06 July 2014

June in Review


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I read/listened to three books in June.  Here are my thoughts:

1.  MFA Vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction edited by Chad Harbach: I have been toying with the idea of getting an MFA for years.  I have an MA in Literature, and once upon a time had planned on a PhD, but then found full time employment, which is awesome, so now continuing my education is something that is still on the table but without a direct path.  I've also always wanted to be a writer.  Back to the book....I really enjoyed it.  Chad Harbach, editor of n + 1 magazine, has collected essay by young writers and critics discussing the (invented) dichotomy for writers of pursuing an MFA vs. moving to NY to work on their art.  There is a section on the MFA and another on NYC, but also one on teaching and some more theoretical viewpoints on the topic.  I really enjoyed the breadth of the essays, but my favorites were the more personal, and I especially enjoyed Alexander Chee's essay in the MFA section and Emily Gould's in the NYC section.  I think that I will soon be picking up their books, so this collection served as a good introduction to some new writers as well as a primer on America's writing culture.

2014/ n+1/Faber and Faber/ 308 pages/ Bought

2. Jennifer, Gwenyth and Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time by Rachel Bertsche: After reading Bertshe's first book (MWF Seeking BFF), I felt like I had found a kindred writer-spirit.  Reading this book made me feel the same way.  Rachel's first book was about the difficulty of making new friends, in a new place, in your late 20s, as a married person.  When I read it, I was recently married, living in a new place, having difficulty making friends.  This book is ostensibly about the writer trying to feel better in her skin (and her marriage, and her home) by trying to emulate the best parts of various celebrity lives.  However, it is also about her journey starting her family, a journey with many bumps.  Reading Bertsche feels like hanging out with a smart, down-to-earth friend who knows exactly what I am going through.  So, whatever she writes next, I will be reading.

2014/ Ballantine Books/ 258/ eGalley from the publisher and Edelweiss

3. Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss (audiobook):  I don't have a ton to say about this.  I prefer another food writer named Michael (Pollan).  There was a lot of food history in this book, which might really appeal to some readers, just not this one.  I enjoyed the beginning chapter in each section which discussed the appeal of salt, sugar and fat to the human palate.  Those chapters had more of a Mary Roach vibe.  But then, Moss discusses the detailed history of how three major food giants precipitated our addictions to salt, sugar and fat, which are interesting stories, but were rendered in just a little too much detail. I also have done a bit of reading in this area, so I wasn't surprised by the manipulative tactics of the food industry in pursuit of a bigger paycheck.  One fact that did stand out was that very few of the CEOs or COOs from these companies ate the food that they produced, and they weren't afraid to admit it.  Pick this up if you are new to the genre of food expose. 

2013/ Random House Audio/ 14 hours and 34 minutes/ Audible Subscription

I also read the May 2014 issue of Poetry magazine this month.  I really enjoyed the work of Jessica Greenbaum and Bob Hicok, among others.



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