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SUGGESTED READING LIST – WEEK 4

You like reading? We do too!

cover_bad_feministBad Feminist
Roxane Gaye (2014)

Gaye’s writing is intelligent, funny, and sharp. These essays are filled with wry observations written in accessible and smart prose. Contemporary thinkers like Gaye have their finger on the pulse of current feminist ideas and how they intersect with race, literature, popular culture, and myriad other dynamics. It’s a pleasure to read.

Recommended by Katie Hae Leo – Associate Editor

 

 

 

leaves of grassLeaves of Grass
Walt Whitman (1855)

First, “Song of Myself” is the undisputed gateway to the 20th C American lyric, but more importantly, Whitman articulates a spiritual philosophy that is anti-institutional and a social vision that calls for the communal celebration of equality (and homosexual expressions of love, if one is so inclined). If only the poets (of this variety) had replaced the priests and politicians like he predicted, maybe America would be a better place.

Recommended by Rosemarie Dombrowski – Editor

 

 

 

getting evenGetting Even
Woody Allen (1855)

Woody Allen’s prose is often, and I think unfairly, overlooked. This is one of those go-to books for when I need a really good laugh–I’m talking the snorting, clutching your sides, gasping for breath variety. In my opinion, this collection and two others (Without Feathers and Side Effects) are argument enough for Allen’s inclusion in the pantheon of Great American Humorists such as James Thurber and S.J. Perelman.

Recommended by Jared Duran – Editor

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SUGGESTED READING LIST – WEEK 3

It’s Wednesday – the best day!

Need more reading material? Check out what Four Chambers thinks you might like.

 

Geek LoveGeek Love
Katherine Dunn

Katherine Dunn’s prose is eloquent and witty, and often packed with meaning and emotion that is far deeper than just the words on the page. She’s brilliant, and the thing about her words is that they make you feel brilliant too. She draws you into her world in such an inviting and gentle way. Geek Love sounds humorous and silly in its summary – a Carnival owner and his wife decide to create their own carni-family, do whatever they can to produce children with fins, extra limbs, extraordinary talents, etc. and raise them as stars of the circus. The novel is told from the perspective of one of the children, Olli, as she retells the life of the family on the road, their opinions of “norms”, and the complicated relationships between them. It’s an entertaining idea for a story, but Dunn goes far deeper into the human psyche in a way that will make you question what “normal” is, why we feel the need to identify as such, and how strongly people desire to be connected to one another.

Recommended by Kelsey Pinckney – Assistant Director

 

 

 

book of hoursBook of Hours
Kevin Young

Award-winning poet Kevin Young’s eighth book, The Book of Hours, is an emotionally impactful examination of life’s vicissitudes divided into thematic collections—ranging from Young’s loss of his father to anticipation of his son’s birth. Young’s simple eloquence is both universally relatable and freshly presented, and in the treading the oft-tread territory of basic human emotions and experience Young maintains the difficult balance between deep emotion and lighthearted wit. The Book of Hours is nearly impossible to put down.

Recommended by Mackenzie Brennan – Associate Editor

 

 

 

51fNP0fo4CL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Tabloid Dreams
Robert Olen Butler

Each story began as a Weekly World News headline (i.e.Titanic Victim Speaks Through Waterbed, Jealous Husband Return in Form of Parrot) and Butler takes it from there. Each is told from the POV of the titular character and while you might think they would stay in the comedic landscape of those titles, Butler always manages to turn the corner to true pathos. The humanity of these people rises above their absurd circumstances every single time.

Recommended by Mark Broeske – Associate Editor

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SUGGESTED READING LIST – WEEK 2

We hope the list from Week 1 treated you well! Please email us at fourchamberspress@gmail.com and let us know what you think of our reading list! If you loved a book, if it made you cry, if you have a question, let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

Here’s a few more suggestions from Four Chambers staff. Enjoy!

 

BlissBliss
Peter Carey

This unique, brilliant novel by Australian writer Peter Carey can be very succinctly and tritely described as a post-death experience, and perhaps more cryptically so as a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. While I’m not a huge fan of citing others when describing someone’s style, an apt description of Carey’s work might be a distillation of Ian McEwan and Haruki Murukami, and yet somehow even darker than either one–maybe that’s an Australian thing. This is a great book for fans of either McEwan, or Murukami, and definitely for those who have exhausted the works of Vonnegut.

Recommended by Jared Duran – Editor

 

 

 

All New Stories Stories: All-New Tales
Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

This is a collection of short stories by various excellent authors. I highly recommend the audiobook version. It’s like a book of modern fairytales for adults. There’s magical realism, supernatural beings, a little bit of history, and an abundance of beautiful writing. The best part about short story collections is that you can sit for an hour and get an entire story. For those who don’t have time or attention for a long novel, short story collections like this are awesome.

Recommended by Nikita Boyer – Associate Editor

 

 

 

homage to mistressHomage to Mistress Bradstreet
John Berryman (1956)

If you know Anne Bradstreet — the first female poet to be published in the new world circa 1650 — then this is unbeatable. If you don’t know her, read a brief bio and some of her grandchildren elegies. Then, dive into the Berryman sequence, in which the 20th century speaker has a psychic love affair with Bradstreet. The syntax is the most lush landscape I’ve ever entered. It’s time-traveling poetic erotica at its best.

Recommended by Rosemarie Dombrowski – Editor

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SUGGESTED READING LIST – WEEK 1

It’s summer, when people have way more time to read than usual because they’re hiding inside from the sun, or out of school / work, on vacation, etc. The problem is, when you have all this time, sometimes it’s hard to know what to pick up first!
Starting today, we’ll post a list of three books that we think are great every Wednesday, in the hopes that one of them piques your interest, and takes you on that special journey that only a great book can. Our whole staff is participating, so enjoy the variety of voices and opinions, and may you find camaraderie among them!

 

Cien_a�os_de_soledad_(book_cover,_1967)One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez (1967)

Yes, this novel lives on the top book lists of many famous people, including Presidents Obama and Clinton and Oprah Winfrey. It almost seems redundant to list it here. But, it’s completely worth mentioning. This is a perfect novel for summer. Márquez’s dense magical realism may take a little while to get into in our hectic modern lives. But, if you give yourself time to unplug from social media and your phone and dive into the world of the Buendía family, you will be richly rewarded. Romantic, political, lush, sexy, funny, and unforgettable.

Recommended by Katie Hae Leo – Associate Editor

 

 

 

A Coat of VarnishA Coat of Varnish
C.P. Snow

A detective story, but a rather odd one, lacking a detective, or rather what passes for the detective is oddly lethargic. A mystery with, on the one hand, an excess of mystery, and on the other very little. Embedded in this book is a deep critique of how our obsession with facts and knowledge distorts our understanding of what is truly important, ideas not unexpected from the man who started the two cultures argument. Written in Snow’s limpid style, utterly readable. He did write another detective story in the early 30s, Death Under Sail, which is clever, but primitive in comparison to this one.

Recommended by Charles Brownson – Associate Editor

 

 

 

 

106243Atlantis
Mark Doty

A texturally gorgeous work of poetry, ornate and painterly in language and image while maintaining a strong narrative feel. In this collection, Doty echoes both the ecstasy of Walt Whitman and the precision of Elizabeth Bishop, a synergy of unexpected bedfellows. It details life with a dying partner (and friends) in a way that beautifully conveys both heartbreak and hope, starring a memorable cast of drag queens, marine life, migratory geese and a young man with a set of chairs trapped inside his chest.

Recommended by Elyse Arring – Editor

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I don’t like airport food. It’s terrible. It’s all chain restaurants. Everything is overpriced. It’s like finding yourself on some tiny island run by a dictator who can set whatever prices he wants. It’s tyranny. The service is bad, too. Most of the people there seem to be unhappy, probably because they are working in the airport, which seems to me like it’d be a crappy job, and that makes me unhappy. Especially since I have the privilege of making decent money waiting tables and am still unhappy about it, even though I could do something else if I really wanted to, I just don’t want to, there are people way worse off than me, and I don’t really have the right to be unhappy. And really, who am I to even think working in an airport restaurant kiosk thingy is that crappy of a job anyway? Isn’t that just another aspect of my privilege? But isn’t working in an airport restaurant an objectively crappy job? It gets really involved. The whole thing bums me out.

One time I got hungry and went to Chipotle–I figured it would be the least processed food there, what’s the worst you could do to rice and beans?–and the girl who was rolling it totally broke my burrito. Nobody told her about striation. It was a lost cause. She just lumped all the ingredients in the middle and tried to fold it up like she was taking out a bag of trash or something. I don’t think she’d been trained. I wanted to do something–call out and stop her, maybe, show her how to be gentle with the tortilla, to tuck it in like a baby–but she was behind the sneeze guard, there was a long line, and besides, it would have been rude. So they slapped a double wrap on it and passed it on down the line. It tasted like corporation. It was the saddest burrito I ever ate.

The thing is, I grew up in place where a significant portion of my activities between 14 and 18 consisted of smoking pot out of devices made primarily from plastic bottles and hot glue, playing video games, and going to the Wendy’s drive in. We would also walk around the woods behind the highway, start little fires on dirt roads, and throw things at cars. I worked at a plant nursery. It was okay. For lunch, I would get a can of mountain dew and three of those little one-dollar chicken sandwichy things from KFC when they were still running that promo. They had a crispy chicken sandwich, one that was honey barbecue. I’d mix it up.

It’s no wonder then, years later, that I get a little funny when I see pieces of fruit with the branches and leaves still attached, that I become a little transfixed. It’s like, oh yeah, I forgot. This is a natural product. This came out of the ground. These days, I have shifted my shopping to the farmer’s market. I am disoriented by the grocery store. How do they make those carrots so orange? Why do all the zuchinni look the same? Where’s the real squash? Those bananas–how did they get here all the way from Ecuador? Did they take a boat? Did they arrive by plane?

When I eat something, I am in complicit agreement with everything that went into it’s process of production. I do not want to be a broken burrito. I do not want to be the complex syndrome of middle class guilt. I want to be self-expression. I want to be love. I want to be the potato skin on my fries. I want to be the little Birdie that Peter dresses up like it was his own child he’s sending off to school–with presentation, with purpose, with a noble job to do. I want to be a Whiskey Sour at Welcome that I modify the hell out of–light sugar, heavy lemon; stirred; served up–that we call the “Jake’s an Asshole” because everyone knows I’m being an asshole, especially since it’s on happy hour and I’m only paying $4, but I tip really well, and I made the joke in the first place.

Food is necessary. We need to do it. We have to stay alive. Culture is how we inflect our survival, how we take the basic materials of life and give them a style, a meaning, an identity or purpose. Food culture is how we show each other where we come from, who we are, how we are what we eat. And when there is so much coldness in the world–all the namelessness, all the facelessness, opacity and machines–it means a lot to me that there’s a place that will make me a drink the way I like it and call me an asshole while they do it. That while the food industry is lying to me, there’s a place that tells the truth. That’s what Welcome means to me.