Happy spring! Or happy soon-to-be spring! I am writing from the sunny state of Colorado, awaiting my flight back to Michigan. I guess spring is already a part of my skin at this point. I am choosing not to speculate about the presence (or lack thereof) of snow on the ground in Ann Arbor. But after spending my spring break hiking mountains and unwinding in hot springs, alas I am ready to begin my final few months as a Michigan undergrad. Holy.
Surprisingly, this final semester has left me with more time than usual to read for pleasure. So I’ve let my book fantasies and lists run free. What’s on my nightstand, in my backpack, and in my suitcase now….
On my nightstand
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. This short novel (really a novella) by the Italian writer Calvino is a gem and an imaginative wonderland. The novel is divided into several sections imagining different versions of city…or the same city? It reminded me how cities are our backbones and our playgrounds, all we can imagine. What if every urban project started from reading this novel by Calvino? What would our cities look like? How would they change? It’s a quick read but such a worthwhile one. I’d recommend listening to slow jazz while reading the tale. It creates quite the dynamite experience. Oh the places you’ll go…
And Polo said: “Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.” “When I ask you about other cities, I want to hear about them. And about Venice, when I ask you about Venice.” “To distinguish the other cities’ qualities, I must speak of a first city that remains implicit. For me it is Venice.” “You should then begin each tale of your travels from the departure, describing Venice as it is, all of it, not omitting anything you remember of it.”
The lake’s surface was barely wrinkled; the copper reflection of the ancient palace of the Sung was shattered into sparkling glints like floating leaves.
“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.”
Where is your “Venice”?
Fun home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. This one was highly recommended by one of my roommates, and so much so that I was slightly skeptical. Warning: it’s a graphic novel (I didn’t realize it was a graphic novel until I started reading and noticed every page was a comic…) But, it is wonderful nonetheless. A difficult and complex read, the novel alludes to literature and myth and various art forms, and traces back and forth in time, following the relationship of Bechdel to her father.
In my backpack
In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders. This is a wild and wacky collection of short stories by the wonderfully talented Saunders. I am about half way through the collection of 12 stories, and it has been delightful and hilarious to get inside this man’s brain. Thus far, the stories have dealt with issues of advertising, media infiltration, and science fiction-y elements. A personal favorite so far is the story “Jon” from the first half of the collection. Next on my queue from the public library: Saunders’ newest collection Tenth of December.
Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard. Oh what a treat! I had previously read her essay “Living Like Weasels” from this nonfiction narrative collection. I bought this one from a street bookseller in Ann Arbor, the man who sometimes sells on State St. in front of Amer’s. I originally intended to gift it to my dad for his birthday because the dedication in the front is for Gary, and that is my dad’s name. Instead, however, I found another more suitable book for him. This one stayed with me, in my backpack and in my suitcase and on my nightstand for a long while.
Read this Dillard collection.
And finally, in my suitcase…the readings we really take with us…
This is mandatory reading….an essay by William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness.” Search it anywhere on-line. This fella is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. A divine thinker. An environmentalist, of sorts. A researcher on the interactions of humans with the natural world. This essay is exploratory, a boundary-pusher. It seriously engages readers to think about what it means to live with the wildness of our own homes. Just go read it now, really, it is only 20 pages. I know everyone can take a break for 20 pages…
Oh so much more to share! I just cannot stop.
-Emily Caris, senior, Xylem Submissions Co-Manager, English major and Urban Studies/PitE minors