Archive for the ‘favorites’ Category

In which I return.

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

I am a little heart-broken to be back from Panama.  It was lovely & hot.  I got a lot of work done.  I worked a lot.  It feels good to get up very early (when the roosters qui-qui-ri-qui) and walk in the dark to the place where I work, giving buenas to the folks that I pass (and “hi buddies!” to every street dog).  The problem with Panama is that napping feels so good, so every time I tried to read in the hammock I fell asleep, which means my reading only amounted to this:

John Edgar Wideman-Brothers & Keepers
Gloria Anzaldua-Borderlands/La Frontera-the new Mestiza
Vincent Lam-Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures

I say this a lot, but I found Brothers & Keepers to literally be life-changing.  There are many passages I read over & over & over (many about Pittsburgh).  I want to return to this book indefinitely.  I will read this again, and I would  suggest it to anybody who is interested in prison (and injustice), families and, frankly, human beings.

Since home, I’ve read:

Lee Martin-The Bright Forever
Jose Saramago-Blindness

I finished Blindness yesterday on the bus (ugh).  I feel stunned & relatively emotional about it.  The lucidity of Saramago’s writing kind of fucked with me, and I feel like I’ve been drifting since I started it.  I have my own dog of tears, and for that I guess I will just say I am happy.

It’s good to be home.

ghosts of wounded knee

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Within December’s issue of Harper’s there is an article written by Matthew Power, with accompanying photographs by Aaron  Huey, titled the “Ghosts of Wounded Knee.”   I try very hard to not preach about my love of print media, but I have always very much loved the look of photos within Harper’s, as well as the font and the spacing and the style, blah blah, and Huey’s photos simply shine in this format.  This article is goddamn poetry.  I have always very much admired Power’s writing, but what was once simple admiration is now through the roof.  You, sir, are getting a letter from me.  The photographs are stark, and implying that they are telling does not do them justice.  My love of stories from the  Pine Ridge reservation is nothing new or surprising, but Power’s words & Huey’s photos churned my stomach all the more.  The interviews within are beyond hopeless, the stories are heartbreaking, and I can’t recommend it enough.

From an interview:

We’re Lakota warriors, and we should be able to take care of ourselves, but all we get is just the VA checks.  A VA check won’t even buy you a house.  I don’t know what’s going on.  I don’t care.  I hang out with all my homeless veteran buddies.  I’d rather be up here than be a burden on them.  I’d rather beg for food than beg them for food.  Soemtimes I see some of my friends, and they’re so very hungover.  See, we drink and we get drunk, and we sing, we take turns to sing military songs, we sing cadence or we sing Lakota songs.  Then we go to sleep.  Next day we do it again.  We don’t have no family anymore.

If nothing else, at least stop in Borders and flip through these pictures.

(disclaimer: on love)

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

So where do we start?  Love may or may not produce happiness; whether or not it does in the end, its primary effect is to energize.  Have you ever talked so well, needed less sleep, returned to sex so eagerly, as when you were first in love?  The anemic begin to glow, while the normally healthy become intolerable.  Next, it gives spine-stretching confidence.  You feel you are standing up straight for the first time in your life; you can do anything while this feeling lasts, you can take on the world.  (Shall we make this distinction: that love enhances the confidence, whereas sexual conquest merely develops the ego?)  Then again, it gives clarity of vision; it’s a windshield wiper across the eyeball.  Have you ever seen things so clearly as when you were first in love?

Taken from pages 231-2 of “Parenthesis,” within A History of the World in 10 and 1/2 Chapters, by Julian Barnes.   I usually turn to Barnes to make me laugh, and that is why this essay was so shockingly gorgeous the first time I read it a few years ago.   I find something new, enchanting and quotable every time I glance at it.  Sometimes a girl just needs to cry at a lovely essay, right?

And, of course, it just wouldn’t be proper to quote Barnes without revealing just how fucking funny he is, so:

Should love be taught in school?  First term: friendship; second term: tenderness; third term: passion.  Why not?  They teach kids how to cook and mend cars and fuck one another without getting pregnant; and the kids are, we assume, much better at all of this than we were, but what use is any of that to them if they don’t know about love?


Year of the flood & year of the freak-out

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Yesterday I checked in on my 2009 goals and had a momentary meltdown about the year almost being over.  I don’t know why I had a meltdown.  The only goal I am totally failing at is my ultimate handstand goal, but the year isn’t over yet, and furthermore, the yogi in me knows that when my body is ready for the handstand, it will happen.  You cannot rush these things, says the yogi within me.

Looking at yearly goals brings out the spaz I am, though.  Now I am realizing I am at a weird life intersection.  In 2 months from yesterday, I will be done with my (hated) masters program and then will potentially have all of these life options.  I could move anywhere, theoretically, and work.  Anywhere except Canada, it would seem.  Lately I have fallen in love with aspects of my job (simultaneously, many of them still bother me more than I can express).  Nonetheless, I have realized that I am completely content with working reference (in particular, engineering reference.  Who’d have thought?  Definitely not me.).  I am stoked on life?!

Last week was Canadian Thanksgiving, and when I wasn’t eating my weight in turkey & apple pie (I literally gained 4 pounds on T-giving Day), I was snuggling with my sweetie and reading.  I’d mentioned that I was reading Ann Patchett’s Patron Saint of Liars–I finished this.  I will read more of Patchett’s work, I think.  I liked this.  I didn’t love it, but she intrigues me enough that I will carry on & read more.  I don’t even know how to really critique this book, as my biggest criticism was that it wasn’t trashy enough for me.  When I see an Unmarried mothers–Fiction LCSH, you’d better believe I’m thinking VC Andrews.  My disappointment in the lack of smut should not, however, taint my belief that Patchett is a capable novelist.

After finishing this, I re-read Oryx & Crake.  I am not shy about my deep love for Margaret Atwood, and I think Oryx & Crake is nothing short of perfect (give it another shot, Tricia!).  I continue to find this book unsettling, and it hasn’t stopped giving me nightmares about animal hybrids and genetically enhanced women lacking feelings.  Upon finishing this, I immediately began Atwood’s brand-spankin’ new Year of the Flood.  I am less enthusiastic about this one, but I still admire it.  This book is basically the story of Oryx & Crake told through different characters (characters that I recognized as peripheral characters from O&C only because I’d just reread it–whole scenes are recreated from O&C that I’d hardly taken note of in O&C.  I don’t know that YOFT would be so effective if I hadn’t just read O&C again).  YOTF is braver stylistically, but I think a less forgiving audience than me might hate some of the liberties Atwood has taken with the plot.  I love the frame of this story, and while I don’t want to spoil any plot surprises, I think some aspects of the story are just a tad too convenient.  That said, Atwood is wildly courageous and inventive and because of this I am hopeful most people won’t a) notice and b) mind just how easily things fall into place.  I haven’t finished this yet, but if my nightmares are any indication, this book will have a lasting impact on me.  Atwood is wise, and as in my teen years I learned many a feminist lesson from the Handmaid’s Tale, I am confident I (and others) can stand to learn many a cautionary world lesson from Oryx & Crake together with Year of the Flood.  I think these two will stand together beautifully for years to come.  Atwood’s speculations of our future are stark and terrifying, and this makes her portrayal of women & women’s friendship all the more poignant.

Next up: new Sherman Alexie (!!).  I am also crossing my fingers that I can make time in the next week for the freshly published Burlesque West: Showgirls, sex and sin in postwar Vancouver (Becki Ross), which is sitting on my desk burning a longing hole in me.  I am nervous to read this book because I know it will spawn a geek attack in me and I will probably immediately do the following: a.) write Becki Ross a letter declaring my love & devotion and then b.) apply to UBC and move to Vancouver and then, friends, it’s all over.

Things I am eagerly anticipating!

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Books by THREE of my favorite authors, all estimated to appear in the next 6-12 months:

1.) Ian Frazier book about Siberia, excerpted twice in the New Yorker and KILLING ME SOFTLY with anticipation

2.) Sherman Alexie short stories

3.) Lorrie Moore book of short stories

I can hardly stand this.  I am so excited.  So so so excited. I have waited for YEARS for a new Ian Frazier book.  This is the best, greatest news.

Top 10s!

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I like to think that I’m fairly reliable, but plenty of people would tell you that I’m not.  My pen-pal Shanna could tell you that I never ever ever write back (she writes the loveliest letters, too) and she’d probably even tell you that we’re not pen-pals anymore because I was so miserably bad at responding.  Sorry Shanna!  Many of my friends could tell you of times that we had plans and I canceled at the last minute because I really just didn’t want to leave the house (sorry trivia team!!!).

Just as bad, I have regrettably promised several different friends at different points in the last year that I would make a list for them of my top-10 favorite graphic novels/comic books.  I must have promised Kate this more than 6 months back, and months and months and months ago Jason  & Kelly sent me a message asking me the same on goodreads that I just plain neglected to respond to.  I am really by no means any kind of authority on graphic novels or comic books–I feel far more comfortable talking about favorite pieces of fiction or poetry (or even my favorite celebrity gossip blogs).  I was awfully late getting into comic books.  I had always loved X-Men (and continue to follow a couple of the different trades) and my dad tried to get me interested in Superman, but the BSC and the Saddle Club were pretty much way more exciting when I was young (what can I say, Stacey’s tales of being a young fashionable diabetic really resonated with me).  I started reading graphic novels with Bone & was very much hooked.

Creating this list was kind of a serious struggle.  For one thing, I can hardly remember many of the titles that I’ve read.  I’ve never consciously kept track like I do with novels.  For another, I really loved many titles when I first read them.  Some things meant a lot more to me at the time–when crafting this list, I tried to take this into consideration.  Three years ago, as a miserable senior in college, I positively adored Jeffrey Brown, whom I could completely commiserate with.  Now?  I can barely stomach passing by a Jeff Brown book in the comic store.  I also need to note that while one trade of a series might have really stood out to me as the end-all-be-all of comics, in the end I just combined all the trades as one series.  This might not do some specific favorite trades justice.  Apologies.

  1. Jessica Abel-La Perdida
  2. Brian K. Vaughan & others-Y: the last man
  3. Aline Kominsky Crumb-Need More Love
  4. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon-Preacher
  5. Jason Lutes-Berlin 1&2
  6. Adrian Tomine-Summer Blonde
  7. Julie Doucet-365 Days
  8. Alison Bechdel-Fun Home: a family tragicomic
  9. Craig Thompson-Blankets (this is one that has so much life significance that it has to be on the list)
  10. Andres Nilsen-Dogs & Water

My list is awfully heavy on the drawn & quarterly side of things (which I don’t mind because I fully admire 99% of the work d&q artists put out), so a special mention #11 should go to Pascal Blanchet for White Rapids.

I’m sure that tonight I will get home and smack myself on the forehead for forgetting three or four ALL TIME FAVES, but for now, this will have to do.

A thing I love

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

These three people slept and dreamed, while outside the house the moon grew large, and seemed to move across the sky until it was out over the ocean and growing smaller and paler. In his dream, someone is offering Myers a glass of Scotch, but just as he is about to take it, reluctantly, he wakes up in a sweat, his heart racing.

Sol dreams that he is changing a tire on a truck and that he has the use of both of his arms.

Bonnie dreams that she is taking two–no, three–children to the park. She even has names for the children. She named them just before the trip to the park. Millicent, Dionne, and Randy. Randy keeps wanting to pull away from her and go his own way.

Soon, the sun breaks over the horizon and birds begin calling to each other. The Little Quilcene River rushes down through the valley, shoots under the highway bridge, rushes another hundred yards over sand and sharp rocks, and pours into the ocean. An eagle flies down from the valley and over the bridge and begins to pass up and down the beach. A dog barks.

At this minute, Sol’s alarm goes off.

From Raymond Carver’s short story, Kindling (in the collection Call if You Need Me). I often try to explain to people why I love Carver so much, and I usually find myself incapable of doing so. When I was 16 I read my first collection of Carver stories (Cathedral) and I immediately fell in love with his writing. At times when I am feeling restless and unable to read long works of fiction, I turn to Carver and fall back in love again. I find Call if You Need Me a really, really wonderful collection: fiction, personal essays, a fragment of the novel he never finished, and some of Carver’s book reviews–which I particularly love for their sparsity and conciseness. Man, Ray, do I ever miss you.

For the love of books

Friday, February 20th, 2009

I’ve referred before (and recently) to my obsessions with things small and large. This time, I’ve really done it.

As a wee lass, I read, adored, and quoted constantly, Jean Craighead George’s epic book My side of the mountain. It features my little hero Sam Gribley, who runs away from the big city life and with the help of a friendly small town librarian (in the movie, I should have been cast as this role), adapts successfully to LIFE IN THE WILD. He also has the help of a fierce and totally awesome peregrine falcon that he stole from a nest as a baby and trained to kill his small game for him. I’m paraphrasing, because my brain officially retires at 4:30 on Fridays, but let it be told that Frightful and Sam are amazing, and I decided I couldn’t live without Frightful for much longer.

baby girl

Frightful! In the flesh.

I am writing a reading list. For a class I’m not allowed to teach.

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I assigned myself a reference question that I have, ultimately, little to do with. This is because I am a dork, and also because I am a little nosy. OMC is writing a syllabus for a year-long ethnography course and is trying to pick the books he would teach in it. I, naturally, flipped out at the chance to help (although it must be said, he didn’t technically ask for my help). I live for questions like this on the reference desk. A question like this gives me the chance to play with my beloved Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH). Subject headings can be positively joyous to use in a reference interview, although simultaneously problematic in that they are historically kind of racist, sexist and homophobic, but that is not the focus of this blog entry, although ought to be in the future (also, really great catalogers are working to remedy this every single day).

I had a few books off the top of my head that I would consider ethnographic, and that I would teach if I were OMC:

Marjorie Shostak’s Nisa: the life and words of a !Kung Woman (I want OMC to teach this because that ! is pronounced as a tongue cluck, and sitting in on this lecture would crack my shit up because he has an unbelievable amount of trouble doing the cluck. Also this is, like, standard issue cultural anthropology 101. I don’t know anything at all about anthropology but I know that this book is incredible, and that it taught me a ton about PMS in places other than America/western countries. It also taught me about having a baby in the bush. Which I don’t want to do.)

Telipit Ole Saitoti’s World’s of a Masai Warrior: an autobiography (I hesitate to put this on my booklist because that already means there will be two ethnographic books about African countries, and I don’t want the focus of this course to be too heavily skewed towards any one demographic, but alas, this book is equally great, and also horrified the shit out of 17 year-old me when Telipit gets circumcised and writes about it in terrifying detail.)

Philippe Bourgois’ In Search of Respect: Selling crack in El Barrio. (Sometimes in my brain I make a list of the people that I would write letters to if I had the time. These are people that I would write letters to simply because I admire them, and think that they’re doing wonderful, admirable things, and also that I want to grow up and be a little like them. I would give my foot to study with Bourgois at Penn. I am that impressed by him. This book changed my life. I don’t say this lightly. It has to be on an ethnographic syllabus. Also, Bourgois has a 26-page long CV. My CV is maybe a paragraph long. I need to write him a letter. And learn to be an anthropologist so I can study with him at Penn. Which leads me to wonder if I can convince OMC to shrug off his morals to let me take his classes so I can get credit in Anthropology. He won’t.)

So those are the books that I am POSITIVE have to be on the syllabus. I’m having some trouble weeding out ethnography/enthnology titles via LCSH. There are 1008 titles that are probably really great JUST AT MY LIBRARY. Imagine what we don’t have that’s amazing. Oh my god. My brain is exploding a little bit. I want to write a syllabus so badly.

I am convinced (by table of contents, LCSH, etc) that the following titles must also be on the syllabus:

Dangerous encounters : genealogy and ethnography, edited by Maria Tamboukou & Stephen J. Ball (this book has a chapter on drug treatment clinics! Neat!!!)

Gray areas : ethnographic encounters with nursing home culture, edited by Philip B. Stafford (unusual! Weird! Fun! Depressing.)

Frank Schaap’s The words that took us there : ethnography in a virtual reality (this is about gamers, and Dungeons & Dragons, and if you know OMC, you know that this book will be taught in DISGUSTING DETAIL)

I have about 600 additional titles (literally) to weed through, but if you have any suggestions, lay ‘em on me. I am writing the best syllabus ever that is not my responsibility to write.