Moving with books

I try to pack my books almost blindly, so that the eye does not stop and the mind does not all of a sudden decide that this particular book is the one I should be reading right now, only to repeat the same sequence with the next book. I pack too quickly and spend the next two weeks staring at columns of identical boxes, forgetting about what’s inside.

As I unpack, I am crippled by being unable to decide which genre goes where. For the first time in my life there are too many bookshelves and not enough books. I joke to a coworker that it’s only a matter of time. I have built-in bookshelves that require a ladder to reach the top level. I feel like Giles when I do that.

I get out all the fiction from A to G, but then I find that one stray Louise Erdrich and have to shift everything all over again. And then there is a gap. Where did H-L go? In some box that was shoved under five other boxes, of course. It does not help that past me decided not to label most boxes. One box is labeled helpfully with just ‘books’. Thanks, past me.

I have a bag of ARCs I didn’t want to move and just shoved them under my desk at work. I don’t even remember what’s in there. I guess I’ll find out when I bring them home today.

I can finally start reading again.


Writing as necessity

Scattered reading time these days, mostly due to the fact that my brain decided it would rather spend time writing. It is obviously bored with whatever life I have now and thinks we could do better. You go, brain. Living the creative life for the first time in years. Mind you, nothing published has come out of it yet, but I keep telling myself that submitting is an enormously big deal and most people don’t even get to that.

Apart from filling a creative void in my life, writing is one of the few things I need to do to prevent myself from becoming an unpleasant human being (others are reading and running). Writing is both so emotionally exhausting and so necessary. Despite this new Hamilton-esque almost-graphomania, writing is hard and does not make my brain go into the ‘flow‘ mode easily. It takes a while for me to get there, by which time, you guessed it, I am emotionally exhausted and ready to give up. Yet even this exhaustion is not altogether terrible, because there are parts of me I want to exhaust. There are parts of my brain that I want to wear down so that they don’t wake up at four o’clock in the morning and start telling me terrible things. I am temporarily out of commission running-wise, so scribbling is now the primary type of amateur therapy.

redpartsI am hoping to get reading back on track with Maggie Nelson’s The Red Parts, which is a peculiar mix of memoir, true crime, and personal essay. I did not think this book was going to be my cup of tea at all, but Maggie Nelson is so good at self-examination, observation, and putting it all into beautiful words, that anything she writes is hard to put down. The Red Parts is about a reopening of a 35 year-old murder of Nelson’s aunt, an occurrence that plunged her family into grief anew. She documents months in the courtroom as the case is reexamined, during which time she conducts an examination of her own, of her family and how it was affected by this terrible and up until now unsolved tragedy. I love writers who write in the liminal areas, whose books give catalogers nightmares, because that is how my mind works as well. I loved both Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Argonauts as well, although for personal reasons the latter affected me much more deeply than the former. Start with Argonauts if you have never read her non-fiction, but be prepared to find yourself seeking out everything she has ever written, including books you thought were not your cup at all.

Diary, revised version

We are momentarily back to winter here in our nation’s capital, with adorable little snow but also abominably cold wind. I would love to venture out to Capitol Hill Books for their second-Saturday wine and cheese shenanigans, but only if the district magically extends metro service right into my room. So at the moment I am on the couch with a blanket, writing about north sea and whales.

Speaking of writing, I have files in my Google docs I call ‘writingdumps’. They each comprise a month. They are places to write random thoughts, from how I feel about some book I’ve just read to gender woes to whether the medical insurance jumping hoops will be the death of me. They are essentially a diary that I could never successfully keep until I could type it.

I read a couple of blogs whose owners update every day or nearly every day. If I attempted to do this, would anyone read my everyday notes? I doubt there are enough people who’d read my daily weirdness, but I also wonder how my blogging would change if I did it every day. Would it devolve into weather notes and menu listings, or would I start doing something strange yet cool like writing a poem every day? Who knows. It seems like an interesting experiment, but to be honest, I don’t think you need to worry about getting my daily blueness-of-sky updates in your feed any time soon.

In reading news, I have an early copy of Kat Howard’s first novel called Roses and Rot, and you should get ready to be extremely excited about it when it comes out in May. In the meantime, go read her short fiction because it is very, very good. I won’t say much more about the novel because I have not finished it yet (and there’s still a ways to go till it’s out), but I’m loving it so far.


Writing discipline and winter woes

It’s amazing how much of a difference discipline makes. If I write every day, I feel like I can write. If I skip a couple of days, I feel irritated and discouraged and completely depressed. It doesn’t have to be a lot of daily writing. In fact, I realized a sad fact about myself that I cannot produce pages upon pages of words a day. I write what is essentially the near-perfect draft, but it wrings me dry.

I have these lofty aspirations of sitting down and really banging out some story in one sitting, or making like fifty drawings in one stretch, but the truth is that the end result is probably going to be me making a sketch of something vague or writing 500 words and then feeling like my brain has been emptied.

Lofty aspirations are way too lofty, it seems.

I’ve always thought of myself as a morning person, but these days I can barely get out of bed. The idea of having some kind of work schedule is irritating because it is largely guided by other concerns rather than my own self. I am planning on taking a few days after Christmas off no matter what my traveling plans end up being. I need to not do what I do every day for at least a week.

This has not been about books so far, so for the sake of everyone who reads this blog because of books, let me mention a couple of latest YA reads: Sara Jaffe’s Dryland and Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’. Both are pretty good, although Dryland did not quite stay with me as much as Dumplin’ did. Jaffe made an interesting choice of not using quotes for any of the dialogue, and while it seems like a purely stylistic issue, it does give the narrative a more personal, diary-like feel. Dryland might be just one of many coming out stories, but the thing with coming out stories is that one cannot really have too many. Coming out still happens and is still important and is largely uncomfortable and painful for a lot of people.

Funny how I spent more time talking about the book that didn’t stay with me than about the one that did. Let me just say that everyone should go read Dumplin’. That book is everything that is right with YA these days.

I’ve spent the last few days listening to first opera and then Renaissance (William Byrd etc.) music. I think it did something to my brain. I’m going to go read some near-future thriller to bring me into the present time.

Return of a blogger

Once upon a time, this was a functioning blog. But, like most blogs, it didn’t endure. This was partly because I lost interest in many everyday things, including blogging. Partly it was because my laptop died and I’m only now getting around to replacing it.

Or maybe it was because this blog was mostly about genre, and I experienced what I call ‘genre fatigue’. I was uninterested in reading enough sci-fi and fantasy to produce meaningful content.

I realize now that I never really intended it to be purely a genre blog. I mean, look at the title. There’s ‘bending’ right in there. I wanted it to be about multiplicity of genre, within genre, beyond genre. Trans-genre, if you will.

And so I am tentatively resuming writing here, if only for myself. There will probably be fewer straight-out book reviews and more thoughts on reading and books in general, plus posts looking at a slew of books I’m reading at any given moment. There will probably be a wider range of book-related topics depending on my interests/current social climate/bookselling duties. It will be a better fit for my five-books-at-a-time self and hopefully a better fit for any readers out there.