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reading tiger

Wednesday, Reading

I am gearing up to tackle Les Miserables in my Year of Reading Really Long Books, so this week I read a lot of really short books.

First, Birds and Birthdays by Christopher Barzak, which consists of three short stories based on Surrealist paintings by women (Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, and Dorothea Tanning, to be specific.) The book also includes an essay on Surrealists and the body, with a discussion of how Barzak approached writing these stories so as not to duplicate the errors of the male Surrealists.

The essay touches on some stuff that I've been grappling with over time, too. And Tanning's "Birthday" has been one of my favorite paintings since I was in high school and ran across an oversized color plate of it in some Big Book of Surrealism or another. "Birthday" is also the strongest story in the book. "The Bird Woman" I found a little too obvious in its gender relationship bits, and "The Guardian of the Egg" was a little flat, perhaps because it's told from the perspective of the guardian's brother, and all she does, basically, is turn into a tree. A lovely, odd, well-written tree, but still. And once again, we go straight to woman=nature (why do women always get to be simultaneously nature and civilization, but only the fluffy bunny parts of nature and the manners and tea parts of civilization?) and if you don't complicate that for me I am dubious. It's a little complicated here but not enough. "Birthday," though, has engines. "Birthday" is a little puzzle that I would read again.

doriankatz should read this book.

I also read most of TVA Baby by Terry Bisson, a bunch of magazines and cookbooks, some poetry. Terry Bisson remains pointedly funny and I liked his FAQs the best here so far. I could use this space to compare PM Press' chapbook series to Aqueduct's, but I won't. I like them both. And I cannot lie.


Ha! I was reading the post and thinking, omg I have to read this book, then got to my name.
Have you read any of Leonora Carrington's short stories? There's one called the Debutante and it features a hyena character.
Also, somewhere in the world there is a novel that Carrington and Varos co-authored. Someday I hope to find that.

You know, Wendi Norris gallery represents the estates of quite a few surrealists. It's a great way to see stuff locally from time to time.

I will be happy to lend it to you. And thanks for the tip on the Wendy Norris Gallery!
Thanks! And the contemporary work she shows is amazing too.