Something delightful to start your week off right.
Month: March 2021
It’s Like, Warm Out
It’s been a beautiful week here in Grand Rapids, in the last full week of March 2021. The tai chi and kung fu classes are back at Wilcox Park, weather permitting. After almost four months of indoor classes conducted through Zoom, the outdoors seems huge. I went for a long walk at Blandford Nature Center after class, and I was one of maybe five people in this huge park. For most of the two hours I was there I didn’t see another soul, and though the park is surrounded by neighborhoods, for the most part I didn’t hear anyone either. It was a disorienting experience. I felt something which I wouldn’t call agoraphobia, but it was something on that spectrum. A sense of vast horizons, after a year of being inside my house, and much of that time in my office, staring at a computer screen. It was disorienting having the nearest object farther than ten feet away from my eyes.
A decent pile of books arrived here at the Library of Winkelman Abbey in the past week. Two are from subscriptions, and the last three are from a recent order I placed at the best bookstore in Grand Rapids, Books & Mortar.
On the left is the latest issue of the ever-excellent Rain Taxi Review of Books.
Second from left is Nancy by Bruno Lloret, the latest release from Two Lines Press.
In the center is Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which I have been meaning to read for, oh, at least a year.
Second from the right is The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin, which I learned about from Cory Doctorow‘s blog Pluralistic, in which he discussed this book in the same paragraph in which he invoked Frank Wilhoit’s description of conservatism (“Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”).
On the right is Automating Inequality by Virginia Eubanks, which I suspect will have a lot to say which heavily echoes the Wilhoit quote. This is, after all, America.
In reading news, I am about three quarters of the way through Gideon the Ninth and loving every page of it. I will probably finish Monday or Tuesday.
In writing news, lots of journaling but not much else. So it goes.
Next Friday I get my first COVID shot. Then I will enter the liminal space between it and the second shot three weeks later. There is no telling what the world will look like on the other side of that experience.
Monday Music: Sounds of Mirrors
And what a Spring it is so far, with temperatures in the 60s and sunny and beautiful. The tai chi and kung fu classes have moved back outdoors, and there we will remain, weather permitting, until the snow flies again in November or December. Almost eight months of outdoor classes is pretty good for Michigan.
The new issue of Pulphouse Magazine was the only reading material to arrive in the past week at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. This has made my life a little easier, as I am in the midst of organizing all of my bookshelves, recycling many years of old literary journals, and making one of my bookcases the exclusive home of the many books I own which have been inscribed to me by their authors. The goal, of course, is to outgrow that shelf once the world is in a state where readings and book signings and conventions can happen again. So maybe 2022 or 2023.
In reading news, I am still working my way through the backlog of books in translation. Currently in front of me is Juan José Saer’s The One Before, translated by Roanne L. Kantor, and published by Open Letter Books. After this month I am going to broaden my reading habits a little, and rather than five or six works in translation a month, only attempt two or three, which will leave room for more of the nonfiction, poetry and genre fiction which is also slowly but steadily piling up.
In writing news, as always, there is no writing news. Perhaps next week.
Happy Spring, eveyone!
Monday Music: The Ides of March
The Ides of March playing “Blue Storm Rising”. Still rocking after more than 55 years.
The Last Full Week of Winter
And what a week this past week was. Due to family emergencies, trips to the vet, favors for friends, and the necessities of a new project, I have had almost no time at all to read, write, relax, sleep, or clear my head. My only quiet time was the drive to Jackson from Grand Rapids, in which a visit was cancelled at the last minute, and so I drove a total of over four hours in order to deliver a sandwich.
At this point, after the last twelve months – and tomorrow it will be exactly twelve months since the quarantine really took hold for me – I can’t even get angry about this kind of thing any more. But it is frustrating to see the days grow longer and the weather grow warmer and not be able to enjoy it as I have in years past.
Two bound collections of words arrived at the Library of Winkelman Abbey this week. On the left is Elemental, a collection of stories in translation from Two Lines Press. This is the third anthology published under their wonderful Calico series, which is one of the reasons I am continuing my subscription to their catalog.
On the right is the March 2021 issue of Poetry Magazine. One day I will sit down and read all of the back issues which I have collected over the years, which are regrettably collecting dust on my shelf.
In reading news, things have been going slow though I did finish Deepak Unnikrishnan‘s weird and wonderful Temporary People (Restless Books), and am now about two-thirds through Arno Geiger‘s beautiful The Old King In His Exile (And Other Stories, translated by Stefan Tobler). Geiger’s book is his memoir of taking care of his father, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, which is a thing which has struck down a few in my immediate and extended family, so it is a…well, I wouldn’t call it a comfort read, exactly, but it is supportive.
In writing news, there is no writing new, other than some journaling. Maybe next week.
So it goes.
Monday Music: Dr. John, Live at Montreux
March, Already and Still
It was almost exactly a year ago that the COVID lockdown hit West Michigan and I began working from home. As the joke goes, this is not March 7, 2021, it is March 372, 2020.
A small pile of books and periodicals arrived here in the past week. On the left is volume 3 of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. This was difficult to find, as it is a very specific volume 3 which is part of a set which was published in 1992. I picked up volumes 1 and 2 from the remainder shelf of Schuler Books and Music sometime around 1995. I kept hoping volume 3 would show up for cheap, and I left the bookstore in 1999 with that dream unfulfilled.
Next is The Best of Apex Magazine, which is volume 1 of a series, the other volumes of which have not yet been published. Apex Magazine went on hiatus in 2019 and has just recently come back, so future volumes of the anthology will hopefully be printed in upcoming years.
Next is Notes from Childhood by Norah Lange, translated from the Spanish by Charlotte Whittle and published by And Other Stories.
And last but not least is the latest issue of The Paris Review, which has managed to stay in print and excellent and relevant for over fifty years, which is admirable.
In reading news, I am well into Deepak Unnikrishnan’s weird and wonderful novel Temporary People (Restless Books), which started out as a collection of short stories in the literary fiction genre, but soon blew straight through magic realism into the realms of satire and surrealism. And it is really, really good.
In writing news, events of the mundane world sapped away much of my free time and emotional energy and I accomplished very little. I still feel the drive and desire to be creatively productive so perhaps next week will be more fulfilling.
Tune in next week for such thrilling tales as “Welp. Here I am again,” and “Here are some books,” and if time and energy allow, “Here is some stuff I have been thinking about.” See you next time, loyal reader(s)!
IWSG, March 2021
I have recently joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which I discovered through the excellent blog of author Jean Davis.
And as a newly active member of the group, this is my first IWSG monthly first-Wednesday question:
Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?
That is a very good question. Two things motivate my reading choices: a diversity of reading, and that one book I just gotta read right now. And there are secondary concerns, such as books which have been sitting around forever, and when my mind is in a particular space in which it will only be satisfied by e.g. poetry or Russian literature. Or Russian poetry.
I take as my guiding star Karen Lord‘s advice to “read well”. Find the books which are good examples of the kind of book I would like to write and, well, read them!
That doesn’t mean everything I read is practice for something I hope to write. I am motivated more than anything by curiosity. In my library I have scores of anthologies covering a great many subjects and styles of writing. My day job is mentally demanding and I am happy to indulge in purely escapist reading as time and opportunity allow. For example, last summer I did a deep dive into the Forgotten Realms novels and read the first twenty or so Drizzt Do’Urden novels by R.A. Salvatore.
Then again this past October I participated in the Sealey Challenge and read 31 books of poetry in 31 days. And a couple of weeks ago, after almost three decades of attempting it and failing, I finally read the entirety of The Brothers Karamazov.
So what motivates my reading? Ultimately I think I read whatever it feels important that I read next. And that could be anything.
And on a tangent, this wide and varied reading habit helps me through bouts of writing block and imposter syndrome. Usually if I am reading something which is too close to what I am writing I start to compare the one with the other, and therefore reading something outside of that channel is a good way to reset myself, mentally and emotionally, so I can get return to the writing practice with a clear mind.
What motivates your reading? Let me know in the comments!
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February 2021 Reading List
I have finally done it.
After about 25 years of trying and failing, I have finally completed reading all 364,000+ words of The Brothers Karamazov. It was magnificent, and difficult, and dense and occasionally fragmented, and absolutely worth the time and effort I put into the seven weeks it took to read the book from the beginning to the end.
With Dostoevsky out of the way for the moment, I turned my attention to the embarrassingly large stack of books in translation I have collected over the past half-dozen years, but not read. Items 7 through 12 on the book list below are the results of that first pass. These shorter, non-Dostoevsky books just seem to fly by.
Because I have been reading so many books, my short fiction reading has sort of fallen by the wayside. Still, a dozen or so in a month is pretty good.
- Wilkerson, Isabel, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (2021.02.03)
- Dostoevsky, Fyodor (Pevear, Richard and Volokhonsky, Larissa, translators), The Brothers Karamazov (2021.02.12)
- Giorno, John, Great Demon Kings (2021.02.15)
- Berti, Eduardo (Coombe, Charlotte, translator), The Imagined Land (2021.02.16)
- Tenev, Georgi (Rodel, Angela, translator), Party Headquarters (2021.02.17)
- Masatsugu Ono (Turvill, Angus, translator), Lion Cross Point (2021.02.18)
- Baltasar, Eva (Sanches, Julia, translator), Permafrost (2021.02.22)
- Yoss (Frye, David, translator), Super Extra Grande (2021.02.23)
- Bae Suah (Smith, Deborah, translator), A Greater Music (2021.02.24)
- Buckell, Tobias S., “The Bars at the End of the World”, Patreon (2021.02.01)
- Goder, Beth, “History in Pieces“, Clarkesworld #173 (2021.02.02)
- Laban, Monique, “The Failed Dianas“, Clarkesworld #173 (2021.02.02)
- Bookreyeva, Anastasia (Nayler, Ray, translator), “Terra Rasa“, Clarkesworld #173 (2021.02.02)
- Ulmer, James, “Gardenia”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.02.03)
- Rodgers, Craig, “Return Policy”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.02.03)
- Bernardo, Troy, “Smoky”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.03.02)
- Woolf, James, “Mackenzie’s Leap”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.03.02)
- Punzo, Andrew, “Hair and Nail and Blood and Bone (You’re Beautiful)”, Coffin Bell #4.1 (2021.02.03)
- Rusch, Kristine Kathryn, “The Last Surviving Gondola Widow“, Clarkesworld #101 (2021.02.14)
- Clare, Gwendolyn, “Indelible“, Clarkesworld #101 (2021.02.20)
- Robson, Kelly, “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill“, Clarkesworld #101 (2021.02.24)