This goal of reading 100 Books in 2011 has made me reconsider my normal leisurely pace. I haven't gotten through too much in these two months. I'm happy with what I've read. I know in the summer that I'll pick up the slack. Right now I'm working on: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Which is really complex and doesn't reward speedy reading.
But I have two completed ones to report to you. The first one is The Daughter's Exchange by my colleague, Valerie Prince. It's a not yet published work. It's part scholarly work, part creative non-fiction. Positively post-modern in its blend.
She, another colleague and I workshopped her book over shrimp po-boys. I hadn't workshopped in so long I'd nearly forgotten how to do it. Plus, Valerie was the only one at the table who didn't come from a MFA "workshop" background so she didn't feel the need to sit quiet while we talked, which made it more of a conversation than a rain of advice.
Valerie has a unique and, in many ways, courageous work on her hands. The erudition is stunning in the scholarly parts and the memoirish parts are revealing and necessary. I can't wait to see how she handles the challenges of blending these forms in revision.
Next up, the folks will be workshopping my manuscript and I sit on needles, waiting for them to tear up this delicate, developing fetus of a book.
The other book I finished recently was the story collection, Normally Special, by xTx.
xTx is a very visceral and raw writer. So much is going on beneath the surface of these stories and it's often ugly and vicious, even if the surface appears relatively still.
I've never been a member of the cult of the sentence. After all they are parts of a whole. A bunch of beautiful sentences that refuse to add up just don't matter in the end. But what writer doesn't go crazy for a beautifully constructed sentence?
xTx has a number of those, particularly the story, The Mill Pond, which is sentence after sentence of wow:
She says this in a voice that I would like to punch.
I stare out the window in the direction of the mill pond and his voice becomes cicadas.
We would talk about things that people talk about when they don't really have much to say to each other, water treading things.
Some stories I wished were more sustained, less fragmentary. Perhaps if they went on longer they would be more difficult to take. People do bad things to each other. Men do bad things to women. xTx made art of this fact and it's really good.
Some stories from the book:
She Who Subjected the Sun
Because Seven Ate Nine
 Maybe I am a bit.