Julia Weiss (Poetry Editor) is reading Details of Flesh by Cortney Davis.
Before you make assumptions – no, this isn’t some sketchy romance novel. Details of Flesh by Cortney Davis, a nurse practitioner and poet, is dedicated to the interiors of hospitals from salacious gossip that nurses share to direct quotes by patients awaiting their imminent death. Loaned to me by the gracious and brilliant Kate Knapp Johnson, this book of poetry is adequately named as an ode to the skin we all inhabit and how differently we each live within our own. Every hospital room, though seemingly designed the same, carries a range of physical and emotional battles. Davis sharply shows the reader both celebrations and pitfalls of being in these varying situations, overhearing these conversations, and the intense turmoil and juxtaposition that unravels as a result. It’s lines like, “One woman told me it wasn’t the blows/but the love lost,/gone as if they peeled your skin,/sucked all marrow from your bones and now/you walk everywhere hollow” that make me wonder how Davis encountered and recalled these moments in such eloquent intricacy. Whenever I put the book down I continue thinking of these several wavering heartbeats constantly being circled through hospital hallways like an automatic revolving door; and I sometimes feel haunted by how I have no control over matters concerning vital organs.
Jessica Denzer (Assistant Art Director) is reading 2666 by Roberto Bolaño.
To be honest, I bought Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 about two years ago because of the cover. I’d seen a friend reading it and I thought: that book cover is really cool. So I bought it. However, in the middle of my last year in college, working, and applying to graduate school, I never got around to cracking it open. Recently, however, I was exposed to Bolaño’s Last Evenings on Earth and fell in love. So, I decided to tackle 2666. Published posthumously in 2004, 2666 is 893 pages of art. Always expanding the arch and scope of the narrative, Bolaño builds a mesmerizing tale that moves between place and time through modern Europe, Mexico, and WWII and postwar Germany. However, while the narrative moves in time and space, the story is constantly turning like a whirlpool towards the dark and deeply disturbing underbelly of Northern Mexico. I am awestruck by the poetic fibers Bolaño weaves together, taking the reader thread by thread into the dark, yet ironically beautiful—and at times hilarious—corners of the human experience. Ultimately an experience, Bolaño might suggest, where love, identity, worthiness, and mere existence are all up for grabs. While it was a silly reason to buy the book (and one I’m sure I should have never admitted), already on page 769 (so close!) I’m really glad I did.
Delta of Venus is a collection of erotic short stories Nin wrote for a dollar a page. Her patron kept exhorting for the stories to have more sex and less poetry, but Nin couldn’t completely disobey her artistic impulses. Her writing is fable-like and sometimes absurd but shows a deep understanding of human psychology. After I finish one of her stories what lingers in my mind isn’t the prurience, exactly, though that has its own beauty. For Nin’s characters, satiation doesn’t usually bring contentment but instead some new kind of longing. There’s some pleasant and fitting irony in a book of erotica that suggests our search for total satisfaction is futile and never-ending.
Brian Birnbaum (Senior Reader, Fiction) is reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
Cloud Atlas does everything you’d want in a story — make that six stories sublated as one. His virtuosity of prose and idea blended so indiscriminately with pathos I’ve never experienced, aside from the first time I read it. The worlds Mitchell creates are blessed with the infinite industry and imagery of his mind. His characters’ veins’ pulse can be felt along to the rhythm of his each line. The collective human experience is exposed for all its hope, longing, and tragedy. And more than anything, it’s a damn good read. If I had to choose my favorite novel, this might be it.