#FridayReads for 12/20/13

Refusing HeavenKrista Drummond (Editorial Assistant) is reading Refusing Heaven by Jack Gilbert.

Jack Gilbert on poetry:

“I really think poetry is urgently important, not as an entertainment, not because it’s beautiful and it uses rhymes well, but it’s almost—it’s one of the very few things we have to make what’s important visible.”

Having known of Gilbert prior to my first poetry workshop at SLC I am surprised I did not dedicate more of my time to his work. A sort of rapid fire was induced; I fell in love with his enjambment , his precision in language, his honesty. Refusing Heaven’s “Trying to Write Poetry” split me open, brought me to a sob. His work contains the motifs of sex with all of its variations, what Gilbert calls, “the textures of different kinds of love”, the love affairs and the barest images of the women in his life. They involve nature and its vibrancy, of the city he grew up in — the concept of place and home, of the man he was and wanted to be. Gilbert has been criticized for being vain; not wanting his little bit of famous. He understood meter, form, discourse and rhythm; utilized the poet’s toolkit to the furthest degree. He understood the heart-wrenching feeling of loss and loneliness, so who is anyone to say he was any sort of way at all? And does it even matter? Gilbert’s poetry is the only thing we need to spend more time on — its honesty will break your heart and if you stay and reread and linger on the poems, they will slowly piece it back together for you.

Object LessonsLiz Bergstrom (Senior Reader, Fiction) is reading Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story.

Object Lessons is a collection of twenty short stories published in The Paris Review, each with a short introduction by a contemporary author. It includes work by Lydia Davis, Bernard Cooper, Mary-Beth Hughes, Raymond Carver, Mary Robison, and many others, showing a broad variety of forms and styles. My favorite in the collection is “Funes, the Memorius” by Jorge Luis Borges. Originally published the magazine in 1962, it’s an elegant, bittersweet story about a man who remembers absolutely everything he ever sees, hears, or reads:
“A circle drawn on a blackboard, a right triangle, a lozenge–all these are forms we can fully and intuitively grasp; Ireneo could do the same with the stormy mane of a pony, with a herd of cattle on a hill, with the changing fire and its innumerable ashes, with the many faces of a dead man throughout a long wake. I don’t know how many stars he could see in the sky.”

Sarah Paolantonio (Senior Reader, Nonfiction) is reading Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn. Manson

A decade known for peace and love, the 1960s was also a strange time for psychedelic outcasts. The twisted story of Charles Manson and The Manson Family is a fascinating piece of American history. Jeff Guinn interviewed Manson’s family (who still choose to remain anonymous) to piece together details of Manson’s upbringing. Manson is a mesmerizing character from his brainwashing techniques (persuasive speaking lessons in jail and stints in Scientology), to his extreme misogyny and racism, and his greed for fame. For a man that could barely read and write, Charles Manson was a genius: people followed him into the desert, he stole gobs of money from Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and he convinced young men and women to violently murder at will. It’s a bloody, disturbing book. But the best part is that it’s true. The reporting assembled in these 400 pages takes more than time. It takes guts.