The book and the tapes…
I no longer work for my bookstore (though I’ll still call it mine) and in the weeks before I left I wrote a whole bunch of staff recommendations. I didn’t manage to post them promptly here, but the books are still good so it doesn’t really matter that I am—and am going to continue to be—tardy. Here’s one to start with (consider it proof that I read something other than poetry and fiction). This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year, and as a colleague of mine once wrote in a recommendation of a very different book, “it is worth your money and your time.”
“I want to write about the two things that have frightened me most in life…”
Kristen Iversen’s Full Body Burden expertly and unflinchingly does exactly this, combining her memories of growing up in the shadow of a darkly charismatic, alcoholic father with her decades-long investigation of radioactive waste and contamination from the government’s secret nuclear manufacturing facility at Rocky Flats, minutes from Iversen’s childhood home.
Iversen understands that the stories which begin with “I shouldn’t be telling you this,” are not only the most electrifying, but often the ones most in need of being heard. To that end, this book is an investigation of silence: of its mechanisms and motivations, the choices which support or expose it, and of the consequences of leaving silence to seethe. Full Body Burden is one of the most brilliantly compelling, gutsy works of narrative nonfiction I’ve ever read.
I’ve posted some found poetry on this blog before (see here or here). I think I referred to it as “accidental poetry,” but it amounts to the same thing. Found poetry is a pretty self-explanatory term: it is language that you find in a non-poetic context and then reframe (sometimes intact, sometimes with the addition of line breaks or other grammatical changes) as poetry.
For a few months now the booksellers at the store where I work have been keeping track of found poems discovered in the inventory sorts that we run. We made them into a tumblr (that’s a generous “we” — I had no real part in the making or maintenance of said tumblr, I just like to feel included) called Bookseller’s Found Poetry. They might be slightly more amusing to our addled, book-buried brains, but here are a couple of my favorites:
Emotional life of your
language (the cultural):
feeling pain and being, in
secret: life of words.
– – – –
Outside your window, a
heart + soul.
– – – –
is eating people
– – – –
Gender Born, Gender Made,
Telling lies – clues to deceit.
Pink Brain, Blue Brain:
You are Here.
You are Here.
Going on being.
Going to pieces without
thoughts. Without a thinker.
And last but not least…
I got this
man within my head.
So many Steve Jobs books! Is that only funny to me? Maybe. But there are other poetic gems in there, so you should go explore for yourself!
I’ve written a few more staff recommendations over the past couple of weeks. Here’s one of them, for Amy Hempel’s collected stories.
When I fall in love with a book, I’m overwhelmed by the need to read it aloud to people. The better the writing, the wider the circle I want to read it to, and Amy Hempel’s stories are so good that if someone loaned me a stadium, I’d take them to the masses.
Then again, I’m not sure these weird, elegant, breathtaking stories are really meant for the megaphone. They’re the stuff of conversation, built of things you accidentally overhear and then can’t get out of your head. Reading them I felt like an eavesdropper, maybe the luckiest eavesdropper in the world.
Just try reading ‘Why I’m Here,’ ‘Nashville Gone to Ashes’ or the one-sentence ‘Memoir,’ and tell me you don’t feel the need to tap someone on the shoulder and say ‘Hey, listen to this…’