Remnant #8: My Wild Year in Books, Part Two


Books...cathedrals of the mind.

My ongoing effort to record what I am reading for My Wild Year in Books 2015 continues...

  • Book 3/2015: I didn't know much about Amanda Palmer, except what I'd heard I was supposed to think of her. She was greedy, asked for money from her fans all the time. She wasn't talented. She was rough. These were the stories others told me--but I heard other stories in her music. And, I was drawn to The Art of Asking--I'm so glad I was. The book showed me Palmer's generous spirit and wildfire heart. I was humbled and inspired. When a book can make you rethink your own experiences with art, community, and asking--it is a worthwhile read. "This is how a creative human works. Collecting, connecting, sharing."
  • Book 4/2015: Then, right after I read this sweet, kind book about crowd-sourcing and connection and creativity--I stumbled across Evie Wyld's All the Birds, Singing and I was blown away by the opposite side of humanity. Wyld's protagonist, Jake, is a woman I will not forget. But, beyond just the memorable character, Wyld's book managed to perfectly marry narrative and lyricism. I was dazzled by her writing--the imagery, the visceral ache of the words on the page--but, also the plot kept me completely hooked. If you read All the Birds, be ready and be brave...from sheep slaughter to red sunsets, Wyld will not spare any detail. "The light is out and Greg has his large thumbs in the dips of my pelvis, and the shed is hot and dry. I feel out of myself tonight, like my bones have become too heavy for my flesh. The heat gets itself under the metal roof during the day and it stays there at night, making the spiders sleepy. I loop my fingers in Greg's hair, to let him know I'm still paying attention and to try and remind myself to keep focused."
  • Book 5/2015: When I got my MFA from Goddard College, one of my faculty advisors was Jeanne Mackin.  So when I saw that her book, The Beautiful American, was out in paperback, I picked it up to support her and her craft. The book was about a woman, Nora, and her unlikely friendship with Lee, a famous model-photographer. Each of the women has secrets and old grudges against the other and the book explores their history and Nora's quest to find her daughter, who has run away. The book is set from 1920s Europe to their lives two decades later. It was a harder book for me to connect with--and this may have just been because it came after the intense, hardcore writing of Evie Wyld. But, if you are looking for a compelling story about the lives of women in that era, this book will absolutely meet your needs. Jeanne is an amazing woman herself--an amazing teacher--so no surprise that her female characters are intriguing and strong. It was not my favorite book of hers, but I'm glad I gave it a shot. “I was happy, and nothing in the world can make you oblivious to your surroundings like happiness.”
  • Book 6/2015: I don't even know what word to use to describe Ali Smith's How to Be Both, other than brilliant. The conceptual intricacies, the characters, the storyline, the way the book is (un)structured. It may go down as the most important book I read this year. (Check back in December!) In part, this is because I've never read Ali Smith before. I've heard her buzzed about, seen all of the infinite awards, but that typically puts me off of a writer--when he/she is so thoroughly lauded. I always want the outlier, the renegade, the unknown writer who knocks me out, clear out of left field. But, for me, I'm happy to say that Ali Smith deserves all of the acclaim she's getting. She is innovating in the narrative form in exciting ways and her work is radiant. I also am also deeply inspired by her for "cultivating privacy in a world now unused to it." No Twitter or Facebook or "platform" or author homepage. Smith cultivates privacy and mind-blowing, magnificent prose. "There was a lot more world : cause roads that look set to take you in one direction will sometimes twist back on themselves without ever seeming anything other than straight...many things get forgiven in the course of a life : nothing is finished or unchangeable except death and even death will bend a little if what you tell of it is told right."
  • Book 7/2015: Any book after my revelatory experience with Smith was going to have it rough...and Jenni Fagan's Panopticon, was the lucky one to follow. But, I came to Fagan's work after reading an interview with Smith, where she recommended this novel--and it was a great book in its own right. The main character, Anais, was compelling enough that I was willing to follow her anywhere, even into the post-apocalyptic experimental "home" she found herself in. It reminded me of Girl, Interrupted in some moments, and of 1984 Orwell in others. A wholly satisfying read I can highly recommend, too. "The watching feeling is getting worse. I am not an experiment. I am not a stupid joke, or a trippy game, or an experiment. I will not go insane. Something bad is gonnae happen, though. I can feel it...If I keep saying it, I’ll start believing it. I have to try. I am not an experiment."