The end of the semester

has arrived. Finally. I haven’t posted here in ages — nearly a month — because I’ve been feverishly wrapping up stories, projects and papers. I was somewhat hermit-like over the weekend and was able to finish up the big stuff. Just a few little things left. I’ve been pathetically deficient in putting my reading and writing lists up here, so I’ll do some recapping of the past few weeks:

My last couple weeks of school involved, to some extent, less reading. Especially after November, in which I was knocking off 1-2 books a week. I read a lot of individual short stories in December, which was kind of fun. I like learning about different authors without having to plow through an entire collection. The list:

– Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies – I’m a big fan of Lahiri. I read her novel, Namesake (or is it The Namesake? I can’t remember.) which i really got into. Her short stories were lovely as well (they did win the Pulitzer Prize after all), but there were a few duds, as there often are in collections, especially first collections.
-Alexander Hemon’s The Question of Bruno. I had mixed feelings about this collection. Hemon is a Bosnian immigrant living in the Chicago area. His prose is quirky and irreverent, some might say self-involved, while somehow managing to highlight serious things, like the Bosnian War. I liked one story in the collection “Coin,” a lot. Another story I didn’t much enjoy reading but couldn’t get out of my head and then proceeded to copy its style for a short story of my own, so I don’t know what that means.
On Moral Fiction by John Gardner. This is lit crit, and frankly, I hate reading lit crit. Shoot me. That said, this was cranky and outspoken lit crit that named names so it was mildly interesting in that respect.
-“Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta,” by Kate Braverman. Creepy short story about addiction.
-“The Fat Girl,” by Andre Dubus. Excellent. Like a lot of Dubus’ stories.
-“A Romantic Weekend,” by Mary Gaitskill. Some people like her, some people think she gets attention by putting gratuitous sex scenes/topics in all of her stories. I don’t think the sex is gratuitous, but I don’t like her stuff that much.
-“Lawns,” by Mona Simpson. A short story about a Berkeley student who is sleeping with her father. I think that says it all.
-“The Country Husband,” by John Cheever. I gotta say, we read a lot of John Cheever stories this semester in my workshop, and while I recognize that he has a deft way of writing about a certain topic (upper middle class people who drink a lot and live on Long Island in the 40s) I don’t think I will ever seek out his work again unless asked to.
-“Turgor,” by Mary Gaitskill. See above.
-“Will You Say Something, Monsieur Eliot?” by Tom Paine. Interesting, well-written, but beats you over the head with its message.
-“Three Lessons in Amazonian Biology,” by Pam Houston. Wasn’t sure where this story was taking me, but I liked the final result.
-“Silver Water,” by Amy Bloom. Big fan of this story, though I read one of her recent collections last year, and didn’t like those stories so much.
-“Skin Care,” by Judy Budnitz. Big, big fan. I’m hoping to dig up the collection this came from over break.
-“The Elephant Vanishes,” Haruki Murakami. One of my favorite authors, so you’ll have to find someone else to say something bad about this one.
-“Big Me,” by Dan Chaon. All of the second year MFA students in my class loved this one, but I didn’t. Still not sure why, because it’s quirky and interesting.

Whew. I’m realizing why I haven’t had much time in the past month. As for writing, my list will be shorter. I just rewrote a story that I first finished last year. It went through both of my S.F. writer’s groups, and with that feedback and what I’ve learned this semester I really revamped it. It’s about five pages longer and has more scenes and a new ending. It is slated to be ripped apart in workshop on Thursday, whether those changes are successful is TBD.

The other writing I did this month was part of a @$#@$!! group project for my travel publishing class, and isn’t really interesting enough to discuss here. But if anyone has any questions about Concord, MA, I’m your woman.

And finally, I just finished a paper that discussed the structure of two novel-in-story collections The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro and Monkeys, by Susan Minot. Good times.

I’m looking forward to a few weeks of my own reading choices over break.

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