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Old 01-01-2019, 01:31 PM   #1
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A Touch of the Poetic • January 2019

I hope all of you rang in the new year well. Now, help select our first read of 2019!


The topic is A Touch of the Poetic.

January was our Poetry month for years and this is something of an homage, though a distinct new topic in its own right. This can be novels with some poetic element or atmosphere about them, or with poetry or a poet as an element or theme, or with poet, poetry or poetic in the title, or however else one may interpret the topic, and of course actual poetry is an option too.


Detailed nominating and voting guidelines can be found here. Basically, nominations are open for about four days and each person may nominate up to three literary selections which will go automatically to the vote. Voting by post then opens for four days, and a voter may give each nomination either one or two votes but only has a limited number of votes to use which is equal to the number of nominations minus one. Any questions, feel free to ask.

We hope that you will read the selection with us and join in the discussion.

*

Nominations are complete. Initial voting is complete. Run-off voting is complete. Final results-

  • The Taste of Words: An Introduction to Urdu Poetry
    Post . Goodreads .... 312 Pages . Votes 3 . Run-off - ... 2014 . India, Pakistan & Elsewhere

  • Selected Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    Post . Goodreads . Varied Pages . Votes 4 . Run-off - . c.1882 . The U.S.

  • The Poetry of Pablo Neruda
    Post . Goodreads .. 1,040 Pages . Votes 1 . Run-off - ... 1974 . Chile

  • Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti
    Post . Goodreads ..... 89 Pages . Votes 6 . Run-off 3 ... 1862 . England

  • Don Juan by Lord Byron
    Post . Goodreads .... 584 Pages . Votes 5 . Run-off - ... 1819 . England

  • Idylls of the King by Alfred Tennyson
    Post . Goodreads .... 350 Pages . Votes 6 . Run-off 2 ... 1885 . England

  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    Post . Goodreads ..... 96 Pages . Votes 5 . Run-off - ... 1798 . England

  • The Notebook by Ágota Kristóf
    Post . Goodreads .... 180 Pages . Votes 3 . Run-off - ... 1986 . Hungary & Switzerland

  • Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
    Post . Goodreads .... 216 Pages . Votes 4 . Run-off - ... 2013 . Japan

  • A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr
    Post . Goodreads ..... 93 Pages . Votes 1 . Run-off - ... 1980 . England

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Old 01-01-2019, 02:02 PM   #2
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Happy New Year to all! This topic should be lots of fun to search for nominations. I already have a few options in mind.
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Old 01-02-2019, 05:06 AM   #3
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This is more a personal crusade than a recommendation, but I'll throw it out there anyway:
The Taste of Words: An Introduction to Urdu Poetry

The reason I'm recommending this book is because it is exactly what it says - an introduction to a poetry tradition many know little about. And I include myself in that number, most definitely. Apart from a helpful, informative introduction, and translations that seem safe from what I can make out, the other real highlight is that for almost all the works in the anthology, the author provides links to his personal favourite performances on Youtube. With many of the poems, I find that the effort of trying to follow them with their Persianate vocabulary is taxing to my limited Hindi, but listening to them being performed as I read along brings them to life and often helps make more sense of them too. So if one wants to try something different, one could very easily do worse than check this out
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Old 01-04-2019, 10:23 PM   #4
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My first nomination is to read selected poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882). It is easy to find various editions of his poetry in all countries. I was inspired to nominate Longfellow's poetry because I just read a historical fiction book by Jennifer Chiaverini about the poem "Christmas Bells," which became the basis of the carol "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." I was really fascinated by the biographical details of his life, including multiple sad family tragedies, and the time period in which he lived being in the Boston area during the Civil War.

Here is an example edition of Evangeline and Other Selected Poems that appears available for everyone.
https://www.amazon.com/Evangeline-Ot...dp/B0030MTPV0/

Here is Longfellow's biography from Goodreads:
Quote:
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and "Evangeline". He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy and was one of the five members of the group known as the Fireside Poets.

Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine and studied at Bowdoin College. After spending time in Europe he became a professor at Bowdoin and, later, at Harvard College. His first major poetry collections were Voices of the Night (1839) and Ballads and Other Poems (1842). Longfellow retired from teaching in 1854 to focus on his writing, though he lived the remainder of his life in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a former headquarters of George Washington.

Longfellow predominantly wrote lyric poetry, known for its musicality, which often presented stories of mythology and legend. He became the most popular American poet of his day and also had success overseas. He has been criticized, however, for imitating European styles and writing specifically for the masses.
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Old 01-04-2019, 10:38 PM   #5
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For my second nomination, I wanted to select an author who was not from an English-speaking country. I nominate The Poetry of Pablo Neruda by Pablo Neruda (edited by Ilan Stavans).

From Amazon:
Quote:
In his work a continent awakens to consciousness," wrote the Swedish Academy in awarding the Nobel Prize to Pablo Neruda, author of more than thirty-five books of poetry and one of Latin America's most revered writers and political figures-a loyal member of the Communist party, a lifelong diplomat and onetime senator, a man lionized during his lifetime as "the people's poet."

Born Neftali Basoalto, Neruda adopted his pen name in fear of his family's disapproval, and yet by the age of twenty-five he was already famous for the book Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, which remains his most beloved. During the next fifty years, a seemingly boundless metaphorical language linked his romantic fantasies and the fierce moral and political compass-exemplified in books such as Canto General-that made him an adamant champion of the dignity of ordinary men and women.

Edited and with an introduction by Ilan Stavans, this is the most comprehensive single-volume collection of this prolific poet's work in English. Here the finest translations of nearly six hundred poems by Neruda are collected and join specially commissioned new translations that attest to Neruda's still-resounding presence in American letters.

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Old 01-04-2019, 10:55 PM   #6
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My last nomination is Goblin Market and Other Poems by the English poet Christina Rossetti (1830–1894). This collection established Rossetti as the foremost female poet of her time. Her work was admired by Tennyson, Hopkins and Swinburne.

From Goodreads:
Quote:
An important and often-quoted literary figure, the English poet Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) wrote some of the most beautiful and voluptuous poetry in the English language. Like Emily Dickinson, she lived in self-imposed isolation, writing of God and lost love with a sensuality and passion that seemed to emanate from the soul.

This edition of 53 works combines a number of her best-known sonnets, ballads, and shorter lyrics with her long masterpiece, the narrative fable Goblin Market. A haunting fairy tale in verse, Goblin Market was once labeled a children's poem, yet its intricate symbolism and themes of temptation, sin, and redemption mark it for an adult audience. Among other works included in this choice collection are "The Convent Threshold," "Up-hill," "Cousin Kate," "Winter: My Secret," "Maude Clare," "No, Thank You, John," and "After Death."
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Old 01-05-2019, 12:37 AM   #7
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I'll have to give this one a miss I'm afraid.

Poetry and I just do not get on together. After a few lines, even if it is a subject that would normally interest me, my mind soon wanders off to other realms of my own making .
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Old 01-05-2019, 12:56 AM   #8
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No problem. I consider it my challenge month. I have always struggled with poetry! That’s why I read poems in samples of the works that I selected to make sure that I could follow them. There were so many great ones that I sampled that were just totally over my head!
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Old 01-05-2019, 12:59 AM   #9
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About a half day left for nominations.

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Originally Posted by AnotherCat View Post
I'll have to give this one a miss I'm afraid.

Poetry and I just do not get on together. After a few lines, even if it is a subject that would normally interest me, my mind soon wanders off to other realms of my own making .
Understood, although this topic can include novels too! So if you can think of anything you think would fit the topic feel free to throw it in the ring. I’m nominating at least one novel myself if I can find the book I have in mind.

Edit- For instance, a novel I thought would’ve fit this category really well was Fugitive Pieces which was a lit club selection for another category years ago and is a novel yet has such a poetic feel to it (though some may remember that I happened not to like that book, it didn’t have anything to do with its poeticness).

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Old 01-05-2019, 01:33 AM   #10
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When we read T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets as well as Clare’s poetry, I found that listening to an audiobook at the same time as reading made a BIG difference to my comprehension.

Here are some ideas for the future or someone else can consider nominating them, I thought about selecting novels that had poetic prose such as Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson or All The Pretty Horse or Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. I also thought about nominating Seven Types of Ambiguity by William Empson who was a literary critic and a poet. I thought that this book sounded like something thought-provoking that might interest you, AnotherCat.

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First published in 1930, Seven Types of Ambiguity has long been recognized as a landmark in the history of English literary criticism. Revised twice since it first appeared, it has remained one of the most widely read and quoted works of literary analysis.
Quote:
An ambiguity is represented as a puzzle to Empson. We have ambiguity when "alternative views might be taken without sheer misreading." Empson reads poetry as an exploration of conflicts within the author.

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Old 01-05-2019, 01:37 AM   #11
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I agree with you on Fugitive Pieces, sun surfer. That is another book which I read while also partaking of the audiobook for enhancement of the literary experience. I have distinct memories of listening to that while reading on my patio.
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Old 01-05-2019, 08:38 AM   #12
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My dear friends, I would like to recommend Don Juan of George Byron, Idylls of the King of Alfrend Tennyson and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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Old 01-05-2019, 10:11 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
My last nomination is Goblin Market and Other Poems by the English poet Christina Rossetti (1830–1894). This collection established Rossetti as the foremost female poet of her time. Her work was admired by Tennyson, Hopkins and Swinburne.
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Old 01-05-2019, 03:40 PM   #14
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My dear friends, I would like to recommend Don Juan of George Byron, Idylls of the King of Alfrend Tennyson and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
As an exercise in memory training in my late teens, I tried to memorise all of the Ancient Mariner. Loved the poem, but I gave up before the halfway mark. Which means I stoppethed at one of three.
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Old 01-05-2019, 04:42 PM   #15
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This was very, very difficult to narrow the possibilities down to three nominations- probably the most difficult month I've had in that regard. It started with one book I was trying to think of (which I ended up not choosing), and spiralled into a list of 14 possibilities. I ended up finding books variously related to the topic- some were novels with poets in them, some were novels by poets, some were novels described as poetic, some were novels infused philosophically about poetry and art. I had meant to find at least one nomination of actual poetry, but seeing so many other actual poetry nominations and finding so many other possibilities anyway, all of mine are more or less novels.

I had to eliminate some of these from consideration because they didn't have ebooks; I am nominating one without an ebook but once I settled on that one, I thought I shouldn't nominate any more without an ebook. As well, one of my pet peeves with previews prominently popped up this month, namely when there's not a preview of the actual book but rather just a preview of the introduction/forward/etc. It happened on five of my possibilities! Luckily, two had an actual preview by choosing to view the paperback or hardcover version preview on Amazon rather than the ebook preview, and another I found an actual preview on Scribd. So, that left two I had to eliminate for want of a preview.

Then, I began the hard process of choosing only three of the remainder. I ended up with five with one I knew I wanted to nominate but the other four I could not decide between and choosing from them was basically a roll of the die. I will list my three nominations in random order and then, since this process is at least half about sharing interesting reading ideas with others, at the bottom of the post in a spoiler will list six others I was considering. So, that soliloquy done with , my nominations:


-The Notebook by Ágota Kristóf. No, this is not that The Notebook; this is a completely other one. Kristóf was a Hungarian poet and writer who ended up living in Switzerland and wrote in French. Though her primary focus was in poetry and theatre, her biggest success came with the trilogy of novels of which this is the first. The novel is a very simple one of a young set of twins - the novel is told in the first-person plural - in Eastern Europe during WWII who, because of bombings in the big city they are from, go to live with their evil grandmother in a small town to keep them safe. The preview I read had a bit of a dark poetic fairytale feel to it. This does not seem to have an ebook but there are cheap pbook options for it. This won the European Prize for French Literature. Goodreads 180 pages, 1986, Hungary & Switzerland

Quote:
With icy dispassion, first novelist Kristof, herself a refugee of war, spins a modern-day fable set in Eastern Europe during WW II. It records, in the form of a notebook written by two small boys, the nightmarish ordeal of twins brought by their mother from the bomb-spattered Big Town to their grandmother's home in Little Town. Grandmother, whom they call the Witch, harbors the boys only because they may prove useful. But they are wilier than she, spying on her through holes in the floor of the attic she can no longer reach, deliberately wounding each other to inure themselves to pain, learning the language of the occupying forces.
Here is poet Naja Marie Aidt's opinion of The Notebook-

Quote:
If I had to choose only one favorite writer it would probably be Kristof. The Notebook is the first novel of her trilogy on war and identity, following identical twin brothers Lucas and Claus as they are placed with their not at all nice grandmother in a small village somewhere in Eastern Europe to hide from the war. The novel is as simply written as a child’s notebook, but it has the most brutal beauty to it. The lack of sentimentality is striking. Part of the reason why this book is so unforgettable is that Kristof chooses to write in the first person plural, narrating the entire book in the voice of the twins’ indivisible “we.” I recommend reading the entire trilogy to see how Kristof gracefully explores second person narration as well. Taken together, the three books make up a sort of a labyrinth. When you finish the third novel you want to go back to the first to solve the mystery… Reading The Notebook many years ago persuaded me for the first time of the necessity of the novel – being then pretty arrogant, I had seen prose as the stupid younger sister of poetry!

-Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa. I know we just had a Japanese selection, but I couldn't resist nominating this book. I found this book on a list of poetic novels and also, though the Goodreads bio doesn't mention it, Sukegawa is a poet as well as novelist, essayist and reporter. As with The Notebook, this is also a very simple tale though in a sweeter way. It's about a former criminal and wannabe writer who wiles away his days drinking and working in a pastry shop making dorayaki, a type of pastry filled with sweet bean paste. One day an elderly, handicapped woman who makes the best bean paste enters the shop and an unlikely friendship is formed. The book has been described as uplifting, heartwarming and melancholy. Goodreads 216 pages, 2013, Japan

Quote:
Sentaro has failed: he has a criminal record, drinks too much, and hasn’t managed to fulfil his dream of becoming a writer. Instead, he works in a tiny confectionery shop selling dorayaki, a type of pancake filled with sweet bean paste. With only the blossoming of the cherry trees to mark the passing of time, he spends his days listlessly filling the pastries. Until one day an elderly, handicapped woman enters the shop.

Tokue makes the best bean paste imaginable, and begins to teach Sentaro her art. But as their friendship flourishes, societal prejudices become impossible to escape, in this quietly devastating novel about the burden of the past and the redemptive power of friendship.

-A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr. This book is about a veteran of the Great War who arrives in a remote Yorkshire village to restore a recently discovered medieval mural in a local church. He lives in the bell tower and reflects on the passage of time and the power of art. As with Japan, I know we also had a book set in Yorkshire not so very long ago, but this book just seemed like such a great nomination. While Carr is not a poet like my other two nominated authors, this book is often described as beautifully poetic. It was nominated for the Booker Prize and won the Guardian Fiction Award. Goodreads 93 pages, 1980, England

Quote:
In J. L. Carr's deeply charged poetic novel, Tom Birkin, a veteran of the Great War and a broken marriage, arrives in the remote Yorkshire village of Oxgodby where he is to restore a recently discovered medieval mural in the local church. Living in the bell tower, surrounded by the resplendent countryside of high summer, and laboring each day to uncover an anonymous painter's depiction of the apocalypse, Birkin finds that he himself has been restored to a new, and hopeful, attachment to life. But summer ends, and with the work done, Birkin must leave. Now, long after, as he reflects on the passage of time and the power of art, he finds in his memories some consolation for all that has been lost.

Spoiler:
Here are six other possibilities I considered for your perusal, from the last I eliminated before the chosen three (i.e. the first two were part of the five I couldn’t decide between) down to the first eliminated. Like Bookworm_Girl said, "Here are some ideas for the future or someone else can consider nominating them," although nominations will be closing as soon as I manage to update the first post with all the nominations.


-Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner.

Quote:
Adam Gordon is a brilliant, if highly unreliable, young American poet on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid, struggling to establish his sense of self and his relationship to art. What is actual when our experiences are mediated by language, technology, medication, and the arts? Is poetry an essential art form, or merely a screen for the reader's projections? Instead of following the dictates of his fellowship, Adam’s "research" becomes a meditation on the possibility of the genuine in the arts and beyond: are his relationships with the people he meets in Spain as fraudulent as he fears his poems are? A witness to the 2004 Madrid train bombings and their aftermath, does he participate in historic events or merely watch them pass him by?

In prose that veers between the comic and tragic, the self-contemptuous and the inspired, Leaving the Atocha Station is a portrait of the artist as a young man in an age of Google searches, pharmaceuticals, and spectacle.

-Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman

Quote:
A modern classic, Einstein’s Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, when he worked in a patent office in Switzerland. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children. In another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar.

Now translated into thirty languages, Einstein’s Dreams has inspired playwrights, dancers, musicians, and painters all over the world. In poetic vignettes, it explores the connections between science and art, the process of creativity, and ultimately the fragility of human existence.

-The Stream of Life by Clarice Lispector

Quote:
This rarefied novel adopts the form of the interior monologue characteristic of Lispector's (1925-1977) oeuvre. A woman sits by the open window of her Brazilian beachfront studio, writing a long letter to someone no more specific than "you." She parries with language (which is "only words which live off sound") and is wholly consumed with problems of epistemology: "I want to die with life." A painter, she struggles as well to recreate the world around her: "On certain nights, instead of black, the sky seems to be an intense indigo blue, a color I've painted on glass." When she listens to music, she says, "I rest my hand lightly on the turntable and my hand vibrates, spreading waves through my whole body." While the narrator's self-consciousness ("And if I say 'I,' it's because I don't dare say 'you,' or 'we,' or 'a person.' I'm limited to the humble act of self-personalization through reducing myself, but I am the 'you-are.' ") and diction ("the ultimate substratum in the domain of reality") may strike some readers as academic, others will appreciate the challenges of Lispector's philosophical investigations.

-Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann

Quote:
Bachmann tells the story of lives painfully intertwined: the unnamed narrator, haunted by nightmarish memories of her father, lives with the androgynous Malina, an initially remote and dispassionate man who ultimately becomes an ominous influence. Plunging toward its riveting finale, Malina brutally lays bare the struggle for love and the limits of discourse between women and men.
The poet Naja Marie Aidt says of Malina-

Quote:
A masterpiece! The Austrian poet and writer Bachmann castigates the structures behind Nazism as well as patrirachal violence. The langauge is overwhelmingly stark and innovative (one should for instance notice Bachmann’s use of unfinished sentences in dialogue). Malina is the name of one of two lovers in the female main charachter’s life, and a very important figure for the shocking ending of the book. Bachmann might have been overshadowed by some of the men she had relationships with, – including Max Frisch and Paul Celan – but is without any doubt one of the best European modern writers.

-Insel by Mina Loy

Quote:
“He has an evening suit, but never an occasion to wear it, so he puts it on when he paints his pictures.”

Insel, the only novel by the surrealist master Mina Loy, is a book like no other—about an impossible friendship amid the glamorous artistic bohemia of 1930s Paris.

German painter Insel is a perpetual sponger and outsider—prone to writing elegant notes with messages like “Am starving to death except for a miracle—three o’clock Tuesday afternoon will be the end”—but somehow writer and art dealer Mrs. Jones likes him.

Together, they sit in cafés, hatch grand plans, and share their artistic aspirations and disappointments. And they become friends. But as they grow ever closer, Mrs. Jones begins to realize just how powerful Insel’s hold over her is.

Unpublished during Loy’s lifetime, Insel—which is loosely based on her friendship with the painter Richard Oelze—is a supremely surrealist, deliberately excessive creation: baroque in style, yet full of deft comedy and sympathy. Now, with an alternate ending only recently unearthed in the Loy archives, Insel is finally back in print, and Loy’s extraordinary achievement can be appreciated by a new generation of readers.

-Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

Quote:
Nightwood, Djuna Barnes' strange and sinuous tour de force, "belongs to that small class of books that somehow reflect a time or an epoch" (TLS). That time is the period between the two World Wars, and Barnes' novel unfolds in the decadent shadows of Europe's great cities, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna—a world in which the boundaries of class, religion, and sexuality are bold but surprisingly porous. The outsized characters who inhabit this world are some of the most memorable in all of fiction—there is Guido Volkbein, the Wandering Jew and son of a self-proclaimed baron; Robin Vote, the American expatriate who marries him and then engages in a series of affairs, first with Nora Flood and then with Jenny Petherbridge, driving all of her lovers to distraction with her passion for wandering alone in the night; and there is Dr. Matthew-Mighty-Grain-of-Salt-Dante-O'Connor, a transvestite and ostensible gynecologist, whose digressive speeches brim with fury, keen insights, and surprising allusions. Barnes' depiction of these characters and their relationships (Nora says, "A man is another person—a woman is yourself, caught as you turn in panic; on her mouth you kiss your own") has made the novel a landmark of feminist and lesbian literature. Most striking of all is Barnes' unparalleled stylistic innovation, which led T. S. Eliot to proclaim the book "so good a novel that only sensibilities trained on poetry can wholly appreciate it." Now with a new preface by Jeanette Winterson, Nightwood still crackles with the same electric charge it had on its first publication in 1936.

Finally, I'll add one extra that I thought fantasyfan in particular might be interested in- I Thirst by Gina Marinello-Sweeney.

Quote:
When Rebecca receives a mysterious note from an unknown source, she has no idea how it will change her life.

Twenty-year-old Rebecca Veritas is used to being different, but has never felt extraordinary. She is a Dreamer, living in a world of poetry intermixed with the antics of her unique family and eccentric best friend Adriana. When she meets Peter, a young student from Canada who seems somehow to understand her from the start, her perception changes. With "Intermission", the single word in that mysterious note, as inspiration, the two writers embark on an incredible journey to a new world in the form of a story that will ultimately parallel their own lives. Yet, as the story progresses, events remain ever more shrouded in mystery. When unexpected circumstances in the real world throw their lives in disarray, it will be up to Rebecca to find the true meaning of "Intermission" before the curtain closes on the final act.

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