What I find fascinating about Amy Hempel is that she starts every story with the knowledge of what the last line will be—which I absolutely love—and is able to build these beautifully complex stories around that one sentence. After attending a reading of hers a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist buying this collection.
In Tumble Home, each story is narrated by someone with a skewed vision of home. I’ve most recently finished The New Lodger. This (very) short story is about a woman visiting a small town and reminiscing about past vacations and relationships as she writes postcards. Hempel’s stories are stark and short, but there is something enchanting in the subtlety of her writing. Every time I open this book I am immediately drawn into the character’s home, and upon leaving, I’m left feeling I must visit again soon.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading Essays of E.B.White, and enjoying them immensely. I had previously read Here is New York, which is an extraordinary piece about the city, but reading the rest of his essays, I understand the scope of subject that he covered–from seasonal reports about his small town in Maine, to segregation in Florida, to the state of democracy in the U.S. Some of my favourites include Homecoming, A Report in January, Bedfellows, and The Ring of Time.
White deftly takes what could be humdrum experiences and turns them into fascinating moments in time. Many of his essays seem to move from one subject to another, quite randomly, but he ends by wrapping everything up into one strong theme that you realize was the focus the whole time. His precise attention to everything around him is such that he brings the reader into a moment in time that we otherwise would not have experienced. Also, his wonderful sense of humour doesn’t hurt.
I am reading The Wicked + The Divine: the Faust Act, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. This is the paperback trade collection of the first arc of what the authors have promised will be a long-running series, and the premise, as described on the jacket, is this: “Every ninety years twelve gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.” Not exactly your typical superhero comic, this book deals with the themes of mortality and immortality, creativity, and identity. It is Gillen admittedly trying to turn his fear of death into a pop song.
Assigned by Rachel Eliza Griffiths for her poetry workshop, I just completed reading “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine. It is a book hell-bent on discovering what it means to be a member of a country whose very history (and perhaps present) seems to exclude you due to your race. Incorporating a poetic prose and visual images, this is a book whose very conception is one of not belonging. For some it will not hold enough of a coherent narrative to be labeled non-fiction, for others, too many sentences for poetry. What are images doing in an adult book? Much like the author herself, this lyric challenges preconceived notions of what it means to belong and begs the question: how do we define and incorporate what we perceive as other?