Run-ons & Reading Lists

dadowriting1I mentioned in my last post that I started an MFA in Creative Writing, which basically means that, when I’m not hunched over a keyboard with my shoulders creeping up toward my ears, I have my nose in a book and my eyebrows are trying to touch each other and that one wrinkle (you know which one I’m talking about, the one smack dab in the middle) gets deeper every day. As part of my curriculum, I read ten books every six weeks (or forty books each semester or eighty books each year or one hundred and sixty books by the end of it all), not to mention literary journals and magazines. Instead of keeping all these glorious words to myself or simply rating them on Goodreads (go on, friend me already), I’ve decided to post reading lists, five books at a time. 
While you’re at it, read Charles Simic’s thoughts on the demise of the used book store and the loss of libraries across the nation, plus Ryan Holiday’s reading lists, his advice on how to read more, and how to digest books above your reading level.
Happy reading! – e.v. de cleyre

On Writing by Stephen King

Stephen King’s On Writing was the first book I grabbed this semester, aching for some advice from a man with fifty published novels. I admit, I have never read any of said novels (I can’t stomach scary stories), but I enjoyed his straightforward in-your-face advice on writing, as well as his oddball humor.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Maybe you just groaned and rolled your eyes because you saw the latest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, or because you literally just read that novel because you’re literally sixteen-years-old. Well, read it again. Fitzgerald’s prose is exquisite; this last line should give you reason enough to revisit the text, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Emma Bovary’s obsession with romance and an idealized version of love and status as influenced by popular culture and society led her to become so wrapped up in fantasies that she could not enjoy her day-to-day life—a social ill that I feel is still prevalent today. Her delusions of love and grandeur lead her to pursue affairs outside her marriage and move around the country, searching for something outside herself until she meets a tragic end. Flaubert’s plot flows seamlessly and his characters are well written, fully formed.

Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway reveals so much by saying so little, subscribing to the Iceberg Theory.

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.  The dignity of movement of the iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

The story “Hills Like White Elephants” drew me to this collection and I read it multiple times; a compelling short story dominated by dialogue and pared down with intentional omissions. The stories in the collection vary from travel narratives to war to boxing to bullfighting, offering something for the sensitive literary type like me, and the machismo bullfighting type like you. (I know, I know you so well, dear reader.)

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

I read this book. The pages were long and flat and the story was honest and true.

After reading Men Without Women and A Moveable Feast back-to-back, I spoke like a resurrected Hemingway for a solid week. I read this memoir years ago, and in re-reading, I paid closer attention to the flow of the story and how Hemingway framed his days in Paris—specifically, what he decided to include. (This, I believe, can make or break a memoir, as no one wants to hear the author dribble and droll about each and every moment of their life.) He paints himself in Paris like a local who lives like a peasant, offers little detail of his relationship with his wife and son, yet lengthy accounts of his time with F. Scott Fitzgerald that sheds light on Hemingway’s true feelings about expatriates in Europe in the 1920s.

I’ll leave you with what I like to imagine as an honest and true account of Hemingway in Paris in the 1920s:



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