Monthly Archives: November 2013

Books Acquired Recently: Retiring Colleague Edition

One of my colleagues is retiring after this semester, and she gave me some of her books dealing with African American literature because it is one of my research interests. I am happy to preserve some of her library by integrating it into my own. Several of the paperbacks are from the 1970s and have some seriously groovy covers.

I also just got three more desk copies for next semester in the mail, so it was a good day for books!

Chesnutt, Charles W. The Portable Charles W. Chesnutt. Ed. William L. Andrews. New York: Penguin, 2008.

I have another collection of Chesnutt’s short stories published by Mentor, but this volume also includes Chesnutt’s novel The Marrow of Tradition and some essays. And, of course, it is always good to acquire a Penguin paperback.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1925. New York: Scribner, 2004.

Sadly, the earlier Scribner paperback edition that I was assigned in high school and have myself assigned previously is now out of print. This one was necessary to acquire because it has different page numbers.

Flowers, Arthur. Another Good Loving Blues. 1993. New York: Ballantine, 1994.

This book is inscribed by the author.

Gilyard, Keith, ed. Spirit & Flame: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1997.

This one is also inscribed by the author.

Klosterman, Chuck. Downtown Owl. 2008. New York: Scribner, 2009.

I have taught some of Klosterman’s essays before, but next semester will be the first time I teach any of his fiction. I am excited to see what my students think of him. I think they will love this book, but their tastes often surprise me.

Lunsford, Andrea A., John J. Ruszkiewicz, and Keith Walters. Everything’s An Argument, with Readings. 6th ed. Boston: Bedford, 2013.

I’ll be using this book in my writing class for the first time in about a decade. I enjoyed it before, then tried other strategies and texts, and now have decided to go back to it and see how it has aged as a text and how I have aged as an instructor.

McKay, Claude. Banana Bottom. 1933. San Diego: Harvest, 1961.

This book has a price tag from the Strand on the front cover! It was on sale for $1.95–regularly $6.95.

Reed, Ishmael. The Last Days of Louisiana Red. 1974. New York: Bard, 1976.

I’ve enjoyed the bit of Reed’s fiction that I have read in the past, and look forward to reading this novel. The blurb on the front cover from the Village Voice calls it a “saucy underground classic.” Say no more!

Toomer, Jean. Cane. 1923. New York: Norton, 2003.

I have the Liveright edition of this novel, but it’s always nice to have a copy of one of Norton’s critical editions as well.

Washington, Mary Helen, ed. Black-Eyed Susans: Classic Stories by and About Black Women. New York: Anchor, 1975.

Morrison, Walker, Bambara, et al. A great period piece.

Yerby, Frank. The Vixens. New York: Dial, 1947.

This nearly seventy-year-old book is in excellent condition.

Youngblood, Shay. Soul Kiss. 1997. New York: Riverhead, 1998.

The least-exciting looking book of the bunch, but it was good enough to make it into paperback, so we’ll see.

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Book Acquired Recently: Philip Fried’s Early/Late

Fried, Philip. Early/Late: New & Selected Poems. Cliffs of Moher: Salmon, 2011.

The New York City-based poet Philip Fried gave a delightful reading at Utica College this afternoon, and I bought his book afterwards. I had only read a few of Fried’s poems in anthologies before, and am very glad to have had this chance to experience more of his work. The poems he read are rife with sharp, vibrant story lines that often use a wry sense of humor to draw the reader in. Many of them are explicitly political, but not at the expense of artistry, a rarity. If you love poetry, you should be reading his work, and if you are not yet into poetry, his work is a good, accessible place to start.

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Fried after the reading. He is a lovely person: kind, well-read, unpretentious, with a clean-cut sartorial panache about him. He seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me and the others at the meal even though we were strangers, and projected an infectious love of literature throughout the conversation. Being around him was incredibly energizing because it reminded me why I love literature and believe in the importance of teaching it. There’s just something we get in literature that we can’t get anywhere else.

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Books Acquired Recently

Arenas, Reinaldo. Before Night Falls. Trans. Dolores M. Koch. 1993. New York: Penguin, 1994.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, as it combines two interests of mine, queerness and Cuba. I’ve actually hardly read any Cuban literature, which is a problem that I need to remedy. Arenas’s memoir is a start.

Coverley, Merlin. Psychogeography. Harpenden: Pocket Essentials, 2010.

I’m teaching a course next semester that involves doing spatially-themed projects about Utica, and will read this book as part of my theoretical preparation. Judging from my brief examination of it thus far, the book looks accessible enough that I may assign parts of it to my students.

Both books acquired on amazon.com.

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Books Acquired Recently: Desk Copies Edition

DeLillo, Don. End Zone. 1972. New York: Penguin, 1986.

I’ll be teaching this novel in my Literature in Focus: Teens and Twenty-Somethings course next semester. The course only includes books with youngish protagonists. End Zone is the story of a college football team in Texas, and I am including it in the course with the hope that it will help some of the student-athletes who don’t read for fun realize that there is literature out there that speaks to their experiences. The novel is the best (and, frankly, one of the only) novel about American football by far. It is fascinating to me that there haven’t been more books written on this subject, considering that Americans are obsessed with it (and, of course, DeLillo does an excellent job exploring football as a metaphor for the American psyche). Perhaps this is because of football’s brutish nature. It appeals to a different mindset than a sport like baseball does, which has inspired a literary tradition almost as rich as the game itself.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. 1939. New York: Penguin, 2006.

This has been one of my favorite novels since I first read it in high school, and I am finally going to teach it for the first time, in my American Literature After 1865 survey. Its length is right on the edge of what is possible to teach to undergraduates without them losing interest, but I think that the compelling storyline and the richness of Steinbeck’s prose will keep them engaged.

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Books Acquired Recently: Gary Leising Edition

Leising, Gary. Fastened to a Dying Animal. Columbus: Pudding House, 2010.

—. Temple of Bones. Georgetown: Finishing Line, 2013.

I bought these two chapbooks at a poetry reading by my colleague Gary Leising last night. I had never read any of his poetry before, and was thus happy to discover that I really enjoy it. Leising’s poetry reminds me of work from the New York School in that it elevates everyday occurences to the level of the profound, and also smoothly incorporates elements of pop culture into its narratives. For example, my favorite poem from the reading, which is brand new and thus not included in Temple of Bones, is about Scarlett Johansson suing a French novelist for including a character named “Scarlett Johansson” in one of his books (which is obviously a ridiculously frivolous lawsuit. Good job being on the side of censorship, Scarlett.). The narrator of the poem then goes on to use Johansson’s name repeatedly, openly hoping that she will sue him and his work will get some free publicity. Many of Leising’s poems include this kind of well-crafted playfulness, which is refreshing rather than gimmicky. I look forward to reading more of them!

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