King Kong Theory

  "I like myself as I am, more desiring than desirable." ~Virginie Despentes~

Did I love this book? Did I feel challenged, frustrated, and provoked by this book? Yes--to all of these. Yes. It is the most evocative reading I have done in a long time, though, and is the only book of 2018 (so far) that I re-read immediately upon finishing. Please read Virginie Despentes for yourself. It won't be a gentle journey and her whole existence is one giant "trigger warning," but that's exactly why she should be read. This is the time for voices like hers to shake things up and raise some hell. Our society has aided and abetted the silencing of volatile, brutal, brillant women for far too long. 

 

Lady Bird, 1996

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Lady Bird, 1996, Victor Vazquez

Lack of love can be forgiven. Break her law and her god. How a wild thing hunts its prey. Smell of metal. Fear. Breath. Caught in a throat or hammering a ribcage wild. Instinct. Tooth and claw. I enter like a dark, twisted thing. To do what cannot be done. Singing love songs from the shadows. Suffering the consequences. Wipe the blood clean and never say a word. Biding my time. 

2017: A Year in Books

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This year, I ended 2017 by reading my *seventy-fifth* book! I had secretly been hoping to hit 100, but I fell short of that goal. Still, I am so glad I got to read so many amazing new books this year (and to re-read a few old favorites, too). Here is my list in chronological order. I will note my favorites at the end and any ones that have a * are re-reads. I hope my list gives you some ideas for your bookshelf.

***2017***

  1. Syllabus by Lynda Barry
  2. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
  3. Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens
  4. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
  5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley *
  6. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
  7. Bruja by Wendy Ortiz
  8. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
  9. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
  10. Abandon Me by Melissa Febos
  11. Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
  12. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
  13. Marlena by Julie Buntin
  14. Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell
  15. The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry
  16. Page After Page by Heather Sellers *
  17. Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson by Modern Library *
  18. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  19. Rookery by Traci Brimhall *
  20. A House of my Own by Sandra Cisernos
  21. Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce
  22. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  23. Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
  24. Bright Air Black by David Vann
  25. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
  26. Woman Most Wild by Danielle Dulsky
  27. Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas
  28. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
  29. Witch by Lisa Lister
  30. Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
  31. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
  32. A Million Junes by Emily Henry
  33. Fledgling by Octavia Butler
  34. The Sellout by Paul Beatty
  35. Hunger by Roxane Gay
  36. Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes *
  37. Euphoria by Lily King
  38. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
  39. Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
  40. Women in the Material World by Faith D'Alusio *
  41. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
  42. The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt
  43. House of Names by Colm Toibin
  44. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
  45. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
  46. The Nix by Nathan Hill
  47. Witches of New York by Ami McKay
  48. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  49. Lit by Mary Karr *
  50. What Happened by Hillary Clinton
  51. The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
  52. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
  53. Norma by Sofi Oksanen
  54. Devotion by Patti Smith
  55. The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni
  56. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
  57. The Power by Naomi Alderman
  58. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
  59. Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
  60. The Art of Misdiagnosis by Gayle Brandeis
  61. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi
  62. Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  63. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
  64. Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process by Joe Fassler
  65. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
  66. Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
  67. Literary Witches by Taisia Kitaiskaia and Katy Horan
  68. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg *
  69. Saudade by Traci Brimhall
  70. Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood *
  71. Witch Wife (poems) by Kiki Petrosino
  72. Blue Pastures by Mary Oliver *
  73. Autumn by Ali Smith
  74. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison *
  75. My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Of my list, eleven were rereads (about 14%), sixty-two were written by women (about 83%), and nearly 25% were books by writers of color. As for genre, fiction was the favorite--about 65%, with non-fiction at 24% and poetry at just six books total. In 2018, I hope to keep increasing cultural diversity and to incorporate more poetry. 

My top books of 2017 were (in no order)

  1. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
  2. Fledgling by Octavia Butler
  3. The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt
  4. Hunger by Roxane Gay
  5. Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  6. The Power by Naomi Alderman
  7. Autumn by Ali Smith
  8. Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
  9. Abandon Me by Melissa Febos
  10. The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni
  11. The Art of Misdiagnosis by Gayle Brandeis
  12. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
  13. Bright Air Black by David Vann
  14. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
  15. Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

Writing my "top books" list was nearly impossible, since I read SO many books I loved. Priestdaddy and What Happened were probably my "least favorite" reads and are the only ones I wouldn't likely recommend, though there were a few others that didn't *quite* live up to the hype for me personally. Overall, 2017 was a powerful reading year for me. I am excited about at least a dozen books coming in 2018, and looking forward to the ones I never saw coming to knock me out, too. If you're a writer, please keep writing. I want your book on my list someday. Happy 2018 and happy reading!

Light & Shadow

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The whole world feels like it is mutable. Inconsistent. Unsettled. We all tumble through the latest headlines and heartbreaks and blessings and brokenness. Finding ourselves, if we are lucky, tangled in a large swath of light. Finding ourselves tangled in a lover’s arms. A kiss as remedy. A conversation as medicine. A flare in the darkness. A touch and we remember what hope feels like.

Read the rest of my most recent photo essay at Modern Creative Life: HERE

Into the Woods

"The last remnants memory destroys."  ~W.G. Sebald~

Then, I ran off into the woods to find out if my words were still alive after a busy year of teaching and keeping a life, a house, a family running. We are all still here, but is the creative flow? That's always the question for me after I am away from the page in a full-on way for any period of time. I'd been writing small bits, but not with a full-on committed intensity that the work deserves. As the car wound its way up a long dirt road to a mountainside, I realized I was about to find out if my pen still held a whole universe.

 Millay Colony for the Arts, May 2017. Me, at my desk for hour after hour. Me, in workshops with Melissa Febos and Samantha Hunt. Me, watching deer out the window and listening to the chaos of birds. One night, as I read out loud to our group about screaming foxes, coyotes came down into the field and started calling, not to be outdone. My friends there said, They're encouraging you to use your voice. It rained almost every day. The rain made the whole world alive. I wandered alone over rutted gravel roads and miles of pages. There must be a way to keep this momentum going somehow, Melissa said over lunch. And, I wished there would be, but knew that (for me) once I was out of New York state, I would be back into the busy and my words would again ebb away to low-tide drifts, waiting until the next time. 

I understand that I don't have forever to figure this balancing act out. I visited Edna's grave and left her an offering in gratitude. In using her voice, she created physical and emotional space for other writers to do the same. Edna wasn't a mother, so she would likely not understand the bargains I must make in order to create--the patience it demands--the energy and mental space to hold room for everything. But, my life is the one I have chosen and would choose again and again. The words did come back to me. Full-throated. Glorious. It was easily the most productive long weekend I've ever had as a writer. I am back now three days and haven't written anything other than journal entries and these wandering words, but that doesn't reduce the impact of the time at Millay. And, the truth--the night I returned, I was awakened from my sleep just before dawn to the sound of the foxes welcoming me and I knew that I was home again.