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!