*Ed. note: Today's newsletter comes to you from the keyboard stylings of Amy Woolard, my personal heart and soul of Charlottesville. That's right, you're reading I Don't Hate It's first guest post, which makes you what my mother would call a guinea pig. (I'm sure she means it in the most complimentary way. At least that's what I've always told myself.) Take it away, Amy!
You guys, I’ve taken over. Allison, as she sometimes does on our road trips, has sidled over to the shotgun seat & let me white-knuckle the wheel of I Don’t Hate It this week. I quote the incomparable Pointer Sisters when I say: I'm So Excited, And I Just Can't Hide It.
First, our sponsor would like to make sure that you’re aware that the emergency exits are <—here & here—> & that the archives of I Don’t Hate It are here.
Ok. I quote the fairly comparable MC Hammer when I say: Let’s Get It Started.
I was immediately drawn to A Manual For Cleaning Women, a just-released collection of stories from Lucia Berlin (1936-2004), after reading a slice of Lydia Davis’ introduction to the book in The New Yorker a few weeks ago. I’d read Berlin here & there over the years, but never spent a dedicated amount of time in her world until this book; plus, I swoon for Lydia Davis, so: fish, meet hook. Berlin’s voice is casual, but so precise, radical, but lonely. Her explorations of class & community are a kind of found wit—a bounty, like checking a vending machine for spare change someone else left behind and finding a twenty stashed there. Berlin’s women sometimes have faded & fading lives, but on the page cannot go unseen.
Speaking of Lydia Davis, this recording of James Salter reading Davis’s story “Break It Down” is everything. Essentially, the audio equivalent of a lung transplant (in a good way). I first listened to it in my car about a year ago, after a recent heartbreak, on my commute home from work. It was so unexpectedly dazzling, what Salter’s voice does to this incredible piece of longing & desire that Davis somehow committed to paper.
If you haven’t already heard of Claudia Rankine’s poetry-ish/lyric essay-ish Citizen, welcome to Earth, friend. Still, you really can’t have it recommended to you too many times. It is a deft jam. Rankine is timely & timeless, and offers a sincere & compelling collage of how the lyric interacts with race & injustice. She takes the term “collection” at its word. [*Whisper*: I confess to having my doubts about what poetry itself can actually accomplish on its own in terms of political change, but I do believe this book in particular has bent & will continue to bend the arc of its readers’ minds towards justice.]
PS: Like a literary sommelier, I have paired Rankine’s Citizen with Maggie Nelson’s Bluets for my book club in November. I find it so exciting how these poet-essayists are—to borrow a title from Jorie Graham—creating hybrids of plants and of ghosts to redefine what it means to implement the lyric. Also also: start with Nelson’s Bluets, but don’t forget to move on to The Argonauts.
Can’t stop; won’t stop. I’ve recommended fiction & poetry, so I must sneak in an essay collection. (As a policy person, I love a continuum of care.) Michelle Orange’s This Is Running For Your Life is one of my favorites of the last few years: everything from Ethan Hawke to Beirut, Orange weaves in pop culture & cinema with intimate personal revelations, braids the big picture with the kind of conversational closeness of a well-fed long-distance relationship. I adore it—when I say it is fun & clever, I mean it as high praise.
So, as with most things I write, I’m probably running at about a 300-word surplus here—which reminds me, as it should all of you—we’re our better selves when we have a great editor. Good thing we’ve all got Allison Wright.
*Ed. note: Good god, isn't Amy the best ever? Don't you just want to pour a nice glass of red wine and sit back and read for days and days? Cheers, y'all. Thanks, Woolard. You've really got it.
As always, art by Jen Deaderick, that minx.
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