Books Covid-19 Poetry Uncategorized

My Book Shelf/Self Challenge: June

 

Every month I promise myself that I will start putting together this post as I read the books. And every month life gets on the way. Which results on this being late by three days, and on a less fresh, but more reflective take on the books. That is how things are rolling now.

I am also playing with the format, because as much as I like photo galleries, I also love to write, and that was too much text to read over a photo. It also may or may not have to do with the fact that I cannot use italics on a gallery. Let’s see if it works this way.

Unbelievably, I finished four books. I think that was my best since Covid19 entered our lives. Hopefully the summer will help, and July will be even better. I liked them all, but if there is one I’d urge you to read, it has to be Blindness, by José Saramago. I read it 20 years ago, but right now, it is poignant, and more relevant than ever. But let’s start.

A book title Such a Fun Age and a coffee glass on a patio table.
It took me three days and a few coffees to read it.

Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid

I read this book thanks to the book club from the university where I teach. I had never been interested in book clubs before, I am more or a lone reader. But being a social butterfly stuck at home made me crave gatherings. So I joined three in the last few months.

The book was chosen before George Floyd was murdered, but it was very timely, as it addresses race, class, gender, and everything in between. It starts with a prototypical white Instagram mom who hires a black babysitter. I won’t reveal much more, because I don’t want to spoil it. It was a fast read, I couldn’t put it down. At the same time, I wasn’t crazy about the ending. Let me know what you make of it if you read it. But it was very entertaining, and a good start if you want for your bookshelves to be more diverse. (Hint: you should want it).

The book Selected Poems, by Emily DickinsonSelected Poems, by Emily Dickinson

I have a confession to make. I didn’t love Emily Dickinson’s poems. They were good, and I liked them, and see the importance of her writing what she wrote, when she wrote it. I also see the appeal of her story and the mystery that surrounds her life. But they didn’t touch me. Many of them sounded just too similar to each other. Fluffy. I guess that in part I was disappointed because I had huge expectations. And they weren’t met. I would love to read a good biography, and her letters. Maybe that will get me excited.

The book And Short the Season, by Maxine KuminAnd Short the Season, by Maxine Kumin

And excited is how this other book managed to get me. At the beginning I wasn’t convinced either, the first few poems are quite lyrical, very pretty, but mostly descriptive. But as the book progresses, she veers from more philosophical poems to more mundane topics, some of them openly rebellious. They are exactly what I want to read right now. There is a verse in this book, published in 2014, that I want to ink on my wall: “Who knew we would live to write the worst?”(from the poem, Provincetown, Cape Cod, 1963, p. 98). It could have been written pretty much any day, Spring of 2020.

The book Ensayo sobre la ceguera, by José SaramagoEnsayo sobre la ceguera, by José Saramago

Saramago himself

I left the best for last. I am playing favorites here, I admit it. José Saramago is one of my favorite writers, and Blindness, which is the book’s title in English, is one of my favorite novels. I read it for the first time 20 years ago, as I prepared to attend a week long writing workshop with Saramago himself. Since he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature two years before, in 1998, the workshop was anything but intimate. It was probably 200 of us in an auditorium, but to get to listen to him for six or seven hours a day for seven days was one of the most striking experiences of my life.

Saramago had aura, what in Spanish we call “duende”. He walked in a room, and he would lit it. He was 78 years old, and still very attractive, kind and charming, but extremely sharp. And he told stories beautifully, as he does in his books. I guess that maybe I should write a whole post about that week, and focus on this novel here.

Blindness

As I started rereading it, I had to stop to comment it with my husband. Its impact is strong, I would read a page and pause, because there is so much to unpack in each and every one of them. Blindness narrates the chaos that ensues during a pandemic, and as soon as our pandemic started, I felt the need to read it again. Sadly, the copy I read in 2000 is still in my parents’ house in Spain, so I had to order another one. Unabridged Books surprised me by being able to get me the Spanish translation of a Portuguese book in a couple of days. Thank you, globalization.

We read it in another one of the book clubs I now belong to, but I don’t know if I will be forgiven for suggesting it. It is quite a heavy read, at least until you get used to his peculiar style, but it lead to a lively and interesting book discussion. There are so many topics packed into 375 pages that I could spend weeks talking about it. If you decide to read it, as you should, let me know, and I will be happy to chat it up.

The world lost an excellent writer and even better philosopher the day he died, and I have wondered often during this pandemic what he would have thought of what is going on right now. In a way, he predicted it. And although what he “saw” wasn’t pretty, he still instilled hope in the book.

 

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