Culture Consumption: October 2020

Hi, lovelies. Coming in a little late this month, here are the books, television, games, and podcasts I consumed.

Books

Catrachos, poems by Roy G. GuzmánI read two fantastic poetry books this month. The first was Catrachos by Roy G. Guzmán, whose work always makes me feel awash in rich, vibrant language. Described as being “part immigration narrative, part elegy, and part queer coming-of-age story,” this stunning book blends pop culture and humor with cultural experience to provide a powerful and riveting collection of poems. I recently interviewed Guzmán about their new book, which will appear on the New Books in Poetry podcast soon.

Sarah J. Sloat’s Hotel Almighty is a gorgeous collection of erasure poetry, using the pages of Stephen King’s Misery.  Each of the pages combines evocative poetry with the visual treat of vibrant collage art. Some examples of her can be found at Tupelo Quarterly.

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Culture Consumption: August 2020

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

No Longer Human by Junji ItoWhat should be no surprise to anyone who reads my blog at this point is that I love Junji Ito — a writer and artist who continues to prove himself a master of the horror genre with his graphic novel, No Longer Human. The story follows the life of a man who feels disconnected with humanity to the extent that he finds it incredibly anxiety inducing — and at times outright horrifying — to interact with other people My full review is here. (I’ve also borrowed two more Ito books from my brother, so expect more gushing in the near future.)

After watching Hellier, I’ve taken an interest in the idea of synchronicity (or meaningful coincidences), which is often discussed on the show. Carl Jungthe concept in his paper, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connection. The paper presents his theories on synchronicity, which he ties to psychology, psychic phenomena, quantum mechanics, and and the collective unconscious. For Jung, synchronicity was a defining principle of nature as valid as space, time, and causality. It makes for a fascinating read, even if some of the technical aspects of the paper were a bit hard to follow. I found it so interesting that I put together a lengthy post, sharing my thoughts on the book and the idea of synchronicity.

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Culture Consumption: May 2020

Hi, lovelies. Coming in rather late this month, because I’ve been rather overwhelmed. Here’s my month in books, movies, television, games, and podcasts.

Books

house of whispers by nalo hopkinsonNeil Gaiman’s The Sandman is one of my all-time favorite comic book series. When I learned that the characters would live on through stories told by different authors, I was both excited and wary. However, with Nalo Hopkinson (who is known for putting a Carribean spin on fantasy and horror), I knew the story would be in good hands. Her take, The House of Whispers is phenomenal, with gorgeous illustrations by DOMO.

When the Dreaming begins to be disturbed by unusual occurrences, it unleashes strange affects upon the worlds — releasing a strange magical pandemic that makes people to believe they are already dead and causing  Erzulie, a deity of voodoo mythology, to crash into the Dreaming. I love all of the characters, all the additions to the world building. I fully appreciate this new perspective. I’ve only read volume one, but I haven’t been this excited about a comic series in a long time. I can’t wait to dive into more.

Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching is the story of the Silver family and their house in Dover, England, which has converted to a bed-and-breakfast. The house, however, has a will of its own — and though it loves the women of the family, it has a malice for strangers.

The youngest daughter, Miranda Silver, developed a pica as a child, an eating disorder that causes her to consume non-edible substances, such as chalk and plaster. After experiencing an intense episode as a teenager, she returns home after a period in the hospital, hopeful of pulling her life together.

Oyeyemi tells the story from multiple points of view, with writing style is rich and lyrical, evoking complex emotional structures of family and home.

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Culture Consumption: April 2020

Hi, lovelies. Here’s my month in books, movies, games, and podcasts.

Books

Shutter by Courney AlamedaAs I mentioned last month, I was struggling a bit with reading — until I switched away from the book I was struggling with to read Shutter by Courtney Alameda instead. It was the perfect choice.

Shutter is a a fun YA horror novel about teenagers battling ghosts and other evils. Micheline Helsing is one of the last descendants of Van Helsing, who uses a combination of guns, knives, and a uniquely rigged camera to destroy monsters and exorcise ghosts. When she takes on ghost hunt that turns out to be too much to manager, Micheline and her crew of fellow junior agents find themselves all cursed, fated to die if they can’t find a way to break the soul chains that bind them.

The characters are smart and skilled, and yet still young enough to make mistakes. One of the things I appreciate was how the story handled its elements of romance. The affection between Micheline and Ryder comes from years of growing up together and a sense of earned-respect from working side-by-side in the heat of battle. It feels natural and genuine that they would fall for each other — the only obstacle being Micheline’s father and his expectations for the kind of person she should marry in order to continue to the Helsing line. It makes sense in the context of the world in which they exist and feels natural.

On the whole, this book features a nice blend of action, horror, and teenage romance — making for a fun, quick paced read and the perfect escape.

Sealed by Naomi BoothAnother great (though very different) read this month was Sealed by Naomi Booth. Set in rural Australia, Sealed is a psychological body horror novel. Much of the tension is driven by the anxieties of the main character Alice, who is heavily pregnant and her fears about rumors of a bizarre disease that seals people within their own skins. When her obsession with the disease nearly threatens her government job, Alice and her boyfriend Pete (who I find annoying) travel to the countryside in search of solitude and safety. But Alice still sees signs of the disease all around her and she increasingly questions whether they made the right decision.

This book is brilliant in the way it slowly builds uncertainty and tension. The world Alice and Pete inhabits is frightening even without the threat of this new disease, between concerns of poverty, privately controlled social services, and environmental pollution. However, the overshadowing threat of this skin-sealing disease and Alice’s distrust what lies beneath the skin of her pregnant belly amps everything up. It’s a brilliant novel, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from Booth.

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Six Books I Love to Reread

Apparently, today is National Book Lovers Day — and since I love books — I thought I’d share six books I love to reread over and over again. These are books that connect with me on a deep level. I’ve read each of these books at least twice, and I will likely reread them again in the future.

In fact, just talking about these books makes me want to pick them up again.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni MorrisonBeloved is a book about being haunted — at first Seth is haunted by the memories of being a slave and later by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless. This is a stunningly beautiful book, the culture, the characters, and the layers richly textured. I’ve read Beloved three times and each time I’ve been swept away by the poetry and power of Morrison’s story. Every reading offers new discoveries, new linguistic treasures.

It broke my heart this week to learn of Morrison’s passing. If you want some profound words in honor of her life and work, here are eight black female writers and thinkers on Toni Morrison’s legacy. For my small part, I’ll be rereading Beloved for the fourth time and seeking out some of her work that I haven’t had a chance to read yet.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune by Frank HerbertDune is a political science fiction book. The Atreides family is sent off to take control Dune, a desert planet and the only place where the spice Melange can be produced — the most valuable substance in the universe. The story is fraught with intrigue, with scheming and betrayal coming from every angle,

Story time: Years ago, I picked up Dune on the same day I was heading over to a friend’s house for a sleepover (because I always bring books with me on the chance I need something to occupy an empty moment). When my friend went off to tell her mother something, I picked up the book intending to read a page or two. . . . Then my friend returned.

What should have happened is me putting down the books so that I could hang out the way a socially aware, polite person would do. What actually happened is I spent the rest of the night reading — pausing only long enough to eat, go to the bathroom, and sleep for an hour or two. I finished the book early the next morning, very grateful that she was still willing to be my friend.

When I reread the book again years later, pretty much the same thing happened (except I had adult responsibilities to attend with).

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E ButlerI’ve long been a fan of apocalyptic dystopian tales, with Parable of the Sower being at the top of my list as one of the best. Set in a California ravaged by poverty, drugs, and chronic water shortages, the story follows Lauren Olamina as she escapes from her home after it burns down. Trying to forge her own path through a dangerous world, she develops a belief system built on the practicalities of the world around her, which she shares with the fellow refugees she gathers around her — all making their way North in pursuit of some somewhere safe to call home.

Parable of the Sower moves me each of the times I’ve read it. In a world full of desperate people, fighting brutally for survival, I love the way these characters come together and care for each other. I also find the Lauren’s parables, presented at the beginning of the chapters, fascinating and beautiful.

Her by Cherry Muhanji

Her by Cherry MuhanjiI discovered Her during a summer-long internship at the publisher Aunt Lute Books. The novel, which won the Lamda Literary Award in 1991, explores the relationships between a community of black women in 1950s Detroit. The language is liquid in its beauty, irreverently illuminating the streets of the Motor City, contrasting the hard work of the automotive plants with the rowdy bars leaking jazz out into the night.

My fellow interns and I read Her twice over while helping to helping to copy edit the book for its second edition — and I’ve since read it a third time for the sheer pleasure of the language and the story it enfolds. I’m so honored to have taken any tiny part in working with Aunt Lute on this book.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

The Martian Chronicles by Ray BradburyThe Martian Chronicles is a novel comprised of interconnected short stories that imagine humanity’s repeated attempts and failures to colonize Mars, from the first visitors to the cities of humans that sprouted over the planet. The stories range in tone and styles, with some being thrilling, others being humorous or haunting.

On the whole, I’ve read The Martian Chronicles twice — but the individual stories, I’ve read many times over. “There Will Come Soft Rains” — one of my all-time favorite short stories and powerful in its standalone compact form — I’ve probably read a dozen times. Below is a recording of Leonard Nimoy reading the story:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenOne of the things my sister and I have in common is our love for Jane Austen, especially her well-loved novel, Pride and Prejudice. We have both over the years read this novel several times over (although I’m certain that my sister has me wildly beat on that count). We love this story of the Bennet sisters and their search for marriage and love, with all its ever present wit and misunderstandings and prideful mistakes. Reading Pride and Prejudice is a soothing pleasure and delight each time I pick it up. In the end, the characters we love come together and find happiness.

Are there any books that you’ve read more than once? Which are your favorites?


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