Awkward

Feb. 27th, 2008 05:11 pm
susanstinson: (Default)
I just got the winter issue of Lambda Book Report, which includes a review I wrote of Awkward by Mary Cappello. I'm posting it here because I want more people to know about this wonderful book.

Awkward: A Detour
Mary Cappello
Bellevue Literary Press/16.95.
ISBN-13 978-1-934137-01-7/NONFICTION


I don't like the sensation – who does? – of what might be the most fundamental awkwardness on earth: the gap between the sheer fact of being alive and not knowing how to live; the space between life as a given and life as a series of acts of will; the gulf between biology and mind.

Awkward is brilliantly unembarrassed about human limitation. It is a book-length lyric essay on the gifts of awkwardness that advances in related sections with titles such as untoward, maladjusted, and incongruous.

Here is the opening of the book:

One day I read in order to know things, another day, to know the truth. I read to be aided in my lust -- to be seduced to feel, to be lured out. I read not to be alone. I want for my day to be split open by a tidal wave of strange imaginings when I read, for something, anything, to break through. A book gains a place on my shelf for the way it forces me to remember. A sentence becomes locked in my heart for the way it helps me to forget. I admit to enjoying that "good feeling" of being in the midst of something higher and better when I read, but lately I long for a literature that can throw a wrench into the works.

Any passionate reader might recognize such contradictory lures and raptures. Cappello gives plenty of pleasure in language filled with skilled, twitchy play, but she's serious about that wrench. She offers up stories and observations from her life as a writer, a critic, a daughter, an aunt, a traveler and a citizen of a nation that wields its power with too little pause for uncertainty or haltingness.

Cappello delineates the awkwardness of immigrants, spanning languages and cultures. She explores this within documents and memories from her Italian American family, and in travels to Italy and Russia, where the lines between receiving a beautiful welcome and becoming (or experiencing) a burden shift rapidly.

In writing about her "favorite awkward film," Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Angst essen Seele auf ("Fear Eat Soul"), Cappello observes, "Awkwardness happens when something usually kept out is let in." Fassbinder finds in the films of Douglas Sirk what Cappello finds in awkwardness: "a place where alternative modes of feeling are possible."

There are individual lines or passages in the book where a reader may wish for the clarity of more conventional syntax. But the book as a whole functions in much the same way that the gaps in Emily Dickinson's handwritten poems do:

Those deliberate spaces make for a poetry of stillness and yawp, where "yawp" falls somewhere between a yawn and a yell. Each pause tempts interruption by all that language otherwise bars.

In Awkward, Cappello has been intently about the work of tempting interruption by all that language otherwise bars. There are tremendous gains in experience and meaning to be found by lingering in these gaps.

Eclipse

Feb. 21st, 2008 06:56 pm
susanstinson: (Default)
Wrote this last night, but had trouble posting, so went back to watching the eclipse:

I just came in from watching the eclipse -- it's still going on! It's got hours to go! -- and took off my grey hooded jacket with the spider embroidered on it for Spider in a Tree, my long sleeve black sweatshirt, the brown button up flannely shirt with sateen trim that I picked up at the Fat Girl Flea and which turned out to be very cozy and warm, so I'm down to my short sleeve black sweatshirt and my Bookwoman t-shirt with the picture of the red-cheeked, stiff-haired woman reading surrounded by books, signed by the illustrator, Kiki, c '89 (I do, I hoard old, old clothes. Also, I wear them, and enjoy the disjunction and continuity, both.) I won't even go into what all else I had on, but I was pretty cozy standing outside, peering through the little cut out in my facehat at the early part of the eclipse. At first, actually, I thought I would be too cold to stay long, but then I just settled in to a spot in an empty parking space just outside the wooden stairs to my apartment, and watched as the shadow slowly eased over the brightness, and the red part of the moon in the umbra was taking on a hard edge without the blur of shine, and the slowness of it was its own great, cold gift. I started out to type this with my coat and everything still on, but first I went into my bedroom, and remembered that I can watch the rest through the window from my bed. And so, I will. Now.
susanstinson: (Default)
I'm reviewing a brilliant book of lyric essays: Awkward: a detour, by Mary Cappello. This is how it starts:

One day I read in order to know things, another day, to know the truth. I read to be aided in my lust -- to be seduced to feel, to be lured out. I read not to be alone. I want for my day to be split open by a tidal wave of strange imaginings when I read, for something, anything, to break through. A book gains a place on my shelf for the way it forces me to remember. A sentence becomes locked in my heart for the way it helps me to forget. I admit to enjoying that "good feeling" of being in the midst of something higher and better when I read, but lately I long for a literature that can throw a wrench into the works.

She's got a bunch of charming videos on YouTube here. I liked the Awkward challenge...
susanstinson: (Default)
I bought Fun Home this morning at Broadside Books in Northampton, where Alison will be speaking June 24. I’m going to be in Cleveland at a conference, but I marked it on my calendar, anyway (that’s how good I think it'll be). She’s traveling a lot, and the whole tour schedule is here.

This is what I thought of the book.  )
susanstinson: (Default)
Wow.

I just got the latest issue of Lambda Book Report. (It's Vol. 13.04-05). The cover story is "Critical Mass: A New Generation of Gay Poets."

And on the upper left cover, there's a little picture that my friend James took of me in front of the radiator in his old apartment. The issue includes an article I wrote about fat, queer women writers: "No Longer Vigilant: Fat and the Word." The phrase "no longer vigilant" comes from a moving and powerful essay that [livejournal.com profile] amarama wrote as an lj entry, which is also quoted in the piece. Lots of other writers and artists with ljs are mentioned: [livejournal.com profile] technodyke, [livejournal.com profile] charlottecooper, [livejournal.com profile] misia, [livejournal.com profile] fattest, and there are photos of me, [livejournal.com profile] amarama (sticking doll arms into cake! credit: [livejournal.com profile] gordonzola), [livejournal.com profile] charlottecooper, and [livejournal.com profile] fattest too. There's also a bit of discussion of lj as a phenom.

The article opens with a description of reading at last year's Nolose and the way I experienced the reading that followed at Giovanni's Room in Philadelphia. (waves at [livejournal.com profile] ericaceous, [livejournal.com profile] plasticsturgeon and [livejournal.com profile] kayisgay.)

There's a copy of "Drink," a short story I wrote. I experimented with gender a little in the process of this piece, but ended up here with "she," which is how I originally wrote it. It's dedicated for everyone of every gender who has ever gotten even a little wet at a Nolose conference.

Then, on page 35, there's "Mortal Softness," which I love as a title for a very warm review of Venus of Chalk by Elisabeth Flynn, whose bio says she lives and writes in Philadelphia.

And on the next page, there's a review I wrote of the wonderful Life Mask, by Emma Donoghue, which is also a finalist for a Lambda Literary award.

There's a review of [livejournal.com profile] final_girl's most recent book of poetry in there, too.

Again, wow. If ever I should start complaining about having my work ignored by the queer press, would somebody please remind me of this? And wow!! A whole range of fat writers are a bit more visible on the queer literary landscape. And I got a chance to say publicly that Charlotte Cooper's site includes "some of the most witty, observant and passionate travel writing I've seen." Yay.

Check it out!
susanstinson: (Default)
I wrote a review of this ambitious book of ghost stories this winter, and it's just been put up at Strange Horizons.
susanstinson: (Default)
I'm reading exquisite ghost stories: The Two Sams, by Glen Hirschberg. Very scary, technically brilliant and morally gripping. I'm going to review them for Strange Horizons.com

I think it's a very bad idea for the US government to run commercials that show children sticking a fat belly buried in the sand with a stick. The fact that it's supposed to be a detached belly that someone "lost" walking on the beach does not change the damage that kind of imagery does to people's relationships with their own, various, warm, living bellies. It's a macabre, nasty image supported by skewed statistics and presented, as so often, in the name of health. Makes me feel as if I were breathing sand.

Rave Review

Oct. 3rd, 2003 08:35 am
susanstinson: (Default)
What Love Is
Moon Creek Road: collected stories by Elana Dykewomon,

(Spinsters Ink Books, Denver, Colorado: 2003. 229 pages. $14)

This review will appear in The Journal of Lesbian Studies in 2005, but I wanted folks to be able to read it now.


The stories in Moon Creek Road are full of light, deft strokes of language as apparently casual and irrevocably thrilling as the way some brilliant young women’s arms might brush against each other as one teaches the other to play the piano. Panoramic ambitions are common here, most often appearing as memories whose grip on the present is unclear, made lush with the pleasures of women enjoying each other’s seriousness and recounted with a delicious mix of wryness and devotion. The depth and resonance of this work rests on two things: Dykewomon’s subversive explorations of the nature of love, and her willingness to unobtrusively press against a moment until it yields all of its terror and delight.

Read more... )
susanstinson: (Default)
Ooo, and, another first, a review that I wrote of Nymph by Francesca Lia Block has just been posted at Strange Horizons, a weekly magazine of speculative fiction on the web.

To find it, just look down the page for this and click on the link:

REVIEWS: Sexual Transformations: Nymph by Francesca Lia Block, by Susan Stinson
The stories in Nymph don't take a reader to another, distant world, but deeper into the unspoken places of this one. Each story is small and radiant, with delicate, precise language and spare settings that open into hidden recesses of consciousness and sexuality.

These stories mostly represent sexuality very different than my own, but I loved them for their magic realism and for how beautifully they are written. Evidently Francesca Lia Block is very well-known for her Weetzie Bat books, but I had never heard of her before I read Nymph because her publisher, Circlet Press, sent me a review copy.

And it's great to be published in a magazine of speculative fiction, since I've been drawn to those genres lately.

Profile

susanstinson: (Default)
susanstinson

May 2009

S M T W T F S
     12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31      

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags