOUGHT IT!

Henry Miller on Writing

Sex, or the Unbearable by Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman

978-0-8223-5594-6_pr

and oooooh

22022747I want this one: Blacken Me Blacken Me, Growled   by Cassandra Troyan  (which I saw over at PANK)

(poetry/Ampersand): For the Woman Alone (at Ampersand Books) by Ashley Inguanta  71h2yIQfwdL

(fiction/Ampersand) We Take Me Apart –Molly Gaudry (and I believe there is a sequel coming out)

Now, other cool literary/poetic places I like–and most of them have podcasts, links, reviews, music, and more:

How a Poem Happens (one of my favorite places)

Identity Theory–has everything

Jacket2

MadHat Lit

Tin House Workshop Podcasts (with a special podcast there by Ann Hood on 10 steps to an essay)

Bookslut –books, interviews, posts, good stuff

dumbfoundry

Largehearted Boy–music, books, lots of great shit (and downloads)

Luna Park

Laila Lalami Read More

Alan Watts-The Psychotic Experience

just for you Doug

–something cool–the Islam tradition with mentally ill people that they call the village idiot is sort of extremely cared for and loved by the society because it is considered his soul is gone with Allah and they are to take care of his body and remember they have their soul yet.

Catharsis and Literature

I wanted to share this chapter from one of my favorite writing books, Views From the Loft: A Portable Writer’s Workshop (edited by imagesDaniel Slager) from The Loft Literary Center.  There’s a chapter called “Negotiating the Boundaries Between Catharsis and Literature” by Cheri Register.  It got me to thinking about my writing, working on the memoir, over and over, doubting what I’m doing and my reasons for it and why I’m writing it and what’s the point and all that jazz.  Writing about abuse and mental illness, yet making it literary–how damn tricky.  I’ve realized this is going to be a much bigger project than I’d already fathomed.  Yeah, way bigger.  I really need to think it through more.  What I’m thinking is how NOT to write it ABOUT mental illness and incest and abuse but focus on something bigger and more universal, and making the other issues just issues, adding to the theme or acting as motifs.  ?? Any thoughts, fellow writers?  Here are some citations from the chapter:

“..think hard on what makes an account of personal suffering worth reading?  Why write about suffering in the first place?…A writer who expects to transform catharsis into literature has to involve the reader in a negotiation of boundaries.  If work merely invites the reader to witness the catharsis, it may come across as a tedious display of the writer’s endurance.  …”There is no virtue in enduring hardship.”

“I have come to believe that all writing about suffering–or any emotionally charged personal experience–must initially be cathartic. …The first draft has to be an emptying out of all truths, some so closely held that we can’t see them until we get them down on paper.  If we don’t do this, uncontrollable revelatory outbursts or the tension of secrecy itself will impede the work.  That doesn’t mean we’re obligated to tell all, but that we can’t select the truths worth telling or find the best form in which to convey them until we’ve done an honest and careful self-examination.  …Writing it out also helps to contain the experience of suffering, to give it form and coherence.

…Making suffering coherent doesn’t by itself turn it into literature.  To move it from the private to the cosmic realm, we also have to find meaning in it.  It’s not so much WHAT happened but what we KNOW BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENED (quoted from Natalie Kusz).  The point of communicating this to others, Kusz says, is to ‘enlighten the real world and to help move it forward.’

What readers needs to know is NOT what I do, but what chronic illness does to daily life.

Having an experience of suffering doesn’t obligate us to write about it, however.  Choosing what use to make of it gets us into some tricky boundary negotiations.  Even those of us who accept disability or illness as the normal condition of our lives have trouble writing it that way–there are few writers who assert the normality of disability…” Read More

Writing Memoir, Quotes, and Books

Working on my memoir, I’ve turned to many, many (many many, too many) books with tips on how to get started, organized, and inspired.  I also read a lot of what other authors say about the process and will share quotes here, as well.  I’ll begin with my favorite quote, well, one of them.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love questions themselves like locked rooms or books written in very foreign tongues.  Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them…live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”  –Rainer Maria Rilke

So here’s a list of the books on writing creative nonfiction/memoir that I’ve found to be the most helpful.  Sadly none of them are writing my book for me.

The Upanishads (Indian Spirituality)

The Upanishads (introduced and translated by Eknath Easwaran)

the works in this set of translations–the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Dhammapada, are the earliest and most universal of messages like these, sent to inform us that there is more to life than the everyday experience of our senses.  The Upanishads are the oldest

"Nothing can be more important than being able to choose the way we think." Eknath Easwaran 1910-1999

 Some excerpts from Indian Spirituality:                                               

     You are what your deep, driving desire is.

      As your desire is, so is your will.

      As your will is, so is your deed.

                         As your deed is, so is your destiny.  [Brihadaranyaka IV. 4.5]

We live in accordance with our deep, driving desire.

It is this desire at the time of death that determines 

what our next life will be.  We will come back to earth

to work out the satisfaction of that desire. 

But not those who are free from desire; they are free

because all their desires have found fulfillment in

the Self.  They do not die like the others; but realizing

Brahman, they merge in Brahman.  So it is said:

When all the desires that surge in the heart

are renounced, the mortal becomes immortal.

When all the knots that strangle the heart

are loosened, the mortal becomes immortal,

Here in this very life.

As the skin of a snake is sloughed onto an anthill, so

does the mortal body fall; but the Self, freed from the

body, merges in Brahman, infinite life, eternal Read More

Henry Miller “Reflections on Writing”

Today I went to a used bookshop across the lake from my little hometown.  It’s probably one of my favorite places in the world.  It’s in an old, 18-foot-high ceilinged long rectangle of a room with shelves and shelves up to the ceiling with ladders all over.  The wood floors all old and creaky as hell, and there’s a little coffee room permeating over the smell of old books.  Poetry books, literary fiction (tastefully chosen, no Nora Roberts), history, world religions, psychiatry, tons on shamanism and healing, war, westerns, floral, local, books on writing, books on poetry, all jammed in tight in sky scraping bookshelves and they somehow keep it organized.

So I came across The Henry Miller Reader, edited and with an intro by Lawrence Durrell, copyright 1959 I believe.  As most of you know, I’m a fan of Henry Miller.  When I first read Tropic of Capricorn in college I was shook up and stunned to learn that you could write like that–honest, no conformity but a telling of a story/life/times like he just opened up his brain or his soul without capitalizing on the idea that a soul is perfect and beautiful.  He makes fucked-up look just right.  And that’s a relief to me as a writer trying to figure out the form to my voice.  He hit a point in his writing that I think we all have to reach–where we think we’ve lost it, we’re no good, we can’t make it as a man/woman because we can’t write the way we think we should.  But then there comes the point–you throw ALL of those preconceptions out, all the noise out, all the how-to’s out, all the examples out–AND YOU WRITE FOR YOURSELF.  You write out of the pit you’re in, and you write the scum your in, the beauty you’re in, the truth you’re in, you’re not ever going to find a point or thee truth, but you hover around it and the whole of your craft (not the words, but the language) the whole of your intention, shines a light on a truth you can’t even name.

“I imitated every style in the hope finding the clue to the gnawing secret of how to write.  Finally I came to a dead end, to a despair and desperation which few men have known, because there was no divorce between myself as writer and myself as man: to fail as a writer mean to fail as a man.  And I failed.  I realized that I was nothing–less than nothing–a minus quantity.  I t was at this point…that  I really began to write.  I began from scratch, throwing everything overboard, even those whom I most loved.  Immediately I heard my own voice I was enchanted: the fact that it was a separate, distinct, unique voice sustained me.  It didn’t matter to me if what I wrote should be considered bad.  Good and bad dropped out of my vocabulary.  I jumped with two feet into the realm of aesthetics, the nonmoral, nonethical, nonutilitarian realm of art.  My life itself became a work of art.  I had found a voice.  I was whole again….”

“I had to grow foul with knowledge, realize the futility of everything; smash everything, grow desperate, then humble, then sponge myself off the slate, as it were, in order to recover my authenticity.  I had to arrive at the brink and then take a leap in the dark.” Read More

August’s Reading List

So this month, seeing that I can’t decide and I’m a titch manic, I’m reading many books at the same time (I always do that).  I like to mix it up, one book from each area usually.  I tend to like (like crazy) factual books on mental illnesses/disorders (I’ll read one in two days), poetry books off  course, books ON poetry, books about writing, and literary journals.  So here’s what I’ve chosen for August:

Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (I LOVED Tropic of Capricorn in college) OR Black Spring–haven’t decided yet. This is from TIME:

It’s impossible to outdo George Orwell’s wonderfully overstated appraisal of  Miller in 1940 —”the only imaginative prose writer of the slightest value who  has appeared among the English-speaking races in some time”—but it’s hard not to  agree. He’s the thinking man’s slacker, but his prose is a force  multiplier—lucid, honest and unhampered by neurotic self-loathing. Tropic  of Cancer was not published in the U.S. until 1961, where it set off an  obscenity trial that is still one of the great episodes in the history of free  speech. Before Kerouac, before Burroughs, Miller disputed all the imperatives of  capitalism. He stood before the temple of money and raised the flag of  happiness. You have a problem with that?
Read More