Reading recap

2010 is over, apparently. Since this blog has settled into my personal reading review journal, primarily, a recap is in order, if only to remind myself.

I easily achieved 52 books in 2010, finishing 79 titles by December 31st. Of those:

33 were Fiction (42%)
29 were Nonfiction (37%)
18 were Poetry (21%)

Of the Fiction, 8 were Children’s titles that I read with my kids at bedtime; 11 were graphic novels (mostly the Bone series); 3 were collections of short stories; and the remaining 19 were novels. Thomas Pynchon, David Mitchell and Don DeLillo were heavily represented, but I also read Colson Whitehead’s delightful The Intuitionist, David Duncan’s The Brothers K, and, for the first time, Treasure Island (what a yarn!). Barry Hannah’s Airships and Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage were both remarkable, violent little collections, and I was more than pleasantly surprised by Sharon Creech’s two chapter books introducing poetry to kids, Love that dog and Hate that cat.

As for Nonfiction, the lion’s share went to books about God, Jesus or the Church (11, 38%), including James Smith’s Desiring the kingdom and Conrad Gempf’s Jesus asked. I reread The Reason for God and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek this year, and am not sorry. Chris Hedges’ Empire of illusion has stuck with me, mostly for his clear exposing of how in our self-centeredness we as a culture exploit women, as has the fundamental idea from John McKnight’s The Careless Society that you cannot pay someone to love another person.

But really, this was the year of poetry, beginning with Ed Hirsch’s How to read a poem and continuing through volumes by Bishop, Wright, Hoagland, Bly, Kay Ryan and Philip Levine. I feel like I discovered poetry all over again for the first time this year, and while some of the initial fervor has died down, I don’t think I’ll ever approach it the same way again.


So when exactly will we visit next?
That Monday I’ll be driving up to Flint.
Then maybe on the Tenth? Mm-hm, you have
Your daughter’s boys. In that case, let me see,
We’re looking into June, late June, the kids
Are out of school. July. That’s settled, then.
I know. No dad you’re right it really has,
It’s been since August last.
Remember when
We visited in Tempe? Yes we talked
Divorce, I broached the topic there. You said
You felt in some ways all your life has been
Defined by that desertion. Did you say
Or did I dream? I cannot make it die
For decades now. My blood surges, I rend
the very
air and rip
the fibers
from the sick
and sucking
marrow of
the empty

Grading Rubric for Children of Divorce (Julie Sheehan)

MECHANICS: Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors

“I like snaks,” he wrote to filibuster
a blank school day, his cobras coiled back home
in a lunchbox. Six seemed much too young to master
the silent e, an extra chromosome

slithering like subtext at the ends
of sense, and who could fathom -ght?
There’s violins, and then there’s violence,
two phone numbers, no bus some days, say please,

start at the top for l, n, b, and q,
but e starts in the middle, twists on its spine,
gets trampled by horses, beggarly as Pew
in Chapter Five. “I hope he dies,” my kind

boy hissed at story hour. He didn’t know
he’d known so well that Pew would perish, a plot
point drawn like an e already in death throes
before the horses come, as afterthought.

We read, Pew died, he sobbed. “Mom, I like TV
where you don’t care about the characters.”
I put down Treasure Island. He asked, “Where’s
dead?” but meant another word, without the e.

STYLE: Little or no sentence fluency; many repetitions; incorrect vocabulary; author does not communicate enthusiasm

For rote, read rot
For dead, read dad
For knotty, read naughty
For Hades, read had

For The It, read tithe
For heat, read hate
For write, read writhe
For meat, read mate

Desire is reside
Denude is endure
To seek is to hide
Fraction is fracture

ORGANIZATION: Introduction, body, and conclusion do not follow format

Miss Deference scores a line: The principal
is Mr. Long but he isn’t long, he’s short.
No one’s tuned to hear her hit the tact
nicely on the head. So unlike her,
said no one, as Greek gods bicker, social studies
of exclamation points. Under her desk
in wads of molded gum, her pencil pokes
the obverse of nipples or puts out Grecian eyes.
Is anyone under the radar under duress?
She’s testing blunt-nosed scissors. When they cut
her arms, she’ll starve and purge to get more edge,
less form. She’s cleared for future vanishing points
where Ares and Harpina can howl Olympic
obscenities in zero relation to her.

CONTENT: Does not address the essay topic

What I’m trying to say is that when you divide
something in half, you divide it into two

equal parts, yes, and Dennis wants to share
his snacks equally with Sara. Draw a line

on each food to divide it in half, they said,
so I bisected the apple, the cheese cube, the pizza

slice, the ice cream cone with my fat black
crayon, but when they said, “Now color

each half differently,” I could not do it. What
gods have joined, let no one put asunder.

Julie Sheehan. Parnassas: poetry in review, volume 31, nos. 1 and 2, pp. 307-309. Please don’t sue me.