Essays. Not a word that most of us associate with happiness.
My first association is with school the terrible five paragraph essay we are taught in high school. Opening paragraph, 3 body paragraphs, a conclusion. As any English teacher can tell you, it’s not a format that brings creativity or great writing.
So why talk about essays today for my #FridayReads post.
Two words: Ray Bradbury. I finally finished his ramblings and often amazing book of essays: Bradbury Speaks: Too Soon from the Cave, Too Far from the Stars. In particular his essays on Los Angeles, writing and trains stood out. His was a wonderful life, and all that have been blessed to read his work are thankful. ***1/2
I also enjoy short pieces. Some can be really fascinating like “Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation” edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman. Sometimes short pieces can say more in a few pages, then a lot of books say in 300-500 pages. This collection about what it means to be transgendered or genderqueer, says a lot about how gender isn’t a binary. And it’s just funny, often hilarious. And includes essays, performance pieces, graphic work … Great stuff. ***1/2 (reading in random order like I do for many collections including Bradbury Speaks.)
Also read a few of Thomas Wolfe’s essays in his collection “Hooking Up.” My favorite involved a sculptor whose beautiful work was ignored by the establishment but LOVED by the public. Not a bad collection, but nowhere near as good as his two short non-fiction classics which are: “From Bauhaus to Our House ****” about how the Bauhaus movement changed architecture, I agree with Wolfe for the worse. And “The Spoken Word ****” about how art critics drive art not the other way around.
I also think Kindle is a fine place for short non-fiction. I have enjoyed “Comic-Con Strikes Again” as a Kindle Single about the madness that is San Diego Comic-Con. SDCC sounds more fun on the outside, then the inside to me. The reality of it sounds exhausting. I also downloaded “In Praise of Hangovers” by Evan Rail today, which is fun so far and about the day after of a big night out. Only 17% in but it’s *** so far.
Essays can be fun and are done well in places like “Foreign Affairs”, “Harper’s”, “The Atlantic”, etc. And I think the Kindle provides a new place for them to be loved.
Finished this week:
A Fine, Safe Journey: Poems About Haying and Other Matters by Edward J. Reilly: Short chapbook with a long title about growing up in a Wisconsin Dairy Farm. Solid little chapbook, by a fellow Westbrook, Maine poet. **1/2
Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown: The perfect gift for geek dads everywhere. Very fun for any Star Wars geek to see Darth Vader raise Luke Skywalker as a little boy and have minor hijinks. Great references to Star Wars for any fan from casual to epic. ***1/2
Agreeable Friends: Contemporary Animal Poetry edited by Alice Persons: Marvelous book of poetry about animals I talked a lot about last week. Highly recommended and a great way to learn about some marvelous poets mostly in Maine. ***1/2
Who are We Now? by Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Wonderful book of poetry, didn’t affect me as much as “A Coney Island of the Mind” but I need to read more of this City Lights creator. Amazing how long it took me to read Ferlinghetti, as a long time fan of the beats. ***1/2
The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miler and Lynn Varley: Short graphic novel, disappointing so far. Seems unnecessary with the rich history of Miller’s Dark Knight series. ** pg 32 of 77
The First Four Books of Poems by Louise Gluck: An edition of Gluck’s first four poetry books (Firstborn, The House on Marshland, Descending Figure and The Triumph of Achilles). I loved her book “Ararat” and have read about 20-30 poems so far (of course out of order), looking forward to this one a lot. I like that’s it’s complete books of Gluck instead of “Selected Poems,” I think that a book shows the entirety of a poet at the time in the way a selection can’t. ***
Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella: “Confessions of a Shopaholic” is one of my favorite guilty pleasure books. I also liked “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan.” Like mother, like daughter in this tale of a spendthrift toddler with a spendthrift money. Some people aren’t meant to have credit cards, myself included unfortunately. pg. 32 of 420 ***
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: I browsed through this one homeroom in high school and it looked fun. My first time to read this Steinbeck masterpieces about Lennie and George. My Lenny (ie my cat) said I should read it. Honestly it’s just one of those books that’s been on my list a long, long time. Excellent so far. 13%
Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel: So far I like this better then her seminal “Fun Home.” Seems more positive and more complicated. In a many ways Bechdel seemed sorry for her dad and his double life, Bechdel’s relationship with her mother is more complicated. Good stuff. ***1/2 (could easily go to ****) pg. 72 of 290
Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society edited by Bill Bryson: Good stuff about one of the most amazing societies of science in the world the Royal Society of London. Very curious what I will learn. Just got this today for $1.99 on the Kindle. 4%
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: Another one of those books I always meant to read. I think I got a few chapters in a few times but got distracted (shocking I know). 9% of the way in and seems fantastic so far, yet I am reading tons of other stuff at the same time. I want to spend an afternoon and just get into the world of Bilbo, Bilbo Baggins. ****
The Illustrated Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: 57% in. Read this is bits and pieces. One of my favorite books growing up. Another one I should really find time to stick my teeth into. ***1/2
Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life by John C. Bogle: Good book about it’s more important to have enough than everything. The greed culture of Wall Street has made a lot of people rich and done lots of harm. Very apropos reading in this time of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital. 39%
Moby Dick (Oxford World’s Classics) by Herman Melville: Another life list book. Unbelievable amount of whale quotes to start the book, I don’t know if that’s the book or the Oxford edition. After reading “Bradbury Speaks” which references Moby Dick several times, Ray Bradbury wrote a Moby Dick screenplay for John Huston, I want to try again. 8%
So many books, so little time. Read on!