Monthly Archives: May 2015

Books Acquired Recently: Mennonite Literature Edition

Hedrick, Emily. True Confessions of a God Killer: A Postmodern Pilgrim’s Progress. Telford: DreamSeeker, 2014.

When this book was first released last year I heard about it and thought “Hmm, that’s an interesting title,” but I assumed it was theology (which is primarily what Cascadia, DreamSeeker’s parent company, publishes) rather than fiction, and thus didn’t pursue it any further. However, an ad for it showed up in my Facebook news feed, and it was convincing enough for me to buy the book.

Ruth, John L. Mennonite Identity and Literary Art. Scottdale: Herald, 1978.

This text basically founded Mennonite literary criticism. I first read it back in 2001 when I took a Mennonite Literature course in college. I decided to try to buy it in order to read it again because I have been writing more and more criticism on Mennonite literature. I was happy to be able to find a copy in good condition.

Both books were acquired from’s network of independent booksellers.

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Casey Plett’s A Safe Girl to Love

I just had a review of Casey Plett’s short story collection A Safe Girl to Love published in Mennonite Life. It’s an excellent, important book that anyone interested in good literature should read. You can read the review here.

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Clinching Safety

I took the above photograph at the end of Sunderland’s 0-0 draw at Arsenal yesterday afternoon, which ensured that the Black Cats are safe from relegation this season. The caption, “Clinch safety,” is a simple statement within the context of the match, but it also struck me as a profound statement about life. Isn’t that what we all want, to be assured that we are safe, not just physically, but emotionally as well? It’s such a basic, plain graphic, but it was on the screen for at least five minutes, and I think the moment I happened to photograph it, which shows Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat crying with happiness, epitomizes its deeper significance. We watch sports to help us try to escape from the stresses of life (even though they often cause us more stress) because we always know that true safety is never really assured.

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Books Acquired Recently

Adler, Renata. Speedboat. 1976. New York: New York Review, 2013.

Fox, Paula. Desperate Characters. 1970. New York: Norton, 1999.

I was recently reading The David Foster Wallace Reader, which includes a few syllabi from Wallace’s creative writing and literature courses. The syllabi are the best written, most thought-provoking ones I have ever encountered, and it is inspiring to see how Wallace took even this most mundane of genres seriously as a writing task. The syllabus for his contemporary American fiction course included several texts that I have not read before, including Adler’s and Fox’s, which I bought right away because if Wallace thinks they are important, they are.

Human, Charlie. Apocalypse Now Now. London: Titan, 2015.

A few weeks ago a colleague and I were discussing how Apocalypse Now constantly gets referenced in pop culture, and she mentioned this South African novel as an example. Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite films, so I decided to buy Human’s book to see what he does with it. It’s fascinating to have an African text dialogue with the film because the film itself is a retelling of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

These three texts were purchased from’s network of independent sellers.

Swartley, André. Leon Martin and the Fantasy Girl. Newton: Workplay, 2014.

Swartley and I were in college together and we recently reconnected at a conference. He sent me a review copy of this novel, the sequel of which will be coming out this fall. Up until recently examples of U.S. Mennonite fiction were few and far between, but happily the field has been flowering as of late, and it is exciting to have Swartley play a role in this resurgence.

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Book Acquired Recently: Jill Bialosky’s The Players

Bialosky, Jill. The Players. New York: Knopf, 2015.

I recently read a review of this poetry collection and decided to buy it because it includes a section about baseball. Baseball and poetry are a perfect match for each other because they both invite contemplation. The empty spaces between pitches (which really only seem to be empty) are like the spaces between stanzas: one is being pulled forward by the game’s/poem’s momentum while simultaneously considering what has gone before. Just as a baseball game carries the sport’s history with it in the comparison of statistics between today’s players and those of the past, the ever-constant form of the game (three strikes and you’re out, three outs to an inning, and you play until there is a winner), and as many meditations on the relationship between the sport and America as one chooses to mention, so to does every poem situate itself in the millennia-old tradition of poetry, attempting to make something new out of words worn soft with constant use.

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