Monday, January 02, 2006

Reading Ups and Downs

It wasn't a terribly productive year for me reading wise, but I have to admit the amount of reading I do, aside from poetry, has plummetted since I started writing poetry.

The best book I read this year was nonfiction: Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer. For history and suspense, this was it.

The worst book I read was The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst. I almost gave up on it but soldiered on in the hope it would get better. The premise seemed decent enough, but the story left me completely cold. Close behind was Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders. The ending was so contrived, and the whole thing a little too much on the romantic side for me, not lovely-dovey romantic, no, maybe that would have improved it, but "romanticized." Now, Brooks wrote a non-fiction book called The Nine Parts of Desire about women in Muslim societies which was really good, so it's not that she can't write.

But the best thing I read all year was written in 1966 and dedicated to Bob Dylan. You can print it out here and read it between dinner and bedtime: Where are you going?

The best poetry book I bought was probably Franz Wright's Ill Lit. But it was no match for Olena Kalytiak Davis's And Her Soul Out of Nothing, which I got in 2004, and both of them together were not up to The Random House Book of 20th Century French Poetry, which I got in 2004 and everyone needs to have. The only pain is toting that bully around.

On New Year's Eve I Started Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea. I'm on page 19. Cross your fingers.


Bob Hoeppner said...

Several of William Stafford's books were helpful to me this year (Writing the Australian Crawl, You Must Revise Your Life, Crossing Unmarked Snow.) I also enjoyed reading the memoir, Early Morning, by his son Kim. And it did me good to read "How to Read a Poem" by Edward Hirsch and "Break Blow Burn" by Camille Paglia, not because of anything I remember from reading them, but because they underscored the worth of writing lyric poetry at a time when I had my doubts about it.

SarahJane said...

thanks, bob. i will look at those. are the stafford books "how-to" books?

Bob Hoeppner said...

The Stafford books are in the "Poets on Poetry" series. They're not so much "How-To" in specific techniques as what they are subtitled: "Views on a Writer's Vocation."

Hey, Sarah, I just read your Personification Contest entry. It rocks! Good luck!

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