october 17

Hello my friends! It is Sunday once again which means it is newsletter time! I had my first week of work this past week, and folks it was lovely. I’m not fully settled in yet—waiting on access to a couple more things (mostly: my time card, oops, lol, just out here volunteering my time I guess,) and waiting to be a little more settled before I get to do some more stuff, start some projects etc, but my coworkers are great, I enjoy my work environment so much, and I feel like I’ve been able to do things already just by being there. Look at this sign I made so people know my pronouns!

I just feel like I’m going to be able to do some really good work here, and I’m excited about it! And I’ve still been able to do some reading, even if I don’t have 800 reviews this week to show for it. I HAVE made headway, and as we’ll see I have finished some books this week, just not during the week before it was time to write the newsletter! But the ebbs and flows will actually continue I think, not stop because I’m working. This weekend has been a readathon through Bookly, the app I use to keep track of my reading, and I’ve read over 500 pages since Thursday when it started, so I’m doing an okay job all things considered, and I think especially reading on the weekend has been good for me this week. So I’ll keep chugging along!

But let’s get us through this and on to

The Book I Wrote About This Week

Swimming to the Top of the Tide: Finding Life Where Land and Water Meet, by Patricia Hanlon

I have a hard time with Nature Books. I’m not a deep appreciator of nature, despite my attempts to take seriously that fact as a Problem that I need to address in order to better help caretake the land (in good relationship with Indigenous people who know best how to do so, of course.) But most of my affective relationship to things is based in nostalgia—this is why I love the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and why my favorite landscapes are distinctly Rust Belt—abandoned factories and warehouses, long abandoned smoke stacks. I grew up with a closed Jeep plant literally down the street from me; the park at the end of my block was built on a capped landfill that factory used to use. One of my major complaints about living in Minneapolis (among many other complaints) is that the city doesn’t feel like it’s ever been in decline, that it isn’t falling apart, which means it doesn’t feel like “home.”

Yes, that’s a big issue! My personal aesthetics are absolutely born of the kind of industrial capitalism that has caused so much harm on so many levels, and it has a deep impact on my ability to imagine relationships to land and water. To me, a Real Lake smells strongly of dead fish, because Lake Erie does (as does Lake Michigan, so maybe it’s a Great Lakes thing.) I could not do the kind of swimming Hanlon describes pursuing in her book in my hometown, because the river is too polluted to swim in.

And arguably this is all the more reason for me to be interested in these kinds of books, but I also have a hard time keeping a map in my head. This story is so deeply steeped in the geography of a place I have never, to my knowledge, been; I’ve been to coastal areas, but of course what matters (and in part what Hanlon argues for in the book) is the deep knowledge of the specificity of the environment. Throw me with her into a creek, the same creek several times, and I’ll feel every time like you’ve thrown me into a completely different place. So maybe… I need pictures? The book has a map but if a book has a map at the front, I will look at it and go “well that’s very nice” and never look back again. I know maybe I should, to solve this problem, but just because I know I should doesn’t mean I will, ever. And to the point: a map doesn’t, to me, give me an actual sense of being there, and also like orientation matters so deeply to reading maps. I know, in the city where I live, that the river is east and Bde Maka Ska is west, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a brief moment of panic when I come home from work and get confused about taking a highway east or west.

So if I can’t orient myself to that place in general, how am I supposed to orient myself to the various ways that Hanlon describes entering and exiting the water? I can be with her, so to speak (of course not for REAL, we’re holding off on Terry Eagleton for a hot second to try to explore another point,) in the water but I will have no idea where she’s going or where she came from. In so many ways I’m left only with the visceral: the shock of the cold water, the way she describes silt and sand and grass under her fins and mitts. And I think these are the limits for me of this kind of placed orientation, the struggle of trying to share an intimate knowledge of a place with those who have never been. So maybe I need to keep trying! But it’s a real struggle for me right now.

The Reading Situation

  • 100 books: At the time of this writing, I’ve read 96 out of 100 books! I’m getting pretty excited—given that I read ~five books at a time (though really more and also sometimes less, in terms of actual books started and of books in my active rotation at one time,) my final book of my goal is in my current batch! I’m looking forward to getting there and finishing it!

  • Author identity challenge: still at 14/18, or 78%! Still working slowly, maybe November is the month I’ll really step up and take a look at those last four prompts. But pretty please to be honest with this whole thing!

  • Currently reading: Just started My Heart is a Chainsaw, a little over halfway through Women’s Liberation now, inching slowly through Sexual Justice and establishing a plan for reading Ideology more on the weekends (though it might take a backseat to another book that came in from the library… so many books, so little time!)

HMU

And that’s it for this week! I will hopefully have more reviews and thoughts for you next week, though I am also going on a short trip to see some friends so if next week’s newsletter is a little late, oops! But hopefully it will not be. If you want to see my adventures, you can follow me on twitter @fadesintointent; if you want to see me show off my friends’ art, you can follow me on instagram @sonofahurricane, where I’m trying to share more of that on my story! Otherwise, I will hopefully see you all next week with more books having been read, and more job updates! Take care of yourselves, and each other! <3

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