April Lindner is the author of three Young Adult novels: Catherine, a modernization of Wuthering Heights; Jane, an update of Jane Eyre; and Love, Lucy, a retelling of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View, forthcoming in early 2015 from Poppy. She also has published two poetry collections, Skin and This Bed Our Bodies Shaped. With R. S. Gwynn, she co-edited the anthology Contemporary American Poetry for Longman’s Penguin Pocket Academic series. A professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and sons. Find out more about April on her blog and Facebook.
My bedside bookpile is so huge that I’ve had to subdivide it. There’s the books-I’m-actively-reading pile on my bedside table. There’s the pile of the books I started actively reading but which got pre-empted for one reason or another; these are stowed under my bed. There’s the books-I-hope-to-soon-be-reading pile, which sits downstairs, near the front door, so that I can pass it every day and feel a little bit guilty about the fact that I’m not reading fast enough. And then there’s my Nook, which contains books from all three categories.
Books I’m actively reading:
Every Day by David Levithan — I just finished rereading this book for a class I’m teaching on Young Adult literature. I love the way this book marries the paranormal to contemporary realism—the ordinary high-stakes drama of teenage life. Our narrator—known only as A—is a genderless soul who wakes each morning in a different sixteen-year old body. At the story’s start, A falls in love with the girlfriend of a boy whose life A is inhabiting. The novel explores A’s quest to be with that girl, despite difficulties that are at first merely logistical but then get ever more complicated and poignant.
Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon by Pablo Neruda, translated by Stephen Mitchell — I dip into these poems a few times a week, hoping I’ll absorb some of Neruda’s lush romanticism and exacting approach to the image. I’ve long admired Stephen Mitchell’s translations which more often than most achieve true liftoff. Here’s a delicious passage from “Ode to an Artichoke”:
…scale by scale
and we eat
the peaceful flesh
of its green heart.”
Books I was actively reading until I got distracted:
Stolen Figs and Other Adventures in Calabria by Mark Rotella — I like to torture myself by reading travel memoirs about Italy, a country I visit whenever I can and miss desperately the rest of the time. Rotella’s vivid chronicles of his first visit to his ancestral homeplace in Calabria filled me with such intense wanderlust that I had to set the book aside, at least until the end of this last seemingly endless Pennsylvania winter.
April in Paris by Michael Wallner — I’ve actually got two copies of this book, one in English and one translated into Italian. For years now I’ve been trying to teach myself to read Italian by having both books open side by side and getting as far as I can in the Italian edition before cheating by glancing over at the original. (The farthest I’ve ever made it is a couple of sentences.) The story is fascinating. Roth, a young SS soldier/interpretor stationed in France changes into civilian clothes at night and slips out to mingle, incognito, among the Parisians. I’ve been tempted time and again to set down the Italian edition and just forge on ahead in English, to see how it all turns out. So far—even though the narrator has begun to fall for Chantal, a member of the Resistance—I’ve resisted temptation.
Books I soon hope to be reading.
A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena De Blasi — More self-torture. Last summer I read A Thousand Days in Venice, in which De Blasi recounts how she fell in love with a Venetian stranger, married him, and moved to Venice. A few pages in, I fell in love too—with the author’s quirky, poetic voice. I couldn’t resist this sequel, in which De Blasi and her husband leave Venice to start a new life in Tuscany. I might have to pamper myself with limoncello and spaghetti alle vongole so I don’t perish of jealousy.
Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron — This one looks like so much fun: a humorous retstaging of the Frankenstein story by one of my favorite Young Adult authors. Seventeen-year-old Boy, son of Frankenstein’s monster and his bride, leaves the home of his overprotective parents for a road trip through the American heartland. I’ve been saving this one for summer.
On my Nook:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt — I’ve been submerged in the world of this book for about a month now. At 775 pages, it’s my favorite kind of novel: thick, complex, wholly absorbing—the kind that makes the real world seem pale by contrast. Thirteen-year-old Theodore loses his beloved mother in a terrorist attack on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in a moment of blind panic escapes with a small Dutch masterwork in his backpack. The story follows Theodore through his troubled adulthood, deftly braiding its themes: love, loss, and the power of art. I’m about 120 pages from the end, and writing this makes me want to drop everything and read.
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster — This is the only one of Forster’s novels that I haven’t yet read, though I did see the Merchant-Ivory film adaptation back when it first came out. I’ve been saving it, because I hate the thought of not having any of Forster’s novels left to read for the first time. Many people believe it’s his best, though it’s hard to imagine anything surpassing Howard’s End. I suppose the only thing worse than not having one last Forster book to look forward to is never getting around to reading that one last Forster book, so I plan to dig in soon.
Are there travel books in your stash—books set in exotic places? Any Italian-themed gems you’d recommend?