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What We’re Reading: October Round-Up

2016 October 6
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What We're ReadingHello, dear readers. Today, we are trying something new. Based off of our audience survey feedback from this most recent summer, we are changing some columns. What We’re Reading will now publish two times a month (instead of four). The first Thursday of the month (today) will be a round-up style of short reviews or previews of books the Hazel & Wren staff are reading or looking forward to. The third Thursday of the month will be a more in-depth review of a single book, as we’ve been doing previously. With the extra space from fewer/more concentrated reviews, we hope to bring in more conversations between writers, editors, publishers, activists, and so much more to The Writing Life and beyond. We welcome feedback (email us here) at any time; and hope you enjoy our column refresh!

ley-linesLey Lines: The Letting Go by Kevin Czap (Czap Books/Grindstone Comics 2016)
Reviewed by Aaron

The Letting Go begins, “Having found fear and control to be the core principles guiding my life, and having no use for masculinity, I discard them both.” What follows is a short but deep meditation on learning to trust and to feel. Czap’s work drips between mundane scenes realistically portrayed (someone playing a guitar or reading a book) to smeary layers of vague abstraction (two symbolic eyes beneath a hair-tangle of cords leading to a cloud with boots on). It’s the closest that comics have felt like poetry for me: a seemingly senseless image slowly accreting sense by repetition, variation, and juxtaposition. Water, tears, clouds, and a pervasive feeling of dampness end in an apocalypse of moisture: someone walks through a deluge of rain and interiority. Is the walker dissolving, or are they finally giving up on fear and control?

The book is a sad, lo-fi B-side to Czap’s earlier Fütchi Perf, and The Letting Go‘s blue-soaked pages are a record of the emotional work someone might have to do to end up in the thumping sherbet wonderland of the Fütchi.


greater_music-front_frame_largeA Greater Music by Bae Suah, translated by Deborah Smith (Open Letter, October 11, 2016)
Previewed by Wren

Bae Suah is a well-known Korean author with much acclaim in the literary world. Translator Deborah Smith takes on her novel A Greater Music, which follows a Korean writer in Berlin. Memories weave from present-day to the narrator’s time in Berlin three years prior, and between her current on-and-off-again boyfriend Joachim, and her past relationship with a German woman, M. Music, language, and the city itself serve as the backdrop through which the narrator processes these (sometimes tragic) memories and experiences. As a person who is all about context, this sounds like a non-linear narrative that I could really dig into. It’s a personal approach to a narrator, diving deep into her consciousness.

This book officially releases next week; perhaps you’ll join me in jumping into this richly complex narrative?


thrillmeThrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf Press, October 19, 2016)
Previewed by Wren

Now, I’m not a fiction writer myself, but I am still excited about the pending release of this craft-focused book on fiction. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Percy read at local events (that voice!), and am intrigued by his spectrum of work. He also had an interesting conversation with Lidia Yuknavitch on writing craft at the Loft last spring that sparked a lot of thought. All this to say that I can’t wait to hear more about what he has to say on the craft of writing fiction. Through this book of essays, Percy asserts that literary and genre fiction don’t have to be mutually exclusive. He brings his detective’s magnifying glass to character development, plot, suspense-building, and so many other craft elements to examine how contemporary authors are blending these genres to create spell-binding work.

Psst: if you’re local, Percy will be having a launch reading for this book at the Loft on October 26.