Category Archives: books poetry lit

Coffee and Irony 2021 Reading Challenge: Karen Swallow Prior, Tamar Adler, Flannery O’Connor, and Rupi Kaur

Tis the season in which the book world explodes with reading challenges, but since I’m…..passionate? Extra? I wasn’t satisfied with any of the ones I’ve seen, so I made my one. Nothing particularly unusual here, just categories that suit me perfectly – and may suit someone else, who knows? I’ll list the categories first, then a breakdown of which books I’ll be reading for each category.

1. A book about books or reading

2. A book set in Russia

3. A book about food or cooking

4. A book about productivity, organizing, or cleaning

5. Unread book by a favorite author or an author you’ve enjoyed in the past

6. Choose Your Category – I’m doing works by Flannery O’Connor and Wendell Berry, two authors I’ve needed to read for a long time

7. A book of theology

8. A book about a current issue from a Biblical perspective (adoption, human trafficking, poverty, homelessness)

9. A work of philosophy or political thought (this can be very short – there are actually quite a few short books especially in the “political thought” realm)

10. A collection of poems by a single poet

11. A memoir

12. Bonus Choose Your Category – I’m going with a book on creativity or art

*Note: my choices below are linked to Goodreads, partly because it’s by far the most useful way to organize books and to-read lists, and partly because I interned there in college so have a ton of loyalty.

  1. A book about books or reading. Of course this has to be On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior, whom I love and follow on all channels (had a moment of such pure delight when the lady herself followed me on Instagram!!).
  2. A book set in Russia – I swear to all reading souls that I will finally finish A Gentleman in Moscow. I swear! It’s a brilliant little book I was just in a Mood when I tried it the first time.
  3. A book about food or cooking. Tamar Adler and Shauna Niequist are the queens of writing about food in a non cookbook form in my opinion, though I have very complicated views of Niequist’s apallingly tone-deaf privileged tone when talking about her life (privilege is a word I rarely use but when she casually mentions staying at hotels all over the world as a child and spending every summer at a lake house as an adult, yet seems to have zero understanding that that alone is a lifestyle unobtainable and foreign to most of us and constantly complains of how hard life is!? It’s hard to put up with. I was a missionary kid and pastor’s kid too: trust me when I say my life did not resemble hers :).

    Having said that, Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace is one of my favorite books not just about food but of all time, so to say I’m excited to dive into her Something Old, Something New: Oysters Rockefeller, Walnut Souffle, and Other Classic Recipes Revisited is an understatement. I’m also preemptively obsessed with The Art of Eating by M.F. K. Fisher so that’s probably on the palette too: here’s a quote.
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How To Be a Poet by Wendell Berry

Anime girl sitting in the rain illustration (1)
(Illustration by げみ)

HOW TO BE A POET
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

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Joni Mitchell’s Blue – A Perfect Album; Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite – Best Film of the Year; Nordic Crime Fiction- Smilla’s Sense of Snow

Things I’m into right now!

“What makes a perfect record perfect?”

I remember the first time I heard a Joni Mitchell song. It was “Both Sides Now” – I came upon it directly after listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” for the first time, which is as it should be, and a story of music and magical discovery all its own. What I remember about “Both Sides Now” is that it was one of the first songs to give me that sense that all great songs do: that is has always existed, that I was already aware of its existence, and that when I heard it, synapses in my brain fired to make this unknown thing instantly familiar, recognized, remembered – and loved. All of which is a long way to say: read this article – Anatomy of a Perfect Album: On Joni Mitchell’s Blue [Lithub]. “Both Sides Now” isn’t from Blue – “River” is, which is another classic, and a Christmas song, shot through with a gorgeous yet assenting wistfulness that sweeps you along its rich turns and delicate melancholy like the river of the title. Mitchell teaches us how to embrace loneliness as a friend rather than an enemy. “Only a phase, these dark café days.”

 

Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite placed first in the Indiewire’s critics poll for 2019, which polled 304 movie critics from around the world to pick the best movies and performances of the year. I loved Parasite, but the fact that it’s the pick for best movie of the year really speaks to the paucity of transcendent or even brilliant films this year. The movie is brilliant, but flawed, and it’s not even among Joon Ho’s two best films (of which one would certainly be the scorching, unforgettable Mother). The 50 Best Movies of 2019, According to 304 Film Critics [IndieWire]

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Well-Read: Chabon Showtime adaptation, Gorgeous Harry Potter Gifts, Chicago’s Best Bookstores and Literary Bars

Harry Potter Time Turner clock

  • Showtime is adapting Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay into what’s being described as a “sprawling” series. Kavalier and Caly  follows the lives of two Jewish cousins—an artist and a writer—who seize on America’s obsession with superheroes during World War II and become wildly successful in the comic book industry. Now, I don’t like Chabon – I once tried to read Kavalier and Clay and didn’t make it through – but I REALLY don’t like Showtime, which tends to make splashy, overly dramatized, hyper-sexualized stuff – so this is a match made in heaven in my opinion. [A.V. Club]
  • Lithub has a gorgeous article on How To Spend a Literary Long Weekend in Chicago (which is one of the most literary cities in America, and somehow also one of the few major cities I haven’t been to). [Lithub]
  • All happy couples are alike; each couple in a Noah Baumbach movie is unhappy in their own way.” Rachel Handler’s Vulture article begins with this brilliant opening line, and ranks every couple in Noah Baumbach films from least to most miserable. I love it. [Vulture]
  • Bookriot has a delightful list of fairly affordable and high-quality Harry Potter-themed gifts; my favorite is the King’s Cross Station clock. [Bookriot]. Or, here’s a list of higher-end, more expensive HP items (most still under $100): my favorite, predictably, is the time turner clock pictured above in this post [Business Insider]

Poem: ‘Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real?’

flowers anime art

(rt Moca at Pixiv)

If by real you mean as real as a shark tooth stuck
in your heel, the wetness of a finished lollipop stick,
the surprise of a thumbtack in your purse—
then Yes, every last page is true, every nuance,
bit, and bite. Wait. I have made them up—all of them—
and when I say I am married, it means I married
all of them, a whole neighborhood of past loves.
Can you imagine the number of bouquets, how many
slices of cake?

read more at Poetry Foundation

-AIMEE NEZHUKUMATATHIL

On Contemplating Leaving My Children

pixiv-illustration

RT

1.
I’ve hesitated beside the jewelweed, deep in the sevenbark,
told them I will not, not again

What sovereign lies? What queen in her epistolary cage?
An ochre shotglass empties,
a lantern, unlit, heedlessly shines.

In vain I have opened mirrors & edges of mirrors.

read more at Muzzle

-Jennifer Givhan

Poetry: “Boketto” by Susan Rich

Jasmine flower

Outside my window it’s never the same—
some mornings jasmine slaps the house, some mornings sorrow.

There is a word I overheard today, meaning lost
not on a career path or across a floating bridge:

Boketto—to stare out windows without purpose.
Don’t laugh; it’s been too long since we leaned

into the morning: bird friendly coffee and blueberry toast.

read more at Poem a Day

Friend Susan Rich had a poem selected by the Academy of American Poets, so of course I had to feature it. Plus, I swoon over any poem that mentions jasmine.

Poem: “More Than You Gave” by Philip Levine

Graphic art illustration girl looking over city at sunrise
RT

We have the town we call home wakening for dawn

which isn’t yet here but is promised, we have
our tired neighbors rising in ones and twos, we have

the sky slowly separating itself from the houses
to become the sky while the stars blink a last time

and vanish to make way for us to enter the great stage
of an ordinary Tuesday in ordinary time. We have

our curses, our gripes, our lies all on the stale breath
of 6:37 a.m. in the city no one dreams

read more at The New Yorker

 

Poem: “5PM in Bloomington” by Alex Dang

Headlights illustration graphic art

RT

And we’re driving again. We live out of these

suitcases and I’m feeling like that glamour

shines through the car fatigue that we wear

tight on our skin. I’m still convinced I’m

dreaming. We’ve been through a dozen states

and not one of them has been regret. Wasn’t

I destined to a textbook shaped coffin today?

There was a test, right? But now, now

these days are cup runneth over

read more at Love the Queen!

Poem: “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” by Nathan McClain

Mother in kitchen graphic art illustration
RT

She thought she was alone.
My father had left her.

She’d hum in the kitchen—
she thought she was alone—

her song the sound
a needle makes lapping

the innermost groove of an LP,
almost a screech—

she thought she was alone
since dad had left her, leaving behind

some burnt down trees.

read more at District Lit

 

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