Post Road Magazine #15

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A Genre You Haven't Loved Enough - John D'Agata

Marguerite Yourcenar wrote Fires, a collection of linked essays about unrequited love, when she was thirty-two years old.

It didn’t appear in the U.S., however, until 1981, six years before she died at the age of eighty-four...

Recommendation: We Didn’t Come Here for This: A Memoir in Poetry, by William B. Patrick - Kathleen Aguero

“Look at this photograph, would you?” asks the speaker in “Last Day at Camp Timlo, August 15, 1960.” “What . . . makes it unfamiliar? / Nothing really,” he continues. Truly, nothing is unfamiliar about the material in William B. Patrick’s We Didn’t Come Here for This, but the tight lens through which the poet views his family, the skill and empathy with which he creates their voices, rivet me to this familiar story as if I’ve never known anything like it...

A Feast of Snakes, by Harry Crews - Jami Attenberg

A bookseller at Powell’s Books in Portland handed me a used copy of Harry Crews’s A Feast of Snakes as if he were revealing to me the location of a scandalous after-hours club, the door to which disappears as soon as you enter it. Like: Even though it looks dark and dirty and scary, this is where you want to go. There’s practically no light inside and the music is unrelenting. Also, guaranteed there’s going to be the occasional scuffle or outright brawl, or people doing drugs on the bar, or maybe there’s a couple screwing in the bathroom and they don’t even stop when you walk in the door, but just trust me, you don’t want to miss this. Crews knows this other world the rest of us don’t, even though, in a way, it seems like it could be just the next town over...

The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald - Nathaniel Bellows

The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald, is 116 pages long. This doesn’t seem to make sense because, despite the small story—Florence Green, a newly widowed middle-aged woman, decides to take her minimal inheritance and start a bookshop in a small coastal town in England—the book is flush with deeply felt, perfectly drawn characters; a living, breathing landscape; and a sensibility that is so generous with emotion, wisdom, and fine, tart humor, you’d think the book would need to be at least three times the length in order to accommodate it all...

I Am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe - Elisabeth Brink

Reading I Am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe’s expose of college life in our time, is like having an entire rowdy, putrid, horny, beer-burping, tradition-rich, ivy-covered campus dropped in your lap. And I’m not talking about the weight of the book, although that’s substantial. I’m talking about its unexpurgated look at the social lives of yearning, deluded postadolescents crowded together by the thousands in a few unsupervised square miles of beer halls, dorm rooms, and cash machines...

Various - Quinn Dalton

This sort of thing is tough—naming a work or two that stand out from all of those other beloved books on my shelf, a beauty contest in which every contestant is a knockout. But if pressed, I usually mention two. Both are contemporary novels set in the latter half of the twentieth century in famous, now-ruined but slowly recovering cities. Both feature main characters caught up in intrigue, of which they soon become, for better or worse, architects. Both are darkly comic, though one is more comic than dark, and the other is, well, the other way around...more

A Miracle of Catfish, by Larry Brown - Jill McCorkle

A Miracle of Catfish, Larry Brown’s final novel, is one not to be missed. I read it in as close to one sitting as was possible, loving that I was feeling so committed and steeped in these characters lives, immersed in all the possibilities that lay up ahead and around the bend of those Mississippi back roads Brown has given such vivid life and respect to all these years. Then as I got closer to the end, I kept feeling the shock of knowledge that I was moving toward an ending he had not had time to write before his untimely death at age fifty-three...

Various - Mameve Medwed

Back in the good old days, before the Coop became Barnes and Noble, and when a bookstore marked every corner in Harvard Square (O Wordsworth! O Reading International. O Barillari! Wherefore art thou?), I went to hear Kazuo Ishiguro. The Remains of the Day had just come out. I fell in love with it—the elegant writing, the layered characters, the themes of lost love and missed opportunities amid the horror of impending war, all the social crumbling underneath the smooth upstairs-downstairs country-house surface. Since this event took place at a time when there weren’t dozens of authors on tour within a five-mile radius, Ishiguro’s appearance in my neighborhood was pretty much the second coming of a rock star, in person, at a theater near you....

The Complete Tales of Merry Gold, by Lydia Millet - Cynthia Thayer

Meanness: how bright and sharp it can be, how instant and perfectly understandable. You don’t find mean girls starring in novels every day; so often protagonists are nice like oatmeal cookies or milk chocolate. I get sick of it, frankly, sick of all these narrators we can relate to easily because they’re so blank and blah that most of what we see in them is our own eagerness to be liked, by anyone and everyone. In real life aren’t purely nice people purely boring? You want a little bit of malice in a person; you want a little bite. We don’t inhabit a nice world, after all—nice isn’t what gave us religion, soaring bridges, a sense of humor, vivid dreams, or great art...

Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West, by Cormac McCarthy - Robert Anthony Siegel

Blood Meridian is the only book that ever gave me nightmares. The bad dreams were caused, in part, by the extraordinary violence of Cormac McCarthy’s story, which follows the murderous wanderings of a young man, known only as “the kid,” through the southwest territories at the end of the nineteenth century. It was a world familiar to me from cowboy movies (horses, hats, plates of beans), but McCarthy had transformed it into something strange and utterly compelling, a kind of primal saturnalia in which white settlers, Mexican peasants, and Native Americans butcher one another for money, land, or no reason at all but what one character calls “the dance.” ...

Size Matters - Debra Spark

I wonder if anyone still reads Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary. Or even knows what it is. I first came across it almost twenty years ago on a boyfriend’s bookshelf. His family were fundamental Baptists, suspicious of Jewish me, so this seemed like a real find. When I flipped it open, however, I found more of a turn-of-the-century joke book than the dark, magical volume I’d imagined. The book collects Bierce’s newspaper pieces, which ran irregularly between 1881 and 1906. First published in part as The Cynic’s Word Book, the complete collection was republished in 1911 with its present title....more

The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury - Sam Weller

We’ve all heard stories of expectant parents and the purported influence of classical music on the child in utero. In my own case, it was neither Bach nor Wagner, Brahms nor Beethoven. In fact, my own prenatal encounter with artistry was literary rather than orchestral—but melodious just the same...

 

 

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