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The reading last night was so good that I feel protective of it, almost as if I don't want to write about it, but only to keep trying to let the work I heard soak into me. These were both works in progress, and both taut with feeling and meaning.

Judy Frank read from Noah’s Ark -- which is a novel about a gay couple in the U.S. who take in two Jewish children orphaned by a café bombing in Jerusalem -- and the scene she read was an evening in a newly grieving family, with a six-year-old girl who cries all night. There is such awkwardness and tenderness with the density of grief in those rooms, which comes with explicit acknowledgment of Palestinian children feeling the same loss, the same grief. I can't do justice to the clarity of the domestic detail that gives these relationships such life, but it does, it feels like wild luck to get to hear from a book like this while it's being made.

Alex Chee read Queen of the Night -- set in the 19th century, an opera singer pledges to forgo speaking in order to communicate only through song. It was an utterly beautiful evocation of hunger and song, what it is to give voice, what it is to be silenced. I can't wait to read it.

I started shaking while Judy was reading. I had to rush out after it ended to catch a bus (the next one wasn't for almost an hour), and found myself on the bus, still trembling, more full of feeling than I knew -- and I knew that I was feeling a lot. Once we got to UMass, a sophomore (she said) and a senior took the seat behind me -- a straight man asking a lesbian about her new affair with a still married other woman her own age (to me, now, they all seemed impossibly young) -- the women were a week into the relationship, both falling in love. His questions were specific and fairly relentless, and she answered every one.

Probably because I had just come from an extraordinary reading, and readings like that really do change how I see and feel and experience everything (at least for a while, and, me, I think that lingers), their conversation seemed like a deep rite.
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"Discovery" of the rest of the world is a matter of perspective, but it's a pretty good correction to the eurocentric world view that I was raised with to learn more about the (contested, of course) evidence for Chinese ships circumnavigating the globe and landing on this continent in 1421.
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Onions sauteing in the iron skillet. Hot peppers and broccoli from the late garden (always have to testify: it's not my garden, not my work), eggs from the hens (all red-feathered and named Rosie). Reading a beautiful, lyrical, morally complicated, frightening, fire-water-paper-boys-men-singing-foxes-damage-death-sex-missing-sisters mysterious book. Terrible abuse happens in the world of this book, and terrible consequences, and, also, so much beauty. Not quite done, and there's going to be sun only to noon or so (or is it three?).

Forgot to say, it's: Edinburgh by Alexander Chee
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I'm ready to admit it. I'm in love with a bookstore. Even though the bus I was on broke down and I was stuck next to route 9 for an extra half hour, and then had to wait on a bench for another hour or so to get home at ten from a seven o'clock reading, I don't care. Because that is one welcoming bookstore with a fabulous selection -- plenty of fiction! plenty of political edge! -- and they have a bunch of just great events. Tonight, there were leaves blown in and scattered on the floor, how endearing is that? It's a workers' coop. They will personally deliver books to Northampton! It's a fabulous store.

And tonight...  )


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May 2009



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