Tag Archives: bookreviews

Review: Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My book group picked Citizen for the month of May. One unusually sunny April weekend day, I was bopping around Powell’s dreaming of leisurely summer reads when I came across Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (published in 2004) in the new books, used prices section. I noticed the subtitle is also “An American Lyric” and I thought, hmmm, I should read this one too and I should read it first. So, I did, and now I have less than a week to read the book we are actually discussing. This doesn’t worry me since I read Don’t Let Me Be Lonely in three days. I didn’t read it straight through, though. I would read a section, then close the book to catch my breathe before opening the book again to read more. The book is a co-mingling of words, images, and footnotes. I read them all together the first time through, then flipped back and looked at each separately. I got something different each time. The book begins like a simple diary, a recording of life events and that forms the backbone of the book, which dips into image, poem, spoken word, then back to diary. Rankine meditates on television violence, pharmaceuticals, depression, death, and history to show the consequences of fear: dark, pervasive loneliness. It is in the last pages where the book becomes most clearly metapoetic: “Sometimes you read something and a thought that was floating around in your veins reorganizes itself into the sentence that reflects it.” And this is the digression that saves you from being overcome by the dark truths in the book. Rankine writes, “In order from something to be handed over a hand must extend and a hand must receive. We must both be here in this world in this life in this place indicating the presence of.” Rankine suggests the possibility of art as perhaps not an antidote, but at least a respite to the pervasive loneliness that arises from the inevitability or death, especially in our modern world.

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Review: An Atlas of the Difficult World

An Atlas of the Difficult World
An Atlas of the Difficult World by Adrienne Rich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Atlas of the Difficult World delivers, as Rich’s collections always do. Reading her work must be ennobling; It feels as though it must. Even though so much here eluded me in the moment (i.e. I didn’t “understand”)–it is the lines that strike an immediate chord, then the reflection on the work as a whole that allow me to say I understood and was moved. To me, this collection seems to be a case for art, though it is difficult and there is so much suffering already. Art is better than memory for remembering. One line that cut right through: “because no one understood all picnics are eaten on the grave?”

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The Brothers K, by David James Duncan

The Brothers KThe Brothers K by David James Duncan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me just over three weeks to finish this book, and I’m a slow reader. Record set! It’s not that it’s an “easy read”. The sentences are complex, the voices nuanced and differentiated, the motifs deftly woven. The text is rich, to be savored–full of scenes, letters, sermons, narrative insights, allusions, and epigraphs. At times I laughed out loud. At times, I sobbed. Particularly this morning as I sat in bed finishing the last 100 pages, tears just kept coming to my eyes. I went down to get coffee and babbled to my son about how good the book was before darting back upstairs to see what happened next. That part too is part of why it’s such a page turner. The way Duncan keeps the mystery just out of reach, plies you along with vague foreshadowing. Also the way he creates characters you care about. I even mostly liked the parts about baseball. Part epic, part romance, part philosophical fiction. Read it! Read it now. You won’t be sorry.

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Holy The Firm, Annie Dillard

Holy the FirmHoly the Firm by Annie Dillard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, Ms. Dillard. I heart you. From the first time I opened Pilgrim At Tinker Creek in a nature writing class as Grays Harbor College in 1994, you have consistently demonstrated the ability to take my breath away and give it back over and over again. They way you take your observations of nature and experiences of the world and use them to explore the biggest questions amazes me. You are not for the bored or faint-hearted.
I took this little book with me to Flapjack Lakes and read it until I fell asleep and then finished it sitting on a mossy rock overlooking a lake while I drank my morning coffee out of a blue titanium camping mug. The moth! The girl! You explore the question of why there is such suffering in the world if there is a God and add that the existence of suffering is the reason for art. Well, that’s what I think anyway. You sometimes go over head in the most gorgeous way.

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My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book OneMy Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One by Elena Ferrante
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finished this book a while ago and have been thinking about what to write here. This book is the first in a series of four and I felt a little jipped in the end when I realized that in order to get to the bottom of some of the books central mysteries I would have to read all four. I am tempted to do this, though as the summer draws to a close and I’m beginning to think more and more of the stories I’ll teach this coming school year and the books I really wanted to read by the end of summer, it may not be right away. When I do read them, though, I hope they’ll be page turners like the first one, that I can read them all in one long binge. The sense of place created in the story, the mystery, and the looming danger did compel me to finish this book at a faster pace. The aspect of this story that I most want to see through to the end is the strange friendship/rivalry between Elena (narrator) and Lila. Their love and envy are rendered hauntingly real. This story begins in the 1950s when the two girls are primary school friends and takes place is a poor community outside of Naples where distinctions of class, gossip and rumors, and old-world values complicate relationships. The two very different paths the two friends take as they move out of adolescence and into adulthood is a central theme.

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