I’m beginning to think that in my case, a regular infusion of fiction is required for both psychological and social health. I’ve been craving time for real reading, longing to have a story to talk over with somebody, but the wished-for time does not readily present itself. The few pages of the novel in my purse that I manage to read every three or four days are insufficient literary sustenance. Thank goodness for short story collections. A used copy of Sherman Alexie’s Blasphemy arrived in the mail last week, and it sat on the kitchen island long enough to become part of a pile. When I finally opened the package in the course of tidying up, I didn’t intend to open the book itself; that was not part of the day’s schedule. Still, somehow, I ended up reading an entire 14-page story—and then a 2-pager besides. Alexie’s work is perfect for reading when you don’t have time. His writing is quick and conversational, his seriousness is laced with humor, and his stories are always interesting portraits of lives both realistic and strange. In exchange for very little of the time that you think you don’t have, he’ll give you something memorable.
“Perfectly Normal” Columnist Heather Cori has made time for her own literary pleasure: “I was first drawn to Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist when I heard it was set in Washington State; for years, we’ve spent some time each August in the orchards of eastern Washington. The story opens with a beautifully written character sketch of Talmadge, the orchardist. He’s a kind, rugged, hardworking man who soon discovers that two pregnant teenage runaways are living in his orchard and stealing from him. The characters were easy for me to like, and their struggles with intimacy made them even more real. It had been a while since I’d indulged is such a descriptive narrative and I was rewarded with many lines to highlight. The book is well-crafted and true.”
Profiles Editor Rachel Epp Buller shares, “I just finished reading Robin Silbergleid’s compelling memoir, Texas Girl. At the age of 27, Silbergleid made a conscious decision to pursue single motherhood. The memoir takes us through four emotional roller coaster years of artificial insemination, fertility drugs, miscarriage, IVF, and, eventually, successful pregnancy. Along the way, we see up close the societal barriers she faced as a young woman making these decisions.”
Amanda Jaros, Blog Edior, recommends Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World by Kathleen Dean Moore: “I found it a beautiful collection of nature essays that tugged at my heart. In addition to Moore’s skillful descriptions of the nature around her, many essays also delve into the author’s relationship with her grown children, which shifts and changes as they do. Moore is a philosopher, so even as she notices the things directly in front of her—frogs, osprey, tides—her writing often has a bigger-picture question in mind. Moore’s writing is thoughtful and compelling as she seeks to find her place in the world and urges her readers to do the same.”
Maria Scala, Editor-in-Chief, is currently immersed in Ted Bishop’s The Social Life of Ink: Culture, Wonder, and Our Relationship with the Written Word. “I had the privilege of reading an early draft of this book, and was so pleased to hear of its publication earlier last month. As the author argues, ink is so much a part of daily life that we take it for granted, yet its invention was as significant as the wheel. A professor of English literature and film studies at the University of Alberta, Bishop toured the globe from Budapest to Buenos Aires, from China to the Middle East—in search of the story of ink. As he writes in his introduction, ‘Travel and research only really become interesting when things fall apart, the neat itineraries go by the wayside, one thing leads to another, and you’re led off the map. The ballpoint, which I thought to dispense with in a paragraph, proved fascinating. After half a century of development it still demands the most exacting technology, yet it sells for less than a cup of coffee.’ Whether Bishop is describing exquisite Asian ink sticks, his own fumbled attempts at calligraphy, or the world’s oldest Qur’an (stained with the blood of a caliph), he brings a sense of wonder and delight to the subject matter. This is a book for anyone who has never, for a second, thought that print was in decline.” To read an excerpt from Ink, visit The Walrus.
Literary Reflections Editor Andrea Lani adds, “I just finished reading The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell (recommended by Senior Editor Katherine Barrett). The book alternates between the stories of Lexie, a young woman finding her way in 1960s London, and of Elina and Ted, a couple fumbling through the fog of new parenthood. O’Farrell manages simultaneously to convey the timeless tedium of life with a new baby and to build nail-biting suspense as the reader begins to puzzle out how these characters might be connected. She also describes the movements and mannerisms of a small infant in more accurate detail than I’ve ever read before, bringing me back to those early days with my own children. The book ends on a satisfying note that confirms the value in writing about our children.”