Miss Fickle Critic: On Goodreads and in Hippocampus Magazine

Hey, Fickle Readers! It’s time for some blatant self-promotion! Those of you not among my personal cadre (and therefore not privy to my various lunatic rantings and blatherings) may not realize that I’m not only a creative writer, I’m also (surprise!) a budding book critic. I’ve just signed up for another year of reviewing at Hippocampus Magazine, an excellent all-creative nonfiction online journal. I’m also determined to write up more of my glorious opinions on Goodreads, because I really really want to keep getting free books to review. Really.

So here’s the latest on my fickle reading adventures:

One book you should definitely read, especially if you’re into creative nonfiction of the most intense, transformative kind, is Cynthia Barnett’s Rain: A Natural and Cultural History.

This is what the cover looks like. Go read this book immediately.

This is a book that steals into your life with a simple premise that, you soon realize, has gigantic, perspective-changing implications. Also, the title was long-listed for the National Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. Tragically, it didn’t move on in the process, even though I wish it had. (Admittedly, the field was probably more competitive than usual this year. Hard to beat Ta-Nehisi Coates.)

Despite the awards game, though, this is book is worth every minute you spend with it. Go forth and read.

I wish I could say the same for Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time. Vintage Books has commissioned a whole bunch of high-profile authors to write novel adaptations of Shakespeare plays (it’s called the Hogarth Shakespeare Initiative, in case you’re interested). When I heard about the project, I was so thoroughly excited I signed right up to get an actual physical review copy of the book and I GOT ONE, sent to my actual real-life address. I felt so validated I just sat around appreciating the cover for a while.

And, yeah, it’s a pretty cool cover.

Much to my dismay, the book itself isn’t all that great. Granted, you may have to take my opinion with a grain of salt, since I have sunk a lot of time and energy into studying The Winter’s Tale, on which Winterson based her novel. And granted, it would probably give someone with little to no familiarity with the play a pretty solid introduction to the original. The problem is, if that uninitiated person ever got to read or see The Winter’s Tale, he or she would probably be ready to set the bear on Leontes right from the beginning. Because Winterson’s Leo is just that awful. He’s vicious, self-centered, and whiny and deserves none of Shakespeare’s (or anyone’s) much-vaunted forgiveness, which the original play is also known for. If you’re curious, I’d say get this book out of the library. Otherwise, wait for Margaret Atwood to write her adaptation of The Tempest.

 

Yesterday It Was My Birthday…

…I hung one more year on the line.

–Paul Simon, “Have a Good Time”

So now I’m the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. My husband, Inspector Spacetime, reached this age last month, and he doesn’t seem to be more enlightened yet. Maybe it takes a while to kick in.

Anyway, to celebrate my first full day of being a brand new age, here are a sampling of the callouts I’ve wanted to make for a while. I haven’t gotten around to writing them all down because I’ve either been chasing after small children, playing with poetry, lying around in a semi-conscious haze, or just generally being insane:

First, I’ve had some nifty Publication News in the past couple of months! (You know the Goddamned Writing Life? Sometimes it ain’t so bad.) I had a horror poem, “Mother Killer,” published in Spectral Realms, along with many a fine spec poet, such as Ann K. Schwader, F.J. Bergmann, Marge Simon, Mike Allen, and spec-poetry bigwig Bruce Boston.

I also had not one, but TWO essays published this spring: the first, “Rape Stories,” is a reprint from Mid-American Review but made its official Internet debut in Hippocampus Magazine, a journal devoted to memory and memoir. I have to say I couldn’t be happier about this publication. Not only did Hippocampus provide a new forum for a piece that is really important to me, the layout folks on staff found a picture of the fountain from my old stomping ground in Rome, where the essay happens to be set. Many, many heartfelt thanks to whoever found that picture. Even though I wrote about some fairly dark topics, the fountain itself takes me back to a beautiful time and place.

The second essay, “Dead,” appeared in the 2015 issue of Moon City Review, which isn’t online but can be ordered here. A really gorgeous journal, which also includes a piece by Curtis Smith, an amazing writer and all-around beautiful guy who incidentally helped me work on the very essay that appears in MCR. Lots more deep and heartfelt thanks to Curtis, whose workshop did so much to boost my confidence when I felt like I was starting from square zero.

Back to Hippocampus: this month, I had the overwhelmingly self-esteem-boosting experience of opening an email about a journal’s latest issue to see my name listed as a contributor. Yes, in case you missed the umpteen times I announced this in the past week, I’m officially on the schedule of Hippocampus reviewers, and my very first review appears here. The book is Elizabeth Alexander’s “The Light of the World,” a stunning piece of writing that shows what extraordinary innovations a poet can bring to prose. Definitely a must-read.

Two last things: as a birthday gift, I finally got the Poet Tarot, which is in fact a pack of Tarot cards plus a guidebook for “creative exploration.” This nifty item is produced by Two Sylvias Press, which is also currently running its poetry chapbook prize. (I personally covet the trophy they give out with the award, but I’m not sure I have anything on hand that’s especially prize-winning.) And I must say, I’m SO looking forward to playing with my Tarot cards and seeing what happens. I looked through them already and noticed a certain Mr. W.S. is not among the poets represented. Very ballsy, ladies!

Fie on thee, froward, fen-sucked flax-wenches!

And finally, April is over but the PoMoSco poems will be up for one more month! Here’s the official wrap-up post discussing the 3000+ poems that were written, plus links to some favorite individual pieces. Though my own work isn’t featured here, you should still explore the site for some excellent poetry! (And if you think I’ve forgotten about my proposed list of ruminations on my own found poems of April, oh how very wrong you are. I may just pick a few I like or want to grumble about, or I may write about them all in one lump, but you can be sure you’ll get bugged about them, yessirree!)