Reading Room: November

 

Twelve books this month pushing my total for the year over two-hundred. A combination of National Novel Writing Month (where I’m attempting to finish my fourth fantasy novel), beginning a Dungeons & Dragons game with some adult friends as a DM (dungeon master), and the Thanksgiving holiday made this month one where I was less than satisfied with my progress on all fronts. 

However, I can say that nearly every book I read this month was an excellent experience. I’m hoping to write and place two serious literary review of T.A. Noonan, Stella Corso, and Andrea Lawlor’s works going into 2018. The playlist for this month was ambient or, rather, the sounds churning in the static of autumn’s arrival. 

 

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Rez Life by David Treuer

An archeologist friend of mine let this to me after we were talking about wild rice cultivation in North America and other indigenous issues. A very compelling tour of the daily culture of reservation living while at the same time giving a thorough and deep understanding of the long past and frighteningly recent political battles natives have faced. 
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Tantrum by Stella Corso

I hope to write a proper review of this poetry book soon-ish. This poetry collection has a stunningly playful voice that’s biting & confident. A queer focus on performance, the body & acting, whether anyone is watching (reading) make the feminist lens here entirely its own. I love its tone, comedy, & affection.
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This essay collection has the benefit of hindsight and is of contemporary lament. Coates has a sure, reasonable tone that is refreshingly self-aware rather than self-obsessed (a plague of many essayists and the memoir generally) speaking with a clarity of will and a responsive complicity in what has happened since Obama left office and during his tenure. perhaps one of the best nonfiction books released over the last year or so. Reading this alongside Mychal Denzel Smith will definitely ground you in a noble fury.
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The Angel Strikes by Oliver Fairfax

This commissioned review found me reading an adventure story wrapped in historical fiction. Pleasant enough.

 

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Lending Power: How Self-Help Credit Union Turned Small-Time Loans into Big-Time Change by Howard E. Covington

I honestly can’t remember why I decided to request this from NetGalley. While certainly not a bad book, I didn’t really learn anything new about microloans or true community funding. However, it’s always good to see books like this come out.
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Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner

In the wake of the sexual abuse, assault, and harassment coming out in the open, reading this novella was an exercise in creepy. I had gotten this digital ARC from NetGalley ages ago and had high hopes for it. I thought Weiner might write something of the quality of Noah Hawley, but no. This novella is poorly written, underdeveloped, and so casually sexist/misogynist it’s difficult to understand how we didn’t see this wave of abuse coming. Weiner writes Pete Campbell to greater or lesser degrees at all times. It is a wretched character and point of view and Weiner is eminently satisfied with it.

 

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Fall by T.A. Noonan

I hope to write a longer more detailed review of this chapbook in the future. This is probably one of the most raw & emotionally challenging works I’ve read in a longtime. Noonan isn’t writing poetry or memoir or creative nonfiction, but rather a work at once existentially personal, objectively terrifying & recognizable, and elegant in its crafting.

 

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The Art of Sanctions: A View from the Field by Richard Nephew

Adequate if not uninspiring. However, given the dearth of expertise striking the US diplomacy-wise, a book such as this is vital for all would-be engaged citizens.

 

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Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor

Quite simply, one of the best novels of 2017. Set in the early 90s, Paul/Polly is a queer who has the ability to literally gender swap changing physical sex. This story is stunning loaded with exceptional humor, sincere intellect, passion both base and high, and in an era of casual hatred directed at queer folk profoundly uplifting even in its most difficult passages. I hope to have a longer review of it in the future. In the meantime, enjoy this playlist…

 

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Wonderblood by Julia Whicker

A Goodreads giveaway win, this took ages to arrive and I won’t lie, I was kinda annoyed it was a cheap looking ARC. However, the story inside is well worth attention and merit. Literary fiction with a sci-fi bent is usually termed Speculative Fiction, but ignoring industry buzzwords, this novel is certainly a high literary work just like Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road. Here’s another novel I’m hoping to do a longer review of closer to its publication date (April, 2018).

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Reign of Appearances: The Misery and Splendor of the Public Sphere by Ari Adut

Although there are more than a few moments where Adut oversimplifies our contemporary political moment (essentially doing a lazy sketch of the 2016 election that is certainly a dominant media narrative but more than a bit erroneous), this is a rather brilliant work. Adut’s critique of what we mean by ‘the public sphere,’ what we would like it to be, what it actually is, and what it could be is not just an academic exercise but a vital bit of deep thinking.

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In the World’s Shadows by Christopher Hamilton

This memoir will most likely be my last commissioned review of the year. This is more creative nonfiction than memoir giving it more heft, more literary weight. Hamilton writes of his life through the 20th century as someone deeply embedded in British colonialism–India, South Africa, England, and Asia Pacific. At once well crafted and a fascinating personal historical document.

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