Literally just a list of books I’ve read recently (with links)

Because I love you and I want you to be happy. So without further ado, here’s a list of all the books I read for school last year with no comments about them. (They’re good, I promise).

Short Story Collections

Virgin, April Ayers Lawson

The New Yorker Stories, Anne Beattie

The Color Master, Aimee Bender

A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin

Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis   —

My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro, Anthology edited by Jeffrey Eugenides

Swim for the Little One First, Noy Holland    —

Runaway, Alice Munro

Wilderness Station, Alice Munro    —

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Haruki Murakami

Fourth Corner of the World, Scott Nadelson

The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor    —

Later That Same Day, Grace Paley    —-

Portrait of My Mother Who Posed Nude in Wartime, Marjorie Sandor

Tenth of December, George Saunders

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, David Foster Wallace

The Collected Stories, Eudora Welty

Taking Care, Joy Williams

Novels

The Vet’s Daughter, Barbara Comyns    —

Turtles All the Way Down, John Green

The Vegetarian, Han Kang    —

Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill

Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney

Any recommendations for this year’s list?

xx, Tab

Transcendentalism & Airports

Let’s talk about cities.

The ones we exist in, even briefly passing through. The ones that exist only in the memories we keep to give them framework.

Some background: I’m sitting in JFK airport. It’s 4 am our time and I have flown all night without ever really sleeping. I just finished Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. I started this book in Las Vegas, where I live now. I read the middle of it in the last few weeks of going back and forth to California, the place where I grew up.

I use that term “grew up” loosely. We moved a lot. I never knew what to say when people asked for my hometown, but those near-LA-suburb cities as a whole will always be where the pull feels strongest. Those are where I cheered on losing football teams, got my first degree, made my best friends, vomited in bar bathroom lines. Nobody has known me since kindergarten. My parents only know the names of two of my friends. My old bedroom is already redecorated so beautifully that when I bring Catsby over, they make me change the bedding.

But that region is so significant to me because we’ve all been all over it. Sleeping on its couches. Screaming at our GPS as we wind deeper into its folds. Crying to our friends’ mechanic husbands as our cars fall apart on its shoulders. It has such deep illusions that we’ve been going somewhere when we’ve all really been tethered to some unknown thing that keeps us there. I’ve lived so many places and so few are not there.

But then I left, again, for real this time, and it’s not home anymore but it is something. All of this struck me a couple weeks ago as I sat at the green tables (where you could always count on running into someone between classes) on ULV campus alone, reading Calvino and listening to Death Cab for Cutie’s new single, “Gold Rush.” The scene is an almost exact duplicate of the previous day, when I sat reading the same book and listening to the same song on repeat but in Claremont and let’s just say I was feeling SOME TYPE OF WAY I DON’T EVEN KNOW. I started thinking about how I would describe each of these cities if I were to try and do it like Calvino.

A note on this collection: Invisible Cities is like nothing I’ve ever read. It’s essentially a bunch of flash fiction punctuated with occasional dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan as he describes the cities of the empire. Extremely lyrical, transcendental, often environmentally charged, with strong ties to the cosmos and the idea of the afterlife (so basically my ideal book). Most of the cities aren’t real. They’re named after women and goddesses and put under distinct headings: Cities and Desire. Cities and Memory. Thin Cities. Hidden Cities. Cities and the Dead. Khan is both mesmerized and frustrated with Polo’s ethereal descriptions. He wants both to know the cities better to and see them with the grand vision that Polo does. I didn’t know what to make of how this book made me think of my cities because I hadn’t put my finger on what I was supposed to get from the book, but here in New York City, sitting in an airport, something clicked.

“Irene is the name for a city in the distance, and if you approach it, it changes. For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped in it and never leave. There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves a different name; perhaps I have already spoken of Irene under other names; perhaps I have spoken only of Irene.”

-Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

This comes in one of the closing sections. The idea of all our impressions set to this mold in our head of the city to which we will compare all else runs throughout the book. Where the city is doesn’t seem to matter. But it’s this idea of the places you’re expecting to find, the hopes you have for them, the cute Insta captions you’ve prepared ahead of time. Those aren’t the city at all. In that way, anywhere can be your city because no city can have you, either. Not the you that you are when you’re alone at home with your cat. Only the you that you prepared specifically for this place, building off of all the expectations your experiences have made, dressing in airport bathrooms in the specific outfits you picked for each day of your trip, annoyed because you followed the sign that said food court and it led you to literally nothing but a Dunkin Donuts. Expectations already crumbling to give a glimpse of the city you came for. The one that’s real.

“I’ve ascribed these monuments a false sense of permanence. I placed faith in geography to hold you in my memory. ((gold rush)) I’m sifting through these rubbish piles ((gold rush)) through the rubble of bricks and wires ((gold rush)) Searching for something I’ll never find. ((gold rush)). Searching for something I’ll never find.”

Death Cab for Cutie, “Gold Rush”

Getting Started on Bookstagram

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve been oohing and ahhing over other people’s bookstagram from the outside. I see posts every day saying “I finally decided to join in!” on the first photo of a new account. I know the feeling! I finally gave into the same feeling almost exactly a month ago. Getting into something as aesthetic and virtual-community based can be a little intimidating, and I had questions. Where do I start? Are there rules to this thing? While this may not be necessary, I’m a total researcher. I feel better about things when I am informed. So, naturally, I looked to the place where I learn everything: Pinterest (But don’t tell gradschool I said that…)

You can find my Pinterest Board of Bookstagram inspo and articles here!

Here’s some of the things I learned from my research and my first month (along with photos of some of the feeds that I love and friends that I’ve made along the way!)

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My first month on Bookstagram!

I️ don’t know how it took me so long to jump on this bandwagon, but have you SEEN the beauty that is #bookstagram? I didn’t know it existed until about a year ago, when I was so desperately trying to avoid getting my grad school application and writing samples completed. I stumbled upon some gorgeous photos of books laid out with props and pretty backgrounds and I fell in love. I decided to set up my own bookstagram account exactly one month ago, so I’m gonna share some of my inspirations here and soon I’ll share how I got started and what’s been happening since.

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September Wrap

(Can I tell you a little story before while we do this? I know I said I was gonna talk about books but I mean obviously I’m also tryna talk about myself…)

Sooo, I’m in Tacoma at RWW. I just found out I got April as my mentor and I am as stoked as humanly possible. I feel I got the perfect mentor for me. And she and I, we’re both a little bit awkward (lovably, maybe?) and we were supposed to have a quick meeting discussing our upcoming mentorship year. And I’m nervous, cause she’s brilliant and stunning and aloof and cool. And then we spend two hours in a wine bar talking about writing and she gives the most beautiful impression of dating a novelist that I have ever heard. I am happy. This is going to be a good year.

And I also had just bought a lot of books! Hers included. She decided I should start with a couple of those, since I already have them. Anyway, that’s the story of how I became a devoted fangirl of April Ayres Lawson and then had to submit a critical passage on April Ayres Lawson’s short story collection TO April Ayres Lawson. Grad school. Good shit. Anyway… Read More

Monthly Wrap

I can’t believe I’m coming on six months into my graduate program! On Monday, I’m going to be mailing in my third packet of work. I wanted to take a minute to explain how that works. I gave a list of books I’d like to read* to my mentor and she assigns me three books a month. Typically, two are from my list and one is her suggestion. For the mailing, I send back one short story as well as a critical response paper (CRP) for each book. It’s a good amount of work and keeps me rather busy. Because it’s so much of my life, I wanted to find a way to share it. I get asked a LOT what I even do for a creative writing degree. I had thoughts of sharing those critical responses on here, but I assume most people aren’t interested in that kind of analysis AND no one will want to read the book once I give everything good about it away!

Instead, I decided to go for a more general Monthly Wrap. I’ve also been sharing the individual mini… (reviews, maybe? I wouldn’t necessarily call it that because I don’t rate them or tell too much about what they’re about. I just share what I liked about them and call it a day. Response is maybe a better word?) responses to each book on my new Bookstagram, @Tabithatypes. I’m a few months behind, but that ain’t no thang. September Wrap is coming up soon. Stay tuned!

xx, Tab

*list posted on featured image!

On The Wallcreeper and liking things

wallcreeper

Do you ever read something and you know you like it but you’re not sure if it’s actually good? Or is that just a problem isolated to those trying to find a place in the literary world? It’s tricky to worry about what you “should” think is good. I tend to buy more into the idea that you can like whatever you want, as long as you back it up (enter the critical essay). Overall, if you like weird and funny and feeling things you aren’t sure of, you should read this book! But if you’re going to read it, you shouldn’t read this essay that tells you what happens. What exactly am I trying to accomplish here then, you may ask? Beats me.

Nell Zink’s The Wallcreeper is kitschy and quick and political and sexy all at once. It’s also annoying, at times overwrought in description and other times vague. The reader can take these as they will, but it’s hard to deny that this book is to be devoured. Read More