This is week 4? Or is it week 3? February always confuses me–it’s over before I remember, yet again, that there are only 28 days to keep track of. And it doesn’t help that last week went by in a blur of work, so I missed posting last Wednesday. Nor does it help that I’ve just about given up trying to keep track of the pages I’ve read, mostly because the big thing I had to get done last week was a review of Geeta Kothari’s I Brake For Moose, and I re-read all 11 stories three or four times, so I have no clue where this would put me in a page count. But it was a good experience, and I really love the book. It’s not out yet, and likely it’s not going to get a huge amount of press, which is really too bad because it is an excellent collection, and Kothari writes so clearly and with such concise and sharply-edged prose that the stories and characters seem to come alive.
The stories are mostly about coming to terms with identity and culture in a globalized, political world, and the difficulty of finding space for one’s self within the pressures of contemporary life. There’s a post-9/11 story that captures the fear and suspicion of that time, one about a mother who refuses to leave her home that has been seized by eminent domain and is about to be demolished–she chains herself to a tree–another about a young man with a severe vestibular disorder (that causes motion sickness) who is trying to become a flight attendant, and another about an aging lead singer for a band called “Dharma Farm.” All the stories have subtle points of connection–my favorite is how Kothari uses Newfoundland as a setting in one story and then refers to a Newfoundland dog in another.
Here’s a link to one of Geeta Kothari’s essays about food and her Indian-American family that is well worth reading.
And then for the rest of the week(s), I had to catch up with my assignments for a nonfiction writing class I’m taking. Eula Biss’ essay “No Man’s Land” was part of the homework, and I decided that I needed to read the rest of her book, Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays immediately. Here’s a quote from “Babylon” that stuck with me: “To flee within your own nation is to create a kind of captivity for yourself. A self-imposed exile. And so, the despair of the suburbs. But to call it flight is to acknowledge only the fear and to ignore the other motivations, particularly the government subsidies–the highways, the mortgages, the tax breaks, the American dream.”
Lastly, I made some good progress on my friend Kelsey Crowe’s book on empathy. She’s on an East Coast book tour right now, but Rochester really doesn’t qualify as the East Coast. Tonight, she is reading at a bookstore in Brooklyn Heights, sadly too logistically difficult for me to make the 6-hour trip, but at least my sister, who lives in NYC, is there for me too. I love this book and the whimsical illustrations. Kelsey speaks in a wonderful, super-nice older sister/friend/confidant voice in this book, just like she is in person, and she has incredibly valuable and reassuring things to say about finding the right words in difficult situations.
Oh, one more thing: I went to two poetry readings last week, A. Van Jordan at the University of Rochester, and Dawn Lundy Martin at Hobart andWilliam Smith College in Geneva, and yes, I bought their books: The Cineaste, by A. Van Johnson, ekphrastic poems after famous movies like The Red Balloon, Do The Right Thing, American Gigolo, and Blazing Saddles (what a multi-feature just that would be!) and Life in a Box is a Pretty Life, by Dawn Lundy Martin, after Gwendolyn Brook’s “splintery box” and about resistance to enclosure.
So I still don’t know where I am. Somewhere lost in the thickets of words? But I have to say I’m having a great time!