Books to Ride Out the Lockdown

It’s not that I am unused to spending days at a time inside without seeing another human being. It’s just that I am used to doing it on my own terms. In any other year I would be out stomping the trails at all of the parks within a hundred miles of my house. This year? Not so much.

I finally have my schedule settled in so that I have more concentrated reading time, which is good because the books, they just keep coming in.

On the left is the latest edition of Pulphouse. In the middle is a gorgeous illustrated novel from Deep Vellum Publishing, Above Us the Milky Way by Fowzia Karimi. On the right is the new book from Thomas Piketty, Capital and Ideology, which is a companion volume to his magisterial Capital in the Twenty-First Century. At over 1,100 pages it will take a few days to read, I think.

I am finally back in my reading groove. In the past week I have finished William Gibson’s Neuromancer (a re-read), David Walton’s The Genius Plague, Rita Indiana’s Tentacle, China Mieville’s The Last Days of New Paris, and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Alchemist. It was a binge, and it was wonderful! I have since started The Sol Majestic by Ferret Steinmetz, and am browsing at random Jim Harrison’s collected nonfiction Just Before Dark.

My writing in the past month and more has fallen completely by the wayside though I have jotted down a few ideas for poems.

I feel pressure to pack the spare moments with simple pleasures. Starting tomorrow, and likely to extend through the end of My, I will be on a project in which I will be working four twelve hour days a week, 6 pm to 6 am. I haven’t worked third shift since I was 21, and that nearly killed my, though it was only for about six weeks as well. Then again, that was in a factory for minimum wage, and this will be sitting in my home office for substantially better pay.

Such is the exciting life of a developer.

 

Books for Social Distancing

As of a few days ago COVID-19 has made landfall here in West Michigan, so we are all hunkering down for a long haul of avoiding significant social interaction. Fortunately I have several hundred books in the house that I have not read. They should last me a couple of weeks. I also have a job where I can work from home so, until the toilet paper runs out, I have no real reason to interact with other human beings beyond my wonderful girlfriend. She is a school teacher, so she will be hanging around the neighborhood for the next three weeks until the schools reopen.

On the left in the above photo is the latest issue of the superb Rain Taxi, because of which I will undoubtedly order several new books in the upcoming months. On the right is the latest delivery from Deep Vellum, Girls Lost by Jessica Schiefauer. 2020 is starting out with a much slower acquisition rate than the previous several years, and for that I am kind of happy, as I was beginning to feel the pressure of insufficient shelving. I mean, I still feel that pressure, but it is not an immediate concern.

In reading news, I am hopping randomly through volumes III and IV of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, published by NESFA Press. These stories are just wonderful! I have been a Zelazny fan since I first read Nine Princes in Amber back in the early 1980s.

I am also reading Tentacle by Rita Indiana, one of the books from my subscription to And Other Stories. One chapter in and I am fully hooked.

My writing game has been significantly off these past few weeks so I am switching over fully to editing several short stories. I have four so far which I think will be worthy of publishing.

Assuming there is such a thing as publishing as we work our way further through this very stupid timeline.

Since you’ve made it to the end of this post, here is a picture of Poe.

 

Books to Entertain and Intimidate

It’s been a busy week here at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. Yesterday we had our kitten spayed. She recovered nicely from the surgery and spent most of yesterday evening and night, well into today, being a psychotic beast. Only in the last couple of hours (a full 24 since the surgery) has she calmed down enough to sit still for more than about a minute. Thus, no kitten in today’s photo.

A small stack of books arrived in the past week. On the left is the newest issue of Jacobin. In the middle is the latest from Deep Vellum, The Love Story of the Century. And on the right is an impulse buy from Semiotext(e), The Coming Insurrection, the first title in their Interventions series.

The Coming Insurrection was briefly famous back in 2009 when noted fascist bootlick Glenn Beck spent several weeks pissing himself in terror on Fox News over what he called “the most evil book he has ever read.” Coming from someone who at the time worked at white nationalist propaganda outlet Fox News, that description is hilarious. I doubt Beck or any of his catamites (the ones who can read, anyway) made it past more than the first few pages of this small text.

So I have some good reading for the week ahead, while I nurse our kitten back to health.

Poe Approves of Books in Translation

Here we have the famous book critic, Poe Kitten, expressing her approval of the latest book from Two Lines Press, b, Book, and Me, by Kim Sagwa, Though Poe has not yet read this book she approves of it because it is another thing for her to be briefly curious about and possibly gnaw on.

Not much new on the book acquisition side of things which is a relief as I am still cataloging the many books I picked up at ConFusion two weeks ago.

(Jeez. Was it only two weeks ago?)

Reading and writing continues apace. I have a few pieces still out there seeking new homes, and I am collating the stories I read throughout January, for their own post.

Now if you will excuse me, the Superbowl is on, so I have some nature documentaries to watch!

Books and Cats and Books and Cats

The week leading up to ConFusion 2020 was packed and chaotic, full of kitten hijinks, shenanigans and tomfoolery. And also a few books.

The top two, Half Way Home and the Principia Discordia, I picked up at ConFusion from the stack of free books.

The bottom row starts with Franco Berardi’s Breathe: Chaos and Poetry from Semiotext(e), a publisher for whom I have re-developed a profound love. Next is This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I picked this one up hoping that Mohtar would sign it at ConFusion but alas! she did not attend this year.

Third in the bottom row is Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade which I DID get signed at ConFusion, and next to it is Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, likewise signed. I will talk more of ConFusion and books and signing in an upcoming blog post.

For reading, I managed a couple of short stories, but was too busy for much other than the usual half-hearted browsing of random internet pieces.

Yeah, ConFusion was a lot of fun.

What I Read in 2019

The following is a list of all the books I read in calendar year 2019. Despite it being an extremely busy year, I still managed to squeeze in reading time, mostly by avoiding distractions like sleep. I only listed the books I completed.

In this list are 26 fiction titles, 19 poetry collections, and 5 books of nonfiction. On a five point scale, almost all of these were in the 3 to 5 range. I only scored two books lower than 3. I’m not including scores here because I included them in GoodReads and, less consistently, LibraryThing.

What this list doesn’t show is all of the short fiction and individual poems I read in mailing lists, magazines, websites, literary journals and the like. Those together would probably equal around a thousand pages, or say four additional books.

I can say that it was the poetry books that got me to 50 titles for the year. Not that poetry is trite or easier to read than prose; it is simply that poetry books (the works of Evan S. Connell notwithstanding) are in the main shorter than prose works.

Though each of these books was in some way remarkable, I want to specifically call out five of them for sticking with me well after reading:

  • Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin (fiction)
  • Here: Poems for the Planet, edited by Elizabeth Coleman (poetry)
  • Carceral Capitalism by Jackie Wang (nonfiction)
  • The Language of Saxophones by Kamau Daaood (poetry)
  • Becoming Superman by J. Michael Straczynski (memoir)

For 2020 I will track my reading a little differently: I will keep two lists, one for books and the other for short prose. As I ramp up my writing practice I will be reading A LOT of short stories as study for my own work. Keeping an account of this reading will help me figure out my own skills and shortcomings in the art.

Date Author Title
2019.01.17 Palmer, Ada Too Like the Lightning
2019.01.25 Steinmetz, Ferret Fix
2019.02.12 Greylock, TL The Blood-Tainted Winter
2019.02.14 Tucker, Phil Death March
2019.02.18 Clark, P. Djeli The Black God’s Drums
2019.02.25 Hernandez, Catherine Scarborough
2019.02.27 Link, Kelly Origin Stories
2019.03.13 Adams, John Joseph and LaValle, Victor (eds.) A People’s Future of the United States
2019.03.27 Oliver, Mary Why I Wake Early
2019.03.29 Huey, Amorak Ha Ha Ha Thump
2019.03.31 Dickinson, Seth The Monster Baru Cormorant
2019.04.02 Ferlinghetti, Lawrence A Coney Island of the Mind (50th anniversary edition)
2019.04.03 Ridl, Jack Saint Peter and the Goldfinch
2019.04.04 sax, sam madness
2019.04.11 Kocher, Ruth Ellen When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering
2019.04.13 Montes, Lara Mimosa The Somnambulist
2019.04.21 Cooper, Wyn Postcards from the Interior
2019.04.24 Evans, CJ A Penance
2019.04.25 Vodolazkin, Eugene Laurus
2019.04.30 Ostups, Artis Gestures
2019.05.10 Palmer, D. Thourson Ours is the Storm
2019.05.20 Comola, Jessica everything we met changed form & followed the rest
2019.05.26 Townsend, Tracy The Nine
2019.06.13 Coleman, Elizabeth J. (ed.) Here: Poems for the Planet
2019.06.20 Brace, Kristin Each Darkness Inside
2019.06.30 Krieger, Scott Illyrian Fugue
2019.07.01 Liu, Ken The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary
2019.07.04 Tomlinson, Patrick The Ark
2019.07.07 Tomlinson, Patrick Trident’s Forge
2019.07.12 Roanhorse, Rebecca Storm of Locusts
2019.07.17 Kowal, Mary Robinette Scenting the Dark and Other Stories
2019.07.27 Turgenev, Ivan First Love and Other Stories
2019.08.06 Kuznia, Yanni (ed.) A Fantasy Medley 2
2019.08.23 Chateaureynaud, Georges-Olivier A Life on Paper
2019.08.28 Daaood, Kamau The Language of Saxophones
2019.09.01 Serna, Rudolfo A. Snow Over Utopia
2019.09.06 Ivanova, Adelaide The Hammer
2019.09.19 Jin, Yong A Hero Born
2019.09.19 Breedlove, Lynn 45 Thought Crimes
2019.09.23 George, Jenny The Dream of Reason
2019.09.28 Kooser, Ted Local Wonders
2019.09.30 Rhein, Christine Wild Flight
2019.10.18 Harrison, Jim True North (re-read)
2019.10.29 Pimentel Chacon, Sasha Insides She Swallowed
2019.11.16 Straczynski, J. Michael Becoming Superman
2019.11.17 Buckell, Tobias It’s All Just a Draft
2019.12.02 Ashton, Dyrk Paternus: Wrath of Gods
2019.12.05 James, Marlon Black Leopard, Red Wolf
2019.12.17 Wang, Jackie Carceral Capitalism
2019.12.19 Fisher, Mark Capitalist Realism

The Shortest Day of 2019

As we roll into the holidays I have come down with one of the many and varied species of Crud which roll through Grand Rapids on an almost weekly basis. This makes me sad as this, the shortest day of the year, is also one of the most beautiful and sunniest we have had in months, with temperatures in the mid-40s (F) and local squirrels suddenly regretting having grown such thick pelts for the winter.

We had a surprising stack of books arrive here at the Library this week. I suspect it was various publishers rushing to complete their 2019 tasks before the end of the year. As a former publisher (about which more below) I can understand that.

At top left is A Creative Sojourn, a spur-of-the-moment Kickstarter backing which looks like it has a lot of content near and dear to my own heart, it being a journal of sorts kept by a group of creatives as they toured China and Tibet. The nest two are the latest from my subscription to Deep Vellum, Life Went On Anyway by Oleg Sentsov and Seven Samurai Swept Away in a River by Jung Young Moon.

At bottom left is issue 7 of Salvage, which should keep my head in the appropriate place for the rest of the holidays. Next to it is Michael Burstein’s collection I Remember the Future from Apex Books. On the bottom right is the latest from my subscription to And Other Stories, Luke Brown’s Theft.

In reading news I finished Jackie Wang’s Carceral Capitalism and Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism and, mind blown, moved immediately on to Gore Capitalism by Sayak Valencia. I have to say, this type of reading has put my head in an interesting and uncomfortable place, which I think can best be summed up by a tweet I posted yesterday:

Any sufficiently eldritch abomination is indistinguishable from capitalism. Corollary: Any abomination which is distinguishable from capitalism is insufficiently eldritch.

So, yeah, when I’m done with the leftist books I might need some time to reintegrate into the ever (and increasingly) wingnutty world of West Michigan.

Anyway.

A few days ago I removed from the Caffeinated Press offices the remaining copies of the twelve issues of The 3288 Review. And with that, my involvement with Caffeinated Press has ended. It was a good run, but now it’s over, and at present my strongest associated emotion is relief. I suspect that as time goes on my feelings will drift over to nostalgia tinged with regret as, for all its frustrations and long nights, it really was a lot of fun and quite rewarding in all ways except the financial.

Maybe I’ll do it again some day.

Entering the Home Stretch of 2019

Wow. That year went quickly and also dragged like a drunk sloth. And we still have three weeks to go.

Last week was fairly quiet for the acquisitions department here at the library of Winkelman Abbey. Most of my subscriptions have wound down and I am not out and about purchasing new books as frequently as I have in past years. I don’t consider that a particular problem as I have enough unread books here that, were I to quit all other obligations and devote my life to reading, I would still have difficulty making it through the pile before 2030. For every 36-page poetry collection I have a matching 800+ page genre novel, and more of each are published every day.

In the middle of the above stack is the latest issue of The Paris Review. On the left is Soft Science, a poetry collection by Franny Choi which I purchased on impulse when I visited Books & Mortar to pick up my special order of the book on the right, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher.

With the Fisher book in hand I now have a good stack of holiday reading, which I consider appropriate for some good holiday reading here at the end of 2019.

All of these books have arrived at the Abbey within the last year.

With NaNoWriMo over and Caffeinated Press winding down, as well as various other obligations on hiatus for the month, I have had a lot of time to read, which has been wonderful! I completed Dyrk Ashton‘s excellent Paternus: Wrath of Gods last weekend, and shortly after made it to the end of the magnificent Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. Both books have sequels in the works, and they cannot arrive soon enough!

Currently I am about a third of the way through Jackie Wang‘s Carceral Capitalism. For this (and the other books in the holiday reading photo) I am going back to my roots as a student and treating the reading as a learning assignment. I am taking notes and cross-referencing, underlining long stretches of text with a blue ball-point pen. The experience has been enlightening, if such a word applies to a book as astonishing, infuriating and depressing as this one.

In my spare moments I have been organizing all of my completed, mostly-written, and partially-written poems and short stories, and sorting them into stacks based on whether or not I think they are ready to send out into the wild. Based on the advice Tobias Buckell offered in It’s All Just a Draft I have put together several lists of potential targets at which to fire off my work – fiction, nonfiction poetry, genre and themed deadlines and anthologies. Gotta be somebody, somewhere who wants to publish the work of a burned out, disaffected fifty-something dude.

With 2019, and therefore the decade, winding down, many think-pieces are surfacing on the internet, looking back on the events of 2009-2019 and how now compares to then. I have not decided if I will do something like that. If so it will certainly happen in the last day or so of the year. Wouldn’t want to miss a last-minute event.

 

Archives Are In the Attic

Yesterday whilst out shopping with my girlfriend I picked up some cardboard bank boxes, and filled them with books which, until that point, had been on my bookshelves.

Two things prompted this decision. First, as I no longer live alone, space in our living quarters is at somewhat of a premium and, well, I have a lot of books. Second, the two books which arrived last week at the Library of Winkelman Abbey are HUGE.

On the left is Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Labyrinth of the Spirits, the last of the four volumes of his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. It is 880 pages long, several inches thick, and quite heavy. On the right is the latest delivery from And Other Stories, Endland by Tim Etchells. It is also quite hefty. At almost 400 pages it is probably the longest book I have received from this publisher.

So books require space. So do relationships. Therefore one corner of my attic is now the archive, and the first 60 books from my collection to be stored are now in boxes. Since I have significantly slowed my rate of acquisition (again, relationship) I don’t expect to need to shuffle books around more than once every six months or so.

I don’t have a firm criteria for which get archived, other than that I don’t anticipate wanting to read them, or needing them for reference, or otherwise finding them all that interesting at the moment. That could change in years to come, so I am trying to come up with a tracking system of some kind so I can, if need be in the years to come, find specific archived books with a minimum of hassle.

In reading news, I finished re-reading Jim Harrison’s True North, and it was every bit as good as I remember from the first read ten years ago. I am in the middle of Insides She Swallowed, a poetry collection by Sasha Pimentel Chacon which I picked up at Arkipelago Books in San Francisco in June 2018. I haven’t read enough to form a solid opinion, but the poetry therein is beautiful.

As the year winds down my already limited reading time becomes even more scarce and suddenly fifteen uninterrupted minutes is a precious commodity. NaNoWriMo starts in eleven days and the volunteer work for ConFusion 2020 is slowly ramping up. All of this is fun and wonderful but O, the time disappears so quickly.

The Emperor’s New Books

What, you can’t see them? There a stack right there, just above these words!

Another slow week for acquisitions here at the Library. No new reading material, which allowed me to catch up on some work, reading, and quality time with my honey (the last of which is NONNA YA BIZNIZ!)

Yesterday afternoon I finished Ted Kooser‘s Local Wonders, and it was, as Jim Harrison wrote in his cover blurb, magnificent. And I have just finished Christine Rhein‘s beautiful and sorrowful poetry collection Wild Flight. The two books together have further rekindled in me the writing itch, and with NaNoWriMo just around the corner, as well as an impending significant uptick in my available writing time, I have high hopes for the rest of the calendar year.

I have just started reading Marlon James‘ novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf. I am one chapter in and already hooked. As this book is something over 600 pages long I expect I will be finished around the end of the year, with shorter works interspersed as time and attention span allow.