Archive

Poetry/Prose

18473997Title: Dept. of Speculation
Author: Jenny Offill
Pages: 180
Year: 2014
Publisher: Vintage (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all. Jenny Offill’s heroine, referred to in these pages as simply “the wife,” once exchanged love letters with her husband postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes—a colicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions—the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art.

I borrowed this book from my office–yes, I have an office now! Well, I am rather sort of a guest in an office. I have been an intern at Union Literary in Soho for two weeks now, and it is amazing (despite the fact that it pays $0.00 an hour). I love 1. not having to talk to anyone pretty much all day (customer service is exhausting) and 2. when I do talk to someone, we’re hashing out ideas about a manuscript and trying to figure out what to do with it, so it’s like my reviews here, except it actually matters. And even though I’ve only been there two weeks, my opinion is valued, and that feels indescribable. And it’s really cool that this book, which is such a big hit, came from my office.

When I read the back cover, I honestly thought it wasn’t going to be that interesting. It’s a husband and wife and their baby and their marriage is falling apart, blah blah. Why should I care? What about this story is different? Truthfully, nothing. It’s the words. This is no typical narrative. One Goodreads reviewer described it as a “mosaic,” which I think is the perfect word for it. The poetic style is really cool to me because while I like the concept of poetry, I just don’t really get it most of the time, and I like the rules of the English language, which poetry often discards. So this was like poetry with proper grammar and syntax, which I love. The hard part was that there were parts of the story that I didn’t understand because it was so poetic. (That’s also what I don’t like about most poetry: just say the thing you mean! It doesn’t have to be so cryptic!) Especially with the ending, I just didn’t understand what was happening and why, what the conclusion was supposed to be, and what was supposed to be implied for their future.

But overall, I enjoyed reading it, and there were so many great lines that I wanted to write down. I only ended up writing down one: “But now it seems possible that the truth about getting older is that there are fewer and fewer things to make fun of until finally there is nothing you are sure you will never be” (114). Isn’t that just so real? I also loved when she talked about the “Little Theater of Hurt Feelings,” and I thought that might have even been a better title for the book. My favorite part, though, was when she started describing a scene of her life as though one of her students had written it as fiction and she was critiquing it. That was really something special. I suggest you give this one a go!

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30076808Title: the princess saves herself in this one
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Pages: 156
Year: 2016
Publisher: Self-published
Time taken to read: 2 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisa poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

Though I have yet to publish a book, I think I’ve studied YA enough that my editorial opinions are trustworthy. However, this is not true for poetry. I like grammar because grammar has rules, and those rules make sense, and you can break the rules but only if you know them well enough to be able to break them in the right way (so, following a different set of rules, basically). Grammar and poetry do not mix as well as grammar and fiction, and so poetry doesn’t make sense to me. There must be rules for poetry, but I don’t know them. I mean, I know the rules for poems like villanelles, but free-form poetry must have rules too that I have yet to study. So going into this collection, I decided not to try to judge it by any rules but to judge it by how it made me feel and to listen to my gut.

My gut is confused. I don’t disagree with anything said in this collection. I can relate to a lot of the pain and sadness, and I believe that I have felt many things that Amanda Lovelace has felt. And I have expressed those things in a very similar way, and that’s unsettling to me. I don’t like the poetry I’ve written, and hers sounds a lot like mine, especially so I suppose because of the similar subject matter.

The beginning of the collection is very personal and a little uncomfortable for me. It freaks me out a little bit to read descriptions of self-harm, honestly, poetic or otherwise. I think the fairy tale theme is a little worn out, but I love princesses, so I was mostly okay with it. I thought the end was sort of strange. She starts making a lot of political commentary, and it’s all things that I agree with for sure, but it felt really out of place, almost forced, like she just wanted liberal points. Again, I don’t disagree with her statements, but it just didn’t feel right. The biggest criticism I saw on Goodreads was that her poems are just broken up sentences, and apparently that’s not what poetry is. Like I said, I don’t really get poetry, so maybe that’s not what it is, or maybe, like Lovelace says, poetry is whatever you want it to be. Maybe that’s true for self-published poetry, but I sort of agree that her lines seemed to lack effort.

My favorite poem in the collection was the one addressed to her sister (I believe), where she talks about her sister being in the company of perhaps their favorite deceased female authors. The poem after that is a good one too, which talks about body image things, as do quite a few of the poems. I’m not surprised that this collection is self-published. It seems like a thing that she made for herself, like it’s just an outlet for her emotions. I do plan to start reading more poetry, so hopefully I find something a little better.

written-on-the-bodyTitle: Written on the Body
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Pages: 190
Year: 1994
Publisher: Vintage (Knopf)
Time taken to read: 5 days
Rating: 2/5

Goodreads synopsisThe most beguilingly seductive novel to date from the author of The Passion and Sexing the Cherry. Winterson chronicles the consuming affair between the narrator, who is given neither name nor gender, and the beloved, a complex and confused married woman. “At once a love story and a philosophical meditation.”–New York Times Book Review.

I should start by saying I didn’t choose to read this book, it was assigned to me for a class called “contemporary British literature”. My professor is very into feminism and LGBT issues, which I am too for sure, but for some reason she and I just really don’t get along.

I’m giving this book two out of five stars because it isn’t horrible. I didn’t hate reading it, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it either, and I would not have read past the first page if I wasn’t assigned it. This book was just weird. It’s written in prose but it reads like poetry (and disobeys standard grammar rules like poetry). The middle of the book has a clear plot. Girl likes other girl, girl can’t have other girl, girl is sad. But the beginning and ending made no sense. It started off really poetic, then became a real book, then turned poetic again, so I’m not really sure if they ended up together at the end or not, to be honest. I sort of hope they didn’t, because I think the main character (who goes nameless) is a bitch. In fact, whoever owned this book before me made notes in it directed to the main character, my favorite being, “Why don’t you let her decide, you shit.” I feel similarly. I think she shouldn’t have gotten herself involved with a married woman in the first place, as I have no sympathy for cheaters and home-wreckers. And it’s very hard to enjoy a book when you dislike the main character.

And the endless metaphors and similes. That killed me. “My lover is an olive tree,” she says on page 137. Or a mountain. Or a dove. Or a black hole or a sunset or any other cliché romantic image that you can come up with. She uses them all, and it’s exhausting. It feels cheap.
I’d tell you to read this book if you’re a hopeless romantic who sings to birds in the morning and whose life is a perpetual honeymoon phase, and also if you like lesbian sex.