Let the sunshine in.

Long time, no blog. I've been summer vacay-ing. Sue me. I have, however, been reading like a maniac. What follows are mini-reviews--100 words or less--of some of the gems that have graced my eyeballs since early June. "But," in the immortal words of Levar Burton, "don't take MY word for it."

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
, by Stieg Larsson

Forget the hype. Forget your lame friend who read one Agatha Christie novel in middle school and now thinks she can recommend you some "literature." It's so so so good. Larsson manages balancing a near-impossible wire between thrilling, gasp-inducing plot, and gorgeously realistic character relationship development. I'm already halfway through the sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire. Don't tell me, dude! Also impressive is Larsson's infamous heroine, Lisbeth Salander, in terms of the reader's sympathy for, and yet annoyance of, her. (Hmm...4/5 stars)

Ship Fever, by Andrea Barrett

Barrett won a National Book Award for this quiet collection of fiction that all centers around nature and science. Sounds boring, I know. Nothing will jump out and grab you as you read these short stories. They will come back to you as you're going about your daily routing the next day, when you remember how Barrett phrased some quotidian event so perfectly. The stories that take place during present day are the finest, with the notable exception of the title story. (3.5/5)

ABC of Reading, by Ezra Pound

This is Pound's literary manifesto, part two--what he considered a follow-up to his lesser-known essays from 1931, How to Read. The first section espouses Pound's beliefs in poetics, art, and what he considers as worthy, "high," mostly Western literature. Mostly Western since Pound had a well-documented fascination with the visual art and poetry of the Far East. The second section is a series of "exhibits" with questions for discussion in a classroom. I'll tell you right now, that ish wouldn't work in my classroom. Nonetheless, serious poetics scholars at the college level would do well to re-examine some of Pound's suggestions as to the connections between generations of European poetry. (4/5)

Infanta, by Erin Belieu

The first book (in 1994) by a now well-established poet who currently runs the creative writing program at Florida State. Traditional in form, yet edgy in content, Belieu's debut collection was selected for the National Poetry Series by Hayden Carruth. Side note: Belieu recently co-founded WILLA (Women In Letters and Literary Arts) with fellow poet/badass Cate Marvin, author of another stunning debut poetry book, World's Tallest Disaster, also an incredibly worthy read. Check out WILLA's site here, though it is currently down. (4/5)

New Collected Poems
, by George Oppen

Ok, so technically I'm not done with this one yet. I consider myself more knowledgeable than the average dude about poets, but far less knowledgeable than I should be. However, until I heard this poet suggested on a Poetry Foundation podcast, I had never heard of George Oppen. Most of the "new" work added to this collection is from the 50s through the 70s. The most opaque, just-can't-sit-down-and-enjoy poems come from the earlier part of his career, when it feels he's going for some sort of Imagist aesthetic. Indeed, the original introduction was written by Ezra Pound. (3.5/5)

Welcome Eumenides
and Wilderness of Ladies, by Eleanor Ross Taylor

These two books of poetry (the former from 1960, the latter from 1972) were the only books available in the St. Louis Public Library system for this "forgotten" American poet. Forgotten until last year, that is, until she won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and was thrust into the spotlight she had not known for practically her entire writing life. Taylor's poetry is difficult and familiar at the same time, frequently conjuring up the complex combination of superstition, gothic tone, and yearning to leap into the contemporary world that is at the heart of all good writing from the American South. (3.5/5)

What's that? I think I hear Stieg Larsson calling from the other room. Comment on anything you've read as well.


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