Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Books Acquired Recently: Mostly Mennonite Edition

Cliff, Michelle. Free Enterprise. New York: Dutton, 1993.

I heard a presentation about this novel at Northeast MLA and it sounded interesting because of its treatment of pacifism and violence, so I decided to buy it since I have enjoyed my previous experiences with Cliff’s writing.

Denise, Cheryl. I Saw God Dancing. Telford, PA: DreamSeeker Books, 2005.

This past weekend I was at the Poetics of Place writing retreat at Laurelville Mennonite Camp in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. It was an amazing experience filled with thought-provoking conversations and inspired writing. There was a book sale, and I bought a number of volumes, all poetry: Denise’s two books and those by Gascho, Kaufmann, Stenson, and Wiebe. Aside from Wiebe, who died in 2008, all of the authors were there and I was thus able to have them sign my books. Now I have plenty of poetry to read this summer!

—. What’s in the Blood. Telford, PA: DreamSeeker Books, 2012.

Gascho, Joseph. Cornfields, Cottonwoods, Seagulls, and Sermons: Growing Up in Nebraska. Telford, PA: DreamSeeker Books, 2017.

Kaufmann, Britt. Belonging. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2011.

Kreider, Roberta Showalter, ed. The Cost of Truth: Faith Stories of Mennonite and Brethren Leaders and Those Who Might Have Been. Kulpsville, PA: Strategic Press, 2004.

I recently came across a citation of this book in an article by Alicia Dueck-Read, and bought it immediately because of my work on queer Mennonites.

Stenson, Esther Yoder. Miracle Temple. Telford, PA: DreamSeeker Books, 2009.

Wiebe, Dallas. On the Cross: Devotional Poems. Telford, PA: DreamSeeker Books, 2005.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. 1925. Orlando: Harcourt, 1981.

I was recently lamenting to a friend that I no longer had a copy of this book because my ex-wife got it after our divorce. Said friend surprised me with this copy yesterday.

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Books Acquired Recently: Road Trip Edition

I just got back from a two-week road trip through Pennsylvania and New York to visit some family and friends, and did some book shopping along the way, all at independent bookstores. Here is what I acquired:

Ashbery, John. Breezeway. New York: Ecco, 2015.

I have always enjoyed Ashbery’s work, and his newest book has gotten good reviews, and I’ve been craving some poetry lately, so I thought I would pick it up. I bought it, Gessen and Squibb’s anthology, and Koch’s book at my favorite place in the world, the Strand.

Gessen, Keith, and Stephen Squibb, eds. City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis. New York: Farrar, 2015.

One of the things I love about going to the Strand is finding amazing books that I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered, and this book looks like it will be another instance of that tradition. It is a collection of essays about the current status of various American cities (some large, like Los Angeles, and some relatively small, like Syracuse) and how they have coped with the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash. I am fascinated by both halves of this topic, thus the decision to buy the book was an instant one.

Holmes, Safiya Henderson. Madness and a Bit of Hope. New York: Harlem River, 1990.

I haven’t heard of Holmes before, but her book caught my eye because of the name of the publisher. It has a blurb by June Jordan, who has been an important poet for me, and even though it is signed (“To: Nancy Thank you so much for being here snow & all Safiya ’92”) I was able to buy it for only $5.00 from the Rose & the Laurel Bookshop in Oneonta, New York.

Koch, Kenneth. On the Edge: Collected Long Poems. New York: Knopf, 2007.

I really enjoy Koch’s work and think that his longer poems are some of the best in the American tradition. I’ve been wanting to buy this book for a while: I first discovered it at the Strand several years ago, but didn’t buy it, and have regretted it ever since. Happily, on this visit they had a copy in pristine condition, much better than the original one that I had considered buying.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman. New York: Harper, 2015.

Like everyone else interested in American literature, I am in a tizzy about Lee’s new novel, in which Atticus Finch is apparently not nearly as sympathetic as he is in To Kill a Mockingbird. I am horrified that Go Set a Watchman might destroy the experience of To Kill a Mockingbird for me, but of course have to read it anyway. I bought my copy at The Green Toad Bookstore in Oneonta, New York.

Sexton, Anne. Selected Poems of Anne Sexton. Ed. Diane Wood Middlebrook and Diana Hume George. 1988. Boston: Houghton, 2000.

I’ve enjoyed Sexton’s poems that I have encountered in anthologies and in the one collection of hers that I’ve read, Transformations. As noted above I’ve been in a poetry-reading mood lately, so when I found a copy of this book in excellent condition for a good price ($9.50) at Winding Way Books in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I decided to buy it.

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Books Acquired Recently: Nostalgia Edition

My parents have recently been completing some house renovations, and in the process of moving furniture around to accommodate these changes my mother has been de-accessioning some books. She asked whether I wanted any of them and I took a few, some because I have fond memories of them from childhood and some because I am interested in their Mennonite subject matter.

MacDonald, Betty. Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. 1957. New York: Scholastic, 1987.

When I was little my mother would read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books to my sister and me after school, and I loved them for their humor. This copy has my mother’s name scrawled on the front cover in my crooked elementary school handwriting.

—. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. 1947. New York: Scholastic, 1987.

Like the previous book, this one is falling apart, with tape everywhere and some dog-eared pages–they are well-worn because we loved them so much. I also wrote my mother’s name in this volume. Apparently I’ve always been concerned about which books belonged where.

Reed, Kenneth. Mennonite Soldier. Scottdale: Herald, 1974.

This book is a retelling of the prodigal son story set during World War I, a war in which many American Mennonites were persecuted for their pacifist stance and German heritage. It is a fascinating early example of Church-sanctioned (Herald Press is the official publishing house of Mennonite Church USA) Mennonite literature.

Smucker, Barbara Claassen. Days of Terror. Scottdale: Herald, 1979.

We had several of Claassen’s fictional retellings of Mennonite persecution in Russia when I was a child. This book also has a price tag from Provident, this time on the back cover, $7.95.

Wenger, John C. Glimpses of Mennonite History and Doctrine. Scottdale: Herald, 1947.

Wenger was a well-know Mennonite theologian in the mid-twentieth century, and I have several of his other books on Mennonite thought. I love that the title humbly claims to only offer “glimpses” of Mennonitism rather than claiming to be definitive.

Wiebe, Rudy. Peace Shall Destroy Many. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962.

I already have several copies of Wiebe’s seminal novel, but wanted this copy because it belonged to my mother. Before I was old enough to read it I would often stare at its spine on the shelf and wonder what it was about because I found the title haunting. I love thinking about the history of copies of old books (i.e., thinking about the object itself), and thus it makes me very happy that the original price tag is still with the book on the first page (the design of the book’s famous cover leaves no room for a price tag there). The book was bought at a Provident Bookstore (Provident [Which is now, alas! defunct. Shopping at the Provident in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was how I learned to love browsing for books.] was Herald Press’s official bookstore chain) for $1.95.

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Books Acquired Recently: Holiday Edition

I’ve acquired a number of books over the past few weeks. Most of them (the ones without their provenance listed) have been gifts, though a few I’ve bought for gifts to myself to read over the semester break.

Ballard, J.G. Cocaine Nights. 1996. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1998.

Ballard is an author that I love to read in my spare time because of his fiction’s cynical view of society, which I tend to share. I’ve never attempted a systematic investigation of his oeuvre (which is rare for authors that I enjoy as much as I enjoy him), but I buy one of his books every once in a while when I come across them and am never disappointed.

This and the books by Cha, Rechy, Rhys, and Walker were acquired with a gift certificate that I received to DogStar Books in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung. Dictee. 1982. Berkeley: U of California P, 2001.

I remember reading about this book, which is classified as poetry, in a book about postmodern fiction at some point. It has all sorts of visual elements–photographs, facsimiles of handwriting, drawings–that I love in text-based books. My knowledge of Asian American literature is also lacking, so I am excited to read it.

Keogh, Theodora. Street Music. 1952. N.p.: Olympia, 2009.

I love Keogh’s fiction because of its subtle queer bent, but haven’t had the time to read any of her novels in a while, thus I was glad to receive this as a gift.

Kuper, Simon. Ajax, the Dutch, the War: The Strange Tale of Soccer During Europe’s Darkest Hour. New York: Nation, 2012.

Growing up in the 1990s as a soccer fan in the U.S. I always felt the lack of available books on soccer history (and especially European soccer history) keenly. I am happy that with the sport’s recent rise in popularity here this lacuna is being filled.

Kushner, Tony. Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Rev. ed. New York: TCG, 2013.

Angels in America is my favorite play, and I teach it often. I just recently discovered that a revised edition has been published, which, frankly, worries me (what if Kushner’s meddling with the play is along the lines of George Lucas’s with Star Wars?). However, it is an essential enough text that reading the new version at least once is a necessity.

This and Miller’s Eyes at the Window were acquired from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

Mass, AJ. Yes, It’s Hot in Here: Adventures in the Weird, Woolly World of Sports Mascots. New York: Rodale, 2014.

Mass used to be Mr. Met. I read an excerpt of this memoir when it came out a few months ago and enjoyed it, so decided to put it on my wish list.

Miller, Evie Yoder. Everyday Mercies. Milton: Big Girl, 2014.

I’ve been asked to review this novel for Mennonite Quarterly Review. I had heard of Miller, but have not read any of her fiction before. It is good to see more Mennonite writers from the U.S. working in the genre.

—. Eyes at the Window. Intercourse: Good, 2003.

I bought this book to read to get a sense of Miller’s work before I read Everyday Mercies.

Rechy, John. Bodies and Souls. New York: Carroll, 1983.

I have enjoyed the couple of Rechy’s novels that I have read, and he is a foundational queer Latino writer, so I was excited to buy this book when I found it in my browsing at DogStar.

Rhys, Jean. Jean Rhys: The Complete Novels. New York: Norton, 1985.

I have been wanting this volume since 2005 when I saw a graduate school classmate’s copy during a discussion of Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. I have looked for it in used bookstores since then and was thrilled to finally find a copy. I have grown a fondness for twentieth century female British-ish writers (Muriel Spark, Doris Lessing, etc.) over the past year or so, and look forward to reading Rhys’s corpus as a furthering of this interest.

Walker, Alice. In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women. San Diego: Harcourt, 1973.

I wrote about this excellent book in my dissertation, but did not actually own a copy. I’ve been looking for it in used bookstores recently and was happy to find a copy in very good condition for only $4.00.

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The New York Rangers, the Stanley Cup, and Nostalgia

The Stanley Cup Final between the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings begins tonight. I’ve been a Rangers fan since 1990, when I decided to root for them in their first-round playoff series against the Islanders. I began following the team closely during the 1991-1992 season, Mark Messier’s first with the team, as they won the President’s Trophy before being shocked by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs.

But, of course, my fondest Rangers memories are from the 1993-1994 season, which culminated with them winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1940. I was in eighth grade that year, and had several classmates who were also fans to talk about the team with. I listened to most of the games on the radio because my family did not have cable. The games were usually on 660 WFAN unless they were at the same time as a Knicks game, in which case they got bumped over to 1050. Howie Rose did play-by-play and Sal “Red Light” Messina was the color commentator. However, the one game I got to watch on television all season was game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against New Jersey, so I missed Rose’s famous “Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!” call of Stéphane Matteau’s double-overtime series winning goal live, though WFAN replayed it numerous times over the next few days. (Here is a clip of the play with Rose’s call.)

Most hockey fans are familiar with Rose’s call now, as it gets replayed every time the Rangers have a big playoff game, and it is one of the greatest North American sports announcing moments ever. But what gets forgotten, and, in hindsight, what was terribly unfair to Rose, is that the Rangers decided to let their long-time play-by-play man Marv Albert announce periods one and three of games 5 and 7 as the team tried to win the cup on home ice, with Rose doing period two. Now, Marv Albert is my favorite announcer of all time; he is the best basketball announcer of all time and is quite a good hockey announcer (much better than his younger brother Kenny, who absolutely murdered this year’s Western Conference finals for NBC). But it seems cruel to have taken this moment away from Rose, though now he’s an announcer for the Islanders, so who cares, I suppose.

But at the time, I was excited to have Albert announcing game 7. I was listening to the game in the living room on our family’s stereo, lying on the carpet, wishing I could be watching on television. The local Fox station, channel 5, tried to broker a deal with the MSG Network to show the game on free television to no avail, though they were able to show all of the post-game festivities. My most vivid memories from the game involve my favorite player, Brian Leetch, whom I had liked since his time with Team USA during the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. I remember the excitement in Albert’s voice just before Leetch opened the scoring in game 7. I knew he was going to score before he scored, and then he did score, and from that point on I knew the Rangers were going to win. I also remember Leetch throwing a hip check later on that sent one of the Canucks flying, and how excited Albert got again: you could tell that the game and the team meant a lot to him personally, which is a side of himself that he very rarely shows on air. (The hip check is at 2:40 of this video, and Leetch’s goal is at 1:05.)

My family moved away from New York a few weeks later, and though I continued to root for the Rangers, it was never the same. I couldn’t listen to the games on the radio, and had to be content to catch a game whenever the Rangers were on nationally on ESPN or Fox with that ridiculous highlighted blue puck and stupid scoreboard robots (which Fox still uses in their NFL telecasts! Unbelievable.). I would always watch the Rangers in the playoffs, but without the bond that gets built up over a long season the games never felt nearly as life-and-death as they did in ’94.

As I grew older, baseball reasserted itself as my favorite sport and soccer became a close second, and now I follow the Mets and Manchester United with the same day-to-day devotion that I used to give to the Rangers. I’ve become closer to the Rangers now than I have been in years because I live in New York again, and I get MSG so I can watch them whenever I want, but I also know that I will never love them as much as I loved them then (a horrible admission, I feel dirty all over putting it in words, but it is the truth). In reality, all of my interactions with the Rangers since the mid-1990s have been a form of nostalgia for the 1994 team, an attempt to get back to those feelings of sheer joy and wonder.

Nevertheless, as the finals begin tonight, I’ll be rooting hard for the guys in blue, red, and white, and hoping that they will create some unforgettable triumphant moments of their own. Who will be this year’s Stéphane Matteau? Which save by Henrik Lundqvist will be remembered like Mike Richter’s save of Pavel Bure’s penalty shot in game 4 of the ’94 finals? (You can see video of it here. I love John Davidson’s reaction when the penalty shot is called: “Get your cardiologist!”) And most importantly, whose smile will be as big when they lift the cup as Mark Messier’s was when he held it high in front of all those screaming fans at the Garden?

Let's go, Rangers!

Let’s go, Rangers!

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Books Acquired Recently: NeMLA Edition

I have been at the Northeast Modern Language Association annual conference for the past few days. Normally this kind of convention offers excellent opportunities for book-buying. However, the conference has been a disappointment in this respect, as the selection at the bookfair was rather paltry. I only bought one book there.

Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner Graphic Novel. Illus. Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo. New York: Riverhead, 2011.

I’ve heard that Hosseini’s novel by the same name is excellent, and have also heard good things about the illustrated edition. It was a steal at $5.00.

I then went to the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, which is a short walk from the conference’s main hotel in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I had heard that it was an excellent independent bookstore. While it is true that the store is large and has an inventory covering a wide variety of subjects, it is horribly organized. I was primarily interested in browsing the fiction section, and within this section the books were organized by the first letter of authors’ last names, but within each letter there was no organization whatsoever, not even to the point of putting all of an author’s books next to each other. For instance, in the D section, I saw books by Don DeLillo on at least three separate shelves. In the nonfiction sections, books were alphabetized by their titles rather than by their authors, which made browsing in any meaningful way close to impossible. The store, in short, was infuriating.

Nevertheless, I am such a book-buying addict that I acquired two volumes. I believe in supporting independent bookstores, even badly-organized ones.

Spark, Muriel. Open to the Public: New & Collected Stories. New York: New Directions, 1997.

I recently read some of Spark’s work for the first time and loved it, thus I was delighted to find a like-new hardcover copy of her collected stories for only $6.95.

Welsh, Lindsay. Necessary Evil. 1995. New York: Blue Moon, 2005.

I had not heard of this book or of Welsh before, but I noticed it on the shelf because it has Blue Moon’s distinctive cover design. The book was originally published by Masquerade Books, which published high-quality erotica in the 1980s-1990s. It was also only $6.95.

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Books Acquired Recently: Poetry Edition

ellipsis 49 (2013).

Strasko, Barbara Buckman. Graffiti in Braille. Cincinnati: Word, 2012.

Friday night was the debut reading for this year’s issue of ellipsis, Westminster College’s literary journal. ellipsis is unique in that it is run by students, but accepts submissions for review from anyone, so it ends up publishing a good mix of established poets, emerging poets from around the country (lots of newly-minted MFAs in the contributor list, ha ha), and a few students. Aside from some student poems, every year a featured poet who has previously published in the journal reads their work. This year’s poet was Barbara Buckman Strasko.

After this tragic week, and with the announcement about fifteen minutes before the reading began that the second Boston bombing suspect had been captured, I was really feeling the need for some poetry. The poems read from the journal were all quite good, with many of them being thought-provoking as well as finely crafted. Strasko’s work was also enjoyable. She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is where my mother’s family has lived since the early 1700s, so I was happy to be able to talk with her after the reading. She was very approachable, and happy to talk with students, which not all visiting writers are. I look forward to reading her book!

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