book reports
August 2014


Patricia St. John

One night last week I couldn't sleep and I sat in my house in the dark, looking out the window and watching people on the roof of the apartment across the garden from me inspecting a chimney with their flashlights. When I was sure they weren't going to do anything more exciting than that I turned a light on and read this book. I've read it a lot of times. It's about a little missionary boy named David living in what seems to be north Africa, I would guess Algeria, but it never says. He makes a friend and they discover a smuggler's rowboat filled with rifles, they find a hunchbacked orphan girl sleeping under a grapevine with flies on her face, they dive into shallow water, break things, etc. They are also taught many bible lessons by shepherds (LOL) and by David's parents. A few months ago I reread another one of Patricia St John's books and was kind of horrified by it. She's a christian writer writing for christian children, and her treatment of christians and non-christians is extremely condescending and adorably simplistic. But she's good at evoking the confusion/anger/loneliness/despair and eventual comfort of being a little kid (or, uuhhhh, a 31 year old) and, especially in THREE GO SEARCHING, she gets the mild mystery and adventure that I want in a children's book really right. I'll probably read it a lot more times.


Leopoldine Core

I read one of Leopoldine Core's poems on the internet and I liked it a lot so I ordered her chapbook. The other poems in it had some good lines, but the one I saw on the internet is the one I'm going to remember and sometimes reread.



          Let me know you

          Let me know you

          Let me in


Ron Hansen

When this book was made into a movie a few years ago, I heard an interview with Ron Hansen on NPR and I liked the way he talked about writing and fiction and nonfiction and people and characters and God. Then I forgot about him for a long time until I recently decided that I want to start reading westerns and I remembered the title of this book, even though it isn't really a western. At first it was a little bit annoying to me; it seemed like Ron spent too long writing each of his sentences, or like he was very pleased with himself every time he verbed a noun or adjective. Once I got used to it and settled into the story though I liked it. Jesse James spent most of his time in Missouri, same state as me. He wore the same size of belt as me and weighed the same but was two inches shorter, and he survived for one year longer than Jesus did. He was a charming weirdo who was popular when he was alive and even more popular when he was dead, despite having murdered sixteen people. Here's a part where Bob, his friend who eventually killed him is describing him: "He was bigger than you can imagine, and he couldn't get enough to eat. He ate all the food in the dining room and then he ate all the plates and the glasses and the light off the candles; he ate all the air in your lungs and the thoughts right out of your mind. You'd go to him, wanting to be with him, wanting to be like him, and you'd always come away missing something." Bob looked at the girl with anger and of course she was looking peculiarly at him. He said, "So now you know why I shot him."

Oscar Wilde happened to be in town when Jesse was killed, and he wrote a letter to a friend saying "The Americans are certainly great hero worshippers, and always take their heroes from the criminal class." Now I think we're all probably incapable of even having heroes, and I can't tell whether that's an improvement or not.


ed. Chad Wriglesworth

Evidence of a long and thoughtful friendship. I love Wendell Berry and haven't read anything by Gary Snyder. These guys have hung out in real life a few times, but they mostly know each other from reading each other's books and poems and essays, and writing letters back and forth for forty years. This was a good thing for me to read on the airplane and while I re-learned how to live in Antalya instead of Springfield.



          "Things are going ahead here at an unsurprising rate, and our
          complaints are more or less normal."


          "We obviously can't, mustn't, be optimistic. But how good to think,
          beyond the thought of victory, of making some happy, useful sense
          with companions!"