Friday Reads | Poetry, War Stories, Essays & Comics

Friday Reads | Poetry, War Stories, Essays & Comics


Hi there! I’m Jen. This is Remembered
Reads. And this is going to be a reading wrap-up of the past couple of weeks of
reading – that doesn’t include the books that I read for the Latinxathon.
One of the things that I was reading that I mentioned in the other
video was poetry – I picked up a few other poetry collections, the first of which
was Vikram Seth’s Summer Requiem which is a series of poems that were written over
I think a span of 20 years, all of which touch on the changing of seasons. Which
is a fairly standard theme when it comes to poetry
so that doesn’t sound super inspiring necessarily. But I thought what was
interesting in this in terms of modern poetry especially by authors who are
known for their literary fiction is that this is very traditionally structured
poetry with a very strong rhyme to most of it. So it wasn’t necessarily the style
that I would like but I think for people who are upset when they see free verse
type things and no rhyming structure and would like their poetry to be more
straightforward than I think a lot more modern poetry is, I think this might be
right up your alley. To give you a feel of the straightforwardness of the poetry
I will read from Evening Seen From My Table: evening is here and I am here at
my Bayes table with a glass now sipping my own fizzy beer now looking out where
on the grass to striped and crested who posed glean delicious insects one by one
a Barbet flies into the scene across the Smoky City Sun my friends have left and
I can see no one and no one will appear this must be happiness to be sitting
alone with birds and beer in a brief while the Sun will go and grand
unnerving bats will fly westward and clumped formation slow and dark across a
darkened sky. So if that is your style of poetry, that might interest you more than
it interested me. It was a little too, it wasn’t really my style of poetry but if
you enjoy that style of rhythm and nature imagery there you go.
Next up I picked up Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds. I had read his
novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous a couple months ago and I quite
enjoyed that – although not everyone did that was one that
quite a few mixed reviews. This overall has been much better reviewed and more
uniformly praised than the novel was. However for me I wasn’t as enthralled by
this although it does touch on a lot of very similar topics to the novel and the
novel was very poetic so some of the rhythm of the language is very similar
so I think maybe that’s why I it didn’t seem so striking to me. Because I think
people who read this first it was more of a revelation at that point. I mean
that said I still quite enjoyed this I think I gave this five stars on
goodreads which I don’t give a lot of books that. I’ll read one of the poems
this is Thanksgiving 2006: Brooklyn’s too cold tonight and all my friends are
three years away my mother said I could be anything I wanted but I chose to live
on the stoop of an old brownstone a cigarette flares then fades I walk to it
a razor sharpened with silence his jaw line edged in smoke the mouth where I
reinter the city stranger palpable echo here is my hand filled with blood thin
as a widow’s tears I am ready I am ready to be every animal you leave behind. So
that is the kind of language that this uses. Similarly to his novel touches on a
lot of different topics ranging from family to love to immigration and all
that I thought this was great if you read the novel and enjoyed it or didn’t
enjoy it but thought it should publish his poetry instead this would be
probably right up your alley and then to go to something significantly more
straightforward I picked up another one of Svetlana Alexievitch’s
histories this is La guerre n’a pas une visage de femme. This was translated from
russian into french by Galia Ackerman and the English translation of this is
called The Unwomanly Face of War. When I picked this up I actually thought it was
about female military experiences throughout the Soviet era – it’s not. It’s
specifically about female military experiences during the Second World War
and similarly to voices from Chernobyl which I read earlier this year it is
essentially and I think as it is Alekseyevich is style of writing it’s a
series of interviews in which her arts are cut out so it seems like
monologues from these various people a lot of the sections in this are
significantly shorter than the ones that we’re in voices from Chernobyl although
there are some longer ones which is interesting because it gives voice to a
wider variety of experiences there are people who were actual members of the
military there are people who were nurses there are people who are
partisans there are people who were just family members who were at home and
talking about what was happening and when people were starving when people
were repeatedly starving when you who are in a second round of kind of horror
when you’re talking about the Ukrainians who had been through this forced
starvation earlier and then the war came so it is
in a lot of ways a litany of suffering it is very depressing but at the same
time it’s it’s a good thing to have a record of and she leaves in some of the
comments where people say you didn’t used to be able to talk about that are
we allowed to talk about that now which was interesting I mean you hear about
the horrors that happened on the Eastern Front during the Second World War and
this certainly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to that kind of thing and
I thought some of the really interesting parts were from women who had been part
of the forces that went and then occupied Germany at the end of the war
and those were some interesting stories as well definitely worthwhile I would
say I think when you look at Second World War histories that are written in
in English or in French it tends to be much more focused on the Western Front
when it comes to the European side of things so this was something I hadn’t
heard a lot of stories from so I thought that was quite interesting so I found it
quite educational in addition to the general interestingness of it. So I also
read Alesha Elliot’s A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. I had seen her speak on
the indigenous panel at the festival of literary diversity back in May – I’ll link
to the video where I talked about that below – she I think was the youngest
person on that panel so I immediately went and put her book on hold at the
library and it took this many months for me to get it because it’s been that
popular the title is basically an English translation of the
awkward for depression and the essays in here deal are some of them are memoir
esque where she talks about her childhood he’s had an interesting
upbringing in that her grandparents took her father to the United States so that
he wouldn’t have to go to residential schools and there he met her mother who
is a white American woman and when she was 12 they moved back to Canada and she
grew up on the Six Nations Reserve. And so she talks a lot about the experience
of kind of suburban poverty in the United States and then Reserve
experiences in Canada from a personal perspective, but then she also talks
about the broader social picture too. And I think this was great because I think a
lot of the people who are having these discussions are quite a bit older than
she is there are certainly people writing straightforward memoirs and
novels about it but this kind of sa mixture I think was especially
interesting coming from someone under the age of 40 ish. I would say and as the
title of the book implies there’s also quite a bit of discussion about mental
illness her mother was bipolar she and her husband have both dealt with
depression so that’s kind of something that’s hanging over the side of that. And that the opening essay which is where the title comes from discusses the
kind of cultural constructs around mental illness and I thought that was
very interesting stuff if there’s one negative that I would have about this is
that when she talks about more distant history I think there’s sometimes a bit
of pathologizing going on with that. Which i think is both is understandable
but when it’s presented as history it broke the the notion of where this was
going just because adding the mythology into something that’s so straightforward
was slightly jarring but aside from that which was only in one of the essays. Yeah,
I thought this was great stuff and well worth picking up. I also read a graphic
memoir called No Ivy League by Hazel Newlevant. This basically details the author’s experience as a teenager when they had
been homeschooled in a kind of hippie style not in a religious style. And this
details one particular summer in their life as a teenager in which they were
both participating in a contest about the joys of homes
but also working at a parks and recreation type job cleaning forests in
which most of the other people were from at-risk families and it’s basically
about them coming to terms with the amount of privilege that they were
dealing with and both what that means in terms of having been homeschooled and
what exactly their parents were protecting them from in the greater
world so they go into a bit of the specific history of racial segregation
or exclusion in the Pacific northwestern United States. And there’s a bit about
the family’s personal history and how in a certain way the reason they were
homeschooled is because their mother had negative school experiences but the
mother blames that on busing which was part of desegregation so the author’s
teenage self is kind of appalled that they were homeschooled as a result of
desegregation. So they’re trying to – I’d like to say that they’re trying to deal
with that but they aren’t, It’s just it’s exclusively this realization
that the other people that they’re working with have much more challenging
well I was in a lot of ways and that they’ve essentially been in buffered
from a certain amount of the reality of the rest of the world by virtue of
having been homeschooled. This has the problem that I’ve had with a lot of
memoirs lately it that I’ve had with a few other memoirs lately which is that I
don’t think the author has given us enough time to marinate because they
don’t have any reflections on what it means to realize that they have this
kind of baseline benefit over other people it’s just a realization that they
have it but not anything really deeper in terms of the meaning so it’s I think
the back of it describes it as oh look white privilege although I would say
it’s both racial and cultural because some of the people that she works with
are Russian immigrants so it’s not exclusively a racial thing as it’s a
cultural in class yet language culture class and race but there isn’t really
any discussion of it it’s like well here they realize this thing they did some
research the end and then it’s the end of the summer and they won the contest
which they decide then they made a propaganda video for it – which I’m sure
is true to their experience – and the
illustrations are nice, so that part of it was good. But it felt very empty
because all it is is them having this realization and there’s nothing deeper
to it so again as with a few other memoirs I’ve read lately I think if the
author had given this a few more years they could have come back and evaluated
it more. But this is what we have. So I wasn’t quite impressed. As usual I
listened to a couple of audiobook,s both of which ended up being almost
meditative even though I was not expecting them to be. The first of which
was Anne Bogle’s I’d Rather be Reading: the delights and dilemmas of the reading
life. She is the blogger who whose blog was the Modern Mrs. Darcy. And a lot of
this is lists lists of quotes lists of places one could read lists of ideas
that are kind of at odds with each other with in regards to book buying or
library uses parts of it are an ode to the library that she had right next door
for a number of years in the house that was her first I think the first house
that she bought as an adult and a lot of this was charming some of the lists
don’t really work in audio format I definitely started sony out on both of
them but overall I liked this quite a lot more than I thought I would I
downloaded this exclusively because it was on the available now page at the
library and it was exactly the right length but I found it quite entertaining
I haven’t read much of anything on her blog so I wasn’t really familiar with
her before this but I was reasonably entertained and I would assume that you
read her blog it would be more entertaining and then I listened to
another short audio book which is Gretchen Rubens Outer Order, Inner Calm.
Gretchen Ruben is the author of The Happiness Project and has that whole
motivational thing – and I’m not normally a huge fan of that style of motivational
writing, but I think what makes her more tolerable for me is that she’s very
practical in her ideas. This is sort of a decluttering book but not which you know
is my favorite kind of self-help book but it almost takes the form of
meditation so I really liked it she does mention like the con mary method and
sparking joy and she said if you don’t want to go for that you can consider it
from do you love it do you need it and do you use it which again I think is
practical her as with a lot of her books there’s some of her specific examples
are a little too specific but I think if you extrapolate from there they’re fine
she narrated this herself and she has a very relaxing voice so I found it kind
of relaxing to listen to her talking at me. As with the other one there are bits
that don’t really keep your attention because it is kind of repetitive but I
was entertained and relaxed it did not make me clean my house though so you
know did it work really so it didn’t really inspire me but still I enjoyed it.
Anyway, those are the things that I got through over the past couple of weeks. If
you’ve read any of these I’d love to hear what you thought about them. I’d
also be curious to hear if you occasionally pick out audio books from
the library just on the basis of how long they are. Because I’m sure I can’t
be the only person who does that I bet a lot of people do so anyway let me know
we can I was gonna say commiserate but it’s not like it’s a bad thing – we
can share stories. Anyway, that’s it for now. Ciao!

local_offerevent_note October 12, 2019

account_box Matthew Anderson


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16 thoughts on “Friday Reads | Poetry, War Stories, Essays & Comics”

  • I haven't read that Anne Bogel, but I did read her book Reading People, which if I remember correctly, was released around the time the Myers-Brigg test became so popular a couple years ago, since the book is largely about that. I was kind of confused though because her basis of authorial voice in it was relating the test to her religious practice as a Christian, I found it a bit of a mess haha.
    I was interested how you'd take Vuong's poetry since reading his novel! That Thanksgiving poem was one of my favorites. He recently was featured in a LitHub article about books that inspired his craft of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, and it's so insightful and I think his selections serve as a nice backbone to his transition between prose and poetry, or at least a synthesis of both.

  • The Un-womanly Face of War sounds really interesting. The choice of the author to cut her questioning from the book to leave behind just the voices of those who lived it intrigues me.

  • Alexiviech’s books are always harrowing… and I like the concept of one’s mind being spread on the ground

  • I particularly liked Elliott’s collection — I think she’s a skilled essayist. And I’d agree that her more youthful perspective is part of her strength as a writer. If I remember correctly, her book has gone through three printings — amazing for a first collection.

  • I'm going to have to look up No Ivy League! I sort of feel that hippie homeschooling actually meant my son was far more aware of the world than most of his peers who went to a brick and mortar school. We are definitely highly privileged, but many of the traditionally-educated young people are also privileged–and have absolutely no understanding of that fact. I hear your hesitations about this book, but I'm curious to see what it sets out.

  • I haven't read any books by Alexiviech yet. I was thinking of picking up Voices from Chernobyl, but I like the sound of The Unwomanly Face of War.

  • A Mind Spread Out on the Ground sounds really interesting, I added it to my TBR! As far as picking short audio books because of their length, I totally do that with regular books!

  • How long do you prefer your audiobooks? I never thought to choose them by length. I just found my unread copies of The Unwomanly Face of War and Secondhand Time yesterday. Since attempting to read Voices from Chernobyl made me cry, I think I will gird myself emotionally before continuing with Alexievich. I'm interested in the memoir comparing the experiences in the U.S. and those in Canada.

  • Re: Outer Order, Inner Calm…Oh heck! Are we supposed to actually clean and organize our spaces when we read these sorts of books? I thought just reading the text was enough. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on all these books.

  • I read the physical copy of I’d Rather Be Reading last fall. Definitely charming. How did you think this Alexiovitch compared to Voices From Chernobyl? I have borrowed audiobooks from the library because they were on the Available Now page. I can’t remember ever having looked at the length though.

  • I read about 30% of Seth's A Suitable Boy, was enjoying it, then suddenly stopped reading and never resumed. Why? I don't know. But I do wish I'd finished. I listen to Gretchen Rubin's podcast. That little dose of happiness works. I've been slowly uncluttering and it feels fine.

  • I try to pick up the shortest physical book available from the library 😉
    I am thinking of reading I'd Rather Be Reading next month for non-fiction November.

  • I can't get into poetry… just can't do it. When I think of poetry I think of that scene from that nineties movie, "she's all that".. when she gets all breathless and she's covered in paint. Alicia Elliott sounds like an interesting author. I might look her up. I have friends who home school because they were partying drug users and want to "shield" their kids from that. I might recommend that book to them, but if you weren't impressed, maybe not.

  • I'm not a fan of the Kondo Marie method because it's practical enough for me, so "do you love it, do you need it, do you use it" sounds perfect. Wait, are we supposed to clean our house immediately after reading any kind of organization book? I think I've failed at every one then, hehe. Love listening to your thoughts, as always!

  • I love essay collections. I have too many and need more. I popped by Barnes and Noble a couple of days ago and picked up "Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning," then looked at the shelf across the aisle from the poetry section, spotted a definitive collection of essays, addresses, and poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and almost jumped up and down in front of five rather bored-looking people who looked to be around my age. I squealed on my way out of the store.

    I'm rather ambivalent about modern, or should I say post-postmodern, poetry. I've enjoyed a few I've encountered in the New Yorker, but I tend to love poetry written between the fifteenth century and 1970. But I might try the collection here that you rated most highly. 😀

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