This is my last week before the spring semester begins, and since my classes are all set to go already, I’m enjoying not working on school things for a while. But it’s funny, with an almost-three-year-old around, winter break isn’t very much like vacation. Somehow the hours seem as full as ever.
I’m finishing up a review/essay about memoir that inspired me to investigate nontraditional, experimental memoirs and to order a few, which arrived today. They include The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham, Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir by D.J. Waldie, and Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This last one I started today and am 50 pages into. It’s fun, certainly not experimental in the heavy, ponderous sense experimental books sometimes can be (or we expect them to be this way sometimes, at any rate). It’s basically a series of very short essays — sometimes only a line or two — about topics coming from her life, arranged in alphabetical order. It’s playful and is making me laugh.
I’m interested in a whole range of experimental nonfiction, especially of the personal sort, serious and not, so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know.
On the more serious end of things, I finished Terry Tempest Williams’s book When Women Were Birds, which I’d call an experimental memoir. There’s much that I liked about it, including an intriguing premise, which is that when Williams’s mother was on her deathbed, she told her she was leaving her years of her personal journals. But when Williams went to look through them, she found they were all blank. The book is an effort to understand what message her mother might have been communicating through this legacy. Much of the book is beautifully written, and the meaning she finds in those blank journals is extraordinary. I did find that the writing veered too far in the lyrical direction now and then and became ponderous and vague. It’s a little bit too sincere and earnest now and then. And in some sections she wrote about women in ways that seemed overly generalized and limiting. So, not a perfect book, but one worth reading and pondering.
Just today I began Kent Haruf’s novel Our Souls at Night in an effort to read more of the Tournament of Books short list. I most certainly won’t get through the whole list, but I’ve read seven of them already (!), and adding another one or two seems like fun. I’ve heard such good things about the Haruf novel, and it has begun well.
Have a great week everyone!