Monday, July 1, 2013

Michelle Herman & Rebecca Hazelton Recommend... For Summer Reading.

Michelle Herman is the author of two collections of personal essays, Stories We Tell Ourselves and The Middle of Everything, the novels Missing and Dog, and the collection of novellas A New and Glorious Life

Today, for summer reading, she's here to recommend ... 

Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship
by Gail Caldwell

Caldwell's book is one of the two or three best memoirs I've ever read, and the single best thing I have read on the subject of friendship. You'll want to read it in one long sitting--it's that hard to put down--but then you'll have to slow down near the end (and actually well before the end too) because it'll make you cry (a lot). So not a ho-ho good- time beach read--but not heavy lifting, either. It's delightful, it's gorgeous, it's charming, it's moving, it's wise. This is going to sound cheesy, but I'll say it anyway: if you're a woman who has ever had a best friend, you really have to read this book. (And here's a bonus: if you have ever had a dog you loved, you will also love this book. And another bonus: it's also a stealth recovery-memoir.)

Rebecca Hazelton is the author of Fair Copy and Vow.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Best New Poets 2011, Best American Poetry 2013, and Poetry. 

She's here to recommend -- even for non-poetry types.  

David Orr’s Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry

I do not know if anyone stretched on a beach towel and listening to
the ocean roar has ever thought, “This is lovely, but what if instead
of another round of volleyball I had an enjoyable, accessible, and occasionally quite funny guide to contemporary poetry?”, but were you to find yourself in such a position, David Orr’s Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry might be just the thing to lazily
flip through while sipping your next pineapple-laden cocktail. There
really is something here for everyone, whether readers are new to
poetry or old hands. For new readers, Orr smartly suggests that the
best way to approach poetry is as one might view traveling in a
foreign country: it’s handy to have some phrases under your belt, a
little history but not the phone book memorized, and the confidence
that even if we don’t understand every aspect of the country, it will
probably make more sense later. This is great advice for poets as well
– not only is it a useful parallel to draw for students, but it
reminds writers to step outside their aesthetic comfort zones.
Similarly, the chapter regarding form would be useful for teachers of
literature and creative writing, and his descriptions of the special
mental hell poets endure via their relationship (or lack thereof) to
the academy is razor sharp. This book might just as easily serve as a
guide to having a poet as a child or friend, or, if you were foolish
enough to let one in your house, a partner. Most unique is how Orr
doesn’t beatify poetry or make a case for its specialness, but instead
goes out of his way to suggest that poetry is just one of the
pleasurable ways in which we as human beings might spend our time.
Take a look at this book, even if you don’t have much interest in
poetry – anyone who humorously alludes to Gandalf, Top Chef, and
Elizabeth Bishop in the same book deserves a read.