I have detached myself from both book clubs at this point: the first one, because it was falling apart anyway and a two-hour drive to boot, the other, well, I just couldn’t get over the political spam I kept receiving from one of the members of the group. When in doubt, I usually turn to the Man Booker Prize winners – but I’d forgotten that until just now.

It seems that everyone has become so busy that even my old stand-by avid reader friends don’t have a recommendation for me. How about my librarian husband you ask? Well, he’s still making his way through Pynchon’s Against the Day (which I have no interest in tackling) and otherwise he’s just read Katherine Neville’s The Eight (which wasn’t as good as the hype he says) and Marcus Reeves’ Somebody Scream!: Rap Music’s Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power (which I feel like I’ve almost read by virtue of having now listened to the music of all the featured rap artists via Chad’s regularly updated new 160 gig).

So I have resorted to asking strangers for book suggestions – well, he’s practically a stranger, but I was curious to hear what a recent MFA Poetry grad from UCI might recommend. And so far it’s been an interesting way of choosing a read.

For fiction, he recommended We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, In Revere, In Those Days by Roland Merullo, and Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris.

For poetry, he recommended Human Wishes by Robert Hass, New and Selected Poems by Michael Ryan, The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck (speakers of poems alternate between flowers, humans, and god), and Complete Poems by Alan Dugan.

And for a general tip, he recommended a website where members share their reading lists called goodreads.com (which I promptly joined and then forgot about).

I got ALL the books he recommended (via the librarian husband) so that I could peruse and make a choice at leisure, but now I’ve just finished the first fiction book and enjoyed it enough to consider just holding on to all the books until I’ve read them ALL. That is except for We Need To Talk About Kevin, which looked interesting but the subject matter, a mass teen shooting, seemed too gruesome for pregnancy.

I just finished Joshua Ferris’ debut novel, Then We Came to the End. And while I would give it a B, I have to say that I got a strange maniacal pleasure out reading all about the hyper-pressurized relationships within a corporate ad agency. The story was built around the flimsy water cooler conversations of the of characters with names like Jim Jackers, Marcia Dwyer, Tom Mota, Benny Shassburger, Joe Pope… and it took me nearly to the end of the book to be able to keep all of them distinct. But in a way it didn’t matter, anymore than it matters to keep your own office stories straight – it’s all a way to pass the time in a life that seems outside of life. The more than slightly frenzied feel of the novel felt very contemporary to me. It seemed like a methodology born of being raised with the internet and massive multi-tasking, although in the end the story revealed itself to have a more conventional tie-up-the-loose-ends infrastructure that I hadn’t anticipated. Ferris is also an MFA grad from UCI. Next, I’m jumping into Revere, In Those Days.

And for all the inbetween times, I am reading lots of poetry and loving it. Especially the Dugan. Whew – that man pretty much just opens his coat and shows you everything the way it is. A Bukowski of sorts, but not as crass or as drunk.

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