what I’m reading

I’m loving these long days, outside until almost 9 yanking weeds and walking the dog in the dusk, but it sure cuts down on the time I’ve got to read before I conk out for the night.

The stack by my bedside grows. I just picked up Marilynne Robinson’s ABSENCE OF MIND, which sounds a bit like a murder mystery title but is instead a meditation on the tension between science and religion. Being a science geek with a decidedly non-empirical approach to the world, I’m pretty excited to read what she has to say on this topic.

snapshot-2010-05-18-16-05-40Robinson is one of our finest novelists writing today. Wait; that sounded lukewarm, and I am scalding hot in my appreciation for this writer’s work. I read GILEAD straight through, and then I turned back to the start and read it all over again. HOUSEKEEPING; HOME — these are master works by a writer who marries an achingly beautiful approach to language to a penetrating inquiry into the nature of morality, particularly as it pertains to human relationships.

And who writes a damn good story.

Speaking of which — I’ve just finished two of those.  Susan Breen‘s THE FICTION CLASS came out in 2008 and I’ve just now read it.  Breen is one of those rare writers who can make you laugh all the way through and then fell you with the earned sentiment at the end.  This novel follows a woman — Arabella Hicks, named for the heroine of a romance novel — who teaches fiction to a colorful assortment of beginners in New York City while juggling the demands of her aging, ailing mother.  Wry, sly, and with not a touch of meanness, THE FICTION CLASS made me laugh, made me tear up, made me laugh again.  I developed a lasting fondness for the characters and for Arabella herself, an old-fashioned and at the same time thoroughly contemporary woman doing her bumbling best to make sense of a world through the stories it offers her.  Extra pleasure for anyone who’s ever taught fiction.

I turned from NYC of THE FICTION CLASS to the Los Angeles and Salton Sea of  CUT AWAY, a short and breathtaking novel by Catherine Kirkwood and published by the inimitable Red Hen Press. Kirkwood has the corner on stunning sentences; this novel may be short in pages, but it’s long on poetry. Surefooted, inquiring, cool in the very best manner, CUT AWAY follows three women whose lives intersect as each gives chase to a missing teenager, a girl who fled her home in search of a clearer understanding of her own identity. Each of these adult women, too, seeks to understand who she is beneath the multiple disguises she herself wears. Los Angeles may be the city of hard surfaces, but it’s the arid, unforgiving landscape of the Salton Sea that serves up the most accurate mirror for these characters — and Kirkwood’s prose is a match for that unrelenting honesty, yielding pleasure at every turn.

You reading anything good, lately?  Or has the world outside snatched your time, too?

4 Responses to “what I’m reading”

  1. Rob Toscano Says:

    Thank you for the insight, I tend to read older literary works. Pre 1919. I figure if it survived someones shelf and didn’t get thrown out, it was probably worth the read. I have been looking for some insight to current authors, and I enjoyed reading your blog. I hope you don’t mind if I follow along with some reading you have mentioned.

    The TUSK

  2. Summer Wood Says:

    Welcome, Rob! I’ve enjoyed your comments on “Life on the High Wire.” What makes 1919 the cutoff?

  3. Laura Manning Says:

    Early April 2011. I am reading a thoughtful memoir about time spent as a fire lookout in the remote national forest wilderness of north western New Mexico. FIRE SEASON is one of those rare collections of life’s pearls of wisdom observed and captured by one who has found peace, humility, and awe in the midst of a quiet commune with Nature. Philip Connors first book is part Emerson, part Carson, Part TTW . . . yet all presented with a grounded, new voice. A most welcome read to open my outdoor season . . .

  4. Summer Wood Says:

    Thanks, Laura. This is the second mention today of Philip Connors (an author new to me) and FIRE SEASON — which I’ll take as an indication that I really need to read this book. I appreciate the tip.

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