Tag Archives: writing

My graphic book review of Melanie Finn’s new novel, ‘The Hare’

There are many reasons why I enjoyed reading Melanie Finn’s new novel, The Hare, or to be more accurate, why I tore through it like a hiker devouring a sandwich after hiking in the Green Mountains of Vermont. I’ll start there, in Vermont, where most of the book takes place, specifically in the Northeast Kingdom, where I grew up, and where the author currently calls home. She renders all of the historical, cultural, and natural details of the region as only a Vermont inhabitant could—the beauty and decay; the wealth and poverty; the mixed-up politics, the backwoods crimes; the chicken shit and roadkill; the tools and skills that the protagonist, Rosie Monroe, a young, single mother, would need to survive after her lying older boyfriend abandons her and their infant in a drifty cabin in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, the nearest neighbor, a toothless, boozy old lesbian named Billy Mix, saves Rosie’s life by teaching her how to hunt deer, how to forage for wild edibles such as ramps, fiddleheads, and morel mushrooms; and most importantly, how to light a fire in the woodstove to stay warm throughout the long, hard winters.

In order to not spoil any of the juicy plot, and yes—it is a nail-biter, replete with murders, deceit, drug trafficking, gender transformations, lust, and other literary thrills—I’ll skip over the story of that lousy boyfriend, Bennett, and focus on Rosie, who carries several layers of trauma from childhood and adolescence, but somehow, time and time again, takes control of the ghosts of her past and forges ahead with grit and determination. Rosie starts off with a full ride to Parsons, studying art, before Bennett ruins everything. While she’s still enrolled, she glimpses a possible future in her art mentor, “Ida smells of paint and turpentine. The coffee shop smelled of coffee and onions. It was fantastic. What if you could draw a smell?” This daydream dissipates when she meets Bennet, a charming man twice her age, while perusing the art at the MoMa. He charms her, takes her out for tea, and whisks her away for a summer in his friend’s boathouse, where she becomes accidentally pregnant. From the start, Bennett’s life story is hazy at best, and I’ll leave it that way in this review; Rosie is the more compelling character throughout.

The other truly captivating characters in the book are also women, ranging from the enigmatic Billy Mix, to a female cop who investigates various crimes against women, including a series of murders along the Vermont-New Hampshire border, as well as the possible predation of minors committed by Rosie’s boss, a chicken farmer. As this cop states in blunt terms to Rosie, she’s trying to solve various “incidents of male dickery.” These moments speak to the novel’s ever-present themes of female autonomy and strength in contrast to male ideocracy, greed, and ineptitude. One chapter that complicates this binary in a positive and intriguing way is an unexpected reunion with Rosie’s first love, who has since transitioned from male to female. I wish Finn had expanded this section of the book, in order to give Christianne proper room to breathe as a nuanced character.

Another character that I enjoyed is an inanimate object which Rosie regards first with fear, then with acceptance, and finally with enormous gratitude: the woodstove. She even writes a love letter to the stove, for teaching her “to value the steady.”

My favorite section of the book takes place later in Rosie’s life—mid menopause—how many books can you name which place a badass menopausal heroine at the helm? My other favorite aspect of the book are all of the chapters which reveal Rosie’s, and the author’s, deep knowledge about Vermont: its seasons, mud season in particular, its wildlife, its cultural contradictions, its geography. We learn about wild edibles that can be foraged in early spring, summer, and fall, and how to incorporate them into a meal,

“A hunk of back strap in the skillet, the blood oozing from the tissue. Wild onions Billy gave her, a basket of dried boletes… a week later, Billy brought them a hare, already skinned and butchered. It seemed so rudely naked. She set it in a broth of dandelion greens, ramps, and potatoes.”

The bogs, time-worn mountains, snowshoe trails, old cemeteries decaying in the woods; this is the landscape of my youth, and through Finn’s novel, I was able to relive my childhood in lyrical and precise detail. Thank you, Melanie Finn and the editors and publishers at Two Dollar Radio, for creating this book! I recommend it, particularly if you’re a feminist or feminism-inclined, and if you live in New England, although these are not imperative for enjoying the well-rendered characters and dramatic plot.

Another BOOK on the horizon

I have some BIG ART and LIFE NEWS! I turned my manuscript in today for a new book with MIT Press! It won’t be released until next year, but the deadline was last night, and though I feel like a paper doll or zombie from lack of sleep and overworking my drawing fingers, I’m ecstatic and relieved to have completed this stage of the process. BUT, I am thrilled to be working on this book, which in short, is a graphic nonfiction “translation” of Walter Benjamin’s dreams, philosophies, and aphorisms. It’s been a long process and much more work lies ahead. Here are some teasers and some evidence of the towers of research texts that I accumulated during my process. You’ll also notice a stack of *some* of my notebooks filled with drawings.  I can’t share any full illustrations, because art is not free and I want the book to stand alone as a physical art object in collaboration with MIT. For a better idea of what I’m working on, check out the fall 2017 issue of The Iowa Review, they published a visual essay of mine about Walter Benjamin, which was the precursor to this upcoming book, here’s the link. 

 

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The Daily Palette

I have been involved with so many art and writing projects (and publications) over the past few months that it slipped my mind to share the news that several pieces of mine were published in The Daily Palette, through Iowa Writes.

Here is a link to one of the poetry comics

And here is a link to all of the pieces of my work that they have published

 

I’ve been published! Read the new issue of MIRACLE MONOCLE: a Poetry, Prose, and Hybrid journal

 

I’ve been published! Read the new issue of MIRACLE MONOCLE: a Poetry, Prose, and Hybrid journal, out of Louisville. I am going to borrow some of the words of Sarah Anne Strickley, the Faculty Editor of the journal, to announce the release:

“We are now pleased to announce the release of Issue X of Miracle Monocle, the University of Louisville’s online literary journal.
Highlights of this eclectic and spunky issue include a Special Feature delving into the writerly allure of collage art. Enjoy galleries of gorgeous–and sometimes charmingly grotesque–images created by writers of prose and poetry alike, including Karyna McGlynn, Matthew Vollmer, and John Gallaher.
In our Experimental & Hybrid category, you’ll also find an examination of the place of the image in literary art with gutsy work from Frances Cannon and Sarah Rosenthal. Highlights in this category also include genre-bending flash from Sarah Gorham and Mathias Svalina.
If you’re in the mood for salty or genre-expanding poetry, be sure to sample new work from Kent Shaw, Eric Pankey, and Rebecca Morgan Frank. If innovative fiction is your taste, look to Rebbecca Brown and Susann Cokal to spice up your morning. (We also highly recommend our interview with Kayla Rae Whitaker; you’ll find a sample of her debut novel in our Fiction category too.)
You’ll meet the winners of our Award for Emerging Writers and Award for Ambitious Student Writing in our Nonfiction and Ambitious Student Writer categories respectively. Erin Wood and Jessica Newman are writers you’re going to want to watch; we believe they represent a bright future for innovative literary art.
In the end, we encourage you to peruse the whole darn issue–perhaps reading it as you enjoy the first fumblings of Spring through an open window. Or, better yet, get outside and read Miracle Monocle on your phone or tablet. We know you’re going to find something in this issue that will refresh your sensibilities and re-orient your sense of what’s possible on the page.”

Art and poetry through Gold Wake Live

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There has been a new edition published of the online literary and art journal, Gold Wake Live, by Gold Wake Press. They have selected one of my illustrated poems. Check it out! Thanks to Prompt Press as well for the original publication of this poem,

GOLD WAKE LIVE 

and

PROMPT PRESS

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CICADA school, my new project

I’m launching my new website and project: art and writing mentorship, where you can find more descriptions of the courses I will be teaching at the Shelburne Craft School, and other opportunities for individual mentorship. This is a soft launch, I’ll admit that the “school” is currently more conceptual than actualized, but I’m living more in my imagination than in the corporeal realm these days, so this fits,

CICADA 

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New publications in PROMPT PRESS

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I’m thrilled to be published in the new Prompt Press book, Prompt 6, which is a collaborative collection of visual art responses to the prose poems of Francesca Abbate, designed by printmaker and bookmaker Rachel Kauff. I’m one of the six artists to respond to her work. You can view the responses here, but I recommend buying the book if you want to hold a beautiful handmade object d’art in your hands.

ALSO, I’m very pleased that Jennifer Colville, the editor extraordinaire, has published my graphic poem on their website. Check it out:

Tell me, Reykjavik