As a diverse bunch of readers, WVWC MFA faculty, alums, and current students enjoy everything from memoirs to poetry to teaching textbooks and more—even Dr. Seuss. Periodically, we will share some of our latest literary finds on this blog. Here’s just a peek into what the WVWC MFA community is reading this fall. Check back in the winter and spring to find more recommendations, and to see our program's list of suggested readings in craft, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, just follow this link.
Dee Sydnor (Fiction ’15) - As is typical for a teaching semester, I am reading from the Norton Introduction to Literature. Today's selections were "Lady with the Dog" by Anton Chekhov and "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner. I am impressed by the timeless quality of good literature. My students range in age from 16-49, and all enjoyed discussing the philanderer Dmitri Gurov and his mistress Anna, with the understanding that what happens in Yalta stays in Yalta and that love, timeless as literature, can infect the most unwilling participant.
I am also slowly working my way through Jessie van Eerden's The Long Weeping in between my reading and grading. Through Jessie's essays, I have become fascinated with the Beguines, religious women who lived neither a married life nor a cloistered life. These women shared the Bible with others, cared for the sick, fed the hungry, gave to the poor, and yet they were not approved by the Church because of their disregard for its teachings. Jessie muses in the essay "The Soul has Six Wings" that she wonders "if mystical life is really about visions, or if it's about looking again at pieces you've already got." Would you "see the kingdom of God there if you stare[d] long enough”? It makes me question the day-to-day in my own life and my lack of finding pleasure in it as it is.
Jessica Spruill (Poetry ’15) - I’ve been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss lately, and I have to say, our most recently acquired titles, The Foot Book and Hop on Pop, are delightful. I learned how to read by memorizing The Foot Book when I was 3, and my dentist's office had a copy of Hop on Pop buried under a dozen issues of Highlights magazines on the kids' table in the waiting room, so both of these books have long-held special places in my heart. But I love them even more now as I read them loudly and animatedly for my son, who giggles and coos about fuzzy fur feet or Pat sitting on baseball bats and cacti. The rhymes are on point, and the occasional irregularities to the otherwise precise meter lend to a silly cadence that really demonstrates and accentuates the absurdity of the context. All in all, both come highly recommended by this new mama.
Jonathan Corcoran (Fiction Faculty) - I’ve been rereading The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño. It's a long, challenging, hilarious, and sad book about a group of renegade poets in Mexico. It's a writer's book, an artist's book—the kind that makes you reflect on what it means to live and create. I read it first when I was an MFA student, trying to imagine what life as a writer would look like. It's raunchy in parts, depressing in others, but very, very filled with humanity. Such simple yet complex prose (rendered fabulously in the English translation). Yes—read it! Read it to remind yourself that art and life are inextricably mixed.
Mary Carroll-Hackett (Poetry Faculty) - I’m rereading The Language They Speak Is Things to Eat: Poems by Fifteen Contemporary North Carolina Poets, and a gazillion student papers.
Vincent James Trimboli (Poetry ’13) - I am reading Stuck in the Middle With You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan. In my new job, I am currently working with/beside a bunch of kids still in their late teens and very early 20s. I often sit back and listen to the way they talk about the world around them and know that most often they are regurgitating things that their parents have said (or in some cases, the opposite depending on how rebellious they are). That got me thinking a lot about parenting and how and what we impart on [our] children and how that affects the world we will all be living in as they take their place as the generation in power. So, memoirs about parenting seemed to be a good place to look into that. On this journey, I have also re-read A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein, Two or Three Things I Know For Sure by Dorothy Allison, some of Jo Ann Beards’ essays, and perhaps unrelated (although I would argue not) I'm•be•ciles by Adam Cohen.