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As is common with me, multiple books currently occupy my reading time. For the past few years I’ve been reading Civil War histories in honor of the Sesquicentennial: the one on my nightstand now is Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West, by Earl J. Hess and William L. Shea. I am also working through Earl Labor’s recent biography of Jack London, and Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories, by Leonard Cassuto.
I’ve recently read David Wong’s bizarre horror-comedy John Dies at the End, Lawrence Block’s collection of hard-boiled detective stories The Night and the Music, and George R.R. Martin’s A Feast For Crows (the murder-filled fourth volume in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, basis for HBO’s Game of Thrones). Currently I’m rotating among Martin’s A Dance With Dragons; Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel From Russia With Love; Dave Draper’s autobiography/fitness manual, Brother Iron, Sister Steel; and—thanks to the magic of the internet—I’m working my way through the online Marvel Comics archive.
I'm currently reading the creative non-fiction work The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch. A collection of autobiographical essays from the pen of an undertaker (himself the son of an undertaker) and poet, this book has been recommended to me several times by writers and writing friends so I decided at last to read it. Although I'm only half done, I too have begun to recommend it to both readers and writers of creative non-fiction--and anyone who appreciates dry wit, sly humor and a keen eye for the odd behaviors of both the living and the dead.
Having a passion for literature inspires me to read all types of texts. I love everything from science fiction to non-fiction and everything in between. Recently I read a pre-utopian novel called The Circle by Dave Eggers. Eggers is not only a prolific author, but he also founded the independent publishing house McSweeney’s. I also recently read the series Divergent by Veronica Roth which includes Divergent, Allegiant and Insurgent. In this dystopian series, choices matter. Read it before you see the movie!! On a lighter note, The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott retells the story of the inventor of Nicholas Flamel in a six novel series. Every book in the series is great! Finally, I love Malcolm Gladwell. His latest comment on society and life is David and Goliath. He connects success to struggle in a unique way. Happy reading!!
Earlier this week I started reading Ten Lessons in Theory: An Introduction to Theoretical Writing by Calvin Thomas. I’ve spent part of my academic life running away from “Theory” and part of it running toward it. Before I turned up my nose at my overly theory-driven pals in graduate school—Judith Butler was all the rage then--I spent the better part of my early 20s reading Walter Benjamin and wondering whether I would have the chops to do New Historicist criticism and thinking about Freud and Marx and Lacan more than was probably healthy. Then everything changed. Thomas’s book, at least the 100 pages I’ve read so far, offers a fairly accessible introduction to some of the big hitters and, more important, major concepts in theoretical writing. I’m a sucker for extended examples and metaphors, and there’s one in this book—about sediment—that I want to memorize and perhaps use as a spur, or maybe a turn, for a poem.