Friday, February 17, 2012

I'm glad February is the shortest month because it has been a disappointment and I would like it to just end already thanks

I have hair like Sylvia Plath's hair. We do not look the same-- my face is not nearly as wicked. But we have the same hair. My hair does not know it's 2012. My hair thinks it's 1960.

I read some things. Flannery by Brad Gooch. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. The Adults by Alison Espach. I'm still working on Sylvia Plath's journals but honestly that book is really big and hard to carry around, so it might have to wait for summer.

I love reading biographies, but I tend to get caught up reading so much fiction that I don't read as many as I would like. I've actually been meaning to read Flannery since it came out a few years ago, when I saw the New York Times book review on it. By the way, if you're interested in the book and don't already know a lot about O'Connor's life, don't read the NYT review. It ruins everything. It's fun to be surprised, even in a biography, and it's much more enjoyable to be guided by Gooch's narrative than the breakneck facts of the review, which spends more time talking about O'Connor's life than the quality of the book itself.

It's a very good book, benefiting from a fascinating subject. O'Connor's presence dominates the book. I could sense her on every page, hear her voice drawling out the many quoted letters, conversations, etc. She's a formidable character. If I took anything from the book, it's that I'm not sure if I would have liked Flannery O'Connor the person (as opposed to the writer), but I sure as hell would have respected her, had I known her.  Gooch covers a lot of ground in a not-huge book (unlike most biographies of writers, which tend toward tomes). The only thing that caught me off guard was how brief the section about O'Connor at Iowa was because I expected it to be more than a focus, but I suspect that was more about a balance of information and what was important rather than a stylistic choice on Gooch's part for any reason.

If you have any interest in biographies of writers, this is a really good one to check out. You might want to get a copy of O'Connor's collected stories while you're at it because reading the biography makes you want to discover/revisit her writing in a big way.

The Adults by Alison Espach is a book that I heard about all last year. It's kind of a big deal, reviewed everywhere, the whole bit. I came across a copy in the library the other day, snatched it up, and read it in a day. I had my concerns when I started. There's a lot of voice going on. I was worried that it was going to be all voice, all look how clever I can be, isn't everyone so quirky? Thankfully, the book did a lot more than that.

The Adults follows Emily Vidal, a young woman living in a wealthy Connecticut suburb (and later Prague). I personally enjoyed the section about Emily in high school more than I did the rest of the novel, but overall I really enjoyed it. Emily was lost, screwed up, compelling. The language throughout the book was stunning. No one really talks like people in The Adults talk, but that's a good thing. It's simultaneously how you wish your life would work and the last way you want your life to work.

I would review this more, but seriously, everyone did already. Everyone. If you want reviews, go read those (NYT, Washington Post, etc). Better yet, go read the book. It's good, I promise. You'll like it.

I am reading other things now! I am, as usual, reading so many things that I can barely keep track. I would really like to be one of those people who starts one book and goes until she finishes it, then starts the next. I have yet to succeed at that plan. Right now I am reading:

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (I read half of this last semester, and I'm trying to finish it up. I don't know why it's taking so long. I really like it. Reading Flannery made me want to read all sorts of southern writers from that time period.)
Ayiti by Roxane Gay
The Raising by Laura Kasischke
Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

I'm also reading Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman and a bunch of Jane Eyre criticism, but that's all for my independent study so it doesn't really count.

If you like writers and blogs, you should read my writing soul-twin's blog. Her name is Joellyn and she is fabulous, also a writing student, all that good stuff. She's been published places. Check it out. She's also the one who loaned me Ayiti because I have no money to buy it, so I have to thank her for that too.

Especially Freeing

Okay, so that's all.

-Taylor

Monday, February 6, 2012

Updike Though

"Another couple, younger, was walking down the beach like a pair of creatures, tawny, maned, their movements made stately by their invisible effort to control self-consciousness. One had to look hard to see that they were naked. A summer's frequentation of the nudist section up the beach, around the point from the bouorgeois, bathing-suited section where the Maples lay with their children and their books and their towels and tubes of lotion, had bestowed up the bodies of this other couple the smooth pelt of an even tan. The sexual signs so large in our interior mythology, the breasts and pubic patches, melted to almost nothing in the middle distance, in the sun. Even the young man's penis seemed incidental. And the young woman appeared a lesser version of the male - the same taut, magnetic stride, the same disturbingly generic arrangement of limbs, abdomen, torso, and skull.

Richard suppressed a grunt. Silence attended the two nudes, pushing out from their advance like wavelets up the packed sand into the costumed people, away form the unnoticing commotion and self-absorbed sparkle of the sea.

'Well': a woman's exclamation, from underneath an umbrella, blew down the beach like a sandwich wrapper. One old man, his dwindled legs linked to a barrel chest by boyish trunks of plaid nylon, stood up militantly, helplessly, drowning in this assault, making an uplifted gesture between that of hailing a taxi and shaking a fist."

-John Updike, "Nakedness"

How good, though? Seriously.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I have not been blogging because I have been reading for long, uninterrupted stretches but I am reading so many things that I'm not finishing anything in a timely fashion and I've also even been writing more than usual.

This is a strange point in my life. It's only the beginning of February, but it's like I can already feel the pull of the term winding down. Like there isn't much time left and then I have to change the way I live.

I have so many things to write this semester to fulfill all of the commitments I've set for myself. It's a little scary, but it's actually going well. I feel good about the material that I have so far.

Like I said I've been reading SO MANY THINGS:

-the Brad Gooch biography of Flannery O'Connor. I like it, though I'm not sure that I would have liked her, based on the way Gooch portrays her anyway. So, so Catholic.
-I also got her collected stories because it's impossible to read a biography of a writer and not want to see their work. I've read a good number of her stories already, but they're no less engaging in re-read. She's got this way of seeing people that I'm not even on the same planet with.
-The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I read this for about three hours straight the other night, totally caught up in how passionate and ridiculous it is. I'm still only about a third of the way through, and I'm pretty sure it's only going to get crazier.
-Sylvia Plath's unabridged journals. I own and read the abridged version back when I was about sixteen or seventeen, about the same time that I read Ariel and The Bell Jar. I hate it when I read abridged things. Of course, this isn't a normal abridging situation. In any case, I'm having a good time revisiting the sections I've already read and going through the new material.
-I got out Robert Lowell's letters because he plays a big part in the O'Connor biography and seemed like a really interesting person. I also got a book of his poetry because I haven't read much of it at all. Just got those today so haven't read much, but his letters to Ezra Pound when Lowell was 19 asking to go study with Pound in Italy were pretty hilarious.

No program news yet. The waiting game continues. I'm hoping to be a real writing/reading machine this semester. Who knows what I'll be doing after school ends.

-Taylor