THE BOOKS OF JUNE 2019

FRANK LIMA《INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN POETRY》

when I was in the preamble of my falling into poetry, there was nothing I wouldn’t give to write the lines that frank lima seemingly dispensed so effortlessly. “I owe my sadness to things as warm as bread” and “Life as it stands in the moonlight that provides an ambiance in my dreams / which is the best part of sleeping.” and still now, when I digress into the explicable that is poetry (lines on a page with endless worlds between them), it seems that it is frank who understood its magic better than the most of us (better than the best of us). it is their raw, destructive ease. their imitable calling to the surviving in tides beyond the margins of the page. a poem that starts with: “I remembered writing a poem”. the reason I love the “new york school” so is because they knew intimately words and their inherent power. how they sing in chorus and alone to our daily experience of touching the eternal.

MOHSIN HAMID《EXIT WEST》

it is with incredible bravery of imagination that mohsin hamid tackles the subject of migration and asylum in this unbelievable novel. bypasses of form aside, this book ventures into territories prose so rarely goes in fear of losing the definition of prose. it is almost irrelevant to outline the narrative’s plot, because—as fascinating and ingenious it is—it remains secondary to the sheer and gorgeous flow of the language itself. spoken from a third person perspective that gathers its subjects gently within its grasp, it is reminiscent of someone you love telling you a story about the people they loved, with the heightened depth and elegance that is the result of an inherited, immortal lineage of storytelling. this is amongst the most pertinent books of today, as we continue to struggle with mass movement which both challenge and expand our previously unmoveable notions of nationhood, its fundamental errors, and the limits of human compassion.

SHENG KEYI《NORTHERN GIRLS》

though the message may arrive somewhat incoherent to the ears of western feminists, northern girls nevertheless speaks to the way women, especially those transported by the nation’s tumult into urbanism, bravely live in china today. sheng keyi deftly uses the presupposed burden of biological femaleness to paint a visceral and brutal depiction of sexuality, female roles, and romance under the infrastructure of a duplicitous and severe society. as we move through the life of xiaohong (the main character) from rural hunan to the comparably cosmopolitan shenzhen, we shift from factory dorms to grimy hair salons, brothels to hospitals, facing a multitude of individuals who are neither necessarily good or corrupt, but instead exist variously in their own struggles and questionable standards of what life, and living should be. there is no predictable calls to the archetypal female warrior braving hardships and inequality with grace, as xiaohong is herself equally complex and multifarious, but instead, in these pages breathes a woman in constant interrogation with her environment, searching her definition of freedom.

MINAE MIZUMURA《INHERITANCE FROM MOTHER》

the accustomed concepts of mother-daughter fidelity are absolutely confounded in this modern examination of filial piety and romantic loyalty. faced with the death of a mother, the narrative wastes no time with the expectations of grief, but instead traverses the mystifying bonds between generations of women. coming out of east asia, which emphasizes the communal aspect of the family unit especially, this notion is especially groundbreaking. wavering across decades of family legend, platitudinous everydays, and the always available and treacherous dreams, mizumura threads a tale that questions our concepts of sacrifice as something noble, and the self as something individual. beautifully paced, scathingly honest, and the ending, with concludes with a convoluted resignation to joy, is as ambiguous as history told by victors.

DON’T SAVE ANYTHING《JAMES SALTER》

I have long loved james salter’s fiction for their ability to create a masterly landscape of human internalities, and in don’t save anything, his collection of non-fiction, he writes:

To write of people thoroughly is to destroy them, use them up. I suppose this is true of experience as well—in describing a world, you extinguish it and in any recollection much is reduced to ruin. Things are captured and at the same time drained of life, never to shimmer or give back light again.

I suppose that this is a mark of a great writer, to know the limits of writing and to still create beautiful sculptures of language. in this book, there are no transcendent insights or groundbreaking theories, only the treasures unearthed from good, long days amongst beautiful, temporary light.

In the end, writing is like a prison, an island from which you will never be released but which is a kind of paradise: the solitude, the thoughts, the incredible joy of putting into words the essence of what you for the moment understand and with your whole heart want to believe.

LI-YOUNG LEE《BOOK OF MY NIGHTS》

simplicity is something that must be earned in poetry; within it must live the pure things—awe, truth, reverie. “the birds don’t alter space. / they reveal it.” lee’s poetry is sacred in these ways. in his lines, objects and humans speak into the center of things, and they feel at once ancient and new. amongst poems populated by stones, clocks, fruit, we are stepping to the altar of time paced to night-rhythms. all things slower, more meditative, seeming worthy of conversation, or, occasionally, worship.

shelly shan

hi, my name is shelly. I do a thing where I make words into unnecessarily emotional composites. I don't know why I'm allowed on the internet, but I like it here.