may updates

The combination of a souring relationship and another move’s left with me little time to read or blog, but things have stabilized in time for the end of spring and start of summer.

For now I’m living in my hometown, though I’ll be in New York June and July for a summer program and then Chicago again for the rest of the season. I’m glad to have the chance to experience two major cities in a single year, but I’m also looking forward to the day when I can settle down somewhere for longer than a few months.

After focusing on LGBT fiction in March and April, I’ve shifted to reading clusters of books about social and cultural history written by women. In June I’ll transition to life writing, alternating between checking out memoirs and autofiction.

I already have finished Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell, Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, and Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others, all of which I can’t recommend highly enough.

I’m currently reading books mixing cultural history and memoir. These works blur the line between politics and everyday life, history and autobiography, and I’ve heard great things about each of the authors, all of who are new to me.

Centered on the experiences of Chinese-American immigrants, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and China Men skillfully interweave life writing, myth, and politics. By contrast, Margo Jefferson’s Negroland examines the social life of the black bourgeoisie through the lens of the author’s upbringing. In Walking with the Comrades, Roy recounts the time she spent with a rebel movement in India resisting the government’s encroachment on their land.

After finishing those books, I’ll shift to Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, as well as Naomi Klein’s No Logo, The Shock Doctrine, and This Changes Everything. It seems obvious to pair together these two authors, and I’ve been keen to check out their work since the start of the year.

While I’m not the biggest fan of consecutively reading an author’s books, it seems to make sense for Klein, since there’s such a clear progression in her thought toward environmentalism.

Unrelated to this month’s theme I’ll also be reading a few authors I’ve come across several times through blogging, including Lidia Yuknavitch and Lucia Berlin. I began listening to The Chronology of Water on audio last night, and so far I’m really enjoying how compelling the memoir’s storytelling is.

16 thoughts on “may updates

  1. I’ve met Lidia Yuknavitch a few times. Not only has she somewhat sensuously stroke my hair, we’ve also talked about how we both have social anxiety at parties and like to hide out, she in the laundry area sniffing dryer sheets, and me and the bathroom sitting on the edge of the tub reading a book. Her earlier work is so experimental that it’s hard to connect to sometimes, but after she wrote a Chronology Of Water it sounds like her narrative style smooth out a bit. I haven’t read anything after her memoir.

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    1. She’s certainly an interesting personality! Very cool you’ve had the chance to meet her a few times over the years — her mind’s so sharp. In the memoir she lists Acker as one of her major influences, whose work is also very experimental, and I can see some similarities even in this (nonlinear narrative, fragmented prose, etc). Would you recommend her earlier work as well?


      1. I do know that a lot of her earlier work was created in a journal when Yuknavitch was homeless. She said she doesn’t always remember writing, that it was created in a sort of desperate, grief-filled frenzy, and the books largely keep that style. So, yes and no? If you like Acker, you’ll like Yuknavitch’s earlier work. If you don’t, I would read her memoir and forward.

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      2. Interesting, thanks for letting me know! I’m conflicted about Acker: I found her novels tedious when I read them, but the more time passes the more I find myself appreciating what she does in them. It’s the kind of work that’s thought provoking but not enjoyable to read I guess? I’ll try to sample Yuknavitch’s earlier and later work after the memoir.


  2. Many yes-es for Yuknavitch and Berlin. Both absolutely incredible. Really sorry to hear that things have been turbulent for you recently; I remember similar times in my life and although things do tend to even out in the end, it’s pretty rubbish and disorienting while it happens. Here’s to some good reading, anyway.

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    1. I can’t wait to check out Berlin’s stories, next in line for an e copy from the library. Thanks, it helps knowing my situation’s not uncommon — I feel like it’s becoming more and more typical to not have a strong sense of what you want to do coming out of school, which makes the experience less isolating at least.

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  3. What a lot to experience in one year: more material to write about, of course! As usual, all your reading choices sound terrific. I hope May holds lots of new favourite books and authors. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments on Yuknavitch and Berlin, both writers on my TBR too.

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    1. Thanks so much! Berlin’s stories are more in line with what I typically read, but I can appreciate Yuknavitch’s style. You can feel the influence of Acker and Burroughs on her writing, especially in the way she structures the memoir, though the prose itself is much more straightforward.

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  4. Yuknavitch! She is my absolute hero. The Chronology of Water is my favourite of hers I have read (and a favourite book in general) – I found it near perfect. I am looking forward to your thoughts!

    I am also sorry you having a bit of a difficult time. When I finished my degree it took me nearly two years to find my footing and figure out whether I wanted to do the job I was (and am) doing (which meant pursuing a PhD I wasn’t sure about). For me it all worked out in the end (or will work out once I finish that stupid PhD) and I am sure it will for you too. But also, how brilliant that you’ll get to experience both New York and Chicago!

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    1. I’ve just about finished The Chronology of Water! Her grasp on storytelling is amazing. I’m looking forward to reading her fiction, her books all look so different from each other.

      Thanks! Stressed right now about the move, but this summer’s going to be great. I’m sorry to hear you had a rough time of making the transition as well. I know a lot of people who are on the fence about whether to attend grad school. It’s a huge commitment, and I’m glad to know the experience’s worked out so well for you – the amount of doors it can open makes it very tempting.

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      1. I am so glad you liked it! I have only read her other non-fiction and The Small Backs of Children . I need to be in a specific mood to read her – and her older stuff seems to be less accessible.
        PhDs really do open doors, in Germany even more so than anywhere else. But it is also a pain. But now I am at the point of no return, having already put over 4 years into the process, so I guess I will have to finish it at some point.

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