Category Archives: Books

P. Hampl

“This is how memory works: not as a transcription but as an attempt — as an essay is an attempt (and this is an essay) — to locate meaning between the irretrievable past and the equally unfathomable now.” (125)

Hampl, Patricia. The Art of the Wasted Day. New York: Viking Press, 2018.

Summer of L. Moore

Three excerpts from her short stories below:

Two descriptions of reading these stories:

  1. Like you’re walking downtown, and a human you don’t know is humming a song you know, a song you know well, in fact a song of your childhood, a song maybe you thought was only yours, and you lean in to hear more, and as you do so the human pokes you in eye.
  2. That compromise you made, somewhere in your life, the one you thought well, this is the best I can do right now, or I’ll give I have to live with this, or (ugh) it is what is? She was there, taking notes, so that someday you’ll read one of her short stories, put it down, and you get to feel bad all over again.

Could not recommend these stories more.

Wendell Berry, How it Went

I keep thinking about this paragraph, particularly the second line:

Nothing he said, nothing in the way he spoke, had been learned from the radio or the television.

Berry, Wendell. How It Went: Thirteen More Stories of the Port William Membership. Berkeley, California: Counterpoint, 2022.

Article for the fall

This is a great article for the kids to sink their teeth into as they think about our history class. First, the headline:

Is the World Really Falling Apart, or Does It Just Feel That Way?

We can spend a few minutes discussing their answer but then we can turn to the question of how you’d try and answer this question, as a scholar, but particularly as a historian. Then we’d read it

The entire article is here and we’ll read this one way or another — out loud, small groups, quietly — and then discuss how the author approached the inquiry.

Something I’m thinking about, having just finished Damnation Spring (an unbelievably good novel that you should track down right now) is how we make sense of the present day and how much human beings can ignore.

Fisher, Max. “Is the World Really Falling Apart, or Does It Just Feel That Way?” The New York Times, July 12, 2022, sec. World. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/12/world/interpreter-world-falling-apart.html.

George Saunders

Finished this book awhile ago but had two quotes I wanted to hold onto:

“To study the way we read is to study the way the mind works: the way it evaluates a statement for truth, the way it behaves in relation to another mind (i.e., the writer’s) across space and time. What we’re going to be doing here, essentially, is watching ourselves read (trying to reconstruct how we felt as we were, just now, reading). Why would we want to do this? Well, the part of the mind that reads a story is also the part that reads the world; it can deceive us, but it can also be trained to accuracy; it can fall into disuse and make us more susceptible to lazy, violent, materialistic forces, but it also can be urged back to life, transforming us into more active, curious, alert readers of reality.” (p.8)

“A story is a series of incremental pulses, each of which does something to us. Each puts us in a new place, relative to where we just were. Criticism is not some inscrutable, mysterious process. It’s just a matter of (I) noticing ourselves responding to a work of art, moment by moment, and (2)getting better at articulating that response.
What stress to my students is how empowering this process is. The world is full of people with agendas, trying to persuade us to act on their behalf (spend on their behalf, fight and die on their behalf, oppress others on their behalf). But inside us is what Hemingway called a “built-in, shockproof shit-detector.” How do we know something is shit? We watch the way the deep, honest part of our mind reacts to it.
And that part of the mind is the one that reading and writing refine into sharpness.” (pp.60-1).

Saunders, George. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life. New York: Random House, 2021.