Saturday, February 22, 2014

on book 12.

book 12 of 60: the worst hard time by timothy egan

date started: 2.13.2014
date completed: 2.21.2014

i've been obsessed with narrative non-fiction for many, many years, and this book has been on my shelf for far too long.  

about the dust bowl in the 1930s, egan goes to great pain to paint a complete picture of the event without condemnation of those involved.  moving between the stories of the lucas, white, osteen, borth, and hartwell families, and a few other primary figures, egan demonstrates just how afflicted various areas of the great plains were during this time.  the book drips with dust--bringing the terror of the dusters to life.

he also focuses a good deal of time on hugh bennett and franklin roosevelt and their attempts to bring sanity back to the area.

what i found most thought provoking in this text is the realization by many scientists in 1938ish that the dust bowl was not a weather event but rather an entirely preventable environmental catastrophe caused by men.  egan is able to draw this point out without condemning the nesters considered responsible. after all, they were lied to by developers and their own government (through the homestead act), encouraged to overproduce wheat, and had little to no knowledge of the environmental impact that tearing up the grass would have.

what is uplifting is that many of nesters who remained to the end eventually began heeding hugh bennett's soil conservation service's advice and practicing safer planting practices and reseeding the plains with drought tolerant grasses.

i must admit that i'm a bit obsessive when it comes to historical accounts, especially when they are so geographically close to me.  i live just six hours by car from one of the main cities focused on in the book, dalhart, texas.  after reading the text and researching the images referenced in it, i want to go to dalhart, boise city, and baca county just to see stumble upon a row of trees roosevelt so desperately wanted planted that still stand, a monument to the foresight and understanding of one of our greatest see grass green and growing in the know that, while it will never be the land that it was before the dust bowl, that it has recovered some and life continues to go on.

all in all, this was a deeply moving text for a reason i can't quite put my finger on.  well done, mr. egan.

probable next read:  red rising by pierce brown 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

on book 11.

book 11 of 60: a man without a country by kurt vonnegut

date started: 2.12.2014
date completed: 2.20.2014

i read this book the day it came out several years ago. always a fan of vonnegut, his non fiction is my favorite.

filled with lovely bits of snark and insight, this book is an absolute pleasure to re-read.

probable next read:  red rising by pierce brown 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

on book 10.

book 10 of 60: the textual condition by jerome mcgann

date started: 2.7.2014
date completed: 2.15.2014

this is a reread from my grad school days.  i've just started work on a new bib methods/textual studies paper/project where mcgann is relevant, so i decided to refresh myself with his work.

true to form, there are moments in this text that are extraordinarily dry (especially since i don't particularly care for ezra pound--whom mcgann pulls from A LOT), but for a textbook it is filled with engaging insights on reading, creating, and understanding texts.

probable next read:  radiant textuality: literature after the world wide web by jerome mcgann (he's kind of a big deal in my scholarly life right now...)

Friday, February 14, 2014

on book 9.

book 9 of 60: the dog stars by peter heller

date started: 2.3.2014
date completed: 2.12.2014

wow!  this one was a tough slog.  i wept.  i openly wept over this book. this may be the only book in recent years to ever move me in such a way.

it's post-apocalyptic, which speaks to my dark and twisty soul (and has apparently become a specialty of my academic career).  basically, i've read A LOT of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, and it takes A LOT to impress me in these genres.  this book pulls it off easily.

i don't want to reveal anything about the plot, because that would ruin it for everybody.  read this book. it's worth it.

probable next read:  maze runner by james dashner

Monday, February 10, 2014

on book 8.

book 8 of 60: sonnets from the portuguese by elizabeth barrett browning

date started: 2.8.2014
date completed: 2.10.2014

i've been on a bit of a poetry bender as of late.  it's the stress.  i've been super stressed at work (too much to do, too little all know the way it goes), and when i'm stressed i tend to come back to home base, which, for me, is poetry.

i have a few poets in my back pocket who always serve me well, but this year i'm trying to read more new-to-me stuff.  enter elizabeth barrett browning.

while i've read and taught browning before, i haven't read her completely or in this way.  my book is her sonnets from the portuguese illuminated with letters between EBB and robert browning during their courtship.

i absolutely adore their peculiar, not-likely-to-make-it affair, so i thought this might be a nice read.

it was just that.  nice. sweet. disgusting.  all the things you expect from love poetry. seriously though, i am about as romantic as a wooden spoon, so i'm certain many of these beautiful verses were completely lost on me.

i did, however, find her mastery of the form quite wonderful and appreciated a sonnet cycle from a female voice (which is SUPER rare--trust me, i have degrees in this stuff).

EBB is a wonderful poet in her own right, and i wish that she was more widely read and in more depth.

probable next read:  red rising by pierce brown; back to my delightfully non-romantic post-apoc/dystopian genre

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

on book 7.

book 7 of 60: birthmarked by caragh m. o'brien

date started: 1.24.2014
date completed: 2.3.2014

meh.  it was fine.  at various points it read like a cheap YA version of handmaid's tale.  

the narrator, gaia stone (really?!), is quick to anger and seemingly incapable of rational thought, except when in high pressure situations.  she reminds me a bit of daenerys in the a song of fire and ice collection--always quick to anger and screaming about being the mother of dragons.  gaia is very much like her, but without the dragons adding a degree of awe to her plight.

add to that the 'villain' isn't very villainous.  sure, they take a few babies to adopt out to approved families, but their aim is to improve living conditions for all.  maybe it's because i don't have a motherly bone in my body, or maybe it's because i've ready WAY too much dystopian fiction, but the enclave just isn't heinous enough to do it for me.

overall i was unimpressed and plan on culling this trilogy.  the first book ended in such a way that i can deal with not reading the next two.  plus, there are so many other great books out there that need my attention more.

probable next read:  the dog stars by peter heller (if i make it through--i have my doubts!)