Bookshelf

LIII

SPRING IS COMING

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Hello my dear readers, I am so happy that it is now March and winter is ending and spring will be here soon. Back home in Texas, it's already warm but here in the Midwest it is still quite cold and sometimes still snowing. Totally mind-blowing to me! It's March, where is the heat and the humidity?! I must say, I do miss it. I love winter. I love the beauty of the snow and the stillness and the quiet but it really does make you love and yearn for spring even more so. So I have just been waiting patiently for it. 

I have been keeping busy by reading a lot. In particular, I started a wonderful old book series that I had never heard of before which was odd because it's exactly the sort of books I read when I was a young girl. For some reason, this particular series and author escaped me and I discovered them while searching for another book to read. The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. It's a series that follows best friends for life Betsy and Tacy from when they were very little to high school and takes place at the turn of the century 1900s. So so charming and very fitting considering it takes place in the Midwest and Betsy even visits Milwaukee so I really love that I came across the series at this point that I'm living here. I've been enjoying it so much that I don't want them to end. It's so refreshing to disconnect from this modern world and just lose myself in the simplicity of life in the early 1900s. And they have such funny sayings that it's very amusing!

I've read quite a few other books, as well. Besides the Betsy-Tacy series there has been Marlena by Julie Buntin, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjaming, Concluding by Henry Green, These Possible Lives by Fleur Jaeggy, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Dandelions by Yasunari Kawabata, The Hazelwood by Melissa Albert and A Good Comb by Muriel Spark. Currently reading The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai, too. And a stack to be read on my side table. You can follow along with my readings on Goodreads.

Other wonderful things as of late: Planning a visit from my parents and our days together including a weekend stay at our favorite hotel in Chicago, The Thompson. Lots and lots of vintage findings like beautiful dresses and bags, writing letters to penpals, buying a new bureau for the bedroom and going to the ten year anniversary show in Milwaukee of Bon Iver's album For Emma, Forever Ago. I drank lots of wine and cried. 

xxx

As always, thank you for reading.

Mari 

LII

VINTAGE JAPANESE HOME

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I always love a visit the Kunikuniya, the Japanese bookstore here in Chicago. It doesn't have as good of a selection as the one I went to while living in San Francisco but I always come home with something regardless! Also, I request any Japanese book and they can order and bring it in for me which is amazing. I already have a list to take them next time. This particular book I was so glad to have stumbled upon. Exactly my favorite kind of interiors. Vintage, dark, moody. The whole book is full of amazing photographs of the insides of a handful of homes along with text, which is in Japanese and I cannot read. I wanted to share just a few of these inspiring images with you. 

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L

 

ON MY BOOKSHELF / FLEUR JAEGGY

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Sometimes in your life you come across a writer who speaks volumes to you, who is like a kindred spirit, who makes you feel better knowing there is someone else who thinks and feels as you do, and who can put everything into words that you cannot. They become like best of friends for you and you reach for their words when you need inspiration and strength. In my late teens and early twenties, I discovered Anais Nin. And now, at thirty, there is Fleur Jaeggy.

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Although of Swiss nationality, she has lived in Italy for decades and writes in Italian. She's been described as reclusive and a "monumental loner" and her writing is sparse, austere, moody. Intelligent. Haunting and terse and absolutely stunning. I feel such pleasurable solitude while reading her. Her publishing home in the United States is New Directions and that is how I first came across her books. I find her work and life completely fascinating. She rarely does interviews or anything of that sort so it's a bit difficult to know anything extensive about her life but I will read anything about her I can find. I think if you are of a certain temperament, you will find her as brilliant as I do.

I Am the Brother of XX // "Fleur Jaeggy is often noted for her terse and telegraphic style, which somehow brews up a profound paradox that seems bent on haunting the reader: despite a sort of zero-at-the-bone baseline, her fiction is weirdly also incredibly moving. How does she do it? No one knows. But here, in her newest collection, I Am the Brother of XX, she does it again. Like a magician or a master criminal, who can say how she gets away with it, but whether the stories involve famous writers (Calvino, Ingeborg Bachmann, Joseph Brodsky) or baronesses or 13th-century visionaries or tormented siblings bred up in elite Swiss boarding schools, they somehow steal your heart. And they don’t rest at that, but endlessly disturb your mind."

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Sweet Days of Discipline // "Set in postwar Switzerland, Fleur Jaeggy’s eerily beautiful novel begins simply and innocently enough: "At fourteen I was a boarder in a school in the Appenzell." But there is nothing truly simple or innocent here. With the off-handed knowingness of a remorseless young Eve, the narrator describes life as a captive of the school and her designs to win the affections of the apparently perfect new girl, Fréderique. As she broods over her schemes as well as on the nature of control and madness, the novel gathers a suspended, unsettling energy. Now translated into six languages, I beati anni del castigo in its Italian original won the 1990 Premio Bagutta and the 1990 Premio Speciale Rapallo. In Tim Parks’ consummate translation (with its "spare, haunting quality of a prose poem"), Sweet Days of Discipline was selected as one of the London Times Literary Supplement’s Notable Books of 1992: "In a period when novels are generally overblown and scarcely portable, it is good to be able to recommend [one that is] miraculously short and beautifully written."

These Possible Lives: Essays // "New Directions is proud to present Fleur Jaeggy’s strange and mesmerizing essays about the writers Thomas De Quincey, John Keats, and Marcel Schwob. A renowned stylist of hyper-brevity in fiction, Fleur Jaeggy proves herself an even more concise master of the essay form, albeit in a most peculiar and lapidary poetic vein. Of De Quincey’s early nineteenth-century world we hear of the habits of writers: Charles Lamb “spoke of ‘Lilliputian rabbits’ when eating frog fricassse”; Henry Fuseli “ate a diet of raw meat in order to obtain splendid dreams”; “Hazlitt was perceptive about musculature and boxers”; and “Wordsworth used a buttery knife to cut the pages of a first-edition Burke.” In a book of “blue devils” and night visions, the Keats essay opens: “In 1803, the guillotine was a common child’s toy.” And poor Schwob’s end comes as he feels “like a ‘dog cut open alive’”: “His face colored slightly, turning into a mask of gold. His eyes stayed open imperiously. No one could shut his eyelids. The room smoked of grief.” Fleur Jaeggy’s essays―or are they prose poems?―smoke of necessity: the pages are on fire."

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XLV

ON MY BOOKSHELF

It's been quite awhile since I've last shared anything here. Since the last time I posted, I have moved across the country and have spent this time getting to know my new city (Milwaukee) and life in the midwest. First time! I'm finally feeling settled in and at home. 

Today I wanted to share with you this post which has been in my mind for quite some time. I have always read mostly foreign literature as it's a favorite of mine. Lately, I've been expanding what I read even further. Being a woman of color (Mexican), I went on a search for fellow Latina writers and wanted to share these books with you as a way to open up your reading world to maybe a something little different. Mine, as well. The women here are all amazing in their own right and I encourage you to look into more into their life, history and work. The words they write are beautiful and lush. Very happy to have come across these. If you recommend any others, please do let me know.

"Natalia Toledo's The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems, with an award-winning translation by Clare Sullivan, describes contemporary Isthmus Zapotec life in lush, sensual detail. In Toledo's poems of love and loss the world's population turns into fish, death is a cricket, and naked women are made of wet magma. 

Natalia Toledo has written four books of poetry and two of prose, all appearing in bilingual Isthmus Zapotec-Spanish editions. In 2004, she won the Nezahualcoyótl Prize, Mexico's most prestigious prize for indigenous-language literature, for her book The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems. She has read her poetry around the world. Her work as a jewelry and clothing designer and chef reiterates the lively imagery of her poetry. She lives in Mexico."

Flower that Drops Its Petals

I will not die from absence.
A hummingbird pinched the eye of my flower
and my heart mourns and shivers,
does not breathe.
My wings tremble like the long-billed curlew
when he foretells the sun and the rain.
I will not die from absence, I tell myself.
A melody bows down upon the throne of my sadness,
an ocean springs from my stone of origin.
I write in Zapotec to ignore the syntax of pain,
ask the sky and its fire
to give me back my happiness.
Paper butterfly that sustains me:
why did you turn your back upon the star
that knotted your navel?

More information via World Literature Today

Hear the author read in Zapotec via Asymptote Journal

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"In the first comprehensive selection and translation of Dulce María Loynaz's poetry, James O'Connor invites us to hear the haunting voice of Cuba's celebrated poet, whom the Nobel Laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez terms in his Foreword, "archaic and new...tender, weightless, rich in abandon." Widely published in Spain during the 1950s, Loynaz's poetry was almost forgotten in Cuba after the Revolution. International recognition came to her late: at the age of ninety she was living in seclusion in Havana when the Royal Spanish Academy awarded her the 1992 Cervantes Prize, the highest literary accolade in the Spanish language. The first English publication of her work, Absolute Solitude contains a selection of poems from each of Loynaz's books, including the acclaimed prose poems from Poems with No Names, a selection of posthumously published work.

Dulce María Loynaz, "the grande dame of Cuban letters," received international recognition in 1992 for her nearly century-long contributions to Spanish letters when she was awarded the Cervantes Prize, widely recognized at the highest prize in Spanish literature. Often called the "Emily Dickinson of Cuba," her poems are celebrated for their precision and modern lyricism. Though born to a patriotic family - her father, General Enrique Loynaz del Castillo, was a national figure, having fought under Antonio Maceo in Cuba's war for independence - she stopped publishing for several decades following the 1959 Cuban Revolution, as her deeply personal style and themes were incongruous with the period's ideological control over the arts. She died in Havana City, the same city in which she was born, in 1997."

Learn more via World Literature Today

More information and purchase at Archipelago Books

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"Diorama is both a book of poems and a performance action by the poet Rocío Cerón, who guides the reader on a hallucinatory, spiraling journey through image, language, Mexican history, and soundscapes. As unrelentingly tactile as it is unapologetically cerebral, Rocío Cerón’s new book asks that we relinquish control and submit to the poet’s brutal lyricism, and to a new kind of order imposed like a penumbra between us and the waking world.

Rocío Cerón is from Mexico City and her work combines poetry with music, performance, and video. In addition to Diorama (or DIORAMA? Sometimes it’s in all caps) she’s published Basalto, Imperio/Empire, and Tiento. Her poems have been translated into a number of languages, including Finnish, French, Swedish, and German."

Preparing to read Diorama via Three Percent

Poking at Memory: A Conversation with Rocío Cerón

Two poems via Mexico City Lit