“Small, red, and upright he waited,
gripping his new bookbag tight
in one hand and touching a lucky penny inside his coat pocket with the other,
while the first snows of winter
floated down on his eyelashes and covered the branches around him and silenced
all trace of the world.”
The Red Parts
Maggie Nelson, 2007
Pros: Maggie Nelson is a master of memoir, and this autobiography following the trial of her aunt’s murderer is a brilliant examination of violence, gender, loss, and voyeurism. Nelson gets uncomfortably close to the underside of our interest in true crime and pain, and asks the reader to consider what the re-telling of such stories means to both the subject and the object. A perfect extended lyric essay.
Cons: For fans of clarity, Nelson still plays coy with some aspects of her life, though not nearly as much as in, say, Bluets or other more self-focused writing where lyricism takes precedence over plain old information.
The Verdict: A great introduction to Nelson, if you’ve never read her work, and if you have then snap this one up immediately. This is writing at its finest.
I’ve been wanting to discuss one of my favorite books, A Little Life, for a while. I’d have no problem arguing I think this is easily one of the best books written in the last ten years, and it has a place of honor on my bookshelf (not that Yanagihara cares much about my book collection). But it’s difficult to say why this novel lives so large in my mind; it’s hard to define what type of story this is, or even how it works, and so it becomes difficult to name the precise feeling you experience reading it: overwhelming pathos, maybe, or a deep sense of communal human experience. So the way to begin writing about it may be as simply as possible: I read A Little Life about half a year ago, and the story remains just as moving and impressive in my mind tonight as on the day I finished the last page.
Continue reading A Very Balanced Review: A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara