Are we really half-way? It seems so hard to believe! I feel as if I’ve barely started this ten-week reading project with all of you, and here’s another week in which I did a terrible job keeping track of the number of pages I read. I’m somewhere in the ballpark, I think, possibly, maybe, perhaps??. All I know is that I’ve been reading steadily, and if my book pile isn’t visibly diminishing, at least I’ve pulled a few interesting reads for this week.
First, is the weirdly beautiful and moving Grief Is The Thing with Feathers, a novel unlike any I’ve read recently. It’s a very short book, 113 pages, but the intensity of the writing is not at all slight. There are four characters, Dad, two Boys, and Crow, and the story is about the grief and longing of loss. The crow is a physicalized embodiment of the Dad’s mourning for his wife, killed suddenly and mysteriously. Dad is devastated, but the Boys react with childish bravado and cruelty, while Crow tends to them all, circling and hovering, keeping their grief constantly in motion. And the writing is non-linear, evocative, typographically unusual–often in prose poems–but always circling back to expressing the inexpressible, the profound emptiness of loss. Here’s a sample:
There is a fascinating constant exchange between Crow’s natural self and his civilised self, between the scavenger and the philosopher, the goddess of complete being and the black stain, between Crow and his birdness. It seems to me to be the self-same exchange between mourning and living, then and now. I could learn a lot from him.
And this, almost Joycean in this invented language:
Gormin’ ere, worrying, horrid. Hello elair, krip krap krip krap who’s that lazurusting beans of my cut-out? Let me buck flap snutch cat tapa one tapa two, motherless children in my trap, in my apse, in separate stockings for boiling. Enunciate it, rolling and turning, sadget lips and burning it. Ooh, pressure! Must rehearse, must curse less. The nobility of nature haha rah haha krap haha, better not.
Second, in honor of International Women’s Day, I read Roxanne Gay’s essays, “Bad Feminist: Take One” and “Bad Feminist: Take Two.” This is so true: “The most significant problem with essential feminism is how it doesn’t allow for the complexities of human experience or individuality. There seems to be little room for multiple or discordant points of vies.” And this: “Like most people, I’m full of contradictions, but I also don;t want to be treated like shit for being a woman. I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
And speaking of International Women’s Day, here is a link to a Women’s Strike reading list from the journal n+1. This should keep me busy for approximately a year!
Third, I started Sarah Manguso’ 300 Arguments, another slim book, written completely in short, aphoristic statements: “Assume that the most annoying person you know, the one who won’t leave you alone, is in love with you” and “Your pet represents your human partner. It also represents you” and “I made so many mistakes on purpose just to get them out of the way.” Unsettling, mysterious, and oddly refreshing not to have to keep a plot or narrative structure in mind, and instead to focus on these short statements and the framework they build as a whole.
And there were also the usual weekly assignments for the creative nonfiction course I’m taking: chapters from Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington, The Art of Time, by Sven Birkerts, and Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, edited by Margot Singer and Nicole Walker.
So it’s been a good, productive week. I’ve rearranged my book piles, started some interesting, non-standard works, and I still can’t believe that the days are getting longer.