Rabih Alameddine, Christian Kracht, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Our Year in Reading 2016

[caption id="attachment_2443" align="alignleft" width="300"]Rabih Alameddine, Christian Kracht, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya Books we both read & loved[/caption] This was the year my husband read more—a lot more—than I did. There were two simple reasons for this: He read more, and I read less. He joined two book clubs in 2016, which explains, at least in part, his impressive list. He read so many books this year that he spent over an hour typing up and annotating his list. Then, after handing me the notebook where we record our completed books, he suddenly cried out, “Wait! I need that back. I skipped a whole page.” Show-off. ...

And the Nobel goes to…

[caption id="attachment_2405" align="alignleft" width="212"] Ill: N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2016[/caption] When the Swedish Academy announced this morning that Bob Dylan was their choice for this year’s Literature Prize, people went crazy in exactly the ways you'd expect: his die-hard fans were jubilant; many writers and literature-lovers expressed open dismay; and others jumped into the fray to defend the award and call out the naysayers for snobbery and narrow-mindedness. I think one can be nonplussed or even disappointed by this decision and remain innocent of elitism or parochialism or of suggesting Dylan is anything less than awesome. Sure, song lyrics are poetry, which makes it literature. Still, I don’t think the expectation that the award go to people who’ve spent their lives making, you know, books, as their principal occupation, is necessarily misplaced or snobby. ...

Our Year in Reading 2015

In under the wire, my annual round-up of the books my husband and I read over the year. My book-loving guy and I read two books in common this year: Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, which we both loved (a rare event for us), and Alice McDermott’s Someone, which I loved and warned him he wouldn’t. I was right, alas. The other thing I’ll say about Dan’s list is that he’s shown his usual penchant, both for reading work in translation and for finding an author he loves and reading a lot of their work. ...
Moby-Dick blackout poem

Moby-Dick Blackout Poems

[caption id="attachment_2082" align="alignleft" width="300"]Moby-Dick blackout poem Blackout poem in progress[/caption] My novel Landfalls came out in North America yesterday (!!!), and I want to share a quirky project I’ve been working on in anticipation of its launch. The idea came from Austin Kleon’s newspaper blackout poems. Kleon’s technique entails “finding” short poems in a newspaper page and inking out everything else. They’re really cool. Here's one example: [caption id="attachment_2071" align="alignright" width="300"]Austin Kleon, newspaper blackout poems Austin Kleon newspaper blackout poetry[/caption] I first stumbled across Kleon’s work four or five years ago. I was teaching at Sacramento City College and looking for an engaging and approachable in-class writing exercise for the poetry unit of my Intro to Creative Writing class. Many of my students had signed up to write short stories or personal essays. The prospect of writing a poem daunted them. Indeed, their instructor had not written a poem in many years and wasn’t undaunted herself. ...

Our Year in Reading 2014

[caption id="attachment_1723" align="alignleft" width="190"] A long, mesmerizing read about a really dysfunctional society.[/caption] This was the year of long books for me and my spouse. Dan read Don Quixote and The Brothers Karamazov. I read The Goldfinch and The Tale of Genji. Needless to say -- but I'll say it anyway -- those books not originally written in English, we read in translation. In fact, most of Dan's reading for the year was work in translation. I actually attempted to read Genji in a modern Japanese version, an attempt that lasted two hours and one paragraph. This year my family did a new thing, which was reading a summer book that all four of us agreed to read. We selected One Hundred Years of Solitude. It was, needless to say -- but I'll say it anyway -- an inspired choice, and a fitting tribute to the author, who died in April. Another new thing: I'm giving Goodreads a try. ...
book lists notebook

Our Year in Reading 2013

book lists notebook Whenever we reach year’s end, my husband Dan bemoans how short his book list is. Actually, he reads a ton for someone who works as hard as he does at a regular day job (which often requires his evenings as well) and is as involved as he is in the running of our household. He also does this thing I really admire but don’t tend to do with my own reading, which is find a writer he likes, then read several books by the same person. ...

What We Read in 2012

For the third year in a row, I’m publishing the lists of books that my husband Dan and I read this past year. Interestingly, we both started the year with Melville, he with Billy Budd and I with Moby-Dick. A good way to start a year of reading, methinks. The only book we both read was Don’t Take Me the Long Way, a memoir by M. C. Mars, whose cab Dan and I had the good fortune to ride in after our 25th anniversary dinner at La Folie in San Francisco. He regaled us with stories both wonderful and harrowing about driving in the City, and I eventually said in my writerly and English-teacher-y way, “Have you thought about writing some of this down?” “I have written it down,” he said, and held up a book. He had a small box of them next to him on the front seat. We added its price to the cab fare, he signed it for us, and it ended up being the only book that both Dan and I read this year. It’s pretty entertaining stuff. ...