Quantcast

Mailbox Monday #630

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

ALERT: We’re looking for a new host to help us with MM — if you have experience with WordPress or Mr. Linky, feel free to apply.

Here’s what we received:

Little Wars by W. Luther Jett, which I purchased from Kelsay Books.

You have in your hands poems of a mournful witness-nearly all evoke a tone of bitterness over the devastation and trauma of endless wars. The book’s ironic title is a purposeful oxymoron: “there are no / little wars-no distance / we cannot reduce to nothing.” Luther Jett’s poetry voices itself in precise diction and nuanced rhythms that grab hold of your attention and do not let go.

-Merrill Leffler, Author of Mark the Music

Compassion-both its presence and its absence-interests W. Luther Jett. His previous collections Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father and Our Situation explored trauma and healing. Little Wars digs for the roots of pain in the twentieth century’s geopolitical conflicts, from World War II to Bosnia. The people in these poems go about their daily lives as the bombs fall, trying-and too often failing-to retain their human connection, deepening “the wound we make of breathing.” Jett’s sorrow pours out in the tones of an Old Testament prophet or catches, choking, in his throat. In this raw-edged, lyrical collection, Jett absolves no one: the fault is ” . . . ours, ours, and ours alone, our making / because we refuse to make stars / out of the coals / that burn in our hearts.”

-Katherine E. Young, Author of Woman Drinking Absinthe and Day of the Border Guards , Poet Laureate Emerita, Arlington, VA

Little Wars is a moving and deeply disturbing series of poems. From the poppies symbolizing the dead soldiers of World War I to the destruction of the Mostar Bridge in the Bosnian War, Jett recounts “the cities leveled and the fields / upchurned” in war’s path. The ubiquity of current combat, ever rumbling, is in these poignant pages too, and the survivors always left “waiting / for the siren’s blast, the tramp / of boots along the stairs.”

-Kim Roberts, Author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC

My Audible Downloads:


What did you receive?

My 2017 Favorites

No preamble. Let’s get to my favorite reads in 2017:

This is also tied with his chapbook, Story Problems.

WHAT BOOKS WERE ON YOUR LIST OF FAVORITES FOR 2017?

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 371 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which was our April book club selection, is a novel that satirizes the aftermath of the Vietnam war, but it also is a serious examination of identity from the point of view of someone who is a subversive and a mole within the South Vietnamese military at the time of the war. The Captain, who remains unnamed, is in the South Vietnamese military but feeding information to the People’s Army of Vietnam (communists) through his childhood friend, Man. Meanwhile, their third childhood friend, Bon, has been trained as an assassin by the CIA. Balancing his friendship with his duty to the communists becomes a balance that the Captain often loses, but as he has so few real connections with others, it is his friend Bon who pays the highest cost.

“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent I possess.” (pg. 1)

In many ways the opening of the novel will signal to the reader that everything told by the Captain may be untrue or at least partly. But he also seeks to set himself up as a sympathetic character who is torn not only by his heritage — the son of a Vietnamese mother and French priest — but also by his knowledge of America from being abroad at school and his communist leanings. After fleeing Vietnam with the General when the Americans lost the war to the communists, the Captain longs to return, but he is repeatedly told that he must remain a mole among those exiled to America to ensure they are not planning a return. He is forced to swallow more of the bitter pill that his life is not his own, even in America.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen provides a deep look at issues of mixed cultures and races, how they are treated in Vietnam and America during this time period, and how difficult it was to reconcile defeat on either side. It also asks the bigger questions about revolution and the disillusionment of passionate idealists. Corruption of any revolution can occur, and that can be the most devastating for the passionate idealist, but how does it affect those who can see both sides of the equation? And is the real crime to have done nothing or to not have truly chosen a side to be on — right or wrong?

RATING: Cinquain

What the Book Club Thought:

The discussion compared the novel to 1984 and to Catch-22 for its satire, but mostly, we were engrossed in the plight of the Captain and his identity issues. We found it hard for him as a European-Vietnamese man with communist and American-leaning tendencies to reconcile all that he was and commit himself to one cause. Overall, most of the members at the meeting “enjoyed” the book, though one or two members were less than thrilled by the disembodied scenes in the interrogation room, which they felt took them out of the story.

About the Author:

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer is a New York Times best seller and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Other honors include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, a Gold Medal in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award from the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association. His other books are Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction) and Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. He is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. His next book is a short story collection, The Refugees, forthcoming in February 2017 from Grove Press.

Mailbox Monday #404

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

March, Vol. 1-3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, which I purchased.

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky, which I purchased.

Winner of the 2016 National Book Award in Poetry. Daniel Borzutzky’s new collection of poetry, The Performance of Becoming Human, draws hemispheric connections between the US and Latin America, specifically touching upon issues relating to border and immigration policies, economic disparity, political violence, and the disturbing rhetoric of capitalism and bureaucracies. To become human is to navigate these borders, including those of institutions, the realities of over- and under-development, and the economies of privatization, in which humans endure state-sanctioned and systemic abuses. Borzutzky, whose writing Eileen Myles has described as “violent, perverse, and tender” in its portrayal of “American and global horror,” adds another chapter to a growing and important compilation of work that asks what it means to a be both a unitedstatesian and a globalized subject whose body is “shared between the earth, the state, and the bank.”

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which I purchased.

The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, which I purchased.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Beau North and Brooke West, a giveaway win.

After Elizabeth Bennet rejects his marriage proposal, Fitzwilliam Darcy finds himself in the most unusual of circumstances. At first believing the extraordinary turn of events has granted him an inexplicable boon, he is eager to put the humiliating proposal behind him.

He soon discovers that he is trapped in the same waking dream with no end in sight and no possible escape. All that he holds dear—his name, his home, his love—remains ever out of reach. How will he find his way back to his normal life? Will one mistake haunt the rest of his days? It will take all of his fortitude to weather the storms of his strange new fate, and all of his courage to grasp the promise of his future.

What did you receive?