Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 3 May, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Hallo everyone! This is my first review here on the blog in quite a while, and suffice to say I’m starting off small because I read a small bit in the last few weeks but unfortunately didn’t jot down enough notes to remember them all in-depth. So here we are instead 😛 Included in this batch are:

Drafts, Fragments, and Poems: The Complete Poetry
By: Joan Murray
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

The first appearance of this award-winning writer’s work since the 1940s, this collection, which includes an introduction by John Ashbery, restores Joan Murray’s striking poetry to its originally intended form.

Though John Ashbery hailed Joan Murray as a key influence on his work, Murray’s sole collection, Poems, published after her death at the early age of twenty-four and selected by W. H. Auden for inclusion in the Yale Series of Younger Poets, has been almost entirely unavailable for the better part of half a century. Poems was put together by Grant Code, a close friend of Murray’s mother, and when Murray’s papers, long thought to be lost, reappeared in 2013, it became clear that Code had exercised a heavy editorial hand. This new collection, edited by Farnoosh Fathi from Murray’s original manuscripts, restores Murray’s raw lyricism and visionary lines, while also including a good deal of previously unpublished work, as well as a selection of her exuberant letters.

Okay, I never heard of Joan Murray until I saw the Instagram account for NYRB post about this upcoming collection and posted a few snippets of her poetry. I was intrigued–read a lot of high praise about her work–so I decided to check her work out. Admittedly I read this book a few months ago and did not write any notes anywhere so my memory of my reaction to this book is a bit hazy but I remember enjoying it, the imagery choice she uses was quite intriguing. But the impression that was left in my mind first and foremost was that reminder that poetry can be whatever you make it to be, however you want to express yourself using the words at your disposal, arranged by way your mind, perspective, and creativity makes of it.

So yeah, if you’re looking for new poets from the early twentieth century to check out, definitely look in to this book! It’s great that NYRB is showcasing so many different poets from different periods, I’m finding out about lots of new poets this way 🙂

Rating: ★★★★☆


All We Saw
By: Anne Michaels
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

In this passionate, profound collection, Anne Michaels explores one of her essential concerns: ‘what love makes us capable of, and incapable of’. Here is the paradox at the heart of loss, the ways in which passion must accept, must insist, that ‘death … give/not only take from us’. A sea in darkness, a woman’s hair shining in light, rain falling… how quiet must a voice be in order to be heard? In this way, desire is evoked with intensity and precision. By the end, we are left with a renewed awareness of the mystery at the core of existence; we enter a space that is ‘not inside, not outside: / dusk’s doorway,’ where love remains alive.

I first found out about Anne Michaels when Penguin Random House was promoting this book and they posted up a poem by her, May Love Seize You (disappointingly not in this collection, I should add). I was immediately taken by the poem and decided to check out her poetry. How did I not get around to her poems sooner? She’s Canadian AND based here in Toronto and her poems are beautiful; they’re sparse, brief, but filled with meaning and beauty. Indeed this collection does look at life and loss and where do we go from there, the quiet that comes after such loss. It’s too short, lol, but it definitely crystalised an interest to check out her earlier works.

Rating: ★★★★★


Notes of Nationalism
By: George Orwell
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

In this essay, Orwell discusses the notion of nationalism, and argues that it causes people to disregard common sense and become more ignorant towards factuality. Orwell shows his concern for the social state of Europe, and in a broader sense, the entire world, due to an increasing amount of influence of nationalistic sentiment occurring throughout a large number of countries.

For someone who wrote on nationalism as one of the major themes of her MA thesis, I cannot believe I did not read this essay years ago. But it seems fitting that I read this essay now as it is as timely now as it was when Orwell first wrote it. His argument about how nationalism makes people compelled to believe their own notions and opposing what is factually in front of them has eerie correlations to what is going on now with fake news and the far-right. The role of ignorance, of it blinding or self-deceiving people from the truth is also very eerie to what’s going on today. I feel like this is an essay that I will need to read again and take notes on but suffice to say it is an essay to ponder on, especially with the current political climate.

Rating: ★★★★★


The Dialogue of Two Snails
By: Federico Garcia Lorca
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

My heart
brims with billows
and minnows
of shadows and silver

Beautiful, brutal, strange and lovely: this is Lorca reborn, in a selection of previously unpublished pieces and masterful new translations.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that I’m a completionist when it comes to Federico Garcia Lorca’s works. The second I saw some of his works was included in this Penguin Modern series I just had to pick it up; helps that they mention there’s a few unpublished pieces included here 😉 I would say this is a fairly good introduction to Lorca’s work–the dialogue bits really veer into post-modern ??? but anyway–and the unpublished pieces were great to read. Definitely worth checking out 🙂

Rating: ★★★★★


The Distance of the Moon
By: Italo Calvino
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

‘Time is a catastrophe, perpetual and irreversible.’

Science and fiction interweave delightfully in these playful Cosmicomic short stories.

I’ve read some Italo Calvino’s works before but I have yet to read his Cosmicomics so I thought it was really cool that Penguin Modern highlighted some of his short stories from that. And indeed they are a great intro to the Cosmicomics: they’re sci-fi fantastical with stories of visiting the moon, of the creation of the Earth, of the sun and the galaxies. But they’re also poignant: of unrequited love, of who you are, of belonging, of relating to the people around you. They’re wonderful and I look forward to reading the stories in their entirety one of these days 🙂

Rating: ★★★★☆


Everyone Brave is Forgiven
By: Chris Cleave
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.

Initially I was very much interested in this book–the premise, the title–so I picked it up sometime last year. I tried reading this book a few weeks ago and I don’t know if it was the timing and the mayhem I was going through at the time, but I just wasn’t really getting into the story. Well, I was intrigued enough by Mary’s stry and her start as a teacher but then I got bored when it switched over to Tom and Alastair for some reason. And then when I re-read the premise of the book and it mentioned tragic love triangle, I ended up putting the book down; clearly I’m on a love triangle fatigue right now. I might pick up this book again in the future but for now it’s a DNF, there are other books I’d rather read.

Rating: DNF


And those are the mini book reviews! Have you read any of these titles? Would you read any of them at some point in the future? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

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2 Responses to “Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews”

    • Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy the book either, especially as you’ve read other books by him. Thanks for the heads up about the rest of the book though!

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