Early this month I asked McNamara what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm reading a new chapbook of poems called Meridian by Kathleen Jesme. The poems are about loss—the slow leaving and death of her mother, the loss of her father years before, the inevitable loss of self we all cycle toward just by being alive. The poems are made of musical lyric lines, "one snow fell/down inside/ the other, two flocks/of gulls alighting/on a white beach" and lines written in a more narrative voice reorienting us in the world of objects much the way one experiences the very mode of being the poems describe—marvelous, terrifying, everyday, and beautiful all at once.Visit Amy McNamara's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.
I'm also reading an astonishing collection of stories written by Miranda July called No one belongs here more than you. Oh, Miranda July. Everything she does (she's an artist, writer, and filmmaker), she seems to do with her eyes and her heart as wide open as possible. In the story "Ten True Things," she says, "We grew still and stared at each other. It seemed incredibly dangerous to look into each other's eyes, but we were doing it. For how long can you behold another person? Before you have to think of yourself again, like dipping the brush back in for more ink." I love this passage because instead of staying with the somewhat sentimental idea of losing oneself in the gaze of another, she tugs us down solidly within ourselves, an unflinching observation about the nature of being together and the truth of the inescapable self.
I am also reading David Levithan's novel Every You, Every Me, which is, as far as I can tell, really a poem. Like July's and Jesme's the voice in this novel speaks from head-on unapologetic regard for the intensity of feeling. The novel runs two conversations at once, the voice of the narrator/protagonist, Evan, and then his more interior voice which is on the page but with a line striking it out. It is like the project of erasure where one finds one kind of art within another through the means of removal. There's always the ghost of what's been taken away.
I read mysteries like a hurdler. I can't clear them fast enough. It seems to be cyclical for me. I'll read a batch of mysteries, then not think about the genre for a year or two, then suddenly, mysteries again. Tana French's work (Broken Harbor, Faithful Place) is really great because she has an incredible ear for dialogue. I don't read mysteries for the puzzle the way I know some do; I rarely predict whodunit nor do I always even entirely try to track the clues – I read more for the story itself, the pacing, the crowds of characters, and in French's books, the marvelous language they use to speak to each other. Her book Faithful Place was full of Irish slang I had to look up (banjaxed) and then gleefully employed around the house for a week or two, much to the dismay of my family.
Before Broken Harbor I happily dwelled in Kevin Wilson's The Family Fang, a story of two lost adult children of artists (is there a support group for that?) which made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion, and before The Family Fang, it was Helen Oyeyemi's Mr Fox, an incredible tale about the nature of writing a character into being that climbs through time and genre to construct itself, all the while making stunning observations about the nature of love. The last one I finished (in August) but loved, was The Starboard Sea, by Amber Dermont, a totally heartbreaking love story.
I think my current mystery kick is on the wane and Jason Shinder's last book of poems, Stupid Hope, is in the wings, as well as a nonfiction book about sleep (one of my favorite topics) called Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep.