Here’s a biblio challenge for your Summer Solstice! Today, we’re celebrating the scrumptious covers published by New Directions. Can you recognize all 12 covers hiding in plain sight? Leave your guesses in the comments!
In some ways, summer is the time when I get my best education because I have my eyes glued inside books at all times (or at least, in between the FIFA Women’s World Cup games). I am able to read freely and widely; I can linger over phrases; I can sing the words out loud; I can take the time to really study how a piece is put together; I can laugh and cry and feel the emotions rising from the page like aromatic toast; I can be fully entertained as I immerse my mind in the mind of another. Ahh, that sacred intimacy of reading.
This summer, I’ve been working my way through a stack of slim novels, novellas, and collections of poems and stories. I find that I’m more drawn to these smaller tomes, perhaps because I know my time with them is limited to begin with. So I find ways to test that limit by drawing out the experience with them as much as I can. Like stretching out a piece of gum farther and farther until it snaps and breaks in two.
Below, you’ll find a quote from each of the books I’ve read in the past month as well as a link in case you want to own a copy for your own bookshelf! And don’t forget to tell me in the comments what you’ve been reading lately and what is in your queue. Happy reading!
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett – “There were times I’d thought I knew people. Brynn, who I’d loved more than anything. The other half of me. My father, a man I’d adored, someone I’d considered to be the strongest person on the planet. We spent so much time looking for pieces of ourselves in other people that we never realized they were busy searching for the same things in us.” (You can read my interview with Kristen Arnett here at Michigan Quarterly Review!)
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – “In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.”
The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa (translated by Sawako Nakayasu) – “Dreams are severed fruit / Auburn pears have fallen in the field / Parsley blooms on the plate / Sometimes the leghorn appears to have six toes / I crack an egg and the moon comes out”
Wheeling Motel: Poems by Franz Wright – “River as verb, that’s the assignment, until the next time I fail / you. / And did you know the snail sometimes sleeps for a year? / And you will survive, that’s an order … ” (Check out these incredible recordings of Franz Wright reading poems from Wheeling Motel. My favorite one is “Intake Interview.”)
The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories by Yukiko Motoya – “If you genuinely desire not to be alone, I recommend that you take a bicycle saddle as your next partner. You think that’s out of the question? But a saddle is shaped surprisingly like a human face, and once you pull it off the bicycle, you can take each other out anywhere. When you go on vacation, the money you save on the second fare means you can make many more happy memories than if you were with another human. Best of all, a saddle can’t speak.”
Something Bright, Then Holes by Maggie Nelson – “It is what / it is. But / what is it? / What it is— / Some soft / tautology / whose terms/ are touch / Time to give, time / to give it up.”
Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse by Anne Carson – “Are there many little boys who think they are a Monster? But in my case I am right said Geryon to the Dog they were sitting on the bluffs The dog regarded him Joyfully” (I devoured this book in two days and immediately put it on my favorite of all-time list. Thank you to this Village Voice interview with artist Elle Pérez for introducing me to Anne Carson’s masterpiece.)
Gasoline by Gregory Corso – “Four windmills, acquaintanceships, / were spied one morning eating tulips. / Noon / and the entire city flips / screaming: Apocalypse! Apocalypse!”
I Am A Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju – “The map of wind that the birds abandoned searched for the labyrinth of birds, but at night it broke quietly into pieces. If, toward a single person, the endodermis of time could forge a connection in the direction of one mind, could my humanity become a cry? Don’t say the inside of every skin has been answered.”
An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans – “Back in the house, entering my bedroom, I had to slide the cat out of the way with the door. He had been lying on the floor behind it and I just managed to grab him by the scruff of the neck as he tried to slip past me to get to the locked room. Together we lay down on the bed while I held him tightly in my arms. “Nothing’s allowed to change,” I whispered in his ear, “we’re staying here. Everything’s staying like it is. One day the war will be over. The Germans will withdraw. And we’ll stay here forever.””
Walter Benjamin Reimagined by Frances Cannon – “The street that runs through houses is the track of a ghost through the walls. The dread of doors that won’t close is something everyone knows from dreams. The path we travel through the arcades is fundamentally just a ghost walk, on which doors give way and walls yield.”
And next up in the summer reading queue:
The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg – Jordy’s book has been on my reading radar ever since we published his story, “A Monster Stands Guard at the Door of the House of Love,” in Hunger Mountain‘s Issue 22: Everyday Chimeras. Plus I’m a sucker for footnotes!
Belladonna by Daša Drndić – I recently read in Merve Emre’s article at The New York Review of Books that the late Croatian novelist’s Belladonna was perhaps the most ambitious novel of the twenty-first century so far…and now I’m obsessed with tracking it down and finding out what said ambition looks like!
Here’s an all new Book Cover Scavenger Hunt for my book-loving friends!
Today’s tessellated collage features 8 technicolor covers from Soft Skull Press. Can you name them all? Leave your guesses in the comments below!
P.S. What independent publisher should be featured in the next Book Scavenger Hunt?
It’s been a little while since I made a Book Scavenger Hunt for y’all. So it’s your lucky day! This time, the fragments come from 10 stunning covers from Tin House Books. Can you find and name them all?
Leave your guesses in the comments below!
I’ve recently fallen in love with the New York-based nonprofit indie press, Archipelago Books. I love their satisfyingly minimalist book designs. I especially love their mission to publish beautiful translations of classic and contemporary world literature. This includes literature written originally in Arabic, Spanish, Norwegian, Dutch, Tamil, Russian, Slovenian, Greek, and more. According to the press’s website, “less than three percent of new literature published in the United States originates outside the Anglosphere.” This is why Archipelago’s work is so important—to find illuminating international writers that American readers might not otherwise encounter.
So far, I’ve only read Love by Hanne Ørstavik (winner of the PEN Translation Prize and a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature), which was hauntingly outstanding. Now, I can’t wait to go back and read the entire Archipelago catalogue.
Can you name all 14 Archipelago Books titles featured in these slivers?
Here’s a new challenge for you—a Book Cover Scavenger Hunt Round Two!
Can you name all 20 beauteous Graywolf Press titles featured in this mosaic?
Leave your guesses in the comments below!
(Want another challenge? Check out my previous collage of titles from Riverhead Books!)
Last Friday, our publishing class had the great opportunity to Skype with Jynne Dilling Martin of Riverhead Books. We chatted all about the history of Riverhead, the changes that social media has made for the industry, and tips on how to break into the NYC publishing scene.
One thing that particularly stuck with me from Jynne’s talk was how the design team at Riverhead strives to craft a unique “visual identity” for each title. Essentially, this means that if you eliminated the text from each cover, you’d still be able to identify the books based on the graphics alone.(Remember this Buzzfeed quiz on classic book covers?)
So in order to test this, I created a fun collaged scavenger hunt, in which I have tucked 18 of Riverhead’s stunning book covers inside. Some are more subtle than others. Can you find them all? Leave your guesses in the comments below!
I’m already two months into the second year of my MFA! My program at VCFA definitely is an unconventional model and people often ask me to explain my course schedule over and over again. (Crash course: 5 craft modules per semester, each module lasting 3 weeks and taught by a rotation of core and visiting faculty; 2 semester-long classes involving writing workshops). I’ve been thinking about how to craft a post about the classes I’m taking this semester, and realized that the books we’ve been reading for each class should do the talking for me!
Shall we begin the magical book tour?
Craft Module 1 – The Craft of Vulnerability in Creative Nonfiction (works read not pictured): In this course taught by Erin Stalcup, we read excerpts of The Glass Castle, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, The Art of Daring, and The Argonauts, and explored how (and when) to be vulnerable on the page. How I see it—we are always in a state of vulnerability, just by being alive, just by attempting to write at all.
Craft Module 2 – Poetry and What’s at Stake: Through the incredible collections of poems by Carolyn Forché, Kaveh Akbar, and Chen Chen, along with excerpts of books by Solmaz Sharif, Ocean Vuong, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil, our class (led by Rita Banerjee) discussed urgency, conflict, and stake-raising turns in both formal and experimental poems.
Craft Module 3 – Making Fiction True: Adding Texture and Meaning: This course seems to be the school’s response to the kinds of stories my class wants to tell. The majority of us fiction writers have magical/paranormal/speculative elements creeping into our stories in large and small ways. Lesley Arimah uses the lens of speculative fiction to teach us how to sell improbable situations by crafting “the narrative ecosystem” with authenticity and layers of complexity. We’re studying Man v. Nature, The Golem & the Jinni, and Exit West to explore three types of speculative fiction: “our world, but different,” “our world, much changed,” and “the brand new world.”
Novel Writing Thesis Seminar: In this semester-long class, we crazies who are attempting to write a novel for our thesis (or at least 100 pages of it) submit chunks regularly to be workshopped. Along with reading each other’s works, we are also studying the unique structures of award-winning novels. So far, we have read The Underground Railroad (a very tightly structured novel) and A Visit from the Goon Squad (a novel structured in “interconnected stories”). There’s nothing like reading two brilliant Pulitzer Prize-winning books in a row to make you rethink everything you’re doing….
Critical Essay (not pictured): This class does not require any reading, as its purpose is for us thesis-writing crazies to craft a book proposal draft that could potentially become what we submit to agents/editors with our manuscript and query letter. Until then, this class helps us envision our thesis and think through our motivations, our scope, our market, our audience, and the trajectory of the stories we want to tell.
That’s all for now, but there’s more to come, more blog posts to write, more classes to attend, more books to read. Which is great, because you know I can’t resist a good “books spread across the floor” picture.
The day has finally come—one I’ve been anticipating for quite a while now. I read The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld last fall and loved it so much, I reached out to Denfeld for an interview. Little did I know that an excerpt of that interview would become the exclusive back matter for the paperback copy of the book!
The Child Finder is a suspenseful, empathic, and heartfelt exploration into the terrifying depths of the human soul. And the book cover alone is a masterpiece with its fairy-lit, sea green snow. I can’t recommend this book—all of Rene Denfeld’s work—enough.