Category Archives: reading experience
Hi. It’s June! Finally and here we are with a fresh start. All the discussion boards and book raffles have been cleared away to make room for the new format. Outline to follow tomorrow, but today I wanted to say, welcome back and let’s make this the best month yet.
I’ve been gone for a little while and am back now. Catch me up: What’s going on with each of you? How’s your reading? What are you reading? What are your thoughts on the new format starting in June?
I am very excited to be announcing a new format for our reading group starting in June. What we have been doing here since February is trying to create a reading group that is completely flexible and in that process the experience has become overwhelming. What we need to do is simplify, simplify, simplify, just like Thoreau said.
Here’s the new deal: Each month we will feature 1 full length book (either nonfiction or fiction) and 1 essay. That’s it. The book selection will change monthly (obviously). The essay, however, will be from the same collection. For the next hand full of months, after June, you will only need to pick up one book. All the essays we will be reading for a while will be from the following collection:
Pick up your copy of this collection as soon as you can. Keep it with you since we will be reading various essays from it at the pace of one per month until we are through. The essay we will be reading in June will be Mark Twain’s Corn-pone Opinions.
The book that received the most votes and therefore will be read in June is:
I hope this all makes sense to you. After the month of May I will be taking down all past discussion comments and past reads to make the page clean for the new format.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to voice them. This simplification process is the result of much reflection and feedback. I hope this new format will allow everyone to feel more relaxed and eager to participate.
All along I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to encourage not only reading but also discussion. Earlier this week I had posted about the possibility of leaning on collections of short stories or essays. Here is what we’ll do for the next few following months to see how it goes:
We’ll continue on with the Book Raffle page and the polls as we have been. What I am going to do is add a poll on to the Book Raffle page for you to select which collection you want to be reading over the next few months.
The poll for our normal fiction/nonfiction reading will remain as is. There will now be two winners (the two that receive the most votes). These two books will be your choice to read one or the other. Your book selection will be paired with whichever essay or short story is also being read during the month.
To recap, each month a short story or essay will be read along with one full size book.
Please visit the Book Raffle page and vote on the collection you want to be reading over the next few months.
I have been reflecting quite a bit on how things have been going for our reading group and have been having conversations with various individuals regarding the flow.
What was recently suggested to me was that the group members acquire for themselves a collection of essays or short stories and then one of the essays/short stories in the collection could be read a month. This short story/essay would be paired with a novel.
The idea behind this is to give people ample time to read and since a short story is quicker we would be able to discuss something while needing more time to read a full-length novel.
My question to you is how does this sound to you? Would you be interested in purchasing a collection of short stories or essays and reading one of the a month together as a group?
One thing that I hate about reading is having to skip over some books while selecting others. I love books and I love the idea of books. Even before I read I bought. I dislike having to choose one over the other. And thank you, but I don’t need reassurance: I live under this vain idea that everything has got something to offer. I realize some authors are better writers and some plots are more creative and all of these types of things. But these facts do not alter or lift the guilt I feel for not giving some the attention and time I wish to.
There are stacks and stacks that I have yet to even begin making my way through. There are books in these teetering piles that have been living inside these heaps and on my shelves for months and others still for years. Titles that at one point in time inspired me to bring it home; at one point convinced me that I had a need for it. Books that had aspirations to assimilate into my intellect and my life and I once had an eagerness to let them yet now I keep them guarded by other books who are equally zealous and not about to let some other book jump the line. I have so many books in what some people call a TBR (To be read) mound that my nightstand pile has turned into my actual nightstand. I had to move the furniture piece (the ACTUAL nightstand) out of the way and now have stacks of books on the floor, against the wall holding my bedside lamp. Books are replacing furniture. If you are wondering if this scenario is making me happy wonder no longer: it does. It does.
Being an inquisitive person is constructive to everything but my pocketbook. Even after I picked up a handsome pile of hardbacks on Saturday morning for dirt cheap, I found myself arriving at a book store Sunday evening. In this particular store, biographies live upstairs while essays, criticism and poetry live downstairs. In between my lingering in isles I created my own step class and might have even burned a few calories. I have this innate tendency to completely engulf myself into intellectual searches. I soon found myself sifting through biographies and when I would come across names and titles of works that interest me and I hop downstairs to look at the original works which inevitably introduce yet another author’s name to me and back upstairs I head. This continues for the better part of an hour and I leave with postcards – a completely unforeseen conclusion to my impromptu inquisition. The only disappointment rests in my original goal’s dead end. At the outset, I had intended to pick up a history of Uruguay and found every other South American country represented with one exception – Uruguay.
Nick Hornby once wrote that “reading begets reading.” This thought jumbled in my mind brings me to wonder how my reading begot my reading would trace back through its lineage. What would be the essence or the original text that was responsible for splitting in two, then four, then eight and now a number too large to count and forever in need of reorganizing and dusting. My recent trends of curiosity have prompted me to stockpile essays on the subject of reading as well as works written by A.M. Homes, and an attempt to find more collections of letters. Where did I originally decide to love collections of letters? Where did this desire originate? I cannot remember now.
March was a total bomb. Or maybe it was a bum. A bummer. A bummer bomb. Bomb bummer. It doesn’t matter. Basically I purchased a lot and read practically nothing. A bust month. Oh, March, where did we go wrong? Let’s retrace.
It started out ambitious as ever with a scan over the calendar and a steady, long look at those beautiful and open 31 whole days. Looking over my lists the tallies come to 13 books purchased and a whopping 2 books read. The reading began with Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem. The thing I love about Lethem books is that multiple reads deliver multiple realities. There are so many freakin’ layers to his stories and characters that I am constantly regaining a grasp on what is actually going on. I found this similarity in all of the books I have read by Lethem with the exception of Motherless Brooklyn which I found slightly easier to follow. In Amnesia Moon the lines of reality and dreaming (if I could call it dreaming) were so intangibly blurred I was not sure which characters were real and what to count on. Lethem is famous for invisible foundations that somehow manage to still provide footing. In Chronic City Lethem followed suit to the tee. Chase, the leading complexion, carries on for most of the book carefully tucked inside his little bite of world when suddenly unleashed on the reader is something I can only consider a monster, which tears the walls down of Chase’s own little Truman Show to reveal that his life is made-up. What? Lethem! Made-up? You didn’t! You sly cookie. Again! Lethem always catches me with my pants down, literaturely speaking, of course.
After having my brain dissolved and rearranged by Lethem, I lock away his tentacles between the two hard bound covers and shelve it only to pull down American Rust. I had never been acquainted with any of Philipp Meyer’s writing, but what could go wrong with a Philipp who spells his name with two p’s at the end? Most Phillips go with the normal two l’s, but not Meyer, not Meyer. I thought – what is a rebel like this going to do with a story about five characters out of the back country in Pennsylvania? Come to find out, not much or in the very least, not enough. Two weeks later after the initial christening I found myself avoiding the book like a relationship gone sour. I found myself sneaking around my bedroom quietly hoping the book wouldn’t notice I was choosing to spend my free time without it. I had made it through enough of the chapters to be introduced to all five of the main characters, but had no desire to meet them again. Luckily for me, I get an email from my friend, Drenning, to meet him at a reading. And alas, my first introduction to Melissa Febos commenced. And yeah to Drenning. Three cheers for him because Melissa Febos’ writing style was just what I wanted and needed.
As I wrote about earlier, when I went to her reading I was not intending to buy her book. Not for any desire to be unsupportive, but simply because I had already bought a crap load of books for the month and was the very embodiment of a poor excuse for a reader. I was already feeling defeated in my reading accomplishments for what I previously thought would be 31 beautiful days of reading. Blah. I was down and out and felt buying another book that most likely would not be read would really drop me lower. I didn’t want to feel worse than a shmuck. How did a serious intention of not coming home with another book turn into freshly shaved legs and hiding under the covers at midnight with Whip Smart? Melissa Febos is just that good. The moment she walked on that stage with her striped polo dress and gray knee high boots and I heard what came out of her mouth that so few writers have: a good reading voice, I was sold. Simply sold. It turned out I was not disappointed in the least bit by her wit, but her writing even continued to grow on me.
When I was through with Whip Smart, which took not as long as I would have hoped, I was still refusing to return to American Rust, so I read Whip Smart a second time. Thus ending the month with 2 books read, 1 twice read and 13 books bought. On one hand a very unproductive reading month. One the flip side, I read a new book by one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Lethem and discovered a new favorite author, Melissa Febos. I believe I described Febos’ writing as expansive and limitless. How could it get any better than that? Even if it was entirely an unproductive month it was a lucky month.
You work with what you are given,the red clay of grief,the black clay of stubbornness going on after.Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,each world is a dish you have eaten or left on the table.There are honeys so bitterno one would willingly choose to take them.The clay takes them: honey of weariness, honey of vanity,honey of cruelty, fear.This rebus – slip and stubbornness,bottom of river, my own consumed life –when will I learn to read itplainly, slowly, uncolored by hope or desire?Not to understand it, only to see.As water given sugar sweetens, given salt grows salty,we become our choices.Each yes, each no continues,this one a ladder, that one an anvil or cup.The ladder leans into its darkness.The anvil leans into its silence.The cup sits empty.How can I enter this question the clay has asked?”