On My Nightstand: the Minimalist Edition

Reader, there are nightstands and then there are nightstands. There are nightstands that can hold towering stacks of books and temporary pharmacies, and then there is my new nightstand at the Casita, which requires strategic positioning to accommodate any books.

And as I pondered my postage-stamp-sized nightstand last night, I realized it has been forever since I've said what was on it. So today, let me tell you briefly what I've been reading:


(not pictured) Private Life by Jane Smiley. For those of you who read A Thousand Acres when you were too young and naive to expect its unfolding plot line, and therefore were scarred for life (who, me?), never fear. Private Life is nothing like it. Set primarily in Vallejo, California, during the years after the Civil War through the run-up to World War II, this is a story of a marriage, its exterior vs. its interior, the effects of eccentricity, and how private lives and the public world can shape one another. Exquisite characters. Read it.

(not pictured) The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. This was a birthday gift from my brother and sister-in-law, the first in a series of "novel(s) of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes." I always find it interesting to read stories in which well-known literary characters are borrowed from their original author and put into a new set of stories. I liked this one quite a bit -- good plot, interesting characters. You can't go wrong here, especially if you like a good series.

Burning Your Boats: The Complete Short Stories by Angela Carter. I flipped right to the section containing "The Bloody Chamber" and other stories. "The Bloody Chamber" is a well-known feminist reinterpretation of the Bluebeard story (other tales in this volume are reinterpretations of other Old Tales; I am a sucker for such reinterpretations every time). Gothic, spooky, unflinching, and crafted in beautiful prose, these stories will have you thinking about courtship anxieties, forbidden spaces, true love, deceiving appearances, and the like. Perfect if you like to be spooked before sleeping (which I do, because I have a hunch that being spooked before sleeping plants poem-seeds, not to mention wacky dreams).


(not pictured) Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads: Dealing with Difficult Parents in Your Child's Life by Rosalind Wiseman. Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the well-known book on female peer relations, Queen Bees and Wannabes. This book caught my eye in the children's room at our public library. I'm not sure the subtitle quite does it justice. I rarely read parenting how-to books, but I found this book immensely helpful for two reasons: (1) it verified for me my sense that peer pressure begins earlier now than it once did, and documented the culture of achievement (I would say over-achievement) that seems to have its claws into my generation of parents (some call it "helicopter" parenting), and (2) it suggested real strategies for helping your children and your family opt out of the achievement-at-all-costs mode of being. I'm sure one of the reasons I liked it is that it validated many of my beliefs, e.g., 8 year olds don't need cell phones, sophomores shouldn't be taking five AP classes, and playing traveling soccer by age 5 does not predestine your child for greatness in this life. A real dose of common sense, thank you Ms. Wiseman, you are wise indeed.


Reader, yesterday I almost expired because...... I had ..... no new poems .... to read. Very jittery, I was. Veeeeerrrrrry jittery. And then, O thank you Beneficent Goddess of Just-in-Time, the letter-carrier delivered issue 10 of Cave Wall and Alison Stine's WAIT.

But first, let me tell you about Nina Lindsay's Today's Special Dish, which I read and studied last week: Grit and beauty in the same poem, nay, in the same line. Finger-lickin' descriptions of food and the ceremonies we build around it. Fresh and luminous angles of light. Stories of the sublime in the day-to-day. Treat yourself, Reader, it's delectable.

As for Cave Wall, last night, as usual, I was not the mom watching flag football from the sidelines cheering every time my child touched the ball. Last night, I was not the mom on the playground refereeing games for the younger siblings of the flag-footballers. As usual, I was the mom sitting off in the distance with her nose in a book (I happen to like this approach -- I get to read, and my children don't have to be under the microscope). And I was rewarded with lines like this:

"... All month the clouds / are long bones descending, or / feathers, sister, falling // into rock where their names / and dates are trapped / like the first birds in ancient silt. ..."

--from Sally Rosen Kindred's "Feathers, Sister, Falling"

Lovely, lovely, and I can't wait to read more of Cave Wall this week. As a bonus, the artwork in this issue is enchanted and enchanting.

Reader, you will have to wait for WAIT by Alison Stine since I haven't cracked it open yet. But let me entice you with some jacket text: "In a small town under a spell, a child bride prays for the sheriff's gun. ... Part fairy tale, and part gothic ballad WAIT spans a single year: the year before a young woman's marriage."

So, there you have my little book report. What have you been reading lately? Let me know in comments if you like.

And now in other news: a few drafts have been stacking up here and there. I'll be revising some today. I am very happy to have some poet-time today.

Stay tuned for:
~ more on Today's Special Dish
~The Poet Expands Her Use of Technology
~Titles, or, What On Earth Is the Name of This Poem? for Readers and Writers, and,
~In Which She Lashes Herself to the Mast and Resists the Siren Song of the PTA

Happy day, Reader!


drew said...

Wow - you've got a lot of good stuff packed into this post.

I really like Jane Smiley, and didn't realize she had a new book out. I've added it to my (long) list of need-to-reads. Thank you.

I've just finished "The Paris Wife," a sorta-fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway's early literary life with his first wife, Hadley. It's intriguing, and the author is a poet also so the prose is engaging.

Thanks for the peek into your reading life.

Molly said...

"The Paris Wife" sounds interesting; I'll add it to my list. Thanks for reading.

Ms. WK said...

speaking of scary, you know we'll NEVER have the hours back that we spent watching those ridiculous thrasher movies ~~ Friday the 13th, Halloween... seriously.
the budding poet in you must've known...

Molly said...

Ms W-K, I attribute my ability to even watch those movies back in the day to the fact that my temporal lobe was not yet fully developed. I can't even go near a horror movie now if I ever want to sleep again. Somehow reading scary stories is better (prob because I can make my own images).

ljchicago said...

Should I read A Thousand Acres or not? Does something bad happen to a child in it?

Molly said...

ljchicago, yes, something bad happens to a child in it, but in a very specific set of circumstances that most of us will never encounter. Still, I was so young and innocent (or maybe just innocent; maybe not all that young) when I read it that it really got under my skin.