March 13, 2018
In the midst of California’s spring rain showers, Antioch University 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—or reread—them all!
|Francesca Lia Block:
I’m revisiting (and visiting) Gothic classes and Southern Gothic Classes by the Bronte sisters, Shirley Jackson, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor and Katherine Anne Porter. And for contemporary stuff I’m still on a Joy Williams kick with The Quick and The Dead. I’m also obsessed with a non-fiction book about the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris by Jonathan Cott.
I am reading CD Wright’s Deepstep Shining and A Wrinkle in Time.
Among the poetry books I’m reading, the one that has most stayed with me, that I keep thumbing through and re-reading, is I Know Your Kind, by William Brewer, published just last year by Milkweed Editions as part of the National Poetry Series. The subject matter is the opioid epidemic in a poor coal mining town in the poet’s native West Virginia, and the poems, told in multiple voices, display an astonishing variety of form and mastery of craft in a poet apparently just “starting out” — he’s still under 30. It’s no everyday matter to find such an intersection of a large, harrowing story to be told and a clear-eyed witness fully, surreally prepared to tell it.
When students at Antioch ask me who I am reading, I usually say, “You!’ I read a lot of creative nonfiction, yes, from students and other writing friends, and also a lot for my own research projects and books. My fiction is less purposeful, and in the last months I have read joyously and luxuriantly The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, and The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble. In genre fiction, because who doesn’t love apocalypse, I’ve also read The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison, The Fifth Season trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, as well as The Future Home of the Living God, also by Louise Erdrich. These are all good books. Full disclosure: I actually listened to these stories on my Ipod as I ran, up and down dirt roads in the Gila Valley and on certain trails in the Gila National Forest.
Lately, I’ve been enjoying reading things more slowly–focusing more on quality versus quantity. There are so many new books of poems being published these days that I feel as if we’re in a kind of renaissance of sorts. The world has opened up to new voices, new ideas, new books. The problem is that it’s hard to read everything. Still, I’m attracted to voices that sound like no other, as well as complicated books, and books that try new things/take risks. I Know Your Kind by William Brewer is one, Trophic Cascade by Camille Dungy, Electric Arches by Eve Ewing, In The Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae, and I am re-readig Brian Teare’s amazing book of poems, The Empty Form Goes All the Way to Heaven. I just read The Art of Death by Edwidge Danticat and am reading The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.