Tag Archives: George Orwell

Books Acquired Recently: Mennonites Plus One Edition

My recent book-buying binge has included a number of Mennonite authors. Aside from the Wes Funk books, which I ordered from Laird Books in Regina, Saskatchewan (and who provided excellent customer service), I acquired all of the Mennonite-related books from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

Birdsell, Sandra. Agassiz: A Novel in Stories. Minneapolis: Milkweed, 1991.

I haven’t read much of Birdsell’s work though she was one of the influential Mennonite writers at the beginning of the “Mennonite miracle” in Canadian writing during the 1980s. I decided that this summer would be a good time to remedy this lack.

Funk, Wes. Cherry Blossoms. Regina: Your Nickel’s Worth, 2012.

—. Dead Rock Stars. Illus. Kevin Hastings. Regina: Your Nickel’s Worth, 2015.

—. Wes Side Story: A Memoir. Regina: Your Nickel’s Worth, 2014.

I recently heard about Funk’s work. It is apparently explicitly queer, which is exciting because queer Mennonite literature is a major research interest of mine. I bought copies of all of his books that I could find (there’s one more that I haven’t been able to find anywhere).

Janzen, Jean. Elements of Faithful Writing. Kitchener: Pandora, 2004.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I haven’t read much of Janzen’s work, but am trying to remedy that. This book is one that gets cited often in metacritical discussions of Mennonite literature, and thus feels essential for me to read.

Waltner-Toews, David. One Foot in Heaven. Regina: Couteau, 2005.

I love Waltner-Toews’s poetry and am excited to read some of his fiction.

Yaguchi, Yorifumi. The Wing-Beaten Air: My Life and My Writing. Intercourse: Good, 2008.

I also really enjoy Yaguchi’s poetry, and look forward to reading this memoir.

The “plus one” referred to in the title of this post is the new Modern Language Association style manual, which I received free because I am an  MLA member:

MLA Handbook. 8th ed. New York: Modern Language Association, 2016.

Once I get a chance to read this I will have to write a post about how I feel about the changes, but just flipping through it and seeing some of the different formatting I am flipping out, and not in a good way. Double-plus ungood. I will have to decide whether or not to use the new formatting for my citations in future posts.

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Books Acquired Recently

Bacigalupi, Paolo. The Windup Girl. 2009. San Francisco: Night Shade, 2012.

This book and Walker’s were recently recommended to me by a new friend that I met at Rocky Mountain MLA last week. They both sound fascinating. The reviews of The Windup Girl just inside of the front cover compare it to William Gibson’s writing, which I love, so I look forward to getting to read it as a diversion from my scholarly reading (which is not to make a value judgment of it as somehow being unworthy of study, but simply to say that at this point I have no plans to teach it or write about it), perhaps over Thanksgiving Break. Bought on amazon.com.

Castillo, Ana. Watercolor Women Opaque Men. Willimantic: Curbstone, 2005.

I went to a reading by Castillo last night that was one of the best I’ve ever been to. She only read six poems, but they were some of her most political, and as such were quite powerful, especially because her delivery of them was perfect. I felt the need to buy a book to commemorate the occasion, and this was the only one of her books that was for sale which I didn’t already have (because it’s a novel in verse, blech. But maybe it will surprise me.).  She gave me a lovely personal inscription.

Fry, Paul H. Theory of Literature. New Haven: Yale UP, 2012.

I received this as a free exam copy from the publisher. I’m teaching a literary theory course for the first time next semester, and while I won’t be assigning this book (perhaps I will in the future, but it arrived after I had to turn in my textbook list), I find that it’s always helpful to get several different perspectives on the subject that one is teaching, so it will come in handy.

Rushdie, Salman. Joseph Anton: A Memoir. New York: Random, 2012.

Rushdie is one of my favorite writers (and I think he is one of the best writers alive, certainly more deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature than this year’s winner), so I didn’t need an excuse to buy this book, but I have one anyway: we’re reading The Satanic Verses in the aforementioned theory course, thus his new memoir about the novel’s political aftermath will provide some helpful background knowledge. Bought on amazon.com.

Walker, Frank X. Affrilachia. Lexington: Old Cove, 2000.

I love poetry, and African American literature is one of my academic interests, so when I heard about Walker I wanted to read him right away. I got this book used via amazon.com, and when it arrived I happily discovered that Walker had inscribed it to one of his students, a “Michele.” I would never get rid of a book that was inscribed to me even if I knew I was never going to read it again, which makes me wonder what this particular copy’s story is. Did the student die and her family took all of her books to a used bookstore without looking through them first? Did she sell the book because she was desperate for cash? (probably not, because I got it for less than five dollars, though I’ve had students sell their books back to the bookstore for less because they were just that desperate) Did she–it’s horrible to think about–forget that it was inscribed? Did she have a falling out with Walker? Did she join a religious order that forced her to get rid of all of her possessions? One could write a fascinating short story about this volume’s history. Anyway, I am happy to add it to my library.

As regular readers of the blog will note, I have acquired thirteen books in the last nine days. This is a lot, even for me. But it’s been the perfect storm of events: a conference, visits to two new-to-me excellent bookstores, a powerful reading and signing, and the need to begin preparing for next semester. Also, I’ve just finished teaching Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, so I’m feeling especially sensitive about the necessity to surround myself with books since both novels remind us how much of a privilege it is to be able to interact with literature. In my further defense, I have already read three of the thirteen, so they aren’t just sitting there looking pretty on the shelf.

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Shaking the Rust Off

I haven’t written anything other than emails and lesson outlines in almost a week. The new semester is kicking my butt! I need to find a way to budget time into my schedule for writing so that I don’t get too out of practice and lose my edge. Luckily, today is the first meeting of a faculty writing group on campus, which should help me keep on task. There’s nothing like potential failure in front of your peers for motivation!

Anyway, the week has been an interesting one even though I haven’t had time to write about it here. I had good discussions with my classes about George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Amiri Baraka’s work (Dutchman and some poems), and read Stephen Beachy’s novel Distortion. It’s not as good as his latest novel Boneyard, but it was still enjoyable and even beautiful at times. Every time I saw the cover, I thought of the South Park episode with The Cure’s Robert Smith where Stan yells at the end that “Distortion is the best album ever!” Then I realized that I was misremembering the album title, which is actually Disintegration. Ah, well. The other significant event this week was that I got a new office computer with a HUGE monitor. It is burning my eyes out as I type. But it’s much faster than the old one, which is exciting.

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