We’re in best books season here, and in the spirit of list-making, I offer another: books I purchased with my own cash-money. At PW, I have access to more free books than I can cart home, let alone read in this lifetime, but I still want to support independent bookstores and read older titles. During recent browsing trips to two excellent indie bookstores in Brooklyn—Greenlight Bookstore and Unnameable Books—I found such unusual and delightful selections that I spent more than intended. Here are some of the titles I purchased this year and why: Continue reading
I just moved to a new apartment, and probably like many of you, I don’t own a lot of things, but the thing I own a lot of is books. Boxes, crates, shelves—you name it and it has books in or on it. So to keep from going nutty while I unpacked and (re)organized, I decided to make some book spine poems. Of course there’s always some measure of narcissism in a little project like this (“ooh, look at all the cool books I have!“), but I also think seeing someone else’s personal library is a window into their head (however small the window or head). So in that spirit, I’m posting my poems below, and you all should make some and send them our way! Take pics and tweet them to us @pwreviews and we’ll retweet them to all our followers.
better off without ‘em
I am a strange loop
louder than hell
beyond good and evil
you will die
civilization and its discontents
leaning against the rain
in baltic circles
near to the wild heart
you are not dead
on the spectrum of possible deaths
to keep love blurry
down the rabbit hole
on the tracks of game
either way I’m celebrating
modern music and after
a brief history of time
blood, class, and empire
coming of age as a poet
making your own days
by word of mouth
seven american deaths and disasters
In the past week, I’ve told every friend I’ve seen about this book. Some have toddlers and found the scary anecdotes to be too much. A friend who is 6 months pregnant was intrigued. While reading about how texting has replaced normal conversation or even email for today’s kids, I felt so guilty that I phoned my parents and best friend 90’s style and left voicemails and played phone tag. Remember phone tag? (My mom pointed out that she only texts with her daughters because we never pick up the phone.) One friend whose children are grown worries that maybe it’s too late—maybe technology is so much a part of children’s lives, the damage can’t be undone.
But it’s not too late, and you, blog readers who are parents or soon-to-be parents, should all read this book. The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age (Harper, Aug.) by clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, writing with Teresa H. Barker, charts the negative impact of the digital revolution on parents and children. Continue reading
Right now, in a massive collective effort to determine the best books of 2013, PW’s staff of certified, unassailable geniuses are poring over stacks of books already vetted and approved over the course of the year by our stable of reviewers (they literally all live in a comically oversized stable in Ulster County, NY). It’s a fun but arduous process that will lead to us editors gathering in a pub nearby and arguing about the merits of such-and-such’s book versus that other one that’s clearly unfit for the honor of a spot on the top-10 list (and thus must be content with a place in the bottom 90 *boos* *hisses* or, horror of horrors, not on the long list at all *gasps* *widespread fainting*).
This whole process of making a list of “best” things is, of course, terrifyingly subjective. Frankly, we the editors don’t even necessarily agree on what “best” signifies. We each have our own vague idea(s); some abstract platonic concept existing for itself in the void. But is that even helpful? Probably not, since that entails defining a bunch of other slippery concepts that should be working in perfect symbiosis. So maybe the best we can do for now is run the rule over some of those characteristics that will eventually take their Voltron form (and I speak here from a non-fiction perspective only, the concerns of fiction or poetry differ in both obvious and subtle ways). Anyway, welcome to the sausage factory! Continue reading
For those of you who may not know, this coming Saturday, August 28, is the first annual celebration of International Read A Comic in Public Day. So grab your favorite comic book or graphic novel—whatever nomenclature suits you—find a public spot; sit down where everybody can see you and read. IRCIPD was created by Brian Heater and Sarah Morean, editor-in-chief and mini-comics editor respectively, at the Daily Cross Hatch, an excellent blog focused on alternative and independent comics and contemporary comics culture.
The two decided to organize a day for the public display of comic book reading after acknowledging an anomalous dark secret among the comics intelligentsia—a lingering and much suppressed embarrassment at being seen reading comics in public! Yes, it’s true, despite our love for this medium, many of us are still secretly worried that if we’re seen reading a comic book, people will think we’re stupid or the hot chick will notice and move to the other side of the subway car. So they proposed a day to encourage all comic book lovers to come out of the closet and show some comic book reading pride.
They seem to have a struck a nerve. Comic book folks—artists, writers, retailers, librarians, publishers, editors and fans of all kinds—are organizing public meetups and planning events to read their comics in parks, bars or wherever and document the public reading event with a photograph. To help the organizing, Heater and Morean have set up a IRCIPD blog, there’s a Twitter Account (@comicsinpublic), Read A Comic in Public Facebook page, a Flickr page and there are posters for bookstores and for libraries. You can even send the organizers a Read A Comic In Public Day question at email@example.com. So come out on August 28, there’s no need to hide anymore. Happy Read A Comic In Public day!
National Book Critics Circle President Jane Ciabattari inaugurates a new series at PWxyz in which we ask book people–and a few non-book people–to tell us what they’re reading right now.
On my fiction stack: Bernice L. McFadden’s novel Glorious, which starts with a bang-up prologue, and has a strong main character (based in part on Zora Neale Hurston), hard-driving prose, and historic sweep of several decades, including the years of the Harlem Renaissance, which has always fascinated me. (I grew up in Kansas, not far from where Langston Hughes was raised; he wrote a poem under a tree at a Sag Harbor friend’s house. And Hurston is a writer/hero of mine.) Also Rick Moody’s provocative and hilarious The Four Fingers of Death (I’m reviewing that one), Mona Simpson’s My Hollywood (ditto), Frederic Tuten’s Self-Portraits, and Eric Gansworth’s Extra Indians.
I just finished Dorothy Allison’s exquisite memoir, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, and Debra Monroe’s On the Outskirts of Normal. Both strong in voice, which makes memoir work. I’m reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which is a revelation. I relished poet Jim Galvin’s autobiographical prose piece The Meadow, which traces the inhabitants of a piece of land high in the Rockies on the Colorado/Wyoming border not far from Laramie. I picked it up at Prairie Lights in Iowa City and read it aloud to my husband on our trip across the U.S on I-80 earlier this summer.
Finally, Joyce Carol Oates’s collection of first-rate critical essays, Rough Country. She won the National Book Critics Circle Sandrof award for lifetime achievement this year, partly for her work as a critic. Here she’s focused on some of my favorites–Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx, Shirley Jackson. And I’m also learning a lot from Kenneth Lincoln’s critical book, Cormac McCarthy. (I was just in Taos, and reminded how different the arid and sometimes violent Southwest is from the Upper West Side.)