As fall approaches and classes resume, it may be harder to find as much time for pleasure reading. But the importance of reading for pleasure is well documented. We asked our MFA in Creative Writing faculty members, who are avid readers and great thinkers, what they are reading. There are sure to be books here that will touch your heart, peak both your intellect and imagination, and maybe tickle your funny bone. We hope you will find the time to read a few of them.
“The two novels I’ve most liked were ‘Ten White Geese,’ a Dutch novel about an Emily Dickinson scholar in Wales, and ‘The Infatuations,’ a Spanish novel about what may or may not have been a murder. In a way they are opposites. ‘Geese,’ by Gerbrand Bakker, is told in slabs rather than chapters, with varying points of view, with each set obliquely to the next, and is excruciating in its emptiness and beauty. ‘The Infatuations’ is by one of my favorite writers, Javier Marias, and is brilliantly told with every point of view coming entirely from the head of the narrator. It’s a sexy Henry James; or Henry James, with sex.”
“I have greatly enjoyed ‘Beyond the Beautiful Forevers,’ by Katherine Boo, and ‘The Orphan Master’s Son,’ by Adam Johnson. The first is masterful creative nonfiction, and the second is masterful fiction, both glimpses into worlds into which most of us have little entrance. I am about to read ‘The Still Point of the Turning World,’ by Emily Rapp. And I have been reading many books for my own research – about blindness, about hemophilia, about elephants and mammoths. “
“”I recently read (and listened along to) Eloise Klein Healy’s ‘A Wild Surmise: New and Selected Poems & Recordings.’ These brilliant little engines of craft and sound are in fact enduring expressions of human nature and connection. Healy loves language, Los Angeles, the west coast, and the dreams we dream of ourselves. It is a point of pride for our community that she is also the AULA MFA’s program founder, Los Angeles’ first poet laureate, and one of the truly important homegrown American poets. Her poetry could act as a prescription forward for the human spirit.”
“I’m reading the novel ‘The Flamethrowers,’ by Rachel Kushner. Her sentences are absolutely gorgeous and musical. Kushner uses a faux naif narrator, Reno, a young female artist, to observe the New York art world of the 1970s juxtaposed against the radical youth politics in Italy during the same period. Without a shred of didacticism, Kushner manages to say a great deal about gender, capitalist exploitation, poseurs in the arts and in social movements, and how witnessing implicates us. Considerable wisdom is embedded in seemingly offhand comments about the worlds she moves through.”
“I’ve just begun Andrea Barrett’s new story collection, ‘Archangel.’ Barrett is always brilliant at spinning fascinating human dramas from little-known turning points in history. ‘Archangel’ has me enthralled. I’ve just finished reading a classic satirical novel, ‘The House of God,’ by Samuel Shem. If you know any medical students or medical residents or you just wonder why doctors act the way they do – and you want to laugh your you-know-what off – read this book.”
“I just finished reading Louise Erdrich’s ‘The Round House,’ in the first person voice of a thirteen-year-old, Joe. This novel opens as his mother’s rape is discovered, and the novel follows Joe’s path to avenge his mother’s rape via his grandfather’s dreams, stories of the ancient, traditional system of justice. In the ‘Afterword,’ Erdrich states, ‘A 2009 report by Amnesty International, included this statistic: 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in her lifetime (and that figure is certainly higher as Native women often do not report rape); 86 percent of rapes and sexual assaults upon Native women are perpetrated by non-Native men; few are prosecuted.’ Joe’s father is a tribal judge on Ojibwe land, so this novel also follows the tribal laws that restrict (in accordance with USA laws) prosecution of non-Native men who rape Native women on their tribal lands. Joe’s voice is of a boy/man who is outraged at this situation, as well as simply being a boy/man of thirteen so often, that innocence and humor. He straddles the modern world on tribal land- both of his parents well educated, his father’s law/literature library- and the world of his grandfather’s dreams and memory. As all of Erdrich’s novels, beautifully written- each character flesh and blood on the page.”
“I recently fell in love with ‘Rockaway: A Novel’ by former interim chair of the MFA program, Tara Ison. This Oprah ‘summer book’ choice is set in Rockaway Beach, New York just prior to the 9/11 attacks and tracks the story follows a Southern California artist who’s trying to find herself personally and creatively. I also adored Rob Roberge’s ‘The Cost of Living’ following the fallen-apart life of a rock guitarist who’s now trying to live clean and sober.”