Tag Archives: writing

An Interview with Me

I am happy to report that I just got interviewed on the fantastic Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian website! You can read the interview, which discusses my queer reading practices, here.

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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

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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Books Acquired Recently

Hertz, Sue. Write Choices: Elements of Nonfiction Storytelling. Los Angeles: Sage, 2015.

I have been wanting to write more creative nonfiction, and while I’ve had a bit of success getting published in the genre in the past I still don’t feel like I have a good sense of how to write compelling pieces of it consistently. Therefore, when I was offered an exam copy of this book I was happy to take it with the hope that it will help improve my own writing as well as potentially my students’.

Howard, Tim, with Ali Benjamin. The Keeper: A Life of Saving Goals and Achieving Them. New York: Harper, 2014.

I received this book as a birthday present. Howard is the best American goalkeeper ever, and I am excited to read about his life in the sport that obsesses me.

Schulman, Sarah. Rat Bohemia. New York: Dutton, 1995.

A friend recently recommended this novel to me, and I am especially excited to read it now that I see that it has a blurb from Tony Kushner, whose work I love. I bought it from amazon.com’s network of independent booksellers.

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A New Book Review

I just had a review of Ewuare X. Osayande’s poetry anthology Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin & Marissa Alexander published in Your Impossible Voice. As I say in the review, it is an important book, and its proceeds go to a worthy cause. You can buy the book here under the “Buy the Book” tab.

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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: R.J. Julia Edition, and Some Thoughts on the Form

First, let me say that obviously my blog has been taken over by Books Acquired Recently posts in recent weeks. This is partly a manifestation of my book-acquiring addiction and partly a manifestation of the busyness of my first semester teaching at Utica College: I just haven’t had time to write about other subjects. I hope the blog’s subject matter becomes more diverse again during the month-long Winter Break that is fast approaching.

Second, I’ve mentioned this before, but for any new readers out there, the Books Acquired Recently idea is a blatant rip-off of Nick Hornby’s column in The Believer, in which he discusses books that he’s recently read and acquired. I love being a voyeur of other people’s libraries because it is one of the best ways to learn about a person, and thus I enjoy allowing others to view the process of continuing to build my own library. What can I say? I’m a literary exhibitionist.

Third, the recently acquired books themselves: Over the Thanksgiving break I visited some relatives in Connecticut, and they took me to the delightful R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison. The store’s three floors are architecturally pleasing, with inviting nooks for each section and plentiful cushioned chairs for customers who wish to investigate potential purchases without getting in the way of other patrons. The inventory is large, and the staff is friendly (not an easy task on Black Friday).

Baker, Nicholson. Traveling Sprinkler. New York: Blue Rider, 2013.

As regular readers of the blog know, Baker is one of my favorite writers. I didn’t realize he had a new novel out, but found Traveling Sprinkler in the store’s New Fiction section after I had already purchased the other two books and was waiting for everyone else in my party to be ready to leave. Of course I bought it as soon as I noticed it. I’m about a third of the way through the book, and while thus far it is not as good as its prequel, The Anthologist (which I love because it is The Nerdiest Book Ever), it has been smoothly enthralling like nearly all of Baker’s fiction.

Incidentally, Blue Rider also published the hardcover of Dickey’s memoir.

—. The Way the World Works: Essays. 2012. New York: Simon, 2013.

This book has been on my list of “books to buy eventually” since it came out. I enjoy Baker’s nonfiction, but reading it is always somewhat of a disappointment because it just isn’t as good as his fiction (which is not meant as a criticism: the two genres have different purposes, and nonfiction is much less concerned with creating a transcendent experience in the reader than fiction is). In this collection, Baker writes about essential topics such as how reading and writing are changing in the digital age. Everyone should be reading him.

Dickey, R.A., with Wayne Coffey. Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball. New York: Plume, 2013.

I have been meaning to read Dickey’s memoir since it came out just before the 2012 baseball season, and then decided to wait to purchase it until after the paperback came out because I assumed it would have extra material on his phenomenal 2012 year when he won the National League Cy Young Award. The Plume edition does, indeed, have a new chapter. Although I probably will not get around to reading Wherever I Wind Up until the spring when I begin craving baseball again, I decided to purchase it now because R.J. Julia is an independent bookstore well worth supporting.

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