hello again, friends! I hope you are doing well on this Sunday evening; here in the United States, we had a national holiday that’s built upon a huge terrible myth, but it did mean I got two days free from work (even if trying to make kids do schoolwork when they KNOW they have a holiday coming up is practically impossible… we do our best!) I did not do as much reading as I wanted this weekend, because I was sick (read: mental illness, which just happens sometimes!) but I am shambling ever closer to my reading goal for the year!
Books are going to be ever important as this year closes, because I made the (difficult, but also kind of easy?) decision to stay here, like 650 miles away from where my family traditionally gathers for Christmas. I hope you are making similar difficult but easy decisions; I know that it has been a rough year for so many of us (and WOOF it has been rough,) but for me, keeping my family safe is something of a no-brainer, and given that I am exposed to folks outside my household every day (as are the people I live with,) it’s a better choice for me to be here. And hey, I have so many books to read so maybe during the week and a half of teaching I have off, I’ll try to knock some more of them out, on top of the regular reading schedule I try to stick to (but often fail at.) I am just hanging out right now though, writing this newsletter, looking at a mini tree my mom bought me so I can put presents underneath it, while bathed in the soft glow of the multicolored strand of lights I keep in my bedroom year round, because I’m a little gremlin for whom twinkle lights are not enough.
Regardless, let’s get to
Books I Wrote About This Week
(it was a lot)
This is another nostalgia read, one I got right before the shutdowns started (like I think I picked it up from the library, and the next day the libraries closed) and it was a great choice. Eva Ibbotson's books were big ones for me as a kid, and this one was my favorite of the ones I loved. She's just so good at creating these wild characters who are both really like grounded in real attributes and flaws, and are also so over the top and wild, and it makes me feel so delightful. A lot of books are fun to read, but these are just... extra fun to read. I want to read more of her books, the ones I read as a kid and maybe some other ones.
Also has someone made this into a movie? I feel like it would be amazing as a movie, even like a low budget made for TV one on the BBC. I haven't looked into it, but I think it would be a fun idea because there are just so many good visuals in the book. I'm not even much of a visual reader, but Ibbotson does a great job at giving you details that guide you into picturing even parts of the story if you aren't like a whole story imaginer. It's hard for me to pick out Craft Elements sometimes when I'm reading, but this was so easy to pick out what I liked, and I'm glad. If you haven't read the book, and you want something easy to get through (I read it all in one day, and it was a GREAT hit of dopamine to finish a book, even a kids' book, in one day) then definitely check this out.
I did it! I read another book of poetry! And it made me think about how I read poetry; maybe I have mused upon this before, but forgive me, it's been many many months since I read poetry. I think a lot about poetry as a super accessible format; I think it's Audre Lorde who talks about poetry as being for working people, because it can be written or read in short breaks, on the bus or in the break room on a lunch break. But for me reading this, I really felt like I had to sink into it and let it like. Work on me over minutes and nearly an hour. I read this in two days, once for eleven-ish minutes according to the app I use to track these things, and the second for forty minutes, and felt much more connected to it that second reading block than I did the first time.
So once again, we are faced with my anxiety that I am somehow reading poetry Wrong, and I don't know why that is. I think for me, poetry is like an orientation, and one that has to contest with the other ways I think and am affected by reading. I always walk away from a good time reading poetry 1) wanting to write poetry of my own and 2) with my internal monologue shifted to kind of more... poetic, more grounded in small images, small sensations. Much more connected to the present than I normally am, all up in my head and disconnected from my body (this is what I work on in therapy week after week... exhausting stuff!) And in order to that, I need to actually spend TIME with it, letting myself sink into that place.
So I guess the answer ultimately is... I need to read more poetry! I wanted to! I will! It is good to realize these things and then pursue them! So I will take that forward and really work on getting my hands on more poetry and then reading it!
Harrow the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir
Another horror-adjacent read! A month after Halloween, oops! And this is like horror sci-fi but. Reading this reminds me that I like having people to talk out books AS I'm reading them--not just after--and how useful it can be to actually turn to people as you're reading a book and go "hey--did I miss something?" It's definitely EXTRA helpful for this book, which is wildly confusing (and For Reasons, and some of it gets resolved and some doesn't and there's a third book coming that I am excited to read!)
But this book IS confusing as hell, and throws you into the deep end of the confusion and holds no hands for a significant portion of the book, which are all super valid choices that can be made with a book, especially if it's for a Reason like it is in this book. But then it helps me to have someone else to turn to because at first I felt like I had missed so much; I hadn't read the previous book in over a year (though I want to reread it again, and then reread this one--I feel like both are books that benefit from multiple readings, but I don't own either and read both from the library on ebook after significant hold waits, so I don't have a lot of chances to revisit.) But it's then helpful for me to turn to someone who has already read it (for this, my very patient and lovely friend Jaime,) and say "hey did I forget this? Am I crazy?" and also every single time this book has a meme from like 2012 tumblr (and it's a lot) to turn and say "GOD ANOTHER MEME I CAN'T HANDLE THIS." "Turn" here is more metaphorical, as Jaime and I don't live in the same place and even if we did, I am not seeing friends right now because of pandemic, but it is still nice to have a sounding board when you're in the midst of a book. I do this often with books, and I think it worked out particularly well for this book which was so confusing, and rewarding but I needed help getting there.
Folks, as we creep into the nth month of this pandemic (I think technically we're at 8 months since we first had a shutdown here, but what do I know, I'm always lost) I've been thinking a lot about ways to approach life and this was such a fascinating read about life as a disabled person in non-pandemic times, and what we can learn from nature and also like the limits of a human bodymind, especially one that is disabled. I feel like there's a tension that people are experiencing where life IS different but we keep pretending its not (and we do that in no small part because there has been literally no leadership example to follow or support to do the things that keep us safe, like keeping people home and paying them, having rent and mortgage stoppages, free childcare for necessary workers, no school for anyone, etc etc.)
But I think HOPEFULLY our more internal lives sense a dissonance between how fast we are actually being asked to move in this severely traumatic moment, and how fast we are ABLE to move with the amount of fear, uncertainty, and stress that living day to day in these circumstances. And for me, this book was a good reminder of that, of what can be positive about going slowly, taking in small things. I don't think that's an escape, I think for me, in reading this book, it's about reminding myself that it is in fact okay to slow down, to be slow, to take time in the pleasure of small things; not in a way that is like 'I will just stick my head in a hole in the ground' but in actively fighting the tension of the immediacy with which we feel the world must respond, and the reality of how slow things are in this moment. It's a tension I fight with all the time, as I think does any person who sees injustice in the world and cannot stand for it, or anyone who feels the ground slipping underneath them as they struggle to keep themselves and those they love alive.
What would it mean to move slowly and deliberately in this moment? This book wasn't written in the pandemic, but I think it is a good read for the pandemic, to remind ourselves about what alternatives for our current moment look like--ways of being slow and deliberate in how we live our lives and experience our world. Also you learn about snail sex! So read this book!
Resolution Check In
(because we’re basically in the homestretch!)
100 books: 99 BOOKS!!! AT THE TIME OF THIS WRITING!!! FOLKS WE’RE CLOSING IN ON THE END OF THIS ONE.
10 books of poetry: HEY ANOTHER ONE DONE, so we’re at 4/10!!! Gotta keep going along; maybe I can do 5/10?? that’s 50% which is a failing grade but I’m not in school for this, this is me trying to broaden my horizons so. We’ll see!
10 books of Discworld: only 3/10 finished but I DID just start the 4th of this year so! I’m doing an okay job!
Bible: DONE!!! War and Peace: DONE!!! Paradise Lost: Folks, Adam and Eve HAVE fallen. I only have three more books left I think (“books” being the segments of like 800-1000+ lines of poetry—maybe if I finish this before the year is out, that can be my 5th book!)
Moby Dick: DONE!!
YOT/S&S/LBC: Still! Working slowly but surely through Captive Genders, and excited for things to come; Mariame Kaba has a book coming out in January from Haymarket Books, so um if you want a Christmas gift for yourself, preorder it here! (Don’t try to buy one for me, I’m already a member of the Haymarket Books Book Club so I get all their new titles.)
And that’s it for this week! I hope I can be back next week, rather than biweekly, just because I like to write these and I hope they’re good for you too. Thank you regardless, for reading my newsletter and for doing what you can to keep yourself and others safe. December tends to be a big ask month for charities, non-profits, and other groups, so be choosy and check out projects, as well as continue to engage in mutual aid where you can. We keep each other safe! If you want to follow me, you can find me on twitter @fadesintointent, or on instagram @sonofahurricane. Take care of yourselves, and each other! <3