Recommended Reading: Contents Under Pressure, by Ellen Prentiss Campbell

A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy while struggling with her relationship with her own parents; a marine biologist who desperately wishes to become a fish; an older woman bidding her beloved country inn farewell; a young mother grieving the loss of her youngest son; wives contemplating the possible ends of their marriages; a little girl… More Recommended Reading: Contents Under Pressure, by Ellen Prentiss Campbell

“Various long midwinter Glooms. / Various Solitary and Terrible Stars”: Alice Oswald’s “Various Portents”

I’m partial to poems that are lists; it’s always impressive when a poet can give an impression of action, or set a mood, simply by making a list of items. Alice Oswald is a poet I know nothing about, but a quick look at her biography at The Poetry Foundation intrigued me; I’m now itching… More “Various long midwinter Glooms. / Various Solitary and Terrible Stars”: Alice Oswald’s “Various Portents”

Recommended Reading: My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout

I picked up My Name is Lucy Barton*, the new novel from acclaimed author Elizabeth Strout, expecting to read a chapter or two and then come back to it the next day. Seventy pages later, I looked up to realize that my tea had gone cold and that I’d meant to be asleep half an… More Recommended Reading: My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout

“recast in our image”: Lisel Mueller’s “Things”

I like naming things; maybe you do, too. I have a velvet chair named Daisy (it was my friend’s chair first; when she was young it was orange, but now it’s faded to a golden yellow), and once we had fish named Dunder, Mifflin, Don Draper, Giles, and Admiral Ackbar. Lisel Mueller’s poem “Things” points… More “recast in our image”: Lisel Mueller’s “Things”

Review: Where My Heart Used to Beat, by Sebastian Faulks

Where My Heart Used to Beat* is the first of Sebastian Faulks’s novels that I’ve read (his best known, Birdsong, is on my mental list of World War I novels to read); I found it both challenging and absorbing. The novel is a deep dive into the character of Robert Hendricks, its narrator. A psychiatrist… More Review: Where My Heart Used to Beat, by Sebastian Faulks

“clouds arranged like asphodel”: Janet McNally’s “Maggie Says There’s No Such Thing as Winter”

Janet McNally’s “Maggie Says There’s No Such Thing as Winter” is a gorgeous gem of a poem, tender and clear-eyed. The speaker sits with Maggie in summer, under the shade of a tree, as Maggie strings blue stones together; Maggie has memory trouble (the language suggests she may have been in a coma), and has… More “clouds arranged like asphodel”: Janet McNally’s “Maggie Says There’s No Such Thing as Winter”

Recommended Reading: My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante, Translated by Ann Goldstein

Yes, it’s just as good as everyone’s been saying—and I’m very glad I waited to read it. No doubt you’ve heard of the Neapolitan novels, the quartet of books by Italian writer Elena Ferrante (whose identity is not known; she’s used a pen name since her first novel was published more than twenty years ago)… More Recommended Reading: My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante, Translated by Ann Goldstein

“All glam-glow, all twinkle and gold”: Tracy K. Smith’s “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?” (RIP David Bowie)

Since David Bowie has left us for what I’m guessing must be some sort of starsplitting transcendent plane, it’s only appropriate this week to feature Tracy K. Smith’s gorgeous and evocative “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?” from her appropriately titled collection Life on Mars.  The poem has been making the rounds this week—justifiably so—because it hones in… More “All glam-glow, all twinkle and gold”: Tracy K. Smith’s “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?” (RIP David Bowie)

Recommended Reading: The Bassoon King, by Rainn Wilson

Celebrity memoirs—with exceptions for those written by people named Tina Fey and Amy Poehler—are not my genre of choice. But I couldn’t resist Rainn Wilson’s The Bassoon King*, partly because the title is hilarious, partly because I’ve noted with interest the actor’s advocacy for the persecuted adherents of his religion, the Bahá’í Faith (which he’s… More Recommended Reading: The Bassoon King, by Rainn Wilson