The Binder Book List #11: ignoring our own best own advice, plus a cookbook for starving artists
by Out of the Binders
Hello! And welcome to issue #11 of the Binders Book List. Tomorrow is the LAST DAY to take advantage of our BOGO half-off ticket sale for L.A. BinderCon (March 19-20) – don't miss your chance to attend with a friend.
The Awkward Phase by Claire Linic and Tyler Gillespie is a collection of uplifting tales from the former weird kids at school. The latest issue of Ioanna Mavrou's Matchbook Stories, a literary magazine in matchbook form, features work by Ali Smith, Etgar Keret, Marti Leimbach, and Frances Gapper. The poems in Lynn Pedersen's The Nomenclature of Small Things explore grief through the language of science, history, and art. Spanning 70 years and several continents – from a refugee in 1938 Berlin, to an American couple in the 1950s, to a young woman in modern-day Jerusalem – Amy Gottlieb's novel The Beautiful Possible braids three unforgettable love stories. Julie Christine Johnson's In Another Life is a time-slip novel that sweeps from the present day to the 13th century to chase the secrets that conquer the ages. Liz Isaacson's inspirational romance Fourth and Long asks if one summer together can make up for eight years apart. Finally, Melissa Grunow's memoir Realizing River City explores a decade of learning about love after her marriage at 21 and divorce at 25.
What about Lola Ridge drew you to write her biography?
I'd never heard of her, and she lived in my neighborhood on the Lower East Side a hundred years earlier. Her first book, The Ghetto and Other Poems, portrayed that neighborhood with such sympathy and directness that I couldn't resist. The title poem of her second book, Sun-up and Other Poems, captured what it was like to be a rebellious child, a voice I'd never imagined in that era, and the rest of that book is about sex and radical politics – eye-opening. By the time I got to Red Flag, I was hooked. She was as rebellious in life as in her work, at a time when women were breaking out of the Victorian mold with sledgehammers. She left her son in an orphanage after coming from Australasia, worked for Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger while conquering the poetry world which included her friends Williams, Moore, and Crane. Her parties and her editorship of two important magazines stayed the path of modernism. Her last two books recall Crane's, whom she mentored early in his career – or his work mimics hers. She's kind of a Pound/Crane/Loy rolled into one, with a anarchistic spirit that the Occupy generation should appreciate.
In an essay about the parallels between you and Ridge, you wrote, "The biographer’s life must not compete, and most importantly, must not obstruct in the telling." How did you avoid competition or obstruction while writing this book?
Originally I envisioned a blended biography/memoir in which I would expand moments in my own life to illuminate our differences and make clear the contemporary lens. This became too cumbersome, and anyway, I was always headed for 1941, her death and the summing up of her work, which spooked me. I tried instead to approach the controversial aspects of her life as impartially as possible, offering numerous rationales for her decisions, to avoid condemnation or even unearned adulation. The biographer can't avoid picking and choosing her material and revealing where her interests lie, of course, but she can offer it without undue emphasis.
As a poet, novelist, memoirist, short story writer, librettist, translator, biographer, critic, and videomaker, you work across genres and forms. What advice do you have for writers exploring new mediums?
It is not a good idea to spread yourself thin if you can avoid it. Since we are not Europeans who accept and promote the woman or man of letters, you risk losing your audience if you write in numerous genres. My rationale for my own practice ignores what I just wrote. Whenever I feel blocked or discouraged by one genre, I turn to another. That way at the least the dopamine flow continues uninterrupted. When I sense new failure, I return to that earlier genre with lessons learned, some of them useful to the inert material that resisted me before.
Dallas, TX: Discussion: Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox edited by Joanne Bamberger at the Political Institute for Women (3/4, 12pm)
Jersey City, NJ: Reading: Hello American Lady Creature: What I Learned as a Woman in Qatar by Lisa Kirchner at Jivamukti (2/20, 3:30pm)
London, UK: Party: You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman at Serpentine Sackler Gallery (2/20, 7pm)
New York, NY: Reading: Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet by Terese Svoboda at Jimmy's No. 43 (2/21, 7pm)
New York, NY: Reading: Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet by Terese Svoboda at NYU Bookstore (2/23, 6pm)
New York, NY: Launch: Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet by Terese Svoboda at Bowery Poetry (2/28, 3:30pm)
Norfolk, VA: Reading: Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul by Laurie Jean Cannady at Prince Books (2/19, 7pm)
Paris, France: Reading: You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman at the American Library in Paris (2/24, 7:30pm)
Portsmouth, VA: Reading: Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul by Laurie Jean Cannady at Portsmouth Public Library (2/20, 1pm)
Willow Grove, PA: Signing: One More Day by Kelly Simmons at Barnes & Noble (2/28, 2pm)
In Tongue Lyre, poet Tyler Mills weaves together fragments of myth and memory, summoning the works of Ovid, Homer, and James Joyce to spin a story of violence and the female body. Madeline Dyer's dystopian YA novel Untamed follows Seven, one of the last Untamed humans left in the world. Stephanie Wu's The Roommates collects people's disastrous, hilarious, and sometimes moving true stories of sharing a space.
About This List
The Binders Book List is put together by volunteer organizers of Out of the Binders, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. You can support the org by doing your shopping with our Amazon Smile link. Want to get your own book on this list? Ask an admin of the binder how.