What I’m Reading and Where to Find Them

The mysterious thesis (which I will not divulge too much about yet as it is still in its infancy) is taking over my mind! I can tell you that it is a historical/psychological novel which takes place in post-war Japan. More to come!

To keep on schedule between now until next May when the thesis is due, I’ve drafted up a timeline for myself because visuals help me keep myself accountable for my work. For the last few months of this semester, my goal is to just read everything. Everything I can get my hands on! Novels on similar topics, historical and nonfiction first-hand narratives from survivors of the atom bomb, non-subject related books whose structure I want to study, etc. For our thesis, we technically only need to turn in the first 100 pages of a “novel in progress.” But if you know me well, I always have to finish what I start. I have to see the project through and I always LOVE to make things more difficult for myself! Ha! So I’m planning on having a first draft of a full-length novel by the time I leave VCFA. It’s all very exciting and … well mostly exciting.

Speaking of process, I’m very music-oriented when I write. So I’ve crafted a sort of “novel soundtrack” for this book. Every time I sit down to write a part of it or think through the book, I get into the mind of the book by playing the same songs from the playlist on a continuous loop. Songs include: “For Rose” by Parov Stelar, “Exurgency” by Zoe Keating, “Rubric” by Philip Glass, “Meditation on Mount Fuji” from the Deep Sleep Relaxation cd, “Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: Recomposed: Winter 1” by Max Richter, and of course, The Beatles.

I’m interested to hear what other writers’ processes are when they are at the beginning of a project.

Even though I am in full reading mode, I’m lucky in that reading often puts me in a writing mode. So there is much writing occurring, too!

This is my current reading pile. All are in various stages of partial progress or haven’t even started yet. Mostly Japanese authors and tales because of my thesis, with Melissa Febos tucked in there for fun and because she is visiting our class next week! This is just the tip of the iceberg of the books that I am reading for my thesis research. Stay tuned for more!

  • Number9Dream by David Mitchell. I am such a fan of Mitchell’s stories, having previously read Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, and Slade House. This particular novel, based in Japan, is action-filled with a cat-and-mouse chase, all the while balancing the surreal dreamworld with the historical pang of the war; a mixture I hope to successfully create in my own book. I haven’t started Mitchell’s novel yet, but am very much looking forward to it.
  • Children of Hiroshima compiled by Dr. Arata Osada. Is that Cammie weeping in her room again? If so, it’s because she is reading this book, which consists of 105 first-hand accounts about the events of August 6, 1945, written by children who experienced and survived the bombing of Hiroshima. It is horrific, brain-staining, and should be a mandatory read for people of all ages.
  • Abandon Me: Memoirs by Melissa Febos. I’m about halfway through Febos’ collection of personal essays and can go, oh maybe one page, before I’m scribbling down another quote in my notebook. Her writing is bold and passionate, her words ripping straight through the paper, right through my skin. The themes she explores in this book are surprisingly helpful to understanding one of my thesis’ characters particularly. She put into words—beautiful and frightening truths—that “the nature of want…is to crush.” She goes on to describe her desire for her beloved’s body as “wanting to unzip my body and pull her into it, or crawl into hers.” Along similar lines, Febos describes how she “could hurt the person [she] least wanted to.” If you haven’t picked this book up yet, do so immediately. It is something to savor, like dark chocolate dipped into hot coffee.
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki MurakamiEveryone is recommending me read this, and honestly, I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet at this point in my life! One thing I know is that I will probably blast The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” on high while reading.
  • A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve read this one before and am already a quarter into my second read. I’m definitely picking up on things I hadn’t noticed before. The dialogue is the most interesting element in that the characters seem to be saying nothing of significance at all to each other, and in that, they are really saying so much. Other times, two people are in a conversation but are not responding to each other. Instead, they carry on with their own monologues, which is still a type of communication—usually one displaying dysfunction or anger. I’m also excited to read An Artist of the Floating World, too.

The ampersand is technically a bookend, but I like to place its infinite curves on top of my book pile every once in a while to remind myself that there is always more. More to read, more to write. The book pile is endless. There will always be an AND, never an END.

I am spending my days drinking tea and writing a few vignettes because the novel seems to want to follow that very short chapter format. I’m editing two short stories from workshop, and am gearing up for April Poetry Month. For the past 3 years, I have written 30 poems in 30 days each time April rolls around. Each collection of 30 poems becomes a time capsule of that month of my life. I can remember exactly what occurred on each day to influence my daily poems. This year will be no different.

(If you are interested in participating in April’s National Poetry Month, but don’t want to write poems, consider signing up for Poem-a-Day, which is a daily digital poetry series which distributes a poem each day into your inbox!)

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