Judy Clement Wall’s short stories, essays, reviews and interviews have been published in numerous literary print journals and on websites such as The Rumpus, Huffington Post, Lifebyme, Smith Magazine, Used Furniture Review, Beyond The Margins, and Clamp. You can read more of her work and engage in her shenanigans on her website.
On my nightstand there are nine books. Three of them I’m reading now…
Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of Cheryl Strayed’s online advice columns for the literary website, The Rumpus. I’ve been a Dear Sugar (and Cheryl Strayed) fan for a long time, so I’ve already read most of the sad, heroic, wrenching, inspiring, edgy, outrageous, ordinary, beautiful letters in this collection. I’m reading them again now because, honestly, I find our shared human frailty and our willingness to love each other in spite of all the reasons not to ridiculously reassuring. Plus, no one writes naked, brave and straight-from-the-heart like Sugar.
Daring Greatly is shame researcher Brené Brown’s latest book. I’ve been a Brené Brown follower since April of 2010, when I watched her TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability. In that talk, she said people who have a strong sense of love and belonging are people who believe that what makes them vulnerable, makes them beautiful. It was exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. Daring Greatly takes its title from a Teddy Rooselvelt quote, which is just too excellent not to share:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Them is the first novel I’ve ever read by Joyce Carol Oates. I admitted online never having read a JCO novel (only her short stories) and a friend who had just cleaned out the back office of the literary journal where she works, sent me this book she’d found there. (Say what you will about how Facebook is making us lonelier, but magic like that happens too.) Them is gritty and sad and strangely mesmerizing; I’m about 65 pages from being done and I’m liking it quite a bit. It won’t be my last JCO novel.
There are also three books by my bed that I’ve already read…
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lammot: This is the writing book that follows me wherever I go. I keep it close by because it soothes my troubled writer’s soul. I reread passages all the time. My copy of the book opens automatically to “shitty first drafts,” which I can practically recite.
Half Empty, by David Rakoff: I love this collection of essays that spears everything from healthcare to pop culture to literature to technology. Critics, when they review Rakoff’s essay collections, often focus on his pessimism and his biting, sharp wit, but underneath that is the thing that draws me to his work again and again: a defiant sort of sweetness, an underlying hope. I read Half Empty just before I went to see This American Life’s live show, in which Rakoff read and danced (and broke my heart). Shortly after that show, he became yet another amazing voice silenced by cancer. I keep his book out because cancer just plain pisses me off… and I guess I want to stay mad.
Willful Creatures, by Aimee Bender: Recently, I wrote a blog post about how tricky language can be. I used the term “motherfucker” to make a point, and that started a conversation on Twitter about Aimee Bender’s wonderful short story, “Motherfucker.” The Twitter exchange made me want to read the story again, and the story made me want to read the whole collection again, and so there it is. Willful Creatures. By my bed.
The last three books on my nightstand, I haven’t read yet, but one of them will be next. They are The Story of a Marriage, Andrew Sean Greer; The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins; and Two Girls, Fat and Thin, Mary Gaitskill.
If you want to vote on what I tackle next, feel free. (You can even suggest something not currently by my bed because I got a Half Price Books gift card from Santa that I’m itching to spend.)