Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Is it



that when I have the most schoolwork to do (catching up on grading post-conference) there are amazing things going on in the poetry world, great books arriving in the mail, and drafts that need writing? Sigh.

So, today another brief run around the blogs and a few more comments before I'm off to teacherland.

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The gracious and talented Kevin Brockmeier was our keynote speaker on Saturday at our conference. I must say Kevin, who is a Little Rock native and current resident, has always been quite generous with his time whenever I've invited him to a local event. I'm thankful for that. After his reading, Kevin handed out his list of top 50 books, which sparked a conversation between us about my top 10 books of fiction. I happened to mention that I'd recently placed Kevin's own The Brief History of the Dead up there in the top 10. So, here's my top 10 list for books of fiction:
1. Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson
2. The Things They Carried Tim O'Brien
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
5. The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood
6. The Brief History of the Dead Kevin Brockmeier
7. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Sherman Alexie
8. The Way that Water Enters Stone John Dufresne
9. The Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri
10. Midnight's Children Salman Rushdie

A couple of things I notice: Everything listed here is from the later half of the 20th century or from the 21st. I woke up worrying this fact around in my head. What does that say about me? Am I neglecting the classics? I admit I haven't read extensively in the classics for fiction, but I think I've read a considerable amount. Is it a bad thing if I don't list a 19th century novel in my top 10? Worry....worry....worry.

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It seems that there's more "where are the women writers?" news going on. This time it is regarding Publisher Weekly's Best Books of 2009 list, its top 10 lacking any women at all. There are women in the genre specific categories. Here's the post from Victoria Chang with a press release from WILLA.

(By the way, why list 20 "best" fiction books and only 5 "best" poetry? I might be more disturbed by that than I am about the lack of women writers in the top 10! Booksellers and libraries use PW to determine what books they carry or buy for their shelves. No wonder people think no one reads poetry anymore!)

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Two great poems to check out NOW! Linebreak has "Training" by Sarah J. Sloat, and Verse Daily has "Love is When a Boat is Built from All the Eyelashes in the Ocean" by Zachary Schomburg. Enjoy!

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Finally, Kevin Brockmeier also talked about collecting quotes about writing and using them when he has taught creative writing in the past. His most recent addition is a quote by Antoine de Saint Exupery (of The Little Prince) that I used to have posted over my computer long ago. I'm glad Kevin reminded me of it. I found several translations on line, all of them unattributed. Will do more research here, but let me leave you with the essence of the quote:

"If you want to build a ship, don´t drum up people to collect wood and don´t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

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I'm off to grade and prep and hopefully will return to longing for the sea of poetry drafts on Friday.

4 comments:

Kristin said...

Thanks for the quote. I have been marooned in assessment and accreditation hell--which isn't even gathering wood, so much as it is filing nails one finds on the beach. It's good to have some inspiration. Yearning for the immensity of the sea . . . stuck on the shore . . .

Sandy Longhorn said...

Yes, yes, stuck on the shore myself. The good thing is the sea is always there and we will return to it soon. Good luck with the assessment and accreditation. I've been there!

Quintilian B. Nasty said...

Thanks for the list of books. Tomorrow O'Brien will be here at EIU to talk, so I'm looking forward to that event though I'm not a Lit specialist. Sherman Alexie's work, especially Ten Little Indians, is great stuff too.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ooooh, so jealous that you get to hear O'Brien! Every time I've seen him, he's blown me away, in the best sense.