Random Reading Notes

besides reading for my oral examinations this year and reading books that i will review, i am trying to find some time for some uncritical reading. am wanting to share what i’m reading for fun, so here we go.

1) Denver Quarterly V44#1 1009

i do love the denver quarterly. long enough to feel substantial yet still digestible in one sitting. always a great array of lyrics, narrative, prose poems, & fiction. a nice piece on clayton eshleman & my favorite poems were by kate greenstreet and max winter. from greenstreet: “People often ask me why my photographs are torn. / The purpose would be // to learn. To represent a life.”

2) The Poetry Project Newsletter OCT/NOV 2009 #220

i do love the PPN. always great reviews & interesting features. this issue has a nice piece on robin blaser…and several things that address poetry & theatre (or poet theatre), including an awesome essay by John Beer, an interview with alan bernheimer conducted by stephanie young, and a review of rodrigo toscano’s Collapsible Poetics Theater. unrelated, an interesting review by paolo javier.

3) The Disappearance of Seth / a novel by Kazim Ali (2009)

i started this book a few days before september 11, which was strange because much of the book revolves around september 11th in new york. this is a poet’s novel: written in short vignettes, sometimes as short as single paragraphs (more fragment than vignette). beautiful lyricism & powerful storytelling throughout, but the beginning was a bit tricky because there were quite a few characters and you often got a little bit of their stories at a time and sometimes i felt the sections/fragments/vignettes weren’t really long enough to connect to the characters. in that sense, parts felt like the narrator’s control of the story outweighed the development of the characters. but overall, a compelling read.

4) 99: The New Meaning, by Walter Abish (burning deck press, 1990)

a poet’s short story collection! kindof. similar to The Disappearance of Seth formally as each story is told in short sections, the longest sections only being like 3 paragraphs long…some sections are a mere sentence long. the title piece consists of 99 sections, each section’s text is appropriated from page 99 of 99 other texts. many of the other pieces use appropriated text, many from flaubert & kafka–the themes relate back to those writers. an interesting read…sometimes the result of the procedure really pops…sometimes it’s just appropriated text. ‘new meaning’ can truly emerge when text is set in a new context–but it’s not guaranteed.

5) ancestors maybe by elizabeth mackiernan (burning deck press, 1993)

another poet’s novel! i couldnt really get into the story, but the grammar/syntax/rhythm really kept me going. similar to the novels mentioned above, each paragraph/series of paragraphs were separated by a space, creating the feel of fragmentation but this book was much more connected. tho the space did give the paragraphs that stanza feel. slowed down the narrative too & becomes prismatic. interesting.

what are you reading for fun these days?


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10 thoughts on “Random Reading Notes

  1. I bought a copy of the King James version of the Holy Bible on Sunday. It’s been my bedtime reading the last couple of nights. I think it’s for fun. Growing up I read and learned the bible in Spanish. So reading the English version is new to me. I think it’s for fun.

  2. recently i read paul auster’s “man in the dark” and surprisingly i liked it. surprisingly, b/c the back cover description made it sound like it was going to be incredibly depressing, and it was depressing in parts, being concerned with post 9/11 stuff. but other parts were also incredibly uplifting, esp. the parts where the characters talk about film. by the end, i felt it was a healing book.

    also read adrian tomine’s graphic novel “shortcomings,” which deals with race and sexuality in a very contemporary way. at times it’s quite funny too.

    i like yr descriptions of the various poet’s novels you’ve been reading. makes me want to pick up a few of them for myself.

  3. hey roz, thanks for commenting! funny, that we both read something related to 9/11. many of the characters in ‘the disappearance of seth’ talked about painting. i liked those parts, but it seemed more like the author was talking and not necessarily the characters.

    i need to read a graphic novel. many of the graduate student instructors here at cal have been using them in their classes and of course the students love them!


  4. Hey C, I second the graphic novel. If you want something Ethnic Studies-ey, there’s American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.Others: Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan, Mat Johnson’s Incognegro, of course Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, among many others.

  5. hey b,

    i’m gonna add those books to my “pedagogical repertoire” as pretentious grad students like me like to say 😉


  6. Ooh and ah on your “pedagogical repertoire”! Or you can just come with me and Oscar to Comic Relief on Shattuck and see me get all girly dreamy on anything re: faeries and illustrated by Charles Vess.

  7. i cannot resist leaving another graphic novel recommendation: “love and rockets” by los bros. hernandez!

    c st p, yes i think 9/11 still haunts the literary landscape. that’s interesting what you say about hearing the voice of the author vs. the voices of the characters. in the auster book, it did seem like it was the characters themselves talking about film, tho the author’s voice is always there throughout the book, at times as thinly disguised autobiography. yet when it works, it doesn’t destroy the authenticity or believability of the characters for me, i still believe that both the characters and the author are equally real in the fictional universe. not sure if i’m making sense here, sorry for rambling. i happen to be reading another auster novel right now and am experiencing generally the same level of believability, except for one small section where a character said something that i thought was, well, out of character, and could only have come out of the mouth of the author. anyway, i’m interested in this point you hit upon, the difference between voice of author and voice of character in fiction. i find often in poet’s novels that the voice of author is really strong, that’s really the strength of the work, the voice and style of the author, approaching the lyric. i wonder if this is b/c of the strength of the lyric voice in poetry, which in a way, *is* poetry. well, the poetry i like, anyway.

    just to ramble on a little more, this reminds me of a conversation i had once w/a fiction writer friend who was talking about the difference btwn live fiction readings and live poetry readings. he said at poetry readings, the audience expects the poet to read their poetry, and talk about themself less. but at fiction readings, the audience isn’t that keen on hearing the fiction read by the author, and wants to know more about the author themself, ask them questions and stuff. at the time i thought this was b/c lots of fiction readings take place in bookstores where the audience might be more casual and more interested in the personality of the author than the work, but now i’m wondering if it also has to do with this thing about the author voice being recessed and mysterious in fiction, how this makes people curious about who the author is as a person. whereas poets can show themselves more transparently in their poems?

  8. b, comic relief? whaddat? ah illustrated faeries! i was a young girl once too you know 😉



    indeed on the still haunting…and perhaps the lit of 9/11 still much to come.

    “both the characters and the author are equally real in the fictional universe”–fascinating…yes when it works completely believable.

    yeah, in a poet’s novel the narrator feels much closer to the poet…much more like “the speaker” of the poem. speaker vs. narrator–an interesting difference. do we ever say the narrator of the poem? prob cuz not all poems are narrative. i dunno.

    but in a poet’s-novel, should we say narrapoetor? there are times in ali’s novel that are super-lyrical….sections that read like prose poems.

    that’s interesting about the readings! never thot of it that way. i almost never go to fiction readings…so i wouldnt want to speculate on that..do others out there have thots on this?

    but i’m thinking that much poetry these days doesnt show any kind “self”–maybe the poem is more concerned with language, or conceptualism, or collage (like flarf).


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