However, in between the day job and meeting my daily page quotas, I’ve managed to squeeze in some great titles that will forever shape how I look back on 2008. While none of them were published this year, the following titles are what I consider the best discoveries I made over the last twelve months through sheer luck and good fortune.
Poetry: All Our Wonder Unavenged; Don Domanski. 2008 Winner of Canada’s Governor General’s award and other literary prizes, this is truly Domanski’s master work. Recommended to me by a friend, I bought my copy as soon as it was printed. I’ve read two of Domanski’s earlier books, and have always considered him amongst the top poets writing today. No one else uses words with such precision, skillful arrangement, and artistry. All Our Wonder Unavenged is definitely a keeper and a book I will return to over and over again.
Nonfiction, how-to: Writing Poetry from the Inside Out; Sandford Lyne. Over the years I’ve read many, many books on both writing and writing poetry. This is one of the best I’ve come across. I love the emphasis on writing poetry as a doorway to spiritual exploration. The exercises and suggestions are completely original. Perhaps we can’t all be Don Domanski, but this book certainly encourages us to do something just as important: be ourselves.
Nonfiction, general: The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: the Search for Dare Wright; Jean Nathan. For longer than I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the Dare Wright books I loved as a child. This biography of Wright filled in some of the mystery I’d always suspected lay behind the elegant and complex author-photographer. Compelling, with lots of beautiful photos.
Re-discovered Children’s Book: The Lonely Doll; Dare Wright. After reading Nathan‘s biography, I just had to check this one out from the library despite my guilt thinking I was depriving some child of what was to me, a pivotal and necessary reading experience. Apparently this and others of Wright’s books had been out of print for many years until Random House reissued a few selections several years ago. I was so happy to find it on the shelf that I went to the Dare Wright web site to petition for more titles to come back, especially, Lona, Wright’s hauntingly evocative fairy tale. (My journey to find Lona may have to be an entire blog post of its own next year.)
Fiction: Okay, it’s a tie. Mr. Pip; Lloyd Jones, and The Great Fire; Shirley Hazzard. These two books nearly ruined my eyes, sanity, and health. I could not put them down for a minute. Oddly, both books contain sections set at various times in Wellington, New Zealand—a place I would never have thought capable of mesmerizing me to the point of burning dinner and forgetting to do laundry.
The last time I was in Wellington was over twenty years ago. My main memory of that trip is sitting in a freezing movie theater watching one of my favorite movies, Diva, while the theater cat sat snuggled on my lap. What an afternoon: opera, independent film, and a purring cat—total happiness. Then the film finished and I had to go outside only to be greeted by a torrential rainstorm and gale force winds, two of the reasons I no longer live in New Zealand. Anyway, reading these books in the safety of Albuquerque brought back a flood of memories—both good and bad. Jones is a New Zealander, Hazzard an Australian. Both of them are simply fantastic. Read these books; forget about making dinner.
Tip of the day: It’s finally here! Check out my new website—http://valeriestorey.com/. Until then, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and plenty of good books to read in 2009!