I love this book. I have read A LOT of books about writing, and this is one of the few that has helped me with my writing. I think the attention to liI love this book. I have read A LOT of books about writing, and this is one of the few that has helped me with my writing. I think the attention to listening for one's own voice combined with the practical strategies/rituals has helped the most. I followed the author's advice and read the whole thing before I tried the method. For me, the end was a bit long-winded and too therapy-ish, but the constant repetition of going through other people's writes was very useful. ...more
Before I read this book, I knew a bit about Mapplethorpe mostly through the lens of the NEH and the Christian Right's discussion of "standards of deceBefore I read this book, I knew a bit about Mapplethorpe mostly through the lens of the NEH and the Christian Right's discussion of "standards of decency" in the early 1990s (aka the Piss Christ controversy). I knew nothing about Patti Smith, although I had heard her songs, "People Have the Power" and "Because the Night." But that's not why I read the book. I read the book because I heard an interview with her and a friend offered to loan me the book. The last 6 months, I have been too scattered to focus much on reading, but in some senses, I think this book chose me.
The first few pages of this book awakened in me a desire to know everything about Patti Smith. I don't really care that much about what happened to Mapplethorpe, though he's an interesting enough character. The way Smith writes about him conveys something almost religious for me, and yet, for me, this conveyance has nothing to do with Mapplethorpe, the man. Perhaps I was drawn in by her rendering of Mapplethorpe's death in the Foreward. Her recollection of childhood experiences with prayer compelled me. After those first 10 pages or so, the book's magic dulled just enough to move me out of my reverie and to devour it as a thoroughly inspirational memoir. I have friends who loved the book because of what it evoked about New York City during a certain era, and I have other friends who love Patti Smith's role in 1970's punk rock or her connection to Andy Warhol and other artists. Me, I love this book because of the way that Patti Smith writes.
A few more tidbits to convey. Reading this book, I quickly learned that Smith grew up in a Jehovah's Witness family. There's nothing particularly "Jehovah's" about her style (at least not that I can identify), but I definitely see her as a kindred prodigal sister. I think her way of threading themes both religious and secular in all of her work is what I love the most about her style and content. I also love how committed both she and Mapplethorpe are/were to the importance of being artists and to doing art, quite broadly conceived, as their life's purpose. Mostly, I loved the excerpts of her other writings that were sprinkled throughout the book. I particularly appreciated how vivid her words conveyed her love for Mapplethorpe and the things they held dear.
Although I read this book rather quickly, I stopped before finishing the last 10 pages and saved them. I knew he died in the end, but I wasn't ready to read about that death. When I finally returned to the book, I cried my way through the last few pages. And then I put the book on my desk waiting to have the energy to write this tiny review. Here it is. Rereading those last few pages, they read to me like a funeral elegy that doesn't capture but comes very close to describing the beauty and art that is life and death as we know it. Or, at the very least, as I have known it. In the last paragraph, Patti Smith writes, "Why can't I write something that would awake the dead? That pursuit is what burns most deeply." me too.
For Christmas this year, my nieces gave me a gift certificate to a local bookstore. I immediately used it up on two more of Patti Smith's books that haven't received nearly as much acclaim. The first is her memoir of her early years, Woolgathering. The second, Auguries of Innocence, is a book of her poetry. I look forward to reading them. When I get around to it, I'll review here. ...more
I'm a big fan of the Enneagram. If you're new to the enneagram, this is probably not the book for you. However, if you're wanting to figure out more aI'm a big fan of the Enneagram. If you're new to the enneagram, this is probably not the book for you. However, if you're wanting to figure out more about the challenges and opportunities presented by each type, it's great. ...more
I read this for a class I TA'd. Most of my students thought it gave them a better understanding of the Jim Crow era than the textbooks did. InterestinI read this for a class I TA'd. Most of my students thought it gave them a better understanding of the Jim Crow era than the textbooks did. Interesting the way in which a first-hand account functions as "evidence" ... not that I disagree with the usefulness. It's just that I understand the memoir genre to be as constructed as the textbook, but that's my dissertation creeping into everything else I'm doing. :-) Anyway, it was a good read. A few sections get a little tedious, but overall, a well-written and educational book. It shows how poverty and race are/were so intricately connected, and it highlights the importance of the murder of Emmett Till in galvanizing the Civil Rights movement. There were a few times when I couldn't stop reading. ...more
I read this book for a class that I'm TAing (Introduction to American Studies at UCSC). The professor is a friend of the author, and we got quite a biI read this book for a class that I'm TAing (Introduction to American Studies at UCSC). The professor is a friend of the author, and we got quite a bit of background in lecture as well. The author makes a compelling case for thinking about the injustices the Dakota people have experienced in relation to the United Nations 1948 definition of genocide. Interestingly, my students mostly agreed with her but also thought that her proposed redresses are very unlikely to occur. We had good discussions about what kinds of things might be necessary to achieve "real change" and what counts as real change. By good discussion, I mean there were many good questions but not so many, or at least not very easy, resolutions. ...more
I read and taught this book for a class I just finished TAing (Intro to Native American Studies). Written in a compelling memoir style, it provides taI read and taught this book for a class I just finished TAing (Intro to Native American Studies). Written in a compelling memoir style, it provides tale of Mary Crow Dog's journey from being a typical "drinking and fighting" Indian on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota to her eventual embracing of the AIM (American Indian Movement) and the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee. I enjoyed this book not only as a teaching tool but also as a work of quality literature ... and I learned much along the way....more
I read this over the Christmas holidays during my own visit "home" at a mid-life point. At first, I thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself laughing ouI read this over the Christmas holidays during my own visit "home" at a mid-life point. At first, I thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself laughing out loud at several points. However, as the book progressed, I enjoyed it less and less. I wanted to get to know the author better, but it seemed that she was trying too hard to be witty and yet was holding the reader at more than an arm's length. The wry jokes and references to her husband leaving her for a guy he met on gay.com were only funny for a little while. I wanted to know more about what she was thinking ... just a bit too surface-y for my taste in memoirs. Nonetheless, I enjoyed certain sections of the book, for example the discussion of the proverbial virtuous woman vis-a-vis ways of understanding the author's mother....more
A wonderfully written memoir on the politics and poetics of both gay marriage and regular marriage from the perspective of a couple of self-describedA wonderfully written memoir on the politics and poetics of both gay marriage and regular marriage from the perspective of a couple of self-described second-class citizens (Dan and his boyfriend/partner, Terry). I enjoy Dan's witty, sarcastic humor and his bold perspective. I share many of Dan and Terry's critiques of the institution of marriage and their simultaneous desire for ... not so much just recognition in the eyes of the law but also the privileges that seem to accompany legal recognition. I think I even worked through a few of my own issues while "thinking with" Dan during this mostly pleasurable read. Contemplating writing more on that in my blog. Also thinking I will check out some of his other books. One caveat, if you don't enjoy Dan Savage's tone and/or his rants, this book is probably not for you. ...more
Clever writing. Wonderfully descriptive. Compelling characters. I especially enjoyed the voices of Leo Gursky and Alma Singer, but I wanted more of thClever writing. Wonderfully descriptive. Compelling characters. I especially enjoyed the voices of Leo Gursky and Alma Singer, but I wanted more of the others. I found myself occasionally annoyed with the mysterious puzzle of the plot, even though its eventual solution is precisely what so many people like about the book. For me, it functioned primarily as a distraction from the story ... but then there isn't much of a story without the puzzle. And then sometimes, I appreciated its cleverness. It could be that I don't enjoy a good puzzle as much as some. I loved the fragmented glimpses of the History-of-Love-text-within-a-text, especially Love Among the Angels. Here's an example:
"HOW ANGELS SLEEP. Unsoundly. They toss and turn, trying to understand the mystery of the living. They know so little about what it's like to fill a new prescription for glasses and suddenly see the world again, with a mixture of disappointment and gratitude ... Also, they don't dream. For this reason, they have one less thing to talk about. In a backward way, when they wake up they feel as if there is something they are forgetting to tell each other. There is disagreement among the angels as to whether this is a result of something vestigial, or whether it is the result of the empathy they feel for the Living, so powerful it sometimes makes them weep. In general, they fall into these two camps on the subject of dreams. Even among the angels, there is the sadness of division."
I'm tempted to reread the book just to absorb more fully passages like these. Maybe I'll just reread those passages and continue to wish for more. ...more
This book hooked me enough that I read it in two sittings. Julia, a contemporary American ex-pat living in Paris takes an assignment about a Vel d'HivThis book hooked me enough that I read it in two sittings. Julia, a contemporary American ex-pat living in Paris takes an assignment about a Vel d'Hiver (aka Operation Spring Breeze). Vel d'Hiver references an actual historical event in 1942 when French police assisted the occupying Nazi's in rounding up 13,000+ Jews, many of whom were children, and most of whom died at Auschwitz. For the first 2/3 of the book, the reader moves back and forth between Julia's story and another character's, Sarah, a young girl who survived the roundup. I thought these 2/3 comprised the best (albeit the most difficult to stomach) part of the book. For me, the complexities of the story become flattened once Sarah's voice is lost. Perhaps that's part of the point, but I doubt it. In the last 1/3, the loose ends of the story are tied up in somewhat of an unsatisfactory manner while the lesson ("never forget") gets hammered home. I characterize de Rosnay as a good writer, but a far cry from a literary tour-de-force.
Two additions. (1) I thoroughly enjoyed Julia's observations and descriptions of Paris environs as I lived in the 8ème Arrondissement for much too short of a time. (2) The book is currently being made into a film, and Kristin Scott Thomas plays Julia. I'm looking forward to it.