Nice Things by James Franco
Nice Things by James Franco is filled with chaotic, yet surprising moments that take readers through a maze of lyrical and narrative twists and bends. Along the way, you transport us through time, alternate us between third and first person, and take us through the stream-of-consciousness, existential processes of an artist.
Be With Me Always by Randon Billings Noble
Reading your book, Be With Me Always, I am reminded again of Sherlock Holmes in your approach to every haunting, and every visitation of your body by a ghost. Holmes makes an appearance in your list essay, “69 Inches of Thread, Scarlet and Otherwise”, but I noticed the similarities before this. When you ripped through Vivaldi arpeggios without realizing you had an audience, I pictured Holmes playing his Stradivarius. In “A Pill to Cure Love” you dissect the way a body metabolizes a love affair, and I pictured Holmes performing extractions in his home chemistry lab. Holmes’ devotion to justice, I liken to your hunger for understanding your ghosts. As Holmes hunts for criminals, driven by empathy and a lust for intellectual challenge, so too, do you hunt for your ghosts.
When reading, Still Come Home, I was in a mason jar of dust and oak and apricot. The novel was a self-contained entity of imagery and conflict that incited all the senses. Sweet to read yet there is a discomfort created within these pages, wounds that bleed out in lyrical prose and conflict. Discomfort in the good way. This is the kind of reading that can be absorbed in one sitting, because one can’t stop, but do, because the lines created need to be inhaled and exhaled.
The Good Girl is Always a Ghost by Anne Champion
But your book, The Good Girl is Always a Ghost, is the book I needed to know, not write. My therapist was right; that poetry was my avenue to moving forward, but she was wrong about the hierarchy of needs. I did not need to redeem men and then myself. I needed to redeem myself, then women, and connect us. That is what this book does. It feels as though it let me in on a secret that I had no idea I was keeping. A secret that “when women squealed / it was only at realizing they could save themselves.” How “a woman’s smile / can be a muzzle.” How “the finest thing a woman can wear is her untethering.”
Quite Mad by Sarah Fawn Montgomery
Another necessary part of your memoir was the way Excerpt text here
you illuminate female experiences with mental illness, using both personal narratives and research. “Women’s silence is learned. Since childhood I’ve been taught that working-class women—women like my grandmothers my mother, me—need to be tough and resilient. There is no time, no space for weakness, for emotion, for the indulgence of madness.” Many female narratives in general are marginalized, so one can imagine how the female narratives of mental illness and trauma are even more suppressed, yet in dire need of exposure. To start a dialogue about mental illness without mention of the female body and experience would be to not talk about it at all.
The Coolest Monsters by Megan Baxter
Thank you for your book, The Coolest Monsters. This debut essay collection is electric, a true page-turner. I read it in just a few days as I sat on a porch in Wyoming with a view of the Bighorn Mountains. These essays, all stitched together, awoke something in me, a certain nostalgia for lost childhood, mingled with a sharp reminder of real-life monsters and challenges. I also experienced a keen taste of love and its many faces. I appreciate how you leaned into writing about love and loss, particularly about romantic love, without layers of irony and coolness or even false humor the way many writers treat these subjects out of a fear of waxing cliché or sentimental. Your first person, present tense, lyrical style exudes a palpable urgency. These essays are alive and wriggling.
Sustainability: A Love Story by Nicole Walker
As a natural born worrier, it eased my anxious mind to know I was not alone in wondering what the future of our world is going to be. Despite the fact that I do not have children, a husband, or a permanent home to worry about, the questions and commentary you present in Sustainability: A Love Story echoed some of my deepest fears: are we going to last? How do we teach the younger generation about sustainability? How do we apologize to them for the damage we have done? Can any of the efforts we make somehow make a difference?
Brief Interviews With the Romantic Past by Kathryn Nuernberger
When I first opened “Brief Interviews with the Romantic Past”, the images of balloons carrying people through the skies made me think of a moment my mother and I shared in Kenya. Our lodge in the Masai Mara offered a hot air balloon safari, the chance to fly over the herds of zebras and wildebeests dancing the ballet of the Great Migration. But Mum was hesitant to be ballooned up into the sky, and so we chose to skip the opportunity, something that Mum came to regret as we watched the balloons taking off, carrying those braver than us to a forever memory.
Radiation King by Jason Gray
Dear Jason Gray,
I stand by the assertion that all poetry and religions are a cry in the dark towards the endless something that we can’t reach. Radiation King is a violent smash of the most basic parts of our being into that void of dark matter, of beginning and ending, of whatever next is. In the poem “THE VISIBLE SPECTRA”, you actually name this uncertain variable and complicate it: “The latest math finds ninety-five percent / Of the universe subluminous: dark matter, / Dark energy…….
Sweet: Volume 11
View From True North by Sara Henning
What strikes me early on in your book is how women take care of everyone—not just the innocent, not just other women or children, caught up in the web of men’s violence, but the men, too. The grandfather, the central figure in this book, is an abuser who ends up with dementia in his old age. His daughter, the speaker’s mother and a victim of her father’s rage, becomes a caretaker. “She holds him on his knees,/grits these words through her teeth: You’ll never/hit me again.” The speaker’s mother gets this much power, but still takes care of her father.
The Edge of Every Day by Marin Sardy
I worked in a mental health crisis unit for a short time last year. One of the things it taught me has been reiterated so thoughtfully in this book, The Edge of Everyday: everyone has their own reality. From person to person, the variations are usually only slight, but, on chance occasions, they vary so completely that the world is almost unrecognizable as the same one. This is usually defined as a mental disorder, in this book’s case, the mother has a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
This One Will Hurt You by Paul Crenshaw
It’s late Friday night. I’m in this Starbucks, one of only a few patrons left, and of course, Birdy’s cover of “Skinny Love” comes on. I don’t remember when I first heard it, but that piano and that voice send me spinning, swimming through memories. The sun’s set but the sky’s still an ombre of periwinkle into Stevia green into Easter yellow. The empty tables have me fidgeting for connection, for a recognizable face to appear.
The Skinned Bird by Chelsea Biondolillo
I must admit: the sight of a dead, mangled animal makes me queasy.
Growing up in Indiana, surrounded by acres of cornfields, living in what felt like the coyote hub of the Midwest, I saw my fair share of animals torn apart by predators. My German Shepherd enjoyed the hunt. My friends’ fathers were avid hunters, always elaborating on the process of draining their conquests, always debating my claims of, “But they have a family!”
A Certain Loneliness by Sandra Gail Lambert
The summer I moved to Florida, almost two years ago now, I called up my mother’s younger cousin, Kimber, to arrange a visit. We picked a date in late July or early August. I hadn’t seen Kimber, her husband, or her two daughters in probably ten years, when we all visited Disney together in 2007, so after driving two and a half hours up to Gainesville, we ate at local restaurants, watched movies in pajamas, and stayed up telling family stories. One particular event has become a running joke, a family legend: the visit to the La Chua Trail.
Educated, A Memoir by Tara Westover
For three months, I have started, struggled, then stopped writing this letter about your recently published memoir, Educated. It is easy to note your stunning prose, which is vivid, clear, and utterly captivating, and the remarkable ways with which you have rendered such difficult material regarding your family and unconventional journey to gaining an education, particularly your generosity, openness, a sustained metaphor, and painstaking honesty. It is harder, however, to put my finger on, then articulate, how deeply this book moved me, and why.
BOMB by Ashley Inguanta
I have tried to write poems about being gay. I have tried to write poems that make me feel more real, like I could really reach out and touch things the same way that someone completely comfortable with their sexuality could. Of course, words can’t do this for me, but, as a poet, replicating experience with words is the only way I know how to create. There always seems to be some distance between me and my own experience, unreachable by my own words. Your book BOMB, in its rising out of the ashes, a new creation story, has offered peace that no words had offered before.
One Size Fits None by Stephanie Anderson
I recall one of my teachers in my early education urging my classmates and I during a science lesson: “Take a look next time you drive. What is Indiana? Corn . . . and soybeans. Soybeans . . . and corn.” She began to give the words a musical rhythm and before long, the entire class was excitedly chanting along with her.
Daughter in Retrograde by Courtney Kerston
About this time last year, I sat cross-legged on layers of duvets and blankets, against pillows that seemed to stretch the length of my body, with my knees knocking against two of my best friends’ criss-crossed knees. With our thumbs scrolling across our glass phone screens, we each analyzed the results of our natal charts, trying to will meaning into memory and patterns into plans.
The Middle of Everything by Michelle Herman
As a mother, and a writer, I’d like to thank you for writing The Middle of Everything: Essays on Motherhood. I’m deeply grateful for the insights you’ve shared as a Jewish-American woman, a writer, a mother, a wife, and daughter. I was so moved to read about your experiences with love, friendship, and parenting—moved to tears in fact, in many places. So much so that I believe your book will be one of the handful that I am certain to return to time and again.
Sweet: Volume 10
Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart
I laughed out loud until my stomach ached. I cried like a baby. As both a writer and a Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union, I spent my entire journey through your memoir, Little Failure, feeling both grateful and affirmed. Finally, someone else out there understands what it’s like to always be—as you so accurately put it—“at the margins of places.” The old world is still in the rear view, and the new is not entirely within reach.
Apocalypse, Darling by Barrie Jean Borich
I grew up in the same town my entire life, at the north end of Valparaiso, Indiana, near the border with Chesterton. After I moved away for college, whenever I returned for brief visits or holiday breaks, I almost always blocked out time for the Indiana Dunes. Now it’s clear to me that grief, both for home and a recent loss, had me searching back there.
Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly
Thank you, thank you. Your book, Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs, makes me want to write. I am beginning this before I have even finished the book.
In addition to being grateful—so few things I read make me want to write—I am, of course, also a little mad at you. You have written a book very much like one I want to write. In this book, you do so many things I want to do in my own writing. The sentences with their conversational rhythm, always ending in poetry. The scenes laid out more like a poet would do it than a prose writer, without quotation marks and always with an eye towards explanation, the interest more in what the scene means than merely what’s being said. The memories that seem to surface and sink again without the writer’s control.
Surviving Jersey by Scott Loring Sanders
I must admit: I’m fearful of flying. To get home without driving two full days, I must fly. During two recent flights to and from Florida and Indiana, I squeezed into the seat and tore through Surviving Jersey.
A Bestiary by Lily Hoang
When I first saw the cover of your book, before its release, I was intrigued. There was something about the small, swirling flowers that reminded me of a Flemish tapestry, a unicorn perhaps laying in wait. And then I read about its insides: a collection of fragmented sections, organized according to the zodiac. Done. And so when I left Florida, fearing a hurricane, I brought your book with me. This, I thought, this will help.