Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! Thanksgiving means one thing, and that is gluttony. No, just kidding! Thanksgiving means gratitude. I wanted to take some time to appreciate a few books out of the many on my shelves I’m grateful for. These are random, and there is no order!
- , said the shotgun to the head. by Saul Williams — My first of many totally brilliant live encounters with the endlessly talented Williams was a reading of this poem at the now defunct Jack London Square Barnes and Noble in Oakland. At that time, around the book’s release ten years ago, I new I loved Saul because of his brilliant work in the 1998 film Slam. I had yet to discover just how far down the Saul Williams rabbit hole I would go, becoming fully immersed in his spoken word, written words, and music. This book, and that reading of it, were my gateway drug. He stood in front of that small audience and read with such force, his presence and voice booming, and totally rocked my world. I ended up buying two copies of the poem, which is visually striking as well as lyrically beautiful, and pasting them up on my apartment wall like wallpaper.
- All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld — I reviewed this strong, unapologetic novel of a strong, unapologetic woman living alone on a British island farm with a dog for the San Francisco Book Review, so check out my full review there. A stranger stumbles into her life, a monster looms perilously in her fields, and her past rumbles quickly towards her. Books rarely make me cry. Sappy books never make me cry, I just don’t feed into emotional-seeking that way. But the power and raw inexplicable feeling of humanness burnt into the end of Jake’s story, those mistakes we make for no reason at all that hurt us so much–her aching portrayal of this brought me to tears.
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard — I’m taking a Shakespeare class right now, in which I read Hamlet, from which this play stems. I’m embarrassed to say I was much more familiar with Stoppard’s play than Shakespeare’s up until this point. I’m looking forward to reading it again, now that I’ve studied Hamlet more. This is a humorous and strange retelling of Hamlet with a focus on these two minor characters. It is a great exercise in world-building, reminding us that each story we read is a narrow lens shining on a very small aspect of a story in a wide, imaginary world.
- The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus — Yes, I went there! I dropped some chick-lit on this list. Why? Because it gets people reading. Because not all good books are great literature. And because it takes on some serious subjects: the lengths women are expected to go to for other women in our society, demands of capitalism upon the individual worker today, the privileges of the rich. By the end of the book, when Nan lays it down to the nanny cam, try not to feel exhilarated for overworked women everywhere! I dare you.
- “Trauma Plate” by Adam Johnson — This is a short story, and the link is the short story itself. This may be cheating, but this is my list and I’m making up my own rules! I’m not going to comment on it too much here, and I’m not seeking any sort of debate on current issues. If you haven’t read it, read it. Great science fiction mirrors the bizarre social norms of our day, exaggerating them so we can see how strange they are. Great science fiction points out our blind spots. This is a great blind spot.
Alright, I’m off to work! Enjoy your day, all!