Recommended Reading: Creative Writing Grad Student Edition

dark reflections samuel delany

We in the English Department know very well that there’s no “ex” in English major.  As such, our alums, who crack books like eggs at Beth’s Café, are constantly on the hunt for that next worthy addition to the bedside tall stack.  Our talented crew of proto-prose-pros (and poets!) answered gallantly English Matter’s urgent call for advice on which writers’ writers you ought to pick up this summer.

Let’s start with Deven Philbrick, Prose Editor of The Seattle Review.  Mr. Philbrick recommend you read Dark Reflections by Samuel R. Delany:  “Known principally for his science-fiction, this book evinces Delany's extraordinary talents as a chronicler of our present world. Arnold is a quasi-successful poet (published some books, won a couple awards, but still struggles to pay his rent) navigating the tumultuous landscape of the artist's life.  As Arnold endeavors to fit the disparate features of his identity together, sexuality and race color this landscape in complex ways (Arnold, like Delany, is gay and black). Quietly beautiful and gut-wrenchingly sad, this novel is among the most moving descriptions of a life in the arts I've ever encountered.”

Priestdaddy Patricia LockwoodPoet Emma Aylor steps next to the fore, offering two recommendations for the price of one (that is to say free).  First she suggests Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy: “Lockwood's memoir of growing up (and moving back in) with her father--a Catholic priest, as the title suggests--and the rest of her family is irreverent, tender, and uncommonly hilarious. The audiobook, narrated by Lockwood herself, is a joy.”

Outrun Amy LiptrotMs. Aylor also thinks you might enjoy Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun: “A memoir of recovery set in London and Liptrot's childhood home of Orkney, The Outrun examines the intersection of place, identity, and personal struggle. Liptrot is an emotional, full-tilt writer who examines place--particularly the place one grew up--as an opportunity for safety, self-definition, and unexpected exhilaration.”

Solid Mandala WhiteFinally, we'll turn toward the English department offices in the southern end of Padelford Hall to keep alive outgoing Chair Brian Reed’s streak of offering interesting books to English Matters’ readers.  Dr. Reed recommends The Solid Mandala by Patrick White.  “By Australia's only Nobel Prize winner, this novel tells the story of two brothers, Waldo and Arthur, who grow old living in the small town of Sarsparilla.  Waldo is a failed writer; Arthur has intellectual disabilities; together they survive love, war, grief, and nosy neighbors.  As always with White, the prose is baroque and beautiful.”