Every so often, a book comes along that seems certain to peak a curiosity or speak of an unexpressed daydream in the heart of any reader and lover of language. Madness, Rack and Honey is one of them. Ruefle's written "lectures" deal in myriad subjects -- poets and the moon, the joys and sorrows of reading, fear and irreverence, to name a few -- with a voice that is witty, well-read, and ever so smart.
“Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color,” writes Maggie Nelson in the opening note of Bluets. What follows is an account of a love, truly, including love’s every aspect: lust, infatuation, frustration, occasional boredom, and constant fascination as Nelson tumbles into this vivid hue and pulls us into its depths along with her. Part memoir, perhaps a poem, part literary history of blue and the psychology of color, Bluets is a mesmerizing book that will color your world and your reading anew.
"Is it metaphysical or just a big fuck fest?" Such is the question posed by another Hilda Hilst's characters in what was known to shocked and baffled critics as the Obscene tetralogy. And it seem like the elderly Madame D might go full Fifty Shades of Gray on Mr. D if she would only come out of her hiding place under the stairs. What? I don't know. But I do know that this book baffled and bowled me over from beginning to end, in the best of ways.
Whether you're looking to delve into the wondrous world of Angela Carter for the first time or your appetite for her prose is already insatiable (for there is no in between), Burning Your Boats is truly a worthwhile collection to get your hands on. From the re-spun fairy tales for which she is probably best known (The Bloody Chamber) to the otherwise out-of-print or hard to find but equally, if not more, amazing collections (Saints and Strangers and American Ghosts and Old World Wonders being my favorites), every word this woman wrote is perfection -- and everyone should know it.
Gaston Bachelard's investigation into what spaces mean to us may be a classic work of phenomenology, but it reads like a familiar dream. Drawing from literature, psychology, and his own wistful observation, Bachelard explains our attraction to certain homes, the satisfaction of a well-made box, the nest and shell as metaphor, and all that we hold dear about interior spaces real, remembered, and imagined. Rather than de-romanticizing the subject with analysis, this book illuminates the poetic universality of our nostalgia for home. Reading it, to me, felt like arriving there.
Joan Didion should hardly require a sales pitch, but in case you're not already familiar with her impeccable prose and pitch-perfect storytelling, Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a great place to start, and should be required reading for anyone thinking or thoughtful about California. From her cool and poetic detailing of murder in the high desert to ruminations on the Haight in the 60s and the winds of Los Angeles, these essays were the first that made me truly feel that this big, weird land had a soul. Recommended for anyone of any age interested in what it is to be a person here and now, then or anywhere.
Finally, a lovely paperback edition of a gem of a book that never should have gone out of print. The Facts of Winter: a series of dreams dreamt by Parisians in the winter of 1881. Their author: a failed architect and nearly-failed writer with eccentric ideas of dream shops who ended up putting dreams into this mysterious book instead. Their translator and scholar: a man stumbling through Paris in an existential sleepiness and yet desperate to find meaning in his research on a sleepless writer. The Facts of Winter as you see it here unites all these characters in a remarkably crafted tale about the use of dreams to a century’s worth of dreamers, imagined and otherwise. Wonderful.
All I really want to say about this book is this: it is, by any standard for such things, my very favorite book. Every single person to whom I’ve ever recommended it calls it one of their very favorite books too. What makes a book so beloved? I can’t say. I don’t think I want to. I hope you read it.
This autobiographical novel is held together by a family's complicated love and the ghosts that haunt them. Although the stories that Waldrop tells plague and bin many American families, this story is distinctly his, and is told with compassion and authenticity that only someone who has lived through it could render. Ultimately, it's a story about where we turn when faced with the threat of waking up one morning to emptiness: to family, to faith, and to words. Highly recommended.