the living’s uneasy/summer reading #4

All day long, I either read or watch movies. I’ve started working out because I’ve gained an inconceivable amount of weight, but even then, I read. It’s becoming very exhausting, though it could just be that I need to change my contacts. When I take a break from those two things, I flit about, pretending to write or pretending to clean or pretending to pack.

And the voices, they’re getting louder. I want to talk to somebody. Really bad. A good conversation, especially one at night, makes me less uneasy. Uneasy seems a constant state for me. I wonder if I can even add the “un” if I’m so comfortable being it.

I also miss encyclopedias. I adore Wikipedia, but I also miss being able to look at something for research and be able to see it and what I’m writing at the same time, instead of switching from Firefox to Word all the time.

Here’s the latest batch of books I’ve finished.

1. Conversation Pieces: Poems That Talk To Other Poems, edited by Kurt Brown and Harold Schechter. I loved this book the second I saw the title, because it’s what I love about poetry. And this collection pairs each poem with the poem it mimics, responds to, makes fun of, or expands upon, so it’s at once an anthology of those famous poems that you should know (“La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” “This Is Just To Say”) and current poets (Kimiko Hahn and Meg Kearney are my favorites, since they were NBFers). And the book is just well put together, doing a good job at including writers of different genders, historical periods, ethnic backgrounds, and nationalities. It was a great vacation companion, and I read a few poems almost every night while I was away.

2. Sleeping With Schubert by Bonnie Marson. I really wanted to read this book for a few reasons: a) I wanted to read something by a local writer; b) my former boss suggested I read it; c) after seeing the play “Beethoven, As I Knew Him” I have a bit of composer fever; and d) the concept was similar to the novel I started working on recently, so when I read the blurb about this book, it sounded like it could either be a very good thing (inspiration and all) or a very bad thing (finding out my idea was already done exactly how I was going to do it). Reading it had neither of those results. Somehow, Marson never learned that whole “show, don’t tell” thing, and I just didn’t buy a lot of the story. The most interesting parts weren’t really fleshed out, and it read too much like chick lit trying to be literature. Not the best it could have been, but certainly interesting, and fun enough if you’re into classical music history.

3. Betsy-Tacy and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace. I had the most beautiful old editions of these books when I was younger, and I stupidly got rid of them. Now I’m trying to replace them. So I realized that for the past few summers, I have devoted some of my reading to rediscovering children’s series. Last year, it was Little House. The year before that, it was Harry Potter (because I wanted to be prepared for the final book). Since I only ever read the first few books, when Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are all young, I have decided I’m going to start from the beginning and read all the way through. They’re some of the most fabulous children’s books of all time, and Betsy Ray definitely helped me want to become a writer, as well as made me feel at home with another child who loved to make up her own games. Plus, I need a break from all the heavier reading I’m doing.

4. Not a Matter of Love by Beth Alvarado. This spring, Beth earned a place as probably my second-favorite fiction teacher that I’ve had, just after Norma Fox Mazer. They have these honors for different reasons, but still. Beth was an excellent teacher, so obviously I wanted to read what she’d written. This short story collection felt first very familiar to me, and I loved that it was Tucson, because the only other Tucson book I can remember is The Bean Trees, and that was just terrible. Strangely, this was my Tucson and then it really, really wasn’t. Drugs and drug culture elude me; maybe it’s spoiled to say so. But what I really appreciated this collection for, aside from just well-written, good stories, was how Beth handled interracial marriages and relationships, biracial children, and bicultural communities. That really doesn’t happen enough in stories, and it almost never happens without it being the only (or major) plot device. Isn’t it funny how I’m always bringing that up?

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