Friday, April 11, 2008

DAILIES & RUSHES by Susan Kinsolving

The Book: Susan Kinsolving, DAILIES & RUSHES. Grove Press trade paperback (second printing), 1999, very good condition. Inscribed by the author to the owner.
First read: 2002
Owned since: 2002

The old saw about poetry is that everyone writes it, but no one reads it. I read it, but don't write it, and picked up this book because I liked the cover, which the author describes as "a woman in a corset striving toward free verse."

Susan was the friend of someone who was a close friend of mine, so I read the poems with extra curiosity -- and was delighted, when our mutual friend introduced us, to find the woman as lovely as her poems. Since then Susan and I have become very good friends, and it's been my privilege to help her with research for work that hasn't yet been published. The person who introduced us, ironically, is no longer part of my life. It happens that way sometimes.

Anyway, this small collection explores the many stages of a woman's life: childhood, the end of treasured relationships, motherhood, partnership, middle age. The very first poem in the book, "The Gift," tackles the essential difficulty of naming what we really want:

In red foil paper was my present, just
as I had asked: a magnifying glass. I
was five, but my dismay was huge
intensified by feigned gratitude. What
to say? Where was the word of my mis-
take? In silence, I enlarged snow-
flakes, pine needles, carpet threads, six
crumbs of cake, and the dark pupils
of my dog's eyes. But the word hid
elsewhere, almost disguised, as glass
might be the illusion of clarity. And so
it's been in all my words and hopes:
poems, the elusive gift, the microscope.

What I Read This Week

Max Brooks, WORLD WAR Z: A Oral History of the Zombie War. Chris left me this book when he visited at Easter, and called a few days later to ask whether I'd read it yet. When I did, I understood his enthusiasm; this book is brilliant. Written as non-fiction, it's a narrative of how the world responded to an unprecedented, unimaginable, overwhelming threat. The fact that the threat is zombies is almost tangential to the horrors and ingenuity and resilience Brooks describes. If I taught a public policy class, I'd make this book required reading.

John Connolly, THE REAPERS. Although you can read them separately, the six books (and one novella) Connolly has written about detective Charlie Parker form one long narrative about the battle for Parker's soul. THE REAPERS is a sort of lagniappe to that epic story -- not truly a standalone, but a book featuring Angel and Louis, Parker's friends and sometime colleagues. Angel is a professional thief, Louis a semi-retired hit man. They provide comic relief to the Parker novels, but have their own complex and terrible history, which Connolly explores here. A man from Louis's past has returned to seek vengeance on everything Louis holds dear, and Louis and Angel must marshal all their resources -- including Parker, here called The Detective -- to defend themselves. THE REAPERS is a special treat for fans of the Parker series, but also holds its own as an updated version of the classic Western, a story of hard men facing each other on the frontier. I read an advance copy; the book comes out in May.

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