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I was drawn to this book because I'm a big sucker for the trickster archetype. This point of entry into the novel proved to be a small door into a sprawling work and world every bit as absurd, violent, abysmal, and inconceivably radiant as our own. Tyll is a figure from 13th century German folklore, but here he's transplanted across history and dropped in the Thirty Years War. We see his childhood and his vivid, disturbing origin story, and then, as is fitting for a havoc-wreaking vagabond, we see the rest of him through the eyes of other characters as he darts in and out of view. He is a mythic, frenetic thread, weaving in and around others' lives as they each navigate a world in ruins. In this way, Tyll seems to transcend his archetype, giving the story heart and order by way of chaos. All the while, there are witch trials, ghosts, invisible dragons, spells, pagan superstition, and fallen royalty - but somehow, none of this makes this world feel artificial or distant. It has the opposite effect. I have no idea how Kehlmann does it. It's a brilliant book.
In her book "Feasting Wild," Gina Rae La Cerva explores a topic extremely close to my heart: our relationship to food and the natural world, and the complex forces that have shaped the evolution of this relationship throughout human history. It is a topic that is ancient, universal, and so incredibly personal, whose undertaking seems an unthinkably large task to embark upon, but La Cerva does it justice and then some. She asks questions that need asking, questions about wild food and class, about historical parallels to our current moment, about the relationship between food culture and ecological destruction - no stone seems to go unturned here. And we have the pleasure of bearing witness to her search for answers. Her writing pulls together personal narrative and research in a way that is not only accessible, but intensely revealing, taking us back through time, across oceans and land, and impressing upon us all that is lost when we forgo or commodify wildness.
This is a collection of zen koans. How to talk about it? It's dense. It laughs at you, it whacks you behind the knees with a stick. It uses language to un-do what language has done, and if you think you get it, game over. I am constantly revisiting these koans and constantly learning how to read them. What I've found is that studying them is like climbing over walls of thought and self only to find another, and another, until I find what seems like a way out, then suddenly have to start all over again. It is as beguiling as it is joyous, and I can't help but laugh back at it. I recently read words that described it as "pure poetry." I think that's right. One of the most important books I've ever read.
Without qualification: my favorite book. Over the course of a year, Annie Dillard walks the land around her home. In these pages, we see what she sees, we follow the wild river of her thoughts - how am I take to make sense of the ecstasy in this experience? All I know is, I went places I never thought to go, reading this book, my heart beating deafeningly in my throat the entire time.
I'm on a real big zen kick lately, and this has illuminated my way to Gary Snyder, one of the great alchemizers of east and west, a nature poet and then some, a big sip of spring water, a rugged and rapturous old Beat. His writing is spare and crystalline on the surface - the real fun is crawling in, seeing what the writing holds and holding it yourself.
This book is the perfect induldgence of whim. It is a collection of fragments - of thought, myth, poetry, history, philosophy, personal narrative - fitted together in an exploratory arc about forgetting. It seems to have that mystical quality of opening to a page whose contents you were just thinking about, perhaps in the back of your head. I've been thinking a lot about forgetting lately, and the impulse to preserve. This book looks at these things as belonging to the bigger, more elemental forces of destruction/creation, re-mystifying the slip into obscurity, showing us how obscurity is the natural foundation upon which we build self and world, and not at all a place to fear.
Please: get this book, go outside, look around, learn the names of what you see, get to know them, introduce yourself, and if you choose to gather a plant for whatever purpose, say thank you. I think if you do this enough, you learn more than plant names and uses. You learn how to see what you didn't see before. You learn how to love and receive love from silent, growing things, how to treasure the ground you walk.
I feel kind of dumb when people ask me what this book is about. "Young people who fall in love, separate, get back together, break up again, and on and on" is true enough to say, but a better question might be, how is this book done? Bare of sentimentaility, Sally Rooney's treatment of her characters, despite their folly and volatility, is so dispassionate that their development feels real to the point of physical ache. To me, this makes for an ideal love story, one in which intimacy is unromantic but beautiful, painful, and so familiar.
I'm in love with Annie Dillard and I refuse to be embarrassed about it. Embarrassment is such a wildly discordant and useless reaction toward things I'm inclined to love, but all the same, it's been a chronically paralyzing force. This book is not a writing how-to guide, and does not offer tips on style or structure. Instead, Dillard, in not exactly a gentle way, writes of the life writing demands, a life if not free of embarrassment, then at least of enough ferocity (and low-level insanity) to muscle past it. She writes of the sensations of writing, at its worst and, with a poetry and lucidity so characteristic of her, its best. And how mobilizing this is! Like a naked jump into icy water, or whatever gets you there.
Will my love for this book fit in this little card? It might be better to ask if I (Madison!) am around so that I can give my feelings all the gesture and wide, heart-filled eyes they deserve. Because this was one of those all day all night no sleep delirious reading stints that I live for. Circe, the witch goddess, has reclaimed and retold her story, no longer an ancillary character in a male narrative. And I'm all about that. An empowering coming of age tale with dazzling characters and world-building, I recommend this book for anyone looking to gild and warm their heart.
It is not subtle nor secret, the sorry state of our planet, our collective/individual senses of wholeness and connection to all - these have long been under assault. But instead of raising alarm bells, scratching at our fears of ruin and collapse, Robin Wall Kimmerer gestures at the love shared between Earth and all upon it. Do we care for the planet out of fear for what will happen when it's utterly wrecked, or do we care for it the way we care for our families, our lovers, our dearest friends? Are our responsibilities to our loved ones a burden, or an honor? Bridging the violent split between Western science and indigenous wisodms, this book inspires awareness, gratitude, and action - vital forces of change, in the way of ultimate good.
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I didn’t seek this book out. I knew nothing about it, and expected nothing. Even if I had, I never could have expected the stories here. I can obviously only speak to my experience, but each of these stories articulated sensations that I’ve never paused to give name to - sensations that I’ll probably measure my life by in the end. This collection’s common thread is that line between the everyday and the dreamlike, between “here” and “there,” which proves fluttery, illusory. The line I used to walk like a tightrope, giddy and terrified, in childhood. For someone else to resurrect this strange and lost feeling somehow lessens the inevitable, impassable distance between souls, an experience I value above all else.
What a title, right? This is a rare offering, a book that lights up the space between fragmented places, reveals their closeness - the light, a treasured mushroom. Our ecological, economic, and humanitarian crises are all different faces of one multi-headed beast. This book, like all my favorites, reminds us that every event and object and being is bound to every other, that our natural worlds and constructed worlds are mirrored images. And as the matsutake mushroom thrives in devastated areas, so exists the potential for the fruiting of treasures elsewhere, here, now, and in our future, fragile as ever.
Before I ever actually picked up this book, it had been in my periphery: winking, glittering like something precious underwater, guiding me with allusion and reference not just toward its pages but toward something within myself, something dormant and forgotten. This book is an invocation to the Wild Woman. Estes’s background is in Jungian psychology and mythic storytelling — and through her stories, she leads readers to and through the dark recesses of the collective unconscious, where the Wild Woman archetype has slept for so long. Reading this book felt like the deepest sigh I’ve ever released. It answers questions that nearly burned holes through my body. It howls, it cries, it sings. It empowers and it frees. If you feel its call, heed it.
I didn't realize until it was over how desperate I was for a book like this, a book of profound and heroic kindness - and it's little wonder, isn't it, given the world as it is? I think that what Min Jin Lee has done here is extraordinary, threading in gold the multi-generational story of a family and its abundant love and loss throughout a larger tale of the forced dissolution of a country and the identity of its people. To watch people be born, grow old, and die is the gift of narrative; to know them, love them, and want to be better because of them, is the gift of narrative magic. The world's heaviness feels a bit lifted, now. Spread, shared, and dissolved. We're getting closer, and Pachinko helps move us there.
This book reads like a lucid dream. Revisiting the murder of a friend that occurred 27 years prior, the narrator wanders through the memories that surround the event like a psychedlic haze. The weather, dreams, wild parties, hangovers, sex, and (misdirected) passions of these characters create a confused, surreal mosaic of the murder, the plans of which were known by everyone, including the victim - so how could it have happened? The question creates a spiral with no clear, central answer; as we move toward the center, the pace of the story escalates, its humor darkening and thickening and culminating in brutality. Short and spell-casting, this book is ever-relevant, a meditation on accountabiliity and respsonsibility within our communities.
My love for this book is huge. But how to explain this love? The premise of the story is straightforward, but its appeal, perhaps, is less so: it is long, and dense, and at points, totally exasperating. What I experienced, though, was a profound and intense familiarity, a story told with so much lucidity that it made my own daily experiences - banal, routine - that much more lucid. It is the story of a girl in her freshman year at Harvard, who longs and waits for love and meaning to reveal themselves. The narrative, full of confusion, disappointment, and unfulfilled yearning, is also incredibly intimate and hilarious. Its greatest gift, to me, was that if filled me with the desire and clarity to write. I've been writing a lot since reading this book. That is the mark of my love for it.
I read the last story from this book first, in a bookstore in Chicago a few years ago - I was living there for a summer before my senior year of college, and the person I was dating picked it off the shelf, suggested that story, and wandered away. The narrative so perfectly framed that moment in my life. I read the rest the stories that summer in what now feels like a dream state. Or rather, in that dazed state of longing when you wake up from a particularly beautiful dream.
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