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Books read, late March

Albert Goldbarth, Arts and Sciences. Reread. My standards for how a poet engages with the sciences are much higher than they were in my early twenties, and I just consistently am not finding that Goldbarth has much to say to me just because he has some things to say about science. Which is a shame.

Madeleine L’Engle, The Weather of the Heart. Reread. This was another not entirely successful reread of something I read in my early twenties. Not only the forms of these poems but also their content are highly formalized, and knowing a bit more about Madeleine L’Engle’s life from outside sources made me wince in several spots. Still a better idea than reading news articles about Donald Trump over breakfast, though.

James Lockhart, Spanish Peru, 1532-1560: A Colonial Society. This goes through chapter by chapter discussing the different types of person in the colonial Spanish part of Peruvian society in this period (as opposed to the colonized indigenous part–though indigenous persons were discussed inasmuch as they engaged with the colonizers’ society/culture). Notaries, shoemakers, etc.: what part of Spain were they from, what was their role, did they stick around long-term, etc. Very useful sourcebook if you’re interested in the period, probably not very good as an overview or first source on it.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Signal to Noise. I wanted to like this more than I did: an old record player and teenagers making mixtape-style magic. But in the end I felt like the parallel timelines didn’t line up very well, their relative weighting and pacing didn’t work very well for me. Still an author I will continue to read, because it was not a catastrophic failure.

Karen Russell, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. This was her first collection, and I’m glad I read Vampires in the Lemon Groves first instead, because she’s gotten better. Also this contains several pieces that are either related to Swamplandia! or dry runs for it, and I felt that Swamplandia! did what it needed to do as a self-contained thing, and these pieces didn’t really improve anything. However, there were several of the unrelated pieces–the one with the minotaur, the title piece–that delighted me, and I don’t necessarily assume that’ll happen at all in a short story collection, so me, I’m sticking with this Karen Russell idea.

Sofia Samatar, The Winged Histories. A four-part reflection of love and family and war and being broken and monstrous. I loved this. I liked it so much better than A Stranger in Olondria, which I also liked. I liked how the pieces doubled back on themselves and reflected the earlier parts differently. I liked how the characters were sometimes prickly and difficult. It was just what I wanted when I picked it up.

Thomas Siddell, Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 4: Materia. I don’t read this comic online because it doesn’t move fast enough for me to read one page every few days, so instead I read the collected volumes. Which, in this case, still did not move fast enough. I’m interested in what it’s doing overall, but the demands of art are hard, I guess, and we’re not giving up on those grounds.

Dana Simpson, Unicorns Vs. Goblins. Phoebe and Marigold go to music camp, among other things. That part I enjoyed; the goblin plot I felt was very brief, abrupt, under-handled, disappointing. I’m past expecting this to be “the new Calvin & Hobbes” and am letting it be its own thing; now I’m just wishing this volume was as good as Unicorn on a Roll.

Joyce Sutphen, Coming Back to the Body. Reread. Joyce was my intro creative writing prof in 1997, so returning to these poems is fascinating–many of them are strongly autobiographical, and I can still hear Joyce’s breathless voice reading them. They’re not my usual style of poetry, but I can see why she has met with the success she has (poet laureate of the state etc.).

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