Tag Archives: Rudy Wiebe

Books Acquired Recently

Andreas, Peter. Rebel Mother: My Childhood Chasing the Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

I will be writing a review of this book for Mennonite Life, and received it from them. It is about a man raised by a Mennonite mother who was a political radical in the 1970s, an era that I am quite interested in, so I look forward to reading it.

Eichhorn, Kate. The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order. 2013. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014.

I came across a citation of this book in my recent reading on queer archiving and decided to buy it as a continuation of this reading.

Hurst, Michel, and Robert Swope. Casa Susanna. New York: powerHouse Books, 2005.

This is a book of found photographs from a 1960s resort where crossdressers would congregate. I am excited to view it as I continue to investigate queer history.

Martinac, Paula. Out of Time. 1990. Seattle: Seal Press, 1999.

After I ordered Casa Susanna, I was reading an article about lesbian fiction that recreates the queer past, and it mentioned Martinac’s novel, which is about a woman who finds an old photograph album that apparently once belonged to some lesbians. In other words, it is an earlier fictionalized narrative of how Casa Susanna came to be! I decided in light of this coincidence that I should buy it immediately.

Wiebe, Rudy. The Scorched-Wood People. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1977.

This is one of the few Wiebe books that I do not already own. I read a critical essay recently which mentioned it. I did not realize that it was about the Louis Riel rebellion, a historical event that I know little about, but have been wanting to investigate further. So I decided to buy the novel as the beginning of my investigation.

 

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Books Acquired Recently

Del Rio, Vanessa, and Dian Hanson. Vanessa Del Rio: Fifty Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior. Cologne, Germany: Taschen, 2016.

I have come across a number of references to Vanessa Del Rio’s acting over the years. If I recall correctly, I first saw some of her work in an exhibit at the Museum of Sex in New York City. One of my favorite queer authors, Samuel R. Delany, writes fondly of her in Times Square Red, Times Square Blue.  Recently, I was reading Juana María Rodríguez’s Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings, and she cites Vanessa Del Rio, which is Del Rio’s autobiography, quite favorably, so I decided to buy it. I love Taschen’s high-quality books of photography, and have enjoyed several of Hanson’s books that they have published about sexuality, so I anticipate that Vanessa Del Rio will be an enjoyable, educational read.

Peterson, Zoey Leigh. Next Year for Sure. New York: Scribner, 2017.

I read a review of this novel about polyamory on Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian and it sounded quite fascinating, so I decided to buy it. I’m not sure that I’ve ever read a novel that investigates being poly as a central theme before, so it is exciting to come across this book!

Wiebe, Rudy. A Voice in the Land: Essays By and About Rudy Wiebe. Ed. W.J. Keith. Edmonton: NeWest Press, 1981.

Rudy Wiebe is the most prominent North American Mennonite writer. His influence on the field of Mennonite literature cannot be understated. In my research about his work I’ve often seen A Voice in the Land cited, but have never actually read it. I finally decided to do so.

All three books were purchased from amazon.com’s network of independent booksellers.

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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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Book Acquired Recently: Rudy Wiebe’s Come Back

Wiebe, Rudy. Come Back. Toronto: Knopf, 2014.

Rudy Wiebe has been an important author in my life, and of course he is one of the most influential Mennonite writers ever, so when his new novel came out I was eager to purchase it. It hasn’t been published in the U.S. yet, but I was able to find a copy of the Canadian edition on amazon.com. Wiebe is at an age where one must wonder whether each new book will be his last, but it is gratifying to see him still working.

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Books Acquired Recently

All of these books were bought with an eye toward my impending summer break, which begins in three weeks!

Ames, Greg. Buffalo Lockjaw. New York: Hyperion, 2009.

Greg Ames gave a reading from his novel-in-progress at Utica College this past week, and I enjoyed it to the point where I decided to buy a copy of his previous book. He has an engaging, DeLillo-esque writing voice that my students also found engaging.

Buell, Lawrence. The Dream of the Great American Novel. Cambridge: Belknap-Harvard, 2014.

This hefty tome received a good review in the New Yorker recently, and I decided to buy it because it looks like it could be helpful for my teaching of American literature. In looking through the table of contents, it is clear that Buell pays attention to ethnic minority writers; we shall see whether he does an equally good job of acknowledging queer writers as well.

Plett, Casey. Lizzy & Annie. Illus. Annie Mok. N.p.: Fireball, 2014.

This illustrated chapbook is a story from one of my favorite queer (and Mennonite!) writers, who also has a collection of short stories coming out from Topside Press this summer. Lizzy & Annie only cost $5.00, and you can buy it here (scroll down to the bottom right for purchasing information).

Wiebe, Rudy. First and Vital Candle. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966.

I’ve thought about reading this, Wiebe’s second novel, on and off for the past decade or so, and since I’ve been thinking a lot about Mennonite literature lately I decided to finally take the plunge. (However, rather famously among Mennonite literary circles, the book does not actually contain any Mennonite characters, which is partly why it has taken me so long to get around to reading it.) I was able to find a copy of the first Eerdmans edition in fine condition from one of amazon.com’s independent booksellers; there are a few rips in the dust jacket, but the volume itself is in excellent shape.

The way this first American edition was marketed (it was published at the same time in Canada by a more prestigious secular publisher, McClelland and Stewart) is fascinating. The dust jacket includes several blurbs extolling the novel’s Christian aspects. Clyde S. Kilby writes that “[t]his novel stands very close to the top among evangelical novels of this century,” and Charles A. Huttar adds that “Mr. Wiebe is remarkable among Christian novelists for his craftsmanship.” I know that later in his career (which is still ongoing, as rumor has it that Wiebe will soon publish a sequel to his first [highly controversial] novel, Peace Shall Destroy Many), Wiebe would strongly object to being pigeonholed as a “Christian novelist” instead of simply a “novelist,” so I wonder what his reaction to these meant-to-be-laudatory words was.

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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

Deer Cloud, Susan. The Last Ceremony. Kanona: FootHills, 2007.

I bought this book today after Deer Cloud’s poetry reading at Utica College. It is always fascinating to hear poets read their work, and it is especially delightful when they read it well and when it is actually worth reading, which was the case in this instance. Deer Cloud had several of her books available for purchase at the reading, and I bought The Last Ceremony because it includes my favorite poem from the reading, “Marlon Brando Dies at 80,” a love poem to Brando that is motivated by both his activism on behalf of Native Americans and his sexiness. This poem and other samples of Deer Cloud’s work are available here. The book itself is a beautiful object, hand-bound with black thread and soothing lavender end sheets. It is worth its $16.00 price as an aesthetic artifact alone even before one considers the fine poetry contained therein.

Zacharias, Robert. Rewriting the Break Event: Mennonites and Migration in Canadian Literature. Winnipeg: U of Manitoba P, 2013.

I bought this book primarily because Zacharias is a friend of mine, though of course Mennonite literature is one of my scholarly interests, too. It’s nice to have the two converge! I am especially excited to read the chapter on Rudy Wiebe’s The Blue Mountains of China, a favorite novel of mine since I first read it in 2001.

Bought on amazon.com.

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