Tag Archives: Jeff Gundy

Books Acquired Recently

Camp Deerpark. Forever God is Faithful: The Story of Camp Deerpark. Westbrookville, NY: Camp Deerpark/Morgantown, PA: Masthof Press, 2019.

Camp Deerpark is a camp owned by the New York City Mennonite churches. I spent lots of time there as a kid because my parents have always been heavily involved with it (my mom was the director for a few years). This year is its fiftieth anniversary, so, in true Mennonite archival fever fashion, it has published a book to commemorate the occasion. My parents sent me a copy in the mail which I look forward to reading.

The Chicago Manual of Style. 17th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

I have shifted away from using MLA style in my scholarship since the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook came out because it is clearly geared toward students rather than scholars. I’ve been using Chicago style instead, and finally decided to break down and buy the seventeenth edition. I purchased it and Gundy’s book from amazon.com.

Gundy, Jeff. Without a Plea. Huron, OH: Bottom Dog Press, 2019.

I bought this book, Gundy’s latest poetry collection, as soon as it came out last month. I have already read it and it is a fascinating, thought-provoking work, definitely ranking in the top half of his poetry books.

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Books Acquired Recently

Abramović, Marina. Walk Through Walls: A Memoir. New York: Crown Archetype, 2016.

Abramović is my favorite artist, and I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it via her Facebook page. I love how she inserts her body into her work, insisting that art is always in some way autobiographical. I am excited to see how she handles the genre of written autobiography. Judging from the dust jacket blurb, the book is more properly spoken of as autobiography rather than as memoir, as its subtitle claims, but memoir is so marketable these days that it is understandable (though not necessarily justifiable) why the publisher would choose to mislabel it.

This and Smith’s book were purchased from amazon.com.

Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed: “The Tempest” Retold. London: Hogarth, 2016.

I recently received this book, which is signed by the author, as a gift. Hogarth has a series of retellings of Shakespeare’s plays by contemporary authors. This is a genre Atwood has worked in before, and I enjoy the writing of hers that I’ve read, so I am optimistic that the book will be an enjoyable one.

Johnson, E. Patrick, ed. No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.

Johnson’s anthology Black Queer Studies is an essential book in both the queer and African American literary critical canons, and a book that has had a significant impact on me as a scholar. Therefore, when I first heard about No Tea, No Shade, a follow-up collection, I ordered an examination copy from the publisher immediately.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. New York: Penguin Press, 2016.

I have loved Smith’s fiction since I first read White Teeth in a graduate school course eleven years ago. She is one of a select group of authors whose books I buy immediately without question (Nicholson Baker, Di Brandt, Samuel R. Delany, Don DeLillo [though he might be off the list now because his last book was so poor], Jonathan Safran Foer, Jeff Gundy, Julia Spicher Kasdorf, and Miriam Toews), and thus I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it.

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Books Acquired Recently: Mostly Mennonites Edition

I’ve gone a little crazy (even for me) buying books the past few weeks. The primary reason for this is that I’ve been reading a lot of literary criticism (primarily from the Journal of the Center of Mennonite Writing), and whenever I do this I find out about books (both primary sources and other works of criticism or theory) that sound fascinating and that I have to buy. All of the Jean Janzen books, the Dallas Wiebe collection of stories, the Thomas King novel, and the Dominique Chew and Kolton Nay chapbooks were purchases stemming from this recent reading. The other two purchases were helped by the fact that I was in book-buying mode, which is a dangerous state!  Unless otherwise noted, all of these books were purchased from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

Chaudhuri, Amit. Odysseus Abroad. 2014. New York: Knopf, 2015.

I have not read any of Chaudhuri’s work before, but was intrigued by a review I read of this novel because it takes place in London and involves wandering around the city, a topic that I find fascinating in general. I decided to buy it now (and will read it over Spring Break a week from now) because I am going to London for the first time this coming summer and thought it would be helpful to read a story about it.

Chew, Dominique. The Meaning of Grace. Goshen: Pinchpenny, 2015.

I read about this and Kolton Nay’s book in Ann Hostetler’s recent article about teaching Mennonite literature (which, incidentally, references my 2001 edited collection [that was also published by Pinchpenny], How Julia Kasdorf Changed My Life: Reflections on Mennonite Identity). Both sound interesting because they deal with issues of Mennonite identity, an issue that I think and write about frequently, and Chew’s book is especially intriguing because she, like me, has one ethnic Mennonite parent and one non-Mennonite, person of  color parent. I bought both books directly from Pinchpenny Press, which is a chapbook publisher run by the Goshen College English Department.

Erdrich, Louise. The Master Butchers Singing Club. 2004. New York: Harper, 2005.

I love Erdrich’s novels about the Ojibwe community, and recently watched an interview with her where she talked about this novel, which is about the German-American community that her father was from. It sounds fascinating, and since I am also German-American on my mother’s side (though I usually speak of her heritage as Mennonite, which in our case is a very specific kind of German-American) it seems like a book I should read.

Janzen, Jean. Paper House. Intercourse: Good, 2008.

—. Piano in the Vineyard. Intercourse: Good, 2004.

—. Snake in the Parsonage. Intercourse: Good, 1995.

—. The Upside-Down Tree. Winnipeg: Henderson, 1992.

—. What the Body Knows. Telford: DreamSeeker, 2015.

Along with Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Jeff Gundy, Janzen is one of the Big Three of Mennonite poets, but I’ve only ever read one of her poetry collections. I’ve decided that it is necessary to remedy this situation.

King, Thomas. Truth & Bright Water. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1999.

I loved the other book of King’s that I read (Green Grass, Running Water), and Truth & Bright Water sounds interesting because it is about the U.S.-Canada border, which is something I think about a lot now that I live relatively close to it.

Nay, Kolton. Imbalance. Goshen: Pinchpenny, 2015.

Hostetler’s article notes that Nay read part of this memoir at the 2015 Mennonite/s Writing Conference, which I also attended, but he and I did not get to meet. I look forward to encountering him on the page instead.

Wiebe, Dallas. The Transparent Eye-Ball and Other Stories. Providence: Burning Deck, 1982.

I really enjoyed Wiebe’s novel Our Asian Journey and have plans to eventually write about his work because he was an important early voice in  Mennonite fiction, but I had not realized that he also published this collection of stories (he also published some poetry that I have not read yet). I look forward to reading it. Despite being over thirty years old the volume is in excellent condition; the pages haven’t even begun to yellow.

 

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Books Acquired Recently

Lee, Catherine J.S., ed. A Splash of Water: Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology 2015. New York: Haiku Society of America, 2015.

Each year the Haiku Society of America publishes an anthology of work by its members on a specific theme, and each member receives a copy. This year’s theme was water. I’ve read about half of it thus far, and despite the repetition of subject matter a number of the poems are compelling.

Zacharias, Robert, ed. After Identity: Mennonite Writing in North America. University Park: Penn State UP, 2015.

I was very excited to receive this book in the mail today because it is my contributor’s copy! My essay, “Queering Mennonite Literature,” appears on pages 143-58. The book is a collection of revised essays from a 2013 symposium at Penn State on identity issues in Mennonite literature. My essay is nestled between chapters by Di Brandt and Jeff Gundy, two poets and  critics whose work has played a major role in my life, and it is a dream come true to be published alongside them. Another of my favorite poets, Julia Spicher Kasdorf, also has an essay in the volume.

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Book Acquired Recently: Jeff Gundy’s Abandoned Homeland

Gundy, Jeff. Abandoned Homeland. Huron: Bottom Dog, 2015.

Gundy’s seventh full-length collection of poetry (to go along with four chapbooks) just came out, and of course I ordered it right away (from amazon.com) because he is one of my favorite poets. It is his second collection to be published in the past two years, as Somewhere Near Defiance came out in 2014. One of the reasons I love Gundy’s work is that he writes eloquently about place, and judging from the title of the new book it also examines this theme. Abandoned Homeland is his third collection with Bottom Dog Press (Inquiries and Rhapsody with Dark Matter are the others), one of the numerous small presses that do the essential work of keeping poetry in America alive. Unfortunately I won’t have time to read it for several weeks, but I can’t wait to do so!

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Books Acquired Recently

Cole, Teju. Open City. 2011. New York: Random, 2012.

I recently taught the first chapter of this novel in one of my writing classes as an example of psychogeography. A colleague had passed it on to me, and I was completely enthralled, so I decided to buy the book, and I look forward to reading it soon. Cole has a reading scheduled for April 10 in Ithaca, which is less than two hours from Utica. It will be good to hear him in person after reading his book.

Janzen, Jean. Entering the Wild: Essays on Faith and Writing. Intercourse: Good, 2012.

Janzen is the godmother of Mennonite poetry, one of my scholarly interests, thus I expect this memoir to be a fascinating one. I got it new for only $0.65!

Lachman, Becca J.R., ed. A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation With William Stafford. Topeka: Woodley, 2013.

I’ve been feeling the need to read more poetry lately, and had heard that several poets whose work I enjoy (Jeff Gundy, Todd F. Davis, and Ann Hostetler, among others) have poems in this anthology. Lachman herself is an up-and-coming Mennonite poet, thus I’m interested to see what I can glean about her aesthetic proclivities from the poems she has selected.

These three books were acquired via amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

Luthy, David. Dirk Willems: His Noble Deed Lives On. Aylmer: Pathway, 2011.

My current research focuses on Stephen Beachy’s novel boneyard, which takes some of its essential elements from Thieleman J. van Braght’s 1660 collection of Anabaptist martyr stories, Martyrs Mirror. I’ve thus been reading a lot of the recent scholarship on van Braght’s text (there is a surprisingly large amount), and the acquisition of Luthy’s book is a part of this effort, as Dirk Willems’s story is by far the most famous one in Martyrs Mirror.

I acquired this book directly from the publisher.

Murphy, Yvonne C. Aviaries. Durham: Carolina Wren, 2011.

Murphy gave a reading at Utica College last week that was entertaining enough to entice me to buy her poetry collection. It includes a number of poems inspired by New York City that I have been enjoying.

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Two New Book Reviews

I’ve just had two book reviews published, both on exciting new texts in the field of Mennonite literature.

The first is a review of Jessica Penner’s novel Shaken in the Water (pdf–scroll down to page 157), which appears in Mennonite Quarterly Review, the leading journal of Mennonite studies. It has been my goal to publish in MQR since I was in college, and Penner is a good friend of mine, so I am quite excited about this piece.

The second is a review of Jeff Gundy’s new collection of poetry, Somewhere Near Defiance, which appears in Your Impossible Voice, a crackling new literary e-journal. Gundy has been one of my favorite poets for years, and I am pleased that his new collection lives up to the high standard of his previous work.

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Books Acquired Recently: Post-Holiday Edition

I ordered a number of books with some holiday cash, and they have been trickling in through the mail recently.

Gundy, Jeff. Somewhere Near Defiance. Tallahassee: Anhinga, 2014.

Gundy is one of my favorite poets, and he was kind enough to send me a review copy of his new collection. I look forward to reading it soon!

Munce, Alayna. When I Was Young and in My Prime. Roberts Creek: Nightwood, 2005.

I read about this novel and Weier’s novel in Robert Zacharias’s book on Canadian Mennonite literature, Rewriting the Break Event, and they both sounded fascinating.

Newmahr, Staci. Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2011.

I have been wanting to read more theorizing on BDSM, and found Newmahr’s and Weiss’s books. I am interested to see how they compare to some of the less-academic work I’ve read on the subject.

Shoemaker, David. The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling. New York: Gotham, 2013.

I enjoy Shoemaker’s frequent grantland.com columns on pro wrestling, thus decided to buy his new book. Wrestling fascinates me because it explicitly centers around narrative, and this narrative gets influenced by its audience. In this way it is quite literary even though it obviously also appeals to people who are not interested in the literary at all.

Taormino, Tristan, et al., eds. The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure. New York: Feminist, 2013.

I recently heard about this book on a “Top Ten Feminist Books of 2013” list. I appreciate Taormino’s other work, and this collection includes work by a number of writers I enjoy such as Susie Bright, Betty Dodson, Nina Hartley, and Lorelei Lee.

Torres, Justin. We the Animals. 2011. Boston: Mariner, 2012.

I received this novel as a desk copy for one of the courses I am teaching this semester. It is an excellent book. I had the privilege of meeting Torres a few years ago when he read at the college where I was working, and he is a sweet, gracious person.

Weier, John. Steppe: A Novel. Saskatoon: Thistledown, 1995.

Weiss, Margot. Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality. Durham: Duke UP, 2011.

Yezierska, Anzia. Bread Givers. 1925. New York: Persea, 2003.

One of my students is writing about this novel in her Master’s thesis this semester, so I am going to read it in support of that project. It takes place in the lower east side of New York City, which is close to where I used to live. I am excited to see how the book depicts the neighborhood.

With the exception of Gundy’s and Torres’s books, all of these books were acquired from independent sellers on amazon.com.

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The Ten Most Influential Books List

I recently participated in the Facebook meme that asks for a list of the ten most influential books on a person’s life. Here is my list with some brief comments:

1. boneyard by Stephen Beachy—This book showed myself to me in an exact way that I had never encountered before in literature. Queer and Anabaptist: two great tastes that taste great together.

2. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer—My favorite book until I read boneyard. I’ve read it over half-a-dozen times and it always makes me cry. The last line is heartwrenching: “We would have been safe.”

3. questions i asked my mother by Di Brandt—Really all of Brandt’s poetry, but this collection is the one that I read first and that stays the most vivid in my mind. Brandt gave me a model for how to be transgressive when I really needed one.

4. Sleeping Preacher and 5. Eve’s Striptease by Julia Spicher Kasdorf—These two books feel inseparable for me. Kasdorf was the first poet whose work I read that made me realize that poetry could be relevant to my life.

6. Rhapsody With Dark Matter by Jeff Gundy—I had the same reaction to Gundy’s work as I did to Kasdorf’s. (Also, it drives me nuts that “with” in the title shouldn’t be capitalized here. What a dumb rule. I think it’s a significant enough word that it should be capitalized, which is why I have done so.)

7. The Tides of Lust by Samuel R. Delany—This isn’t my favorite Delany novel, but it’s the first one that I read (I also did a dissertation chapter on it), and it was good enough to get me interested in all of the others. Delany is the author whose work has been most influential on my current thinking.

8. Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places by Laud Humphries—I read this while doing research for a paper during my senior year of college, and it completely changed my view of the world because it told me about a practice (i.e., anonymous gay sex) that I had no idea existed. It taught me to begin looking at the margins, because that’s where the really interesting, revolutionary stuff happens. It also helped me to see physical space in a new way.

9. The Blue Mountains of China by Rudy Wiebe—In hindsight, this was my first encounter with postmodern fiction, which is now my favorite kind of fiction. When I first read it, its ethical vision was extremely formative for me.

10. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok—This was the first text I read that explored the relationship between religion and art in a serious way. If I hadn’t read this book, the words of the poets mentioned above would have fallen on deaf ears.

Three observations on this list: 1. It is overwhelmingly Mennonite, showing that no matter how hard I try I just can’t get away, and 2. I encountered half of the texts while at Goshen College, which proves something about the importance of a good liberal arts education. 3. After a few days’ reflection, I still stand by the list’s accuracy. The only glaring omission is Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine (But what would it replace? My first thought is Potok’s novel, but reading My Name is Asher Lev made my appreciation of many of the rest of the books on this list possible), which I actually think about more than any other book because of its chapter on public restrooms. Every time I go into a public restroom that I haven’t been in before (i.e., the restroom at my job doesn’t count because of how frequently I use it), I check to see whether it has a paper towel dispenser (and if so, what kind) or a hand dryer. The science of hand dryers has advanced a lot since the novel was written, and so sometimes they are better than paper towels, but I still generally agree with the novel’s argument in favor of the paper towels. Both options need to be well-designed in order to fulfill their function of getting one’s hands dry in a sanitary manner, though. It almost is not fair to compare them as entire categories.

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Books Acquired Recently

Gundy, Jeff. Songs From an Empty Cage: Poetry, Mystery, Anabaptism, and Peace. Telford: Cascadia, 2013.

Jeff Gundy is one of my favorite poets, and he is also a friend of mine, so I buy anything he publishes. But I am especially excited about this book, which investigates the intersection between poetry and the transcendent. Gundy is one of the few active theorists in the small field of Mennonite literature, and to have him publish a new book of theory is a major event.

Spark, Muriel. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, The Driver’s Seat, The Only Problem. New York: Everyman’s, 2004.

I was recently reading Patricia Waugh’s Metafiction, which discusses several of Spark’s novels in an engaging enough way that I decided I needed to read some of Spark’s work. I was happy to discover that Everyman’s Library has a volume of her fiction. I find the volumes in this series aesthetically delightful, especially their ribbon bookmarks. Note that, as I discuss in my post from 12 September 2013, because the title of the volume consists of titles of books, only the commas within the volume’s title get italicized.

Timms, Rachel, and Laurence Hayes. Whatever You Want: A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Novel. New York: Regan, 2003.

I recently read about the phenomenon of adult (and yes, this term does have a double meaning in the present instance) Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. I enjoyed this type of book as a boy, and as someone who studies formal developments in fiction I am eager to see what kind of reading experience Timms and Hayes’s book offers.

All three books were purchased on amazon.com.

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