Recent Reading, 4/1/2018

Oh, it’s been over a year since I wrote here? Haha, I guess it has! Ah, well.

So, what am I reading? I just finished a novel in translation called In the Distance with You by Carla Guelfenbein, to be published by Other Press this June (translated by John Cullen). Guelfenbein is a Chilean author and the book takes place in Chile and various places in Europe. It’s inspired by Clarice Lispector and is about a Lispector-like author who spends the novel in a hospital room, while three other characters who knew her in various ways tell their stories. It’s about writing and writerly relationships, about literary lineages, about the way the past bears down on the present, about the pressures the world places on the body. It’s labeled a literary thriller, although the pace is slower than that leads one to expect. But there are plot revelations along the way that kept me reading happily, and the ideas about the writing life and the creative process were engaging.

I’m also reading Feel Free, an essay collection by Zadie Smith, and it’s so good! Smith is such a master of the essay. I like her novels, but her essays are better: she’s so entertaining, and so smart. She brings together things you would not expect to be brought together, in classic essay style. I’m about halfway through. The essays have been about politics, libraries, art, film, aesthetics, and more. Many of them I had read before in various publications — The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books — but I’m happy to read them again. One of my favorites, “Some Notes on Attunement” starts with Joni Mitchell and moves to Wordsworth, Seneca, Kierkegaard, and a drive through Wales, all while never losing site of where it started. But the essay is really about artistic taste and how we change our minds about what we like. It’s really so good. Here’s a passage from another essay I loved, “Dance Lessons for Writers”:

Zadie Smith Feel Free passage

What’s next? I’m thinking of picking Brittney C. Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, but we’ll see what I’m in the mood for later.

10 Comments

Filed under Books, Essays, Fiction

10 responses to “Recent Reading, 4/1/2018

  1. Bardiac

    Welcome back!

    Like

  2. buriedinprint

    Hello, hello! It’s hard to begin again: nice to see you and to hear about your recent reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good to see you here. There’s something I never imagined: Beyonce and Didion compared! How interesting. I think I need to give her essays a try sometime. I read Swing Time recently and was frustrated by it but appreciated it. I think I’d get along better with her nonfiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yasss. I keep picking up Feel Free and thinking “Meh, I’ll get to it later.” But you’ve inspired me! I honestly think her true form is the essay. She is such a classic essayist. In the best way.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love seeing a post from you pop up! Hope all is going well. I will have to add the Zadie Smith book to my list. I’m a bit more open to essays lately 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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