These are the books of the mid­dle of the grey sea­son here in Seat­tle. It’s been a good month for reading.

Books that I read:

Best American Poetry 2016 — Edward Hirsch, ed. (2016)

Not as love­ly and full of sur­pris­es as the 2014 edi­tion edit­ed by Ter­rance Hayes. This is more pre­dictable poet­ry from the major venues and it lacks the punch and pull of some ear­li­er vol­umes. Nonethe­less, there are fine pieces of work here. And if you’re look­ing for a new to you poets this is always a good way to find them.
* why is the default orga­ni­za­tion alpha­bet­i­cal? sure­ly there are more inter­est­ing ways to arrange a vol­ume of poetry *


Visiting Privileges: New and Collected Stories — Joy Williams (2015)

What can I say? — Joy Williams con­tin­ues to pro­duce sto­ries and vignettes that chal­lenge our ver­sion of what a per­son­al nar­ra­tive means. And our notions of how peo­ple are con­nect­ed and dis­con­nect­ed from their milieu and from them­selves. I just read an essay that dis­cuss­es the sense of self vs not-self in regards to men­tal ill­ness. (See next mon­th’s reviews for more.) There are thin places in the psy­che where “I” rubs up against “not‑I” and the dis­tinc­tions become prob­lem­at­ic. This hap­pens in many of Williams sto­ries. And then there is the sim­ple joy of her language.
* who am I, when I am not who I am? and who are you? *

Eleanor and Hick: The Love affair that Shaped a First Lady — Susan Quinn (2016)

I stopped part way through this. The rela­tion­ship between Eleanor Roo­sevelt and her friend Lore­na Hickok has been dis­cussed to death by ER schol­ars and while this book makes a good case for a tight­ly inti­mate rela­tion­ship bor­der­ing on a love affair between the woman it’s actu­al­ly a pret­ty dull book. How any­one can make sto­ry of a life­long rela­tion­ship between two pow­er­ful women who go on to change his­to­ry seem so dull? By mak­ing it most­ly a list of dates, and places, and excerpts from let­ters that pro­vides no great insight into either woman.
* reads like a trav­el­ogue to a dull country *


The Round House — Louise Erdrich (2013)

The very short ver­sion: a bru­tal attack on a woman results in a changed rela­tion­ship between a father and son. There are many char­ac­ters famil­iar to read­ers of Erdrich’s sto­ries here. They pop­u­late the edges of the sto­ry and bring per­spec­tive to a sto­ry of a woman trau­ma­tized, her hus­band who won­ders how to bring his wife back from the abyss, and their 13-year-old son, Joe who is thrust pre­ma­ture­ly in the adult world of imper­fect jus­tice. Fine writ­ing and char­ac­ters that we can care for, and Erdrich’s insight­ful exca­va­tions into the inte­ri­or of the human heart and what it means to love.
* what hap­pens when ado­les­cence runs up against the adult world *

Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer — Fredrik Backman (2016)

A novel­la. Told in the voice of man who is slip­ping into demen­tia. Grand­pa sits in a square in a park with his grand­son Noah­Noah. It’s a square that grows small­er and small­er each day as the mem­o­ries of his life time slip away. You’ll fall in love with the boy who sits watch­ing his grand­fa­ther and not quite under­stand­ing what’s hap­pen­ing to his hero. As well as feel a touch of com­pas­sion for the son who watch­es as his father con­fus­es his grand­son with him­self. It’s a sto­ry about slow­ly say­ing goodbye.
* Poignant. I read it on Christ­mas Eve — in one sitting. *


Wishful Drinking — Carrie Fisher (2008)

Car­rie Fish­er is hon­est, tough on her­self, and fun­ny. The book is relat­ed to the one-woman show that she did in 2008. (Filmed by HBO in 2010). While it retains many of Fish­er’s char­ac­ter­is­tic fun­ny moments, it lacks the vocal and ges­tur­al tricks that Fish­er used in the show to make the thing hang together.
* watch it, don’t read it *



As always click on the cov­er to see the book at Amazon.