THE BASS ROCK by Evie Wyld is a bewitching, textured novel that lingers after the last haunting page has turned.
Told in alternating points-of-view, Viviane recounts the present-day arc of the story as she travels from London to clear out the family home on the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Forty-something and suffering from depression, Viviane struggles to thrive even as her name, which means alive, reflects a resilience and courage to bear witness to the stories that shape her life and world.
Ruth’s narrative takes place in the aftermath of World War II...
Sometimes something happens that you’ve hoped and worked and waited for for so long, that it shakes your world and reveals fault lines of self-doubt and uncertainty that make you almost wish the good thing never happened. But of course that’s not true. You can’t quite believe it’s real, or no, maybe it’s more that you’re afraid if you blink, it will go away. Maybe this happens when, for example, your children are born. One day they’re a dream pressing outward from the inside of your body, and the next, they’re in your arms.
Only I’m not talking about the birth of my children, I’m talking about signing with a dream agent for my book.
ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS, by Ocean Vuong, is an incandescent, devastating novel/prose poem. Written as a letter from Little Dog to his mother, a letter she cannot read because she’s illiterate, the story explores language, family, identity, and what it means to be seen.
Little Dog’s mother, Rose (Hồng in Vietnamese), left school at five when a napalm bomb destroyed her school. At nineteen, having worked as a prostitute to feed herself, and pregnant with another man’s child, she married a US serviceman. She named her son Little Dog, hoping to trick evil spirits into overlooking something insignificant and of little value. His name, like language, like the novel itself, became a screen to both protect and reveal.
SILVER SPARROW, by Tayari Jones, is a complex, superbly written novel with no easy answers. Jones has created flawed, believable characters who struggle with difficult moral issues of family and loyalty even as the consequences of their choices unravel with painful inevitability. The voice is mesmerizing—deceptively simple, richly nuanced, and true to itself.
Dana Yarbor and Chaurisse Witherspoon have different mothers and the same father. Their father is married to both of their mothers. Dana knows this, but Chaurisse does not. Her father, James Witherspoon, is terrified that Chaurisse and her mother, Laverne, will find out about Dana and her mother, Gwendolyn. Only someone with Jones’ mastery and sensitivity could tell this story in ways that enlarge rather than narrow our understanding of what it is to be human.
HOW TO SET YOURSELF ON FIRE, by Julia Dixon Evans, is a quirky story in the vein of Ottessa Moshfegh’s MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION, only sweeter.
Sheila, 35, is a mess. She can’t hold down a job, she barely sleeps, and when she does it’s often on the stoop of her run-down rental in LA. Vinnie, her slovenly but fleetingly charming neighbor, lives across the cement courtyard, their apartments so close Sheila can hear Vinnie’s Skype conversations with his ex-wife and 12-year old daughter, Torrey, as if Sheila is in the room with them. Their physical surroundings reflect Vinnie and Sheila’s relationship—distant, wary, weirdly intimate.
In memory of the upcoming tenth anniversary of my father's death, I thought I'd take a moment to remember the poet Richard Moore, 1927-2009.
During the last months of his life, Richard wrote the following fragment. What better person to share his accomplishments than himself.
"Throughout a long life, Richard Moore has won through to the belief that the only real reward in the art of writing is the writing itself. The first of his nineteen books was published and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize when he was forty-four. The books that followed have brought the total to a novel, a book of literary essays, translations of a Greek tragedy and a Roman comedy and fifteen books of poetry, which include a sequence of fifty-eight Petrarchian sonnets, an epic of American history and an epic whose hero is a mouse born and raised in a sewer."
A pilot in the Air Force, a university professor, a poet and fierce seeker of truth, to me he was my father. I loved and admired him deeply. Ours was a complicated relationship, one that has found its way into a number of stories over the years. I've reprinted the short memoir I wrote for a tribute issue of Light Quarterly published shortly after Richard's death.
This past weekend I had the privilege of participating in the USTA Eastern 18+ Sectionals in Schenectady, NY with an awesome group of women. Every member of our team played with grit, heart and amazing support for one another in a tournament that was about so much more than winning or losing. It was about supporting one another as we faced tough decisions and showed up with fierce determination, fairness and generosity for our team, our fellow competitors and ourselves.