#FridayReads for 1/3/14

Happy New Year, LUMINA family! The east coast is getting walloped by a snowstorm, and is there any better way to pass a wintry day than with a good book? Pour yourself another hot drink and see what some of your staffers have been reading lately.

MaddAddamGillian Ramos (Blog Editor) is reading MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood.

I spent December catching up on the two previous books in the MaddAddam Trilogy (2003’s Oryx and Crake, and 2009’s Year of the Flood) so I would be good and ready to tackle the finale. A quick summary: The events in these novels take place in the not-too-distant, not-too-improbable future where the world is divided into corporation-owned compounds and dangerous urban stretches called pleeblands. Scientific and medical innovation has reached dizzying levels; but one such innovation is secretly engineered to go wrong, wiping out most of humanity, leaving a few stragglers. MaddAddam picks up where both Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood leave off – yes, these two installments are going on more or less simultaneously – with the surviving members of a pacifist eco-sect called God’s Gardeners and a genetically engineered humanoid species known as the Crakers trying to coexist and survive. With their reluctant prophet Snowman-the-Jimmy battling illness, the Crakers turn to Toby, one of the remaining Gardeners, for stories about the world and its destruction. In telling the Crakers what she knows of the world as their deities Oryx and Crake made it, Toby also learns about the pasts of her fellow Gardeners and the scientists behind the mysterious MaddAddam bioterrorist collective.

Hera Naguib (Senior Reader, Poetry) is reading Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Letters to a Young PoetRilke.

When I left for home in Pakistan this winter break, it was not without a premature sense of fear of my upcoming graduation from writing school, a slight anxiety of facing an entirely if not wholly unknown set of challenges of writing independently–more or less further away from the nurturing company and community of poets and writers, both admired friends and teachers that I have luckily found here. Luckily, on my flight back home I finally decided to turn to and have since held on to Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet as a source of comfort and assurance. Long before finishing this thin volume of ten letters that contain timeless and precious advice to the younger Austrian writer, Franz Xaver Kappus, I knew at once that I would carry its lessons with me for long. Rilke’s words serve as balm to the many fears, anxieties, and doubts that many young writers and poets may hold and share amongst themselves. There are far too many gems to share in quotes here. Quite selectively, I would like to share two resonating and inspiring pieces of advise the Rilke imparts in his letter. Avoid looking outside (to approval from magazines, editors, writers, etc.), Rilke says in a soothing and assured manner in his first letter. “No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself.” Time and time again, with a sense of necessity, Rilke insists on the importance of patience in a writer’s life: “In this there is no measuring with time…Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree which doesn’t force its sap, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast.” This is a book I would recommend for every artist to read, re-read, re-re-read, quote out loud, sleep with, maybe even memorize just so one can utter Rilke’s words to themselves in moments of self-doubt and disillusionment. I don’t know why I waited so long to get to it.