Been thinking about
- air hockey and how many places actually had tables when air hockey was in its ascendancy
- if I would be good at pool or skiing at this point in my life
- peanut butter pretzels
- what percussion instrument rain sounds like on a certain vintage of wood
- why I never want to cook the kale I bought
- coordinate planes
- how many times I’ve been seen wearing this sweater in the last month
- having a favorite sweater, which I’ve never had before
- how many square feet I inhabit, on a given day
- why I no longer like pink lady apples
- How to write this letter
- How many of these library books I’ll get to before they’re due back
- What the marine layer is
- What I refuse to google, and where I draw the line.
Also, I’ve been reading Robert Boswell’s craft book THE HALF-KNOWN WORLD, Jenny Offill’s DEPT. OF SPECULATION, Jim Gavin’s MIDDLE MEN, Mavis Gallant’s THE COST OF LIVING and VARIETIES OF EXILE and her collected, and Mary Ruefle’s MADNESS, RACK and HONEY again, which I always have the urge to copy down word for word into my notebook but end up compromising and only copying some.
OH, and Jack Pendarvis’ “blog,” which I will not be bossy and tell you to read, because bossiness is my Number One Complaint about the internet right now, or maybe Number Two, after the group decision to stop fact-checking and just keep linking to stuff that may or may not be true, because fact-checking doesn’t show up in metrics.
Also, this is a thing I saw on twitter yesterday which made me really really sad, via the transitive property: K = L = P, where Kindness = Lifelong customer = Profit.
Things I’m Glad Exist: 2013ish books edition
The list no one waits for. But seeing as though the sole copy exists on the back of a borrower’s slip from the San Francisco Public Library, I figure putting it down here in the forever internet would be a good idea.
As I type this I realize I probably read some of these in late 2012. This is because my life, if set on a table, still falls open along the lines of the academic calendar.
More mea culpas: this list is not alphabetical or arranged in some other happy hierarchy. Nor is it comprehensive; it does not include books I set down in the first furlong for one reason or another, or books that I read on the Minneapolis bus system and associate, through no fault of the authors, with an overheated queasiness. Many, I’m sure I just forgot to write down. Also it doesn’t include but should the wonderful ‘singles’ I read in literary magazines throughout the year by a great variety of poets and prose writers.
I liked the categories Roxane Gay made in her 2013 list. I am going to categorize until I run out of ideas at which point it will just look like a list again. (After all, my predominant literary mode is the to-do list.)
Short stories that made me glad, again, that I stick up for the form in the imaginary Stories vs. Novels kickball game always running through my head
SPECTACLE, Susan Steinberg
LOST IN THE CITY, Edward P. Jones
THE LONE PILGRIM, Laurie Colwin
I WANT TO SHOW YOU MORE, Jamie Quatro
PORTRAITS OF A FEW OF THE PEOPLE I’VE MADE CRY, Christine Sneed
THE COST OF LIVING, Mavis Gallant
ESTHER STORIES, Peter Orner
SWEET TALK, Stephanie Vaughn
TELL EVERYONE I SAID HI, Chad Simpson
THE NIGHT IN QUESTION, Tobias Wolff
SAFE AS HOUSES, Marie-Helene Bertino
FISHING THE SLOE-BLACK RIVER, Colum McCann
NO ANIMALS WE COULD NAME, Ted Sanders
STORIES (SO FAR) OF DEBORAH EISENBERG
THE PERIPATETIC COFFIN, Ethan Rutherford
Story collection by someone who keeps writing story collections that break my heart in that good way
THINK OF ME AND I’LL KNOW, Anthony Varallo
Things I reread and reloved
BLUETS, Maggie Nelson
THE COAST OF CHICAGO, Stuart Dybek
DUBLINERS, James Joyce
THE GREAT GATSBY, F Scott Fitzgerald
A SPORT AND A PASTIME, James Salter
Things I reviewed (in order of when I reviewed them)
WE LIVE IN WATER, Jess Walter
ALL THAT IS, James Salter
BOBCAT, Rebecca Lee
LAST CAR OVER THE SAGAMORE BRIDGE, Peter Orner
Books whose writers seemed like they were having funthe whole time
WOKE UP LONELY, Fiona Maazel
WE LIVE IN WATER (repeat)
UNDERSTUDIES, Ravi Mangla
NORWOOD, Charles Portis
Books that did not want to get categorized, at least not by me
8/THE PHARMACIST’S MATE, Amy Fusselman
Novels that made me go: O this is what the form might do
THE GLIMPSE TRAVELER, Marianne Boruch
IN THE SKIN OF A LION, Michael Ondaatje
SOUTH RIDING, Winifred Holtby
TRANSATLANTIC, Colum McCann
A MILLION HEAVENS, John Brandon
Wagons I wanted to understand but didn’t
VAMPIRES IN THE LEMON GROVE, Karen Russell
Poetry and other flights
SORRY, TREE Eileen Myles
THE TREES, THE TREES, Heather Christle
LIFE ON MARS, Tracy K. Smith
INCARNADINE, Mary Szybist
THE LESS DECEIVED, Philip Larkin
Poetry by friends, some of which is out, and some I am looking forward to
Will be a different post!
Nonfiction and Criticism
Books I just saw on my shelf again but am afraid to reread since I when I found them I was much younger and loved them with such intensity, such young-writer-finds-a-book-to-love love that I am worried now that I’m older the pages will have changed and I won’t find the same doors, though probably I am just overthinking it.
MY LIFE IN HEAVY METAL, Steve Almond
My mom is a great giver of gifts. She works in an elementary school and a high school, and these, I think, are not unrelated facts. For Christmas, I received a “boogi board,” a half-tablet half-etch-a-sketch looking thing, which comes with a stylus, and seems to be based on the same technology that brought us hypercolor. Also, I got a “splatball” in my stocking (pictured), which flattens and re-forms when thrown against a hard surface. Later she told me the splatball man in the mall gave her a deal: a baker’s dozen for the price of ten.
In the past, my mom has given me a homemade marshmallow shooter jointed with purple electrical tape, wine capes, and a pez dispenser for every holiday Hallmark recognizes.
When I lived in Boston some years ago, I started this thing I called “Gift Wednesday.” It is basically what it sounds like: I brought people gifts on Wednesday. They were small, silly things, mostly, often found in the center aisle of Walgreen’s or CVS. Nothing nice. I would come back from a trip to Chinatown in New York laden with a years-worth of Wednesday stuff. Plastic figurines of lawyers and rubber chickens and T-rexes. Crazy-bounce balls. An inertia crocodile. None of it of any use. But people loved Gift Wednesday, and some began practicing it themselves, which touched me.
Last night, coming home from the airport, I realized I got Gift Wednesdays from my mother. Learned from her how the absurd, joyfully deployed, can equal affection. I had never put the two together before. It was like seeing for the first time a word you’ve only ever heard, and though it is not how you were spelling it in your head, as soon as you see it, you know it’s right.
Looking back now, my years in Boston were big with doubt, sadness. Throes, as they say, of a first love mistaken for something else. I was waiting to be loved back, or, if that was too much, at least to be recognized for being good at love. And I didn’t know how it worked, what I was due, how long you were supposed to wait.
But they were also years wide with joy. I loved my friends and my work and yes—something as corny as my life—and for that I wanted to thank somebody—anybody—distribute the weight of happiness that unbalanced me more evenly by giving them something to hold, saying, here, take this, happy Wednesday, no, I promise, it’s really nothing.