We ran an excerpt from Kathie Giorgio’s third and most recent book, Learning To Tell (A Life) Time, earlier this week. It is the sequel to The Home For Wayward Clocks, which received the Outstanding Achievement recognition by the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Awards Committee and was nominated for the Paterson Fiction Award. Her short story collection, Enlarged Hearts, was released in 2012 by The Main Street Rag Publishing Company, who also published her other books.
Kathie’s short stories and poems have appeared in more than 100 literary magazines and in many anthologies. She’s been nominated twice for the Million Writer Award and twice for the Best of the Net anthology. She is founder and director of AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, an international studio offering online and on-site classes in all genres and abilities of creative writing. She also teaches for Writers’ Digest and serves on their advisory board. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter .
It’s been a horrible winter in Wisconsin. Subzero temps, snow amounts more than 20 inches beyond average. As a result, my bedside table, which normally supports a lot of books, currently sports a bright red humidifier. It’s pretty, it tries to throw summer moisture into the air, and I glare at it every night, because I can’t haul it into bed with me, open it, and give myself a few words before sleep.
However, rescue is on the way! I leave soon to be a featured reader and to teach a class in North Carolina, and then I’m scooting over to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina for a week of rest and writing. I don’t have clothes amassed yet to pack, but I do have a stack of books that will grace my hotel bedside table. And the sand on the beach. And the white plastic tables poolside. And the restaurant table as I head out to eat. Oh, paradise!
What am I bringing with me?
Kelly Cherry’s newly released book of short stories, A Kind of Dream. When I left for college, I first studied at the knee of Kelly Cherry. Her work has always been full of impact and sharp loveliness. One of the things I love the most about Cherry’s work is the combination of ambition with the ability to reach every reader. Cherry’s fiction is intelligent and deep-digging, yet it doesn’t carry with it any arrogance. Because this is a collection of short stories, I fully expect to read a story, then dip in the ocean, read another, then dip in the pool. It’s a multi-purpose carry-with-me-everywhere kind of book.
Lorrie Moore’s newly released book of short stories, Bark. I’ve read Lorrie Moore for years, and her stories, in particular, are often the type that make me fold the book to my chest and stare reverently at the ceiling for a few minutes before I continue to the next page. I’m not as impressed with her two novels, but her stories, like Cherry’s, contain the perfect amount of bite and sigh. Dark humor that makes me laugh even as I grieve, or the exposure of a taboo topic…all can be found in Moore’s work. She was first introduced to me by a writing mentor, Ellen Hunnicutt, who said, “I read her book and had to go to a reading. Lorrie Moore is beautiful as well. So she’s talented, sharp, and gorgeous. Man, you just have to hate that.” I’ve compensated for this by never looking at Moore’s photos. Well, okay, I glimpse. But then I focus only on her words. Yes, Moore is beautiful. But her words are even more so.
Laura Kasischke’s new novel, Mind of Winter. This book comes out a scant three days before I leave. I have it preordered and I hope to heaven it gets here. Kasischke’s work is dark and engrossing and she is likely what I will be reading when I have an uninterrupted chunk of time. Instead of dessert, she will be my after-dinner reward. Once you sink into Kasischke, you can’t leave any time soon. She has this way of reaching out and grabbing you by the throat, pulling you into her work as a very willing prisoner. And again, it is the unexpected harmonies that move me. Her work is often described as disturbing (so is mine!), but it’s so beautifully and lyrically written that each sentence requires an homage of admiration. Stringing words together is one thing; making them sing is another. Reading Laura Kascishke is like attending a perfect concert. I know I will be fully absorbed. It better get here!
I like to read poetry before I go to sleep and if it wasn’t for the humidifying monster on my bed, I would likely have at least two poetry books there. Consequently, two poets are climbing into my suitcase. Poetry before bed feels right to me – it can adjust itself to my level of sleepiness. Poetry is like the reverse of a snooze alarm. I can slap a page and get just a bit more, and then roll over to go to sleep, happy, contented. When I say words put me to sleep, I mean it in the best possible way. I’m not bored; but I am lulled, soothed, amazed, and I go to sleep, hugging that which I love the most in this world.
So coming with me are Susan Elbe and Max Garland. Susan Elbe’s book, The Map of What Happened. Elbe’s poetry is elegant and stirring and, most important, accessible. I hate poetry that makes me feel stupid because it attempts to be lofty or otherworldly, so buried in imagery that all real meaning is gone. Elbe’s poetry taps me on the shoulder and while I read of her experiences, that same poetic finger points out the map of my own memories and brings forth events long forgotten. I find myself humming while I read Elbe; she is a quilted sampler of the past and the present. I read her, I drift into me, I read her, I drift into me. I know that when I close the book and settle into the pillow, I will feel comforted and in good company.
Max Garland’s book, The Postal Confessions. Max is Wisconsin’s current state Poet Laureate. And he used to be a mailman. This combination just makes me laugh out loud. It’s that incongruity that Max brings to his poetry. Poems about mail routes, baseball, school dances, old trucks, front porches, seagulls and dogs. Reading Max is like coming home. I plan to read his book on the last few days of my trip, and especially on that last night before re-entering the real world and my own Wisconsin. I know Max will make me homesick, making my return to this state, even if it’s still cold and snowy, most welcome.
Hopefully by the time I get there, the damn humidifier can be packed away.
What have you read to help you through an interminable winter? Do you tend to seek contra-seasonal fare (beach/lake reads), blizzards of swirling poetry, or something else entirely?