Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another Post

I've posted once today, but Nissa suggested that I make a list of "recommended reading."

When and if I teach literature, I usually teach Intro to Fiction or the second freshman comp course that covers fiction, poetry, and drama. My friends will not be surprised when I say that I love poetry, but despair because so many of my students don't "get it." Poetry, for me, is about the human heart in all it's fragility and beauty. It's more feeling; I think of fiction and drama as more cerebral, which may not be entirely true, but that's how I feel about it.

If I listed all of the poets and poems I love (and I mean that), this blog site would kick me off for exceeding my alloted space. So, here are a smattering, in no particular order of preference:

Mary Oliver--she's one of my favorite modern nature poets, but she also touches on her own hard life growing up. Those poems sneak up on you and smack you upside the head. Her nature poetry takes my breath away.

Margaret Atwood--also one of my favorite fiction and nonfiction writers. My favorite poem is "This is a Picture of Me." It's been a jumping off point for many poetry exercises.

Emily Dickinson--I don't think I need to explain this choice. I've been reading her for years, and she never ceases to surprise and confound me.

As odd as this sounds, war poets--Randall Jarrell ("The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner"), Howard Nemerov ("The War in the Air") , Henry Reed ("The Naming of Parts"), Stephen Crane ("War is Kind")--because they don't glorify war. For them, war is bloody, senseless, and deadly.

Well, just begin with Sappho and work your way forward. The Imagists (William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, H.D., Archibald MacLeish ("Ars Poetica")) are some of my favorites, but I also like the Romantics and the Victorians, and Shakespeare's sonnets.

I just scanned my bookshelves and was reminded of the poets I envy--Gerard Manley Hopkins for his language ("The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord"), and Elizabeth Bishop for her specificity (read "One Art," a wonderful sestina).

These are, by no means, all. Just some to start with.

For fiction, again, too many to list.

For short stories and novels, I like the quirky and surprising. In my Intro to Fiction class, I go for the startling endings--"The Lottery," Shirley Jackson; "The Story of an Hour," Kate Chopin; and I like angel/devil stories: "The Demon Lover," Elizabeth Bowen; "Gimpel the Fool," Issac Bashevis Singer; "The Man in the Black Suit," Stephen King' ; "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," Gabriel Garcia Marquez; "Young Goodman Brown," Nathaniel Hawthorne.

For depth, I like "The Death of Ivan Illych," by Leo Tolstoy; "The Metamorphosis," Franz Kafka; and "Heart of Darkness," by Joseph Conrad.

And you can't go wrong with anything by T. C. Boyle. Some of his stories are apocalyptic and weird, while some are painfully real ("The Love of My Life").

Again, I have more, but that's a start.

With novels, again, too many to list. I've read a few in the last couple of years that are good--Atonement, by Ian McEwan; The Road, by Cormac McCarthy; Life of Pi, by Yann Martel; Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks. But I also love the African novels of Alexander McCall Smith.

Take a look at Modern Books' list (just Google it). I can't agree with Ulysses by James Joyce. I've never been able to get through it, and I don't particularly care for Ayn Rand. I like apocalyptic fiction--1984, Animal Farm, The Sparrow and Fahrenheit 451 (the last two are classified as "science fiction"). Love The Lord of the Rings trilogy, all the Harry Potter books, and The Mists of Avalon.

I had to come back in here (it's Sunday) and add the original "chick lit" (hate the modern stuff) by Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Add Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca to that.

For drama, anything by Shakespeare. I particularly love "Othello" and "King Lear." I'm drawn more to his dramas and history plays. I like the comedies, but the tragedies seem to resonate with me.

In more modern drama, I like Susan Glaspell's "Trifles," and any of Wendy Wasserstein's plays. Also, Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible." I like "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams. But, then, I like the Greeks, too--Sophocles and Euripedes .("Medea"--Wow! She's one angry woman.)

That's the short list. If I went through my bookshelves and boxes, I'd be typing here all night. And, of course, I haven't mentioned nonfiction--Amy Tan's The Opposite of Fate, Margaret Atwood's Negotiating with the Dead, Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, and Peter Godwin's When a Crocodile Eats the Sun (about Zimbabwe--a must read for these times).

Again, that's a short-short list of nonfiction, and these are all books I've read recently. Add to that Stephen King's On Writing, and so many other books about writing.

That's enough for now. I've spent about an hour typing all of this, and I promised myself I wouldn't spend the whole night on the computer. Ha!

So, if you have anything to add, leave a comment--agree, disagree, amplify! I'd love to hear what you're reading right now.

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