Category Archives: Fiction

Most Vivid Reads #5

This is the final installment of my “Most Vivid Reads” series. (See below for the full list of books).

The Book of Nightmares — Galway Kinnell

I loved this poetry collection when I read it in college, and I still do. It’s melodramatic, its images are overwrought and its underlying emotion is morbid. It talks madness, birth and death, and how mortality underlies everything, speaking alternately straight up and with a bemused chaser, and that’s exactly why I love it. It hits that youthful ‘but life leads to death, death, death’ phase we all go through (especially (?) us artsy types), but it’s such well-written morbid angst. It’s like the best part of revisiting your youthful darkness-obsessed phase, because Kinnell has such a great control of language. I don’t find it amazingly profound or deeply moving in its mysticism, which is what some claim about The Book of Nightmares. But I do love it. Continue reading

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Most Vivid Reads #4

Entry #4 in my “Most Vivid Reads” list (“most vivid” being a very similar but slightly different list than just a straight “My Favorites” — the books highlighted here are the ones that have been the most memorable reading experiences, the most vividly injected into my brain (and therefore life), whether or not I re-read them to death). Previous posts in this series can be found here.

The Road — Cormac McCarthy

If you’ve read it, you knew it was coming on this list. The Road is not just engrossing, it’s enveloping. It’s spare writing (I swear 90% of the book is white-space) but each sentence paints such a vivid picture in your head you’ll feel you watched it on screen (they did make a movie of it, but it feels like there’s really no need to see it (I didn’t, even though it starred Viggo Mortensen!) because the novel is so visual, so vivid). Continue reading

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Most Vivid Reads #3

The first two posts in this series can be found here  and here.

Gilead  Marilynne Robinson

Gilead is a luscious read, a quiet, powerful, resonating read, the epitome of the sort of book you might find yourself refusing to read the last page of because it will be awful to have it be over. The narrator is an old man, a minister, nearing his own death and writing a letter (the book is the letter) to his young son. “My custom has always been to ponder grief,” he says partway through,

That is, to follow it through ventricle and aorta to find out its lurking places. That old weight in the chest, telling me there is something I must dwell on, because I know more than I know and must learn it from myselfthat same good weight worries me these days.

And you will remember, and slow down to think about, his voice, I daresay, off and on for all of your days. Continue reading

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Most Vivid Reads #2

Happy Thanksgiving! To state the no-doubt-obvious, one of the many things I’m thankful for is great books. This is the second installment of my serial post detailing my list of Most Vivid Reads (those books that stick out the most in my mind when I think about books).

Post #1, which covered Mr. Bridge & Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell, Doomsday Book, Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, can be found here.

To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee

Two paragraphs into this novel, which is the end of the first page in the edition I have, you are IN this book. You are IN Scout’s head, you are IN this town and this world, and you are in it for the duration. And it is in you forever after reading it. The header on the blurb page says “Unequaled praise from everywhere for a unique bestseller.” Continue reading

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My Most Vivid Reads – intro & #1

This is the first in what I intend to be a serial post detailing my list of what I spent forever trying to decide whether to call My Favorite Reads, or My Best Reads, or just what. I have settled on My Most Vivid Reads.

These are the books I think of when I think of books. The books I think of most often when just going about my daily life. The books the mention of which prompt me to speak in all-caps & exclamation points (“YOU HAVEN’T READ _________?! OH IT’S SO GOOD!”) Those books that live with me long after the last page is turned. (Discussed in no particular order.)

A note about what this list won’t be: it won’t be a list of books you should read. This list won’t include Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, or Raymond Carver’s short stories, to name just two others I think are great and that you definitely should read. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter I just didn’t love-love-love reading the way I do, say, My Ántonia. (Personal preference, since the difference isn’t in the quality of writing.) And Raymond Carver I just don’t go back to re-read with nearly the same enjoyment as I do, say, Flannery O’Connor.

I hope this list will make you blame me, Continue reading

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Two novels

I recently finished two classics, and damn were they worth the designation, both of them — The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (1932 Pulitzer Prize) and All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1947 Pulitzer Prize). They’d been sitting on my shelf for years, finally got around to them (the list is so very, very long, and then there are all the movies too…!)

The Good Earth follows the life of an ordinary Chinese man, Wang-Lung, from the day of his wedding to the day of his death, during a time of world war, revolution, and great upheaval that touches him directly barely at all. It’s the land that changes him, and then, human foibles that undo him. The sentences are very simple, and roll along quite easily. A simply-told, profound story.

Before a handful of days had passed it seemed to Wang Lung that he had never been away from his land, as indeed, in his heart he never had. With three pieces of the gold he bought good seed from the south, full grains of wheat and of rice and of corn, and for very recklessness of riches he bought seeds the like of which he had never planted before, celery and lotus for his pond and great red radishes that are stewed with pork for a feast dish and small red fragrant beans.

The book jacket on my copy says this book is of interest for anyone who wants to know about Chinese culture, but I say Continue reading

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Reading the NW

Recently finished Brian Doyle‘s lovely fiction debut Mink River, magical realism of the sort you might expect from a book that crosses Irish and coastal Native American stories and styles. It’s rich, delightful, and satisfying and I kept thinking as I read it that if it didn’t turn out to remain so all the way through the end I should be horribly disappointed.

I wasn’t. Every time I thought the storylines might get too plot-less, or the interweaving (sentence to sentence, in some sections) might unravel, or the lush repetition might overwhelm, what needed to happen happened, in some unexpected and wonderfully blooming way.

Mink River is set in a town on the Oregon coast, not, as Doyle explains at the beginning, “an especially stunning town, stunningtownwise” — there are

no houses crying out to be on the cover of a magazine that no one actually reads anyway and the magazine ends up in the bathroom and then is cut to ribbons for a fourth-grade collage project that uses a jar of rubber cement that was in the drawer by the back stairs by the old shoebox and the jar of rubber cement is so old that you secretly wonder if it fermented or a mouse died in it or what.

One way to put it is that the rest of the book tells you what the town is.

Continue reading

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