Sunday, February 15, 2015

Birds of a Lesser Paradise

I was thrilled when I picked up Megan Mayhew Bergman's Birds of a Lesser Paradise and read and recognized the first story. It's been a while since I read "Housewifely Arts" and I can't even remember where I first read it (possibly Ploughshares?) but I loved it the first time I read it and I loved it even more the second time. And then, to have the pleasure of reading the rest of this collection, and a snowy day on which to read them...sheer delight.

These stories are full of characters for whom we root, even though we see the inevitable, and then we mourn a little, even though we know we've been told the truth. Megan Mayhew Berman shows us the natural world and the characters who inhabit it with unflinching honesty and excellent craftsmanship.
These are the kind of stories that make me want to keep writing stories.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Still Reading....

I'm writing slightly more these days (and by slightly, I mean very slightly) but I'm still reading more than I'm writing. This morning, I finished Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation. Slim, spare, poetic, engaging, sad, funny, heartfelt. The novel looks and feels like flash fiction segments. Each piece, alone and then together, creates a powerful whole. This is not a novel that weaves the reader a seamless story. But the joy is in the seams. The joy is in connecting, holding the threads, doing the work and then reaping the reward. This book does something.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reading to Soothe the Writing Blahs

Since childhood, I have always used reading as a balm. Hungry, tired, angry, sad, scared, shy--whenever I was feeling something that could not be easily identified or remedied, I read. And I find that the habit of self-soothing with other worlds and other problems has not diminished now that I've reached adulthood.

I graduated on January 17 with by MFA. Yay, me. I really am excited and proud. And I say I'm happy to be free of packet deadlines and expectations. I can write whatever I want! Whenever I want! Which means I have been doing a whole lot of looking at Facebook.

And, I'm terrified.

So, I've been on a reading bender. I just finished Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. This book takes its readers across the world to Chechnya and across decades. I glimpsed a world I was not at all familiar with, through characters who were real, imperfect humans I couldn't help but root for. This story--so intricately woven--will take your breath away.

Up next: Garth Stein's new book A Sudden Light. Will it be as good as The Art of Racing in the Rain? For me, I always feel a little terrible comparing a book I loved to the author's next book because I feel like it's doomed to not be as good, even if it's really good. We'll see.

I'm hoping that all this reading will make me remember what I love about writing. Until then, I'll read on.