All posts filed under: Shelf Life

Shelf Life: Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King

“So. In the beginning, there was nothing. Just the water.” Short Verdict: It is difficult to adequately convey the delight I felt in reading this book. Thomas King’s storytelling voice is moving, delightful, funny and reflective. Green Grass, Running Water is more of a narrative experience than a read. Green Grass, Running Water was my May Shelf Life title, and I’m only getting around to having time to sit and write this review now. The narrative itself is not straightforward. If you’re familiar with a general range of “postcolonial” texts or have read other Indigenous fiction titles, then chances are you’ll be able to follow Thomas King’s frolicking story. If, however, you are not used to disorientation, inaccessibility, and repetitive shifts, then it might be hard to get a sense of what is happening. Weaving multiple storylines happening in one time-space, representations of oral narratives are inserted between these chapters, as origin stories are told and retold, each time slightly different, propelling narrative forward strangely, through return. And of course, returning is exactly each character’s choice over and over …

OOTC: May

Tulips are a strange phenomenon. They open and close with light and darkness, but over-extend every morning until eventually they are unable to close. Then their petals fall off and all you have are their naked heads. On that note, this month I am thinking about what it looks like to protect something when that something is your self. It was a difficult month of introspection, as old demons flared, and new situations demanded more rigorous thinking processes. Growth is a strange and gradual thing. I guess I identify with that dirty, layered, buried tulip bulb, green shoot pushing through, sharp and soft at the same time. But I also see the inevitable logic of the tulip flower, its slow flirtation with sunlight and eventual intimate baring. What in us keeps pushing past the layers of skin? Why don’t we learn? And why, like the tulip, do we pursue something like the sun with reckless abandon? I question these things in me. Why knowing better doesn’t necessarily mean doing better. Why weaknesses over time are …

Shelf Life: The Seven Ages by Louise Glück

The Seven Ages must be read in short, consistent periods – over the course of a day, over the course of a week. Poems must be read and reread, sometimes immediately, sometimes after stepping away for a while. Short Verdict: I have mixed feelings about the consistency of the collection, as some poems don’t seem to belong to the set. But in the poems that make up the core of The Seven Ages, I feel stirred by interesting language, sensitive and thoughtful observation, and Glück’s meditative approach to looking forward to death impending while looking back at life past. “10 There was a peach in a wicker basket. There was a bowl of fruit. Fifty years. Such a long walk from the door to the table.” – from “Ripe Peach” Poetry is always a little more difficult for me to review. I have to sit with everything longer, parse my thoughts out more rigorously, and often when going back to revisit things, find myself changing my opinion. Maybe because reading poetry is so experiential, and …

Shelf Life: Standing Room Only by Joanne Deng 「暫時無法安放的,鄧九雲」

「我告訴她,她會慢慢長大,長大的重點其實不是為了成為一個什麼樣的人,是為了受傷。那些傷口對我們很重要,因為它們將吸引著另一些人的來到,像嗜血的吸血鬼或鯊魚。」 “I told her she would grow up slowly, and that the point of growing up wasn’t to become a certain type of person, but to get hurt. Those hurts are important to us, because they will draw certain people to us – like a thirsty vampire, or a shark.” – from “餘生的第一天,Plumeria” It was difficult for me to write this post. The book sits so close to my heart in another language that trying to talk about it in English feels a bit like pulling teeth. I love reading Chinese short story collections. This genre in particular is called 短篇小說, and literally translates into “short story” (there is also 長篇小說, which you could translate as long short story). These pieces are not long enough to have beginning, ending, or sometimes even plot movement — they utilize a very common Chinese linguistic tendency to sketch a moment or to outline an exchange as a loose constellation of signs with multiple potentialities. They also tend to feature introspective, storytelling-type, narrative voices. Standing Room Only is physically a stunning …

A Shelf Life tinyletter

I’m starting a tinyletter. http://tinyletter.com/jaziimun As someone who has spent most of her life immersed in the literary from personal, private, to academic and professional circumstances, I still find it difficult most days to have a conversation with someone else in literature where it feels like play. By play, I mean the lighthearted ease of revelling in what you know and love with another person. Perhaps it’s the specificity of literature I love as someone who claims Diasporic and Transnational studies of literature as her focus; the often obscure and complex histories of those texts and their general exclusion from canon. Or maybe it’s the multilingual loyalties, deep love for translations and what we call “world literature”, which to me, just means a focus that doesn’t place North America as the center of the universe. There’s also multi-genre loyalty, as I claim inheritance from classic colonial British fiction, beloved loved postcolonial and Asian literary canons of magical realism, creative nonfiction and poetry, indie magazines, the Chinese classics, and a LOT of Japanese manga. As a …