Summer Reading

I’ve been casting about for weeks now, looking for something good to read. Sometimes it’s harder than others to find just the right book. I mean, I’ve been enjoying the new issue of BookForum, and this weekend I’m going on a little getaway to a town in the Pocono Mountains that has a great used bookstore, according to the reviews I found online. So there’s hope on the horizon. Another thing: A sweet pen-pal friend of mine asked me if I knew that Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was written, in part, in Frenchtown, NJ, a small rural town on the Delaware River where Joe and I lived last year. I did not know that—Liz Gilbert is that place’s current literary claim to fame—and in fact I have never read Agee’s famous book. So I pulled out my stack of library cards and found I still have one for the next county over from when I lived there a couple years ago, and borrowed a copy from a nearby branch. It is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I’ve been reading a few pages every night until my eyes start to droop, which is a worthwhile experience in itself—the nighttime reading I mean—because, as Walker Evans writes in his introduction, much of the book was written in the middle of the night in the southern states where they traveled together to make the book, and then again late at night in New Jersey, and you can feel that, he suggests. (I agree.) The sentiment is night-infused: meditative, dark, slow, and sad, but alive to every tiny detail. It’s wordy, seemingly needlessly so (as when he describes in excruciating detail the oil lamp on the table where he’s writing) until you let yourself go with the rhythm of it, and then, like magic, you’re there beside him. Plus he’s angry and passionate in the most stirring way: It’s remarkable (and tragic) how relevant some of his observations are—particularly the ones about race relations in this country—though we’re seemingly a long way from those Dust Bowl days. I plan to keep reading this book, slowly, in tune with the rhythms of the end of summer. I’ll share pieces of it with you as I go.

Also: Here is a very small piece of writing of mine, a new zine I made two weeks ago, in time to bring with me to the zine fest in Brooklyn. Plants! The gift that keeps on giving. plants1

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