Culture Consumption: December 2019

Hi, lovelies. Let’s wrap up the year! I’ll be posting my favorite books and movies from the year in subsequent posts. For now, here’s my December in books, movies, games, and podcasts.

Books

Despite all the time I had off, it was a slow reading month for me (mostly due to my gaming experiences, discussed later).

Wilder Girls by Rory PowerWilder Girls by Rory Power was a brilliant book to end the year on. When a strange disease called the Tox strikes an island, the Raxter School for Girls becomes quarantined. The disease twists the people who are infected with it, the young women’s bodies distorting into strange new forms — silver scales, seeping wounds, glowing hair, and other odd developments appearing on the girl’s bodies — which is sometimes followed by death. But the disease itself is not the only terrifying thing on the island, because the infection has spread to the plant and animal life surrounding the school, and the girls have to stand guard against what hungers beyond the fences. The central story is focused on Hetty and her friends Byatt and Reese, who have banded together in the midst of the horrors they face in order to survive — even if it means breaking the rules that sustained them.

Wilder Girls is a fantastically told story of body horror, offset by a claustrophobic sense of isolation. These girls are trapped and hungering, no less than the creatures outside their gate. Practically alone in the absence of adult supervision (only two teachers have survived), the girls develop their own cultural rules for survival in the face of scarce resources and painful bodily changes. These relationships between smart young women with their own passions, complexities, and agency are what drive this story. Loved this book.

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Culture Consumption: November 2019

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

Books

I can’t believe I only got through two books this month (I started several that I haven’t finished). Anyway, here we go.

In Couch by Benjamin Parzybok, three roommates and slackers — Thom, Erik, and Tree — find themselves out of a place to live, when the couple in the apartment above manages to break their waterbed, flooding their apartment. When their landlord asks them to carry the old couch in their apartment to the thrift store. Unbeknownst to them, this simple act triggers an epic journey. The premise for this book was so quirky and strange that I didn’t quite know what to expect from Couch. This book is so beautifully grounded and is abundant with heart. These guys get put through the ringer and they grow and learn and become better humans. I was honestly moved and awed by this book. Wish I had read it sooner.

My second finished book of the month was Mary Shelley Makes a Monster by Octavia Cade (Aqueduct Press). This collection of poetry is brilliant from beginning to the end. The collection begins with Mary Shelley crafting a monster out of the remnants of her own heartbreak and sorrow. Left alone after her death, the monster goes looking for someone to fill her place, visiting other female authors through the decades — Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Octavia Butler, and others. It’s a beautifully moving examination of the eccentricities of authors and how monsters reflect us in the world. I got to have a fantastic conversation with Cade (barring some technical difficulties) about her work for the New Books in Poetry podcast, and hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you soon.

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New Books in Poetry: BRUTE by Emily Skaja

BRUTE by Emily Skaja

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up. I had a delightful conversation with Emily Skaja about her new book BRUTE (Graywolf Press, 2019).

Winner of the Walt Whitman Award, Emily Skaja’s BRUTE (Graywolf Press, 2019) is a stunning collection of poetry that navigates the dark corridors of trauma found at the end of an abusive relationship. “Everyone if we’re going to talk about love please we have to talk about violence,” writes Skaja in the poem “remarkable the litter of birds.” She indeed talks about the intersections of both love and violence, evoking a range of emotional experiences ranging from sorrow and loss to rage, guilt, hope, self discovery, and reinvention. These poems reflect the present moment — ripe with cell phones, social media, and technologies that shift the way humans interact with each other — while maintaining a mythic quality, with the speaker feeling like a character struggling to survive in a surreal fairytale world.

Skaja recommends: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, My Dark Vanessa by Kate Russel, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden, and Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine.

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.

You can join New Books in Poetry in a discussion of this episode on Shuffle by joining here.


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New Books in Poetry: The Gates of Never by Deborah L. Davitt

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which I get to speak with Deborah L. Davitt about her new book The Gates of Never (Finishing Line Press, 2019).

Drawing on the author’s deep knowledge of classical literature, Deborah L. Davitt’s book of poetry The Gates of Never explores the intersections of myth, science, and humanity through her beautifully accessible poems, reflecting a variety of forms and linguistic styles. These poems morph between being moving, irreverent, unsettling, and erotic — offering up a richly textured collection of work.

“He writes me upside down
and backwards, so that
I hardly know myself yet,
but my hundred newly-open mouths
whisper secret meanings,
and offer atramentum kisses;

he soothes my wounds with
copper vitriol, making the words
holy and incorruptible,
incapable of fading into sepia;

yet as he kisses me, our tongues meeting,
the words spark white-fire
under my skin, the runes writhing
into new configurations”

– from “Testament”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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Culture Consumption: July 2019

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

Books

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira GrantIf you’ve been longing for a book about murderous mermaids, then Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant is the book for you.

Seven years after the tragedy that befell the scientists, actors, and crew of Atargatis when they were traveling  the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” on mermaids (events that were phenomenally portrayed in Rolling in the Deep), a new team has been put together to find answers. Although they are geared up more thoroughly this time, none of them are fully prepared for the dangers they find.

There were moments in this book that legitimately terrified me, moments where I was to scared to keep reading, where I shouted at the characters as if I was watching a horror movie, where I couldn’t put the book down. Into the Drowing Deep is an altogether phenomenal science fiction horror story, one that makes me even more uncertain of the ocean than I already was.

I also finished up with Song of Susannah, book six of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King and wrote a somewhat lengthy post about my thoughts on the book. The series continues to be excellent and I’m looking forward to wrapping things up.
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