Traci Brimhall’s Summer Reading List

Here in the Indiana Review office, we’re always looking to read new books by fresh authors, but we’ve also got lists of books we ‘should have read by now.’ Then there’s the lists of books we want to read but haven’t had the time to get to. And then there are the books we haven’t heard of, but that other writers are excited about – which tend to be the books we pick up first.

So, because we can’t ever seem to get enough (and because summer is the perfect time to catch up), we asked a handful of our recent contributors for their summer reading lists. Chances are, we’ll read these before we finally get to The Sun Also Rises.

First up, four suggestions from Traci Brimhall, whose poems “Petition” and “Prayer to the Deaf Madonna” appear in Issue 33.2:

An Invincible Memory by João Ubaldo Ribeiro: How does someone write a national epic? If you’re João Ubaldo Ribeiro, you cover 400 years of national history through the perspective of two families – one of aristocrats and one of slaves. This book was recommended to me by a writer in Brazil, and it’s been staring at me from my shelves for months. Ribeiro combines narratives that cross class, gender and racial boundaries in his novel.

Residence on Earth by Pablo Neruda: When Neruda won the Nobel in 1971, many on the prize committee cited Residence on Earth (a trilogy) as his most important work. However, many of his other critics used these poems against him because a young man committed suicide next to the book. In an interview with The Paris Review, Neruda called it “poetry without an exit. I almost had to be reborn in order to get out of it.” I want to read this book because I, too, want to be reborn on the other side of it.

Human Landscapes from My Country by Nazim Hikmet: I’ve been reading verse novels for awhile, but I’ve been avoiding Human Landscapes. Weighing in at 463 pages, Hikmet’s epic about Turkey takes “suffering personally” according to the foreword by Mutlu Konuk. Like Ribeiro, Hikmet’s work is trying to encompass a country and its history while remaining profoundly intimate and human (or so the book jacket promises me).

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa: This will not be my first Portuguese rodeo. I’ve taken a few running starts at this book before but have found it hard to read in short sittings. It’s a book that seems to offer more rewards the longer you can stay in it. Pessoa’s mind is one of the most intriguing I’ve ever experienced through language. “Renunciation is liberation,” he says. “Not wanting is power,” he wants me to believe. “Travel is for those who cannot feel.” Oh, Fernando, how else would I have found you?