Tag Archives: Margaret Atwood

Books Acquired Recently: Desk Copy Edition

I recently received some desk copies of books I will be teaching next semester. Baldwin’s and McClatchy’s are for a Queer Literature course and Atwood’s and Smith’s are for a Literature and Religion course. I’ve taught the latter two a number of times, but it will be my first time teaching the first two, although I have taught some of Baldwin’s other novels before.

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. 1986. New York: Anchor Books, 2017.

Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. 1956. New York: Vintage Books, 2013.

McClatchy, J.D., ed. Love Speaks Its Name: Gay and Lesbian Love Poems. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2001.

Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. 2000. New York: Vintage Books, 2001.

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Books Acquired Recently: Holiday Edition

I love the holidays because not only do I get lots of books as gifts (some from others, some from myself), but I have lots of time off to read! Unless otherwise noted, all of the volumes below were presents I’ve received in the past week.

Carpenter, Steven P. Mennonites and Media: Mentioned in It, Maligned by It, and Makers of It: How Mennonites Have Been Portrayed in Media and How They Have Shaped Media for Identity and Outreach. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2015.

This book looks like an interesting overview of how Mennonites have been portrayed and have portrayed themselves through the years. Mennonites love to write about Mennonite subject matter, and this book fits perfectly in that trend.

Eby, Omar. Mill Creek. N.p.: Xlibris, 2010.

Eby taught English at Eastern Mennonite College/University for decades. I have read one of his other novels, A Long, Dry Season, and am excited to read this more recent effort.

Epstein, Robert, and Miriam Wald, ed. Every Chicken, Cow, Fish and Frog: Animal Rights Haiku. West Union, WV: Middle Island Press, 2016.

I have a poem in this collection (“confused birdsong / seventy degrees / in November”), so I bought a copy for posterity’s sake. For the record, while I respect vegetarianism, I love meat.

Friesen, Lauren. Prairie Lands, Private Landscapes: Re-framing a Mennonite Childhood. Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2016.

Friesen is an important scholar of Mennonite drama and music, and I look forward to reading this memoir of his to learn more about his journey.

Hart, Lynda. Between the Body and the Flesh: Performing Sadomasochism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

This book is a classic examination of BDSM that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet, but will do so soon.

Jordan, Hillary. When She Woke. 2011. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2012.

I’ve already finished this novel, which is like an updated version of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s not as skillful as Atwood’s book, but was enjoyable nonetheless. In this age of political madness in the U.S. we need as many of these narratives as we can get.

Kurlansky, Mark. Paper: Paging Through History. New York: W.W. Norton, 2016.

I love books, and so of course I am intrigued by this history of paper and its role in shaping broader human history.

Musser, Amber Jamilla. Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism. New York: New York University Press, 2014.

I am always interested in reading theorizations of BDSM, thus I ordered this book immediately when I came across a citation of it in my research. I purchased it and Wirzba’s book from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

Weaver-Zercher, Valerie. Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.

I was browsing in the Old Country Store in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, last week while visiting relatives and came across this book, which I had previously heard about. I decided to finally buy a copy with some money I had received as a gift.

Wirzba, Norman. Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006.

I struggle with living in the moment, enjoying the daily joys of life instead of constantly worrying about the future. I recently read about Wirzba’s book on making restfulness a daily habit and thought it sounded helpful.

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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

Bergen, David. The Age of Hope. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2012.

Bergen is one of my favorite novelists, and I just found out that he has a new book out. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been published in the U.S. yet–aside from Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, Canadian writers get zero respect here–so I had to find a copy from Canada online. I was able to find one from a bookseller in Ontario via abebooks.com.

Braddock, Jeremy. Collecting as Modernist Practice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2012.

I have always loved collecting things, so this book sounded appealing. As it turns out, the book considers anthologies as collections as well as discussing collecting objects, which is something that I am also quite interested in. I am looking forward to reading it. This, Lukas’s, and Wiebe’s books were bought from amazon.com.

Lukas, Paul. Inconspicuous Consumption: An Obsessive Look at the Stuff We Take for Granted, from the Everyday to the Obscure. New York: Crown, 1997.

I really enjoy Lukas’s Uni Watch blog, in part because we share the same obsession with aesthetic detail. I just found out that he published this book on the subject fifteen years ago, and bought it right away. It looks like a nonfiction version of Nicholson Baker’s novel The Mezzanine, which is a good thing.

Wiebe, Dallas. Skyblue the Badass. Garden City: Doubleday, 1969.

I have been reading a fair amount of Mennonite literature over the past year after a long hiatus from the field. I’ve been struck by how few U.S. Mennonite novels there are in comparison to the Canadian tradition (including David Bergen), and have been making a concerted effort to read the few U.S. novels that do exist. Wiebe was one of the first U.S. Mennonite writers, but I’ve only read a few of his poems and one or two of his essays. All of his fiction is out of print, but I was able to find a copy of Skyblue the Badass (I couldn’t find any of Our Asian Journey) for $46.00. I bought it with some birthday cash. It’s in very good condition, and I love that the back cover has a note from my main man George Plimpton.

George Plimpton's note about Paris Review Editions.

George Plimpton’s note about Paris Review Editions.

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Books Acquired Recently

Atwood, Margaret. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination. 2011. New York: Anchor, 2012.

I ordered this book at Rocky Mountain MLA last month, and it arrived yesterday. I enjoy Atwood’s fiction and her germinal book on Canadian literature, Survival, and I have been reading more and more science fiction (the “SF” of the title, which is the accepted term in the field, never “scifi”), so I’ve been thinking about buying this book since it came out last year. I finally bought it at the conference because it was available at a sizeable discount.

Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. 3rd ed. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009.

I just received a desk copy of this book from the publisher. I’ll be using it in my Literary Criticism and Research course next semester. I’m drawn to it as a teaching resource because it is recent, comprehensive, and reasonably priced (around $20.00 new) rather than being priced like a textbook. Kudos to Manchester University Press for taking the high road and caring about student budgets.

On another note, I haven’t written in nearly a week because I’ve been busy reading applications for a job opening in my department. This is the first time I’ve ever served on a search committee; it’s so fascinating! I am enjoying getting to learn about other people, reading their writing, and seeing how they approach the elusive, mysterious genres of the C.V. and the cover letter. I love encountering other’s ideas about what they think an academic should be.

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Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton

I just finished reading Salman Rushdie’s new memoir Joseph Anton, which is primarily about the years after the fatwa was issued against his life in 1989 in response to the publication of The Satanic Verses. Rushdie writes eloquently about his most depressing emotional moments during the thirteen years when he had to live under police protection, but he also offers beautiful, inspiring tributes to all of the people (especially his protection team and many of his fellow writers) who supported him, as well as offering the book as an impassioned defense of free speech. Happily, most writers were both privately and publicly supportive of Rushdie, including Don DeLillo, Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Buford, Martin Amis, and Kurt Vonnegut, though a few–including, sadly, Roald Dahl–were not. Shamefully, The Satanic Verses‘ publisher, Viking-Penguin, refused to issue a paperback of the novel, though they kept the hardcover in print. Many bookstores (including many stores in the U.S., who took out an ad in the New York Times when the novel was published here to say that they would stock it), courageously made the book available to the public even though several were bombed by religious fundamentalists.

Joseph Anton is a masterpiece, and is necessary reading for anyone who cares about literature. It should finally persuade the Nobel Prize committee to award Rushdie their literature prize. It is over 600 pages long–Rushdie’s joyful prolixity surfaces once again–but every page is compelling and intense. I found that I was only able to read about seventy-five pages of it per day because it got me so worked up, but this visceral reaction is a testament to Rushdie’s gifts as a writer. He is a hero for anyone who truly cares (i.e., not most American politicians) about freedom.

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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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Books Acquired Recently: Rocky Mountain MLA Edition II

Today I walked around downtown Boulder, Colorado with a colleague and several new friends as Rocky Mountain MLA wound down. We visited two excellent bookstores, Red Letter Secondhand Books (where they gave me my books in a recycled Borders bag! Independent bookstores forever!) and Left Hand Book Collective, a fantastic all-volunteer leftist bookstore (though I’d like to think that their name is inspired in part by Simon and Garfunkel’s “A Simple Desultory Philippic”: “I been Ayn Randed, nearly branded Communist, ’cause I’m left-handed. That’s the hand I use… well, never mind.”). I bought the Atwood and Whitman at the former and the Marable and Hugo (half-price!) at the latter.

Atwood, Margaret. Dancing Girls and Other Stories. 1977. New York: Anchor, 1998.

I have an essay coming out on one of the stories from this collection, “Rape Fantasies,” but did not actually own the collection itself. I’ve been looking for a copy of it for a while, and this one is in good condition and was only $6.00.

Hugo, Richard. Selected Poems. New York: Norton, 1979.

I’ve enjoyed the Hugo that I’ve read in anthologies, and have almost bought his Collected Poems several times. I haven’t bought or read any poetry in quite a while, so I decided to finally break down and buy one of Hugo’s books since both the vendor and the price were right.

Marable, Manning. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. New York: Penguin, 2011.

Marable’s book has gotten excellent reviews (in fact, it won the Pulitzer) and I’ve been meaning to pick it up for a while.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass and Democratic Vistas. London: Everyman’s, 1912.

Whitman is one of my literary obsessions, and as such I own numerous printings of Leaves of Grass. This Everyman’s Library edition is aesthetically pleasing and includes an introduction by one of Whitman’s friends, Horace Traubel. It’s interesting to note that Whitman died in relative obscurity in 1892, but twenty years later he was already canonical enough for the Library to reprint his work.

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Book Acquired Recently: James Tiptree, Jr.’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

Tiptree, James Jr. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. San Francisco: Tachyon, 2004.

Bought at amazon.com

I read one of Tiptree’s short stories, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” about a year ago and loved it, and since then I’ve been looking for her (James Tiptree, Jr. is a pseudonym for Alice Sheldon) books in bookstores. Salt Lake City has a fantastic bookstore scene–the best I’ve encountered outside of New York City–but it lacks in the science fiction (SF) department, so I finally broke down and ordered the book online. I am only two stories in thus far, but the second story, “The Screwfly Solution,” is immediately one of my favorite SF stories. Like “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?,” it manages to communicate a strong feminist message without being pedantic. The epidemic of femicide that breaks out as a result of Christian fundamentalism is not that far-fetched. It is a slight extension of the misogyny portrayed in texts such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which already occurs in places such as Iran and in polygamist Mormon sects in rural Utah (see Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven for more on this topic).

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