Melody Murray is currently a Financial Analyst for the Navy but would prefer to think of herself as a writer of short stories and personal essays. She received a B.A. in biology and creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, and then immediately joined the Peace Corps. After two years in southern Africa and two years in D.C., she is looking forward to staying put in San Diego. Her first act after moving across the country was to join a local writing group. They’re glad she did.
There are no books by my bed. Well none of my books are by the bed. There is a sturdy wooden dresser beneath three shelves housing my boyfriend’s mix of applied dynamics and engineering tomes, the works of C.S. Lewis, family photos, and handmade candles from Swaziland. When I moved to San Diego from D.C., I agreed to only bring essentials for the next few weeks. The movers would ship everything else and store it until we found a home we liked enough to begin our lives there.
I limited myself to the three books on my nightstand the night before the move and they have sustained me through my uprooting. There is room on the dresser by the bed, but I keep my books under pillows, nestled in between the comforter and the duvet cover, and poking from the narrow space between the dresser and the bed.
All Aunt Hagar’s Children by Edward P. Jones — Because his stories are home to me. He was the first author who found my hometown and its people worthy of story—not crime writing, but story. Lost in the City is my first love but I’m courting his second collection at the moment because it is newer and sharper and sadder to me. His characters’ inner worlds are so richly imagined that I sometimes have trouble making it through the first scene. The words blur to hazy lines and I wonder how it is to live that way, with so many ways of being inside you.
The Thebaid by Publius Papinius Statius, translated by Charles Stanley Ross — This is a lesser known classical epic poem loved for its graphic and inventive gore and written off for its discursions and tendency to forgo plot for a tangent. The story is that of the Seven against Thebes, which I believe was first dramatized by Aeschylus. I have had a dream of writing a short story based on one of the many digressions for years. Hypsipyle recounts a murderous night in Lemnos when all the women killed every man and male child. I’m hoping that rereading this will re-inspire me and I’ll actually manage to get typing.
Understanding Poetry by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren — I took two poetry classes in college but never enjoyed them. I think I found the brevity stressful in the same way that movies of substance make me anxious. I feel rushed to parse out every image and allusion in a short span. Novels and television are better for me, but a character I’m working on has a more poetic mind than I do. If nothing else, I’m hoping this will introduce me to a good mix of poems. I also figure that if Robert Penn Warren can make me care about southern politics and journalists, he can make poetry manageable.
What books have gotten you through a difficult transition?