June 2010 Books

I’ve gotten a surprising amount of reading done this month; it is only June 11th, thank goodness! I have huge anxiety about the summer months disappearing before I get anything done and I have to go back to full-time teaching in the fall. I’m coming to realize, as I always do, that my word count goals are unrealistic and that I have so much more to figure out about my characters’ temperaments, relationships, obsessions. When I’m stuck in a vague place, say the middle of This Novel, I take a break to read, to immerse myself in other stories.

I’m thinking about how to create and maintain a gothic atmosphere throughout This Novel, how to create darkness in a love story, how to balance desire and control in my characters’ relationships.

When my son and I made our first summer pilgrimage to the library, I came away with books by only one author: Joyce Carol Oates. I’d wanted to pick up some of Oates’ novels anyway, but the books I chose were also influenced by the fact that my son was standing there waiting, having already chosen eight children’s books, which he so patiently held in his little arms. So I grabbed what looked good, what I hadn’t already read; there was no time to browse. This month of June:

Read

Reading

To Read

Each of these works has been wonderful. I forgot how quickly I could move through some novels (this must be Pynchon’s fault). First Love and Beasts had a great effect on me; I’ll give them their own post later, as I’m still thinking about the connections they have to one another. I grabbed The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis off of the New Titles shelf; I remember liking her in grad school and I have not been disappointed. I always look forward to Tin House. Tinkers was an impulse buy on Amazon; I was drawn in by the idea of the New England home the protagonist built himself, the idea of channeling the dead, and the Pulitzer win never hurts. One Amazon reviewer discusses a connection between Paul Harding and Marilynne Robinson, at Iowa. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I loved Robinson’s Housekeeping.

All of these Oates books are great ‘summer reads,’ whatever that seems to mean to people these days. Go read!

Oates on Grief, Teaching, Pursuit

Joyce Carol Oates’ essay, “I Am Sorry to Inform You,” in the 2010 The Atlantic fiction issue is a moving examination of loss, grief, and life. Oates discusses losing her husband of 48 years, Raymond Smith. This essay made me love Oates even more, and the level of truth, painful truth, she articulates gives the reader affirmation and new words. Oates speaks what many of us cannot articulate. This examination of grief, life, and profession is a comfort. And I find the below photo, by Eva Haggdahl, to be simply beautiful.

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