James Crews’s poetry is poignant, thoughtful, easy to read, and most importantly, leaves you thinking in ways that feel genuine instead of forced. The first of this collection’s four parts relays the poet’s memories of his father that, far from waxing nostalgic, unfold into a complex web of admiration, unease, guilt, and self-discovery that culminates in an unspoken, shared moment. Here the power lies in the placement of each poem, and Telling My Father shows how it’s not just the writing that matters, but the space between the writing that lets us form the most meaningful connections.
Sixteen-year-old sharpshooter Margo Crane leaves home after a family dispute and follows the river, initially seeking male companions of varying quality before deciding to live by her wits. Though the story starts out with a literal bang, the rest feels disconnected as Margo undergoes a series of strung-together tribulations. We see her growing up, but the change feels less satisfying since a lot of it was there all along. The scenes vary in their effectiveness, with some feeling clunky as they follow that literary fiction voice often copied by graduate writing workshops. In short: nothing too new here.
Where I Got It:
Bought online in August 2013 for a graduate writing workshop (the last of several books I bought for that workshop but didn’t actually read until later).
I have zero interest in football, but I enjoyed Bissinger’s book because it’s mostly about the all-encompassing influence that football holds over midwestern culture. Bissinger spent a year in the west Texas town of Odessa following its high school football team to the state championship, and shows how completely football trumps academics and leads the town to build a $5.6 million stadium for its high school. He also discusses how racial tensions and Reagan-era politics affected the region—history seen from ground level.
There’s a lot of football play-by-plays too, but I kind of skimmed over those.
Where I Got It
Bought online a few weeks ago, part of the research process for my new novel.