it’s been a year. reading through 2019 was weird, starts and stops, some slowly read books and some quickly read books and some abandoned books. this year i set down any book that lacked emotional truth. i plan to continue that practice, in reading and in life. i was saved by words and sentences, saved by emotional truth, if that makes sense. but the truth isn’t always easy.
THE LIAR’S CLUB by Mary Karr, a polished storyteller, ricocheted through my chest, a memoir of a raggedy family in Texas. colourful, energetic. in BETTYVILLE, George Hodgman shared his experience of caring for his dementing mom in a declining town called Paris, Missouri. George told the truth, almost; as an addict, his denial coloured his account but i didn’t care. because of the writing. TINY LIGHTS FOR TRAVELLERS by Naomi K. Lewis chronicled her anxious trip mimicking her Grandfather’s path to safety out of the Netherlands in 1942. honest and vulnerable, gutsy. the autofiction of Edward St. Aubyn in NEVERMIND was a restrained study in the trauma of incest and beautifully written–subtle in surprising ways, given St. Aubyn’s wild, wild life.
FALLING AWAKE by Alice Oswald was a poetry collection of green, green beauty. simultaneously quiet and disruptive, it moved me to tears–i will never think of Tithonus in the same way. SALT AIR, a collection by Ian Kinney, was a surprise in it’s medical preoccupations/lamentations. the inclusion of medical details, visual and textual, are fascinating, proving there’s everything and nothing contained in a medical chart.
what can i say about BELOVED by Toni Morrison, a wonder of a novel that i re-read in honour of Morrison’s death? a story that comes together and falls apart in lyrical ways. a dedication to truth and beauty in the ugliness that is life, it crosses the line. magic. THERE, THERE by Tommy Orange was a bracing read, full of the painful honesty of urban aboriginal folks. the characters, the characters. using essays was structurally daring. and then there was THE INCENDIARIES by R.O. Kwon. what a novel. her use of short, poetic sentences pushed me to pay attention to myself, my self, proving there’s everything and nothing contained in a sentence.
speaking of short, in the short stories department, BOTH WAYS IS THE ONLY WAY I WANT IT by Maile Meloy was my favourite. i wanted the long, lonely sweep of the prairies and i found them in these spare stories set in Montana. again, the everything and nothing sentences.
i reread craft books by Stephen King and James Wood and Alan Watts because i don’t know how to write. i have other craft books waiting on my shelf to save my writing life.