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Search tags: I-read-everything-by-this-writer
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review 2017-08-18 19:14
A Writer's Diary, Virginia Woolf
A Writer's Diary - Virginia Woolf,Leonard Woolf

For lovers of Virginia Woolf, but also those interested in writing itself, as well as history (Woolf details the approach and beginning of World War II, including the bombing of her home in London). This "writer's diary," edited by husband and first reader, Leonard Woolf, comprises those entries where Woolf discusses her writing and reading as well as encounters with literary acquaintances.

 

There is a pattern to her writing process whereby she's excited about a new idea (which sometimes comes while she's working on another project) and rides a sort of high until she completes it. This is followed by depression and ambivalent feelings about reviews. Some books come easier than others, but the overall pattern remains the same. Every one feels like it might be a failure or badly reviewed, and she attempts to convince herself she doesn't care. The ups and downs in her mood suggest bipolar disorder, which contemporary psychologists believe afflicted her. Knowing her fate (she drowned herself not long after the last entry of this diary) made reading portions very sad.

 

On the other hand, Woolf felt she had just begun to know her own mind in her 40s, which gives me hope! Elements of her process and the way one negative review overrode all the positive responses created a sense of affinity for me as a writer. Woolf changed literature, and I'm glad she kept such a diary.

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review 2017-04-12 20:37
Magdalene, by Marie Howe [poetry]
Magdalene: Poems - Marie Howe

I began reading Marie Howe when I was an undergrad taking my first poetry workshops. At first, I wasn't sure I liked her style, which is deceptively simple or plain. This was a contrast to many other poets I was introduced to at the same time, such as Mark Doty and Yusef Komunyakaa. But somewhere along the line, I fell in love with her aesthetic, and that first book of hers I read, What the Living Do, remains a favorite and a touchstone.

 

I now recognize and admire the delicate straightforwardness of Howe's language, which packs as much power as any formal poem or one with more verbal jujitsu. Her lines can be long, with lots of room between them or stanzas. They feel quiet, contemplative, so when there's a turn or revelation coming, it heightens the impact. I'm trying to explain her appeal, but part of it is that I can't. Or I could if I analyzed it to death, and I prefer letting the magic linger.

 

The poems' subjects range from desire to mental health, self-perception, spirituality, and motherhood. Though I don't read the book like one overarching narrative, it does feel like there's an arc; there's a fullness to that arc that somehow replicates the sensation of completing a big, fat novel. You have an idea of a life.

 

Here's a favorite:

 

How the Story Started

 

I was driven toward desire by desire.

believing that the fulfillment of that desire was an end.

There was no end.

 

Others might have looked into the future and seen

a shape inside the coming years --

a house, a child, a man who might be a help.

 

I saw his back bent over what he was working on,

the back of his neck, how he stood in his sneakers,

and wanted to eat him.

 

How could I see another person, I mean who he was--apart from me--

apart from that?

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-11-18 01:45
Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
Life After Life - Kate Atkinson

I have never read anything like this novel, that's for sure. As a fannish person, It rang of time loop and fork-in-the-road AU fic--a chance to explore the many roads a character can take. It's just that in this case, all those roads are explored in one book.

 

Being the structure whore that I am, I found the inventive series of births, deaths, and rebirths stimulating, and I know one read is not enough. However, it did feel a bit overlong, one too many loops, especially around the middle. The loop featuring the main character, Ursula, trapped in Germany in proximity to Hitler would be my vote for loop to be excised or trimmed, yet it's necessary for the character to complete the task with which the book begins (killing Hitler). I almost wish that the historical stakes were taken down a notch--I loved the exploration of both WWI and WWII and the Blitz, but do we need to incorporate that common historical what-if, "What if someone killed Hitler?"

 

My favorite aspect of the book involves the portrait of a family and of its female characters in particular. The character I was interested by and that I found most complex was Sylvie, Ursula's mother. Ursula is thrown in flux so much with her different lives, but there's a stability to Sylvie across loops I appreciated (other characters have this stability, and Ursula herself has it to an extent in terms of personality, but I suppose what I'm saying is that I simply liked Sylvie's prickliness best).

 

I thought--and am still thinking--a lot about the loop in which Ursula is raped, and it essentially ruins her life (she first has an abortion she does not choose and ends up marrying a man who shows her some kindness; he later proves to be an abusive asshole that kills her). I wonder about what that says--that rape is this thing that can't be worked through, that changes you essentially, that means you're better off dead. Ursula also questions if somehow the rape is HER fault (we're meant to shout "NO!" here), but the loop in which she instinctively pushes the (American, natch) man away when he first kisses her, resulting in no rape, somehow reinforces to me that rape IS preventable--just push that dude away, ladies.

 

I'm going to also go ahead and admit now that I don't understand why the book ends with the loop that it does. Must re-read and keep thinking over!

 

Despite the above reservations, I would absolutely recommend this book.

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review 2012-05-10 00:00
Sad Little Breathing Machine
Sad Little Breathing Machine - Matthea Harvey

A third of the way through this book, I was thinking it was my least favorite of Harvey's three collections. Many of the poems feel so random, but of course I know they're not. As I continued and understood more and more how carefully constructed the entire book is in terms of its engagement (and disengagement) with narrative, I came to think this is actually the richest of her books in that the poems will reward the most re-reading. Look forward to it!

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review 2012-04-27 00:00
Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form
Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human F - Matthea Harvey

I read Harvey's Modern Life before this one, and it's interesting to take a look at her first book after. I love poets who push themselves and try new things, but I think she's a poet who'll likely always do that and does that within a single collection.

 

Her poems here are playful and do some interesting, mimetic work with form ("The Illuminated Manuscript" is a favorite). Many poems take up painting or seeing in fascinating ways. Wonderful sonics throughout.

 

An ambitious, more than solid first book. I'm totally jealous. :)

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