125-128 (Catching up… and done!)

124. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (Paul Silvia)

This is the best, most fact-based, practical book I've ever seen on writing productively, whether academically and creatively. I re-read it two or three times a year as a kick in the ass.

125. Reality Hunger (David Shields)

I would like to craft a longer post on this, but may wait until I eventually re-read it. Both more and less radical than you've heard.

126. Poets and Killers (Helen Hajnoczky)

An excellent debut, which purports to tell the life story (in poetry) of a man through advertising (the poems are primarily composed of “remixed” advertising copy). It seems impossible that one could tell any story, much less an interesting story, through found lines from advertising, but Hajnoczky manages to do so, although it’s less of a straightforward story than a sort of poetic collage. It’s an interesting way to criticize advertising, by completely reproducing it in this manner. So many ads try to sell us on the idea that we are individuals, but they sell us the same individuality—advertising says we’re different, but treats us the same. Likewise, poetry is thought of today as a sort of self-expression, but most of the poems I read sound the same, and say the same things, about the same topics—but they’re supposed to represent the deepest, most individual thoughts of the poet, so why does one poet almost always sound like another? Hajnoczky, in refusing to speak of anything personal, and instead remix advertising slogans as poetry, has oddly produced a much more “unique” and “individual” book than she might have if she’d written about personal issues in a much more conventional manner. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is that she includes an essay as an afterword, which seems lame. Why does a book of poetry need an essay afterword justifying itself? The poems should stand on their own.

127. WSW (West South West) (Erin Moure)

What is there to say about Moure that hasn't already been said? Always excellent, fresh and stirring.

128. Ilustrado (Miguel Syjuco)

An outstanding book. My review is available online at The Winnipeg Review, a new publication you should all entrust with your life.

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Jonathan Ball is a writer, filmmaker, and scholar living at www.jonathanball.com.

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