Welcome to Blurbed, a round-up of literary recommendations from the editors and contributors at the Columbia Journal! Each month, Blurbed features a curated list of things to read, events to attend and news from the Journal.
What to Read
The Dream of Reason, Jenny George
I’m an inarticulate poetry reader, so I won’t try to conjure up a precise description of this collection. But I laughed out loud at moments, only to recede into my own thoughts on the next page. Commonplace animals, the focus of the book, are seen in bright, human-like detail, then magnified until grotesque.
“Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African ‘Game of Thrones,'” The New Yorker
There’s a certain sort of performative proclamation we make about how genre doesn’t matter, or doesn’t even exist. I think that’s true from the standpoint of the writing craft, but it’s rarer to see that explored as a discrete portion (or not) of an artist’s career. Marlon James is a great lens through which to pull on that statement, with the release of Black Leopard, Red Wolf.
The Dirty Dust, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, trans. Alan Titley
I first heard about this novel alongside many others, I presume, as the subject of an article in The New Yorker titled, “The Irish Novel That’s So Good People Were Scared to Translate It.” After letting it sit on my to-read list for some time, I picked it up at the beginning of this year and dug in. It’s wild and wonderful, one part Joyce, one part Lincoln in the Bardo. The language, almost entirely in dialogue, is melodic. If you’ve been to the country, you’ll know it at once.
What to See & Do
February 5: Eat, Drink & Be Literary 2019: Robert Caro
If you’re a nonfiction writer, or at least one interested in research, Robert Caro is a semi-mystical character, retreating to his office for years or decades while continuing on his singular quest. When he comes back from the cave, you want to hear what he’s found.
February 7: Morgan Parker & Danez Smith
Two leading lights in the new generation of black American poets will be under the same roof together at the 92nd Y. —Daniel Burgess, First Year Fiction Student
February 14: Tiana Clark and Eileen Myles
It’s not difficult to get me to attend an event with Eileen Myles. This is no exception.
February 23: M. Lamar’s Lordship and Bondage: The Birth of the Negro Superman
M. Lamar is a beautiful and talented force + this event description is everything: Drawing on the writings of Hegel, Nietzsche, and Sun Ra, “Lordship and Bondage: The Birth of the Negro Superman” is a staged song cycle with spoken text, synthesizing classical opera, Negro spiritual, Afrofuturism, and doom metal to bring to light the African American experience of enslaved and liberated consciousness. The work is composed and performed by M. Lamar and San Francisco–based The Living Earth Show.—Jacquelyn Gallo, Print Managing Editor
We’re now accepting submissions to our 2019 Spring Contest, featuring judges Alexandra Kleeman (fiction), Tommy Pico (poetry), and Kiese Laymon (nonfiction). The deadline for submissions is February 15th.
Words to Write By
“‘Luck is not chance—/it’s Toil—/… the Father of/the Mine/is that old-fashioned Coin/we spurned.’ That sense of the spurned book, the hidden one, is intuitive. It’s a sense of self-identification and trust that widens to delight—discovering accidental originals or feeling that you’re pulling something back. You’re rescuing or bringing them into the light. You could call it civilly disobedient telepathy.”