recent & notable reading

A Lifetime of Reading by Min Jin Lee. Can't stop thinking about how and why this piece works, from a craft perspective. (Also grew up in novels and have always felt fiction to be my first mediator with Americanness, if you'll excuse the triteness) (4.13.21)



An excerpt from How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee. I can never get enough answers to the question why write. (3.24.21)



The Hater With a Heart of Gold, an interview with Jay Caspian Kang by Haley Mlotek. Makes me feel better about being a compulsive personal-essay writer (2.15.21)



The Wind by Lauren Groff (and accompanying discussion). This one hurts. (2.6.21)



On Cake by Alicia Kennedy. (Her chocolate essay also made it onto this list a few months ago.) On the one hand, I'm very conscious of how viscerally I want the cakes she links, how much I love the idea of fancy sweets (especially, as a fruit fiend, these fruit-focused cakes). At the same time I also know (a) it is just cake and (b) “just cake” is not free of the constraints of real life. (1.25.21)



Coming Home Again by Chang-Rae Lee. This man knows how to make someone cry (1.19.21)



Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying by Alice Sola Kim. No words except omg. "She felt her chin tipped upward by Mom, arranging her daughter like a flower, a sleek and sinuous flower that would be admired until it died and even afterward." (1.2.21)



What if you could do it all over? by Joshua Rothman. This got better the more I read. "Part of the work of being a modern person seems to be dreaming of alternate lives in which you don’t have to dream of alternate lives. We long to stop longing, but we also wring purpose from that desire." (12.22.20)



An interview with Yo-Yo Ma: Really gorgeous view on life (and of course music), a reminder to indulge in joy and art and music, a suggestion of how they might fuel political orientation. (12.4.20)



An interview with Yiyun Li; I don't remember who recommended this to me or why this article from 2018 was among my long list of tabs-to-read but I am now adding her work to my goodreads. “People would say I portray the world in a bleak way. It’s not bleak to me. I think what is bleak is when you create a veil to make the world feel better.” (11.14.20)



On Chocolate by Alicia Kennedy. When a luxury is made accessible by exploitation and homogenization, how can we recover context, dignity, and culture? How do consumer goods reflect history, colonialism, violence? (10.26.20)



The Work You Do, the Person You Are by Toni Morrison. I like to revisit this periodically. (10.16.20)



The Town That Went Feral by Patrick Blanchfield, a review of a book about a hyper-libertarian commune(?) plagued by feral bears. starts out funny in an absurd sort of way; ends depressing (10.13.20)



Mathematics for Human Flourishing and The Lesson of Grace in Teaching by Francis Su, coupled with Math and the Best Life, an interview of Su in Quanta. It's really so refreshing to read—and be reminded of—joy and beauty and delight in thinking and teaching and existence. (sometime this summer, revisited 10.11.20)



Life During Wartime, by Ju-Hyun Park. “Peace, like war, is a state of relation produced by practice, not a temporality that arrives through inevitable progress." (9.18.20)



Jesmyn Ward's untitled? piece on loss, the pandemic, and bearing witness - beautiful in a terrifying, devastating sort of way (9.1.20)



The Pleasures of Protest, among other things, gets my general feelings about chinatowns and my (political) relationship to them so right. (8.30.20)



An interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen - understanding our place in history, the limits of radicalism within academia (8.24.20)



On Becoming an American Writer by Alexander Chee - frankly don't know how to describe this, beyond this quote - (7.17.20)

To write is to sell a ticket to escape, not from the truth but into it. My job is to make something happen in a space barely larger than the span of your hand, behind your eyes, distilled out of all that I have carried, from friends, teachers, people met on planes, people I have seen only in my mind, all my mother and father ever did, every favorite book, until it meets and distills from you, the reader, something out of the everything it finds in you. All of this meets along the edge of a sentence like this one, as if the sentence is a fence, with you on one side and me on the other.

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