Bedtime Stories: August 2015

  • August 12, 2015

What do book lovers have queued up on their nightstands and ready to read before lights-out? We asked a few of them, and here’s what they said.

Bedtime Stories: August 2015

Forrest Aguirre:

Soon, my stack of books will create a room within a room and I will be forced to read my way out. At this point, though, I am only concerned with having enough air to breathe. Here are the books that I am currently carving through in order to create a window, of sorts:

In Delirium’s Circle by Stephen J. Clark. I’m a big fan of dark, baroque literature. You might call it “horror”; I call it dark art. Clark’s novel, set in post-World War II England, fits this moniker in more ways than one. Not only is Clark’s writing brilliant and playful, but his artwork, featured on the cover and throughout, reflects (though that isn’t quite the right word; “seethes with,” perhaps) the swirling but subtle maelstrom surrounding the House of Sleep, a mystical cult with which Mr. Fetch finds himself entangled. This is a ride that throws you for so many loops, you won’t know up from down — what is evil and what is good? Who can you trust? Is everyone who they seem? Are you even what you think you are? Solipsism be damned.

Kandinsky by Hajo Düchting. A thorough analysis of one of the great practitioners of modern art. Düchting is not satisfied, however, with merely cataloging Kandinsky’s artistic evolution — he also examines Kandinsky’s developing theories of representation and art, much of which was informed by his proto-existential views regarding the “nightmare of materialism.” Which brings me to…

Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy by William Barrett. Though I am in the early stages of eating this delectable brain candy, just nibbling at the edges, I can already tell that this may be one of the richest feasts I will consume. I’ve read plenty of existentialist pieces — books, plays, etc. — but this is my first real foray into a formal study of the philosophical interpretation of such works. Barrett makes difficult concepts very easy to digest and serves only enough to satisfy, never enough to make one feel bloated.

I have to admit that reading these three works in quick succession is affecting my own writing in very meaningful ways. I look forward to continuing to dig myself out of this paper prison in which I am about to be encased. The trouble is deciding which work to read next? Ligotti? Proust? Murakami? Joyce?

My secret hope is that I’ll never really escape…

Forrest Aguirre's fiction has appeared in over 70 venues, including Exquisite Corpse, Gargoyle, Notre Dame Review, Farrago's Wainscot, and Asimov's. His novel, Heraclix and Pomp, was just released in trade paperback by Underland Press/Resurrection House.

Lara DiPaola:

Typically, my days are filled with tasks that tend to be equal parts mundane and insane, as is often the case when growing humans and developing marketing strategy. When it comes leisure reading, I am an unapologetic escapist. This may be the only thing that keeps me from hatching a plot for literal escape.

If you need me, come look in 18th-century Scotland.

Admittedly, I’m about a decade late to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series of multi-genre novels that center around a WWII-era field nurse, Claire, who unwittingly travels back in time to Scotland ahead of the Jacobite uprising of 1745. Gabaldon weaves folklore and fantasy into a tapestry of undulating fact and fiction, dotted with threads of history and undertones of feminism.

I’m currently savoring the last few chapters of the final book, Written in My Heart’s Own Blood. The upside of being late to the party is having Sam Heughan around to help bring Gabaldon’s gallant Highlander, Jamie Fraser, to life. Good things come to those who wait, right?

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston. Scrapbooks and inherited typewriters? I’m in. Preston brings Frankie — a New Hampshire woman coming of age in the 1920s — to life through mementos collected in the blank scrapbook she receives for high-school graduation. Unable to afford Vassar, even after scholarship offers, Frankie takes a job caring for an elderly woman. A scandalous romance on the job reopens the doors of Vassar, leading Frankie on a whole new journey. This one was such a fun and easy read, it only lasted three nights.

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman. When Gilman writes, I read. Unlike her last book, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven — an autobiographical recounting of her backpacking adventure in a China newly open to Westerners — this book is delicious fiction. The perfect treat for ending any day. In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Dazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, that Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street. Taken in by a tough-loving Italian-ice peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and inventiveness. As she learns the secrets of his trade, she begins to shape her own destiny.

Lara DiPaola has deemed herself a humorist at the behest of the voices in her head, who happen to find her simply hilarious. She is also the mother of five...two of whom are teens, which may account for her tenuous grip on sanity. Her fifth child is her blog, Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom. A writer-by-trade-caffeine-addict-by-necessity, Lara is prone to serious bouts of cabin fever which she self-medicates by writing about travel for outlets from USA Today to popular travel blogs and corporate publications. Oh, yeah, she has a real job, too: director of marketing and creative development for CertifiKid.

Susan Southard:

My first book, Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, was just released two weeks ago. I spent 12 years working on it, while also raising my daughter and working full-time. Now, I can finally get to my can’t-wait-to-read books that have been waiting so long! I’m a nonfiction-book lover. Here are the books at the top of my pile:

First up: Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues. Moyers — press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, news analyst for CBS News, and a founding organizer of the Peace Corps — is my favorite journalist, and I miss him terribly since his magnificent show went off the air when he retired in January. The Conversation Continues holds some of his best interviews with great artists, journalists, and scholars, including Jon Stewart, Howard Zinn, and Nikki Giovanni. I’m ready for some inspiration!

Next, I’m turning to the environment, the most critical issue of our age and, perhaps, in human history. For years, I’ve been committed to ecological practices in my personal life, and now it’s time to find a more active role to heighten my contribution and impact in whatever way I can. Three books await, with many more to come.

First, Thomas Berry’s The Dream of the Earth — with a preface by Terry Tempest Williams and foreword by Brian Swimme — a powerful, visionary book on the urgent global environmental ethics needed to heal the planet we are destroying.

Second is Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. The New York Times Book Review calls it “the most momentous and contentious environmental book since Silent Spring.” This is a far more analytical and policy-driven book than I usually read, but time is everything now when it comes to climate change, so I’m going to dive in.

Last, a beautiful book I just picked up yesterday: The Ecopoetry Anthology, edited by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street. It’s a collection by both historical and contemporary writers that captures their relationships with the world, both tiny and infinite.

It may be awhile before I get to these final two books of essays, which I crave for their literary magnificence: Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin — an all-time favorite for Baldwin’s genius of language, rhythm, character, and form. The second is Love and Other Ways of Dying: Essays by Michael Paterniti. This book is new to me, but having read a few pages, the combination of global themes and masterful writing will, I think, make it hard to put down.

Susan Southard is the author of Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War (Viking, 2015). Her work can also been seen in the New York Times. Nagasaki was a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, sponsored by Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation and the Columbia School of Journalism. Susan holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and was a nonfiction fellow at the Norman Mailer Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She lives in Tempe, Arizona, where she is the founder and artistic director of Essential Theatre.

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