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February 2022 Reading Log

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Photo by Tom Morel / Unsplash

Februaries always feel at best like my head is a half-drunk can of seltzer that someone left out overnight to go flat, and at worst like flinging myself against a wall over and over. They've been a particular mindfuck during the pandemic: February 2020 was the last time I got on a plane (to be workshop faculty at Futurescapes in Utah) before New York shut down a few weeks later. In February 2021 I thought, it's been a year since I flew. Now it's been over two years, possibly a record for me.

February 2022 was a month of contracts, admin work, and trying to reorganize the apartment where I've spent almost all my time since mid-March of 2020. I started reading about thirty separate things and finished almost none of them, but hey, I turned this lectern into a halfway functional standing desk arrangement. Congratulations to me.

Right up front, I'm going to sneak in the latest installment of my colleague Kate McKean's newsletter, Agents and Books, even though it was just published this afternoon (March 1st! not February!! scandalous!!!). Kate's take on book publishing is always clear-sighted and grounded in compassion; I felt the first two paragraphs of this one in my gut as I was reading it on one of my own stupid little walks today. ("This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco: Book Promotion in Times Like These")

I'm also linking to a couple of Twitter threads about workloads and burnout in publishing because this is my blog and I can do that. A client mentioned Nicole Brinkley's newsletter Misshelved to me on the phone and issue #9, "It must be exhausting to be an author", hit a "laughing in the key of depression" sweet spot for me.

On a less bleak note, this is a cool idea that I hope some publisher tries out.

[redacted — considering for rep, novel]

Grouping a bunch of things under the loose heading "Culture"
"Patricia Lockwood Has Always Sounded This Way" by Deborah Treisman (The New Yorker)
"A look at the long prime of novelist Muriel Spark on the centenary of her birth" by Leo Robson (The New Statesman)
"The Bizarre, Unsolved Mystery of Filippo Bernardini and the Stolen Book Manuscripts" by Alex Shephard (The New Republic)
"The Sex Scene is Dead. Long Live the Sex Scene." — conversation between Doreen St. Félix, Naomi Fry, Vinson Cunningham, and Alexandra Schwartz in The New Yorker; a lot of this did not particularly make sense to me, but what are you going to do
"Kenneth Branagh: My Poirot Must Ache" by B. D. McClay (Gawker)
"In the Beginning Was the Blurb" by Mike Jakeman (The Fence)
"'She Was Committed to the Dark Side': How My Best Friend’s Wedding messed with Julia Roberts’s image and changed rom-coms for good" by Scott Meslow, excerpted in Vulture from his book From Hollywood with Love: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of the Romantic Comedy (god this is too great a volume of subtitle for one entry. anyway, Dey Street/William Morrow/HarperCollins)

a few poems from Dear Boy by Emily Berry, the first book I opened in February (Faber Poetry) (reread)
"Une femme qui était belle/A woman once lovely" by Alice Paalen Rahon (in Shapeshifter, NYRB Poets)
"The Lost Pilot" by James Tate
"The Chaste Stranger" by James Tate
"Manna" by James Tate
"Poem to Some of My Recent Poems" by James Tate
"OK Fern"
by Maureen N. McLane (via 陳琛 / Chen Chen on Twitter)
"Poem for the Depression" by Ruth Krauss (via Pome)
"Celibacy at Twenty" by Sharon Olds
"Housecleaning" by Nikki Giovanni

"Six Sentences I Can't Forget" by John Paul Brammer — this essay is an old friend from February 2020 (¡Hola Papi!, his Substack) (reread)