I’ve decided that, since I’m actually more or less keeping pace with my reading this time around, I’m just going to recommend books. I’ll still include some links at the end, but for now, why not books? I care way more about books anyway.


Love Hotel

by Jane Unrue

In the spirit of full disclosure, I know Jane. She’s one of the readers for my thesis and I am proud to think of her as something of a mentor; she’s easily affected the way I think about and go about writing more than almost anyone else in a long time (prior to that it was my other advisor named Jane, Jane Alison, who is also a complete and total badass, though in a p different way), and I feel very luck to have been able to benefit from her excitement, wisdom, and encouragement.

So now that that’s out of the way: Love Hotel. What a book! The form is spindly and tricky and once you get the hang of it you realize just how much sense it makes. At least for this kind of story, for this kind of narrator. You know most of what you know about the characters from the form, almost. It’s really pretty marvelous. And, as someone who likes POV shifts (e.g., I feel lukewarm though admiring of Ofill’s The Department of Speculation, but regardless am SO jazzed about the POV shift in the middle, what that does to the thing), HOLY CRAP is the POV shift at the end of Love Hotel brilliant. Like, really brilliant. Very well done, both in terms of style and form and all of that, but also narratively it is able to do (or facilitate) so much other work. Just really neat.

I will say that it is an “experimental” book (I know Jane doesn’t like that term though and so I’m sorry for using it but I also can’t remember why she doesn’t prefer it or what she prefers instead), so be warned there. That said, it offers great rewards. So. Fucking. Fun.

The Buddha in the Attic

by Julie Otsuka

This is a book that I had read excerpts from in class for a long time, had been referred to for a long time, and a long time later finally got around to reading it, per my “catch up on contemporary books” project. I’m very glad I got to it, not exactly bummed that it took so long, as now turned out to be a good time to read it for me.

The Buddha in the Attic is what (in my experience) is almost always referred to whenever anybody brings up the “first person plural” POV, or the “we” narrator. It’s a “we” book, managed by a lot of “One of us…” and proper names to illustrate individual narratives. The “we” narrative makes sense given the subject matter (Japanese women emigrating to the US in the early 1900s), and the more individual narratives get a lot of work done so far as illustrating variety. I think perhaps the admirable balance that Otsuka achieved with these two forces is the most impressive thing, technically, about the book.

The story itself is also wonderful and important; it covers everything from motherhood to share cropping to the US’s internment of Japanese immigrants during WWII. The scope is huge but always feels within reach.

There are some lovely lyrical passages, too. Most of the chapters are paragraph-segmented, but a few of the chapters are one long lyrical go, and the marriage of that form to the subject matter is always excellent and appropriate and beautiful. Definitely a masterclass in a book for a whole lot of things.

The Tradition

by Jericho Brown

This book of poems is really, really good. I don’t particularly think of myself as much of a poet but I really enjoy reading poems and I do think that non-poets should read more poetry and so there you go.

The subject matter ranges but it’s a lot about being Black in America, being gay and Black in America, Love, Family, and, obviously “Tradition” (capital T). The poems themselves are generally excellent although a few I admit I didn’t as much care for and a few I clearly was not going to get for a variety of good reasons, and that’s okay.

What blew my socks off most, though, was the “Duplex” form, as demonstrated by a number of “Duplex” poems in the collection. I found it, formally, wonderful, and the things that Brown did with the form were similarly amazing.

Okay, so that’s all for the books. They are not as much “reviews” as recommendations re: things I liked about them. It’s very idiosyncratic, and that’s just how it is.

Some links that have been cool to read lately: