August’s Reading List

So this month, seeing that I can’t decide and I’m a titch manic, I’m reading many books at the same time (I always do that).  I like to mix it up, one book from each area usually.  I tend to like (like crazy) factual books on mental illnesses/disorders (I’ll read one in two days), poetry books off  course, books ON poetry, books about writing, and literary journals.  So here’s what I’ve chosen for August:

Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (I LOVED Tropic of Capricorn in college) OR Black Spring–haven’t decided yet. This is from TIME:

It’s impossible to outdo George Orwell’s wonderfully overstated appraisal of  Miller in 1940 —”the only imaginative prose writer of the slightest value who  has appeared among the English-speaking races in some time”—but it’s hard not to  agree. He’s the thinking man’s slacker, but his prose is a force  multiplier—lucid, honest and unhampered by neurotic self-loathing. Tropic  of Cancer was not published in the U.S. until 1961, where it set off an  obscenity trial that is still one of the great episodes in the history of free  speech. Before Kerouac, before Burroughs, Miller disputed all the imperatives of  capitalism. He stood before the temple of money and raised the flag of  happiness. You have a problem with that?

Read more:,28804,1951793_1951945_1952861,00.html #ixzz1U7CbOl4G

As for Black Spring, I’m drawn to it for one reason: Norman Mailer, one of my favorite critics/writers, called the book “a wildwater of prose, a cataract, a volcano, a torrent, an earthquake.”  We’ll see.  Here’s some quotes from Black Spring.

“What is not in the open street is false, derived, that is to say, literature.”Henry Miller, Black Spring (1936)

“For me the book is the man and my book is the man I am, the confused man, the negligent man, the reckless man, the lusty, obscene, boisterous, thoughtful, scrupulous, lying, diabolically truthful man that I am.”Henry Miller, Black Spring (1936)

The next book I’m re-reading because I loved it so much is Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Larry W. Phillips.  It’s great to get inside hise head (the little that he allows) and to hear that burly, fuck-it-but-listen advice, many of the parts are from letters to F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Here’s some pretty good quotes from the book, but my favorite takes the cake:

“Forget your personal tragedy.  We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously.  But when you get the damned hurt use it–don’t cheat with it.  Be as faithful to it as a scientist–but don’t think anything is of any importance because it happens to you or anyone belonging to you.”

Ernest Hemingway, to F. Scott Fitzgerald (Selected Letters)

There are three books of contemporary poetry that I’m go back and forth with–that’s what’s great about those–pick up/leave off.

What the Right Hand Knows by Tom Healy.  I became a fan of his after reading “Mirror, Mirror” I think at Narrative. So far, it’s good.  My favorite poem is “Here and Now”:

After I found

my blood in trouble

I could hear its rapid

underground current swell–

terrorists setting tributaries aflame

at low tide.

And I could see

the agony of other rivers–

how they burned, blistered,

wasted into dry beds.

that was the weather.

And now?

A purple calm.

Only the barely surviving

echo of hysteria.

There are few birds

and no river dolphins

and it’s unwise to swim.

But these are modest,

local toxins–

the war itself

has floated past

leaving something

like ordinary days.

Here, now–

the breeze of survival.

In this shallow place,

in shade and therapy,

the task is to remember

the troubled blood of others

and not remember

the bliss of deeper water.

Damn, I love that.

Then there’s Louise Gluck’s Vita Nova, containing many of my favorite poems of hers like “Snow”, “First Memory”, and “The Untrustworthy Speaker.” Her poetry gets to me because it’s about abuse and survival and a little tinge of madness.

My favorite discovery in that book is “Mutable Earth”–holy shit is that good.  For someone with C-PTSD and other assortments, this one blew me away.

The last poetry book is All-American Poem by Matthew Dickman. 

I fell in love with almost all of the poems so far.  If you’re not familiar with this talented young poet, check these poems out:

Benevolence” at Narrative, and

Blue Sky” at BOMB (or here)

(here’s a part of “Benevolence”):

 Even as I watched my older brother
skin knee after knee, break bone after
always surviving, always
being able to bite down on what
world had given him, what he had made
of it, and still walk along the bases,
the streets, the rugs
of countless therapists, still swallow
the glowing
pills humming in the bottom of countless paper cups,
his arms bound to the
bed by cotton straps,
the razor he once slid along his arm like a beam of
I couldn’t manage the smallest cut,
the most laughable bruise. When
I walked out
into the backyard and held the rock in my hand
I wanted so
badly not just to throw it, but to hit something and make it hurt.

Lastly, the book I dive into (these books are so interesting to me) is The Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation, The Hidden Epidemic by Marlene Steinberg, M.D. and Maxine Schnall.   It’s pretty good, but that’s for my other blog.

Share your thoughts, let me know if you’ve read these and what you think, or if you have suggestions, or tell me what you’re reading.  Anyone else out there read a hundred books at a time?

8 thoughts on “August’s Reading List

  1. Don’t want to immediately become your biggest ‘commenter’ (this is my 2nd one one of your postings today)— but I don’t think Henry Miller was a big fan of Ernest Hemmingway — I don’t know anything about Hemmingway’s views of Miller, but I’d guess Miller wasn’t his cup of tea. None of this is really here nor there. For me, I’ll go with HM.


    1. Jon,
      Could you imagine the two of them in a room together? I’m with you on Miller. Are you a fan of Alan Watts? And which book do you think–Black Spring or Tropic of Cancer? I ended up putting those aside to read the Henry Miller Reader which has some great essays so far. God I love that guy. First read him in college, suggested by my Soc professor that also introduced me to Mailer, Di Prima, more Bob Dylan, and Alan Watts. I saw your bio on twitter. You seem quite interesting!


  2. Amy, I tried to imagine Henry and Ernest (upon your suggestion) in a room together – they could certainly both drink – but jeez Henry has such a sense of humor. I can’t imagine easily laughing about absurdities in life with Hemmingway. Hmm. Black Spring, Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, Tropic of Cancer, hmmm … both are great. I find myself quoting (usually to myself, sometimes to friends) from Black Spring a lot. If I remember, T of Cancer is more outrageous. But I love all his books (not his very first one – Crazy Cocks), and I often get confused about which one is which (i’m trying now to clear the muddle in my head enough to answer your question about TofC vs B Spring).


  3. Is double posting (defined by me as 2 posts in a row by the same person ) allowed here? I’ll assume yes. Thinking about E Hemmingway and H Miller, how about imagining their comments on a blog:

    Henry Miller: I wanted to devour her blog – to drink it in.
    Anais Nin: The blog reflected her two aspects: one that wished to embrace the world, and the other that could not let go.
    Hemmingway: She wrote her blog entry, and she posted it. I read it this morning.

    Seinfeld: Why did they decide to call it a ‘blog’? Did they think they were inventing something disgusting?
    Larry David: I really don’t want you to comment on my blog. I know there’s a box for comments, but that came with the blog – I didn’t put it there. If you want to write so badly, start your own blog. If someone writes a comment, do I have to respond to their comment? Is it rude if I don’t? What am I supposed to say: “Thank you so very much for ‘commenting’ on my blog. What did I do to deserve such an honor?” I’m just going to write at the top of my blog: ‘Please do not post comments. Thank you for your consideration.”



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