A Binder and an April Book List
A few weeks ago, I bought a binder. I sat down one morning in a coffee shop to do some MFA program research and planning and two hours later I was standing in Target, trying to decide what color binder to buy.
Sometimes I think I am better at planing to do things than I am at doing them. During my undergrad, I had a strange habit of going into planning overdrive just when the semester was getting crazy (a.k.a just when I needed to be spending time writing papers and not planning my schedule down to the hour). This is one habit I think I can attribute to my mother, who has, for as long as I can remember, been an extreme and obsessive list-maker.
It’s a way of coping, I think. A way of making myself feeling better about the overwhelming and impossible. That morning at the coffee shop, I started amassing a list of programs I was interested in applying to and the various due dates and application requirements and I immediately got so overwhelmed. With so many details to keep track of, I find it almost impossible to psyche myself into actually writing material for my damn portfolio.
I've had a lot of nights lately where I lay awake, despite being totally exhausted, running the possibilities of grad school through my mind. It's like my mind gets on a freaking hamster wheel of anxiety and then gets stuck, running round and round and round: What if I can't get myself to actually finish any drafts of all the essays I've started? What if I can't complete my portfolio in time for the application deadlines? What if I can't get any recommendation letters? What if everything I write sucks? What if I'm just not ready to write everything I want to write about? What if I need to pick another career? Oh, god, what other career could I pick?
Despite the fact that, when I stood in Target that day looking at binders, I felt overwhelmed by urgency to pick one quickly and to drive home just as quickly in order to start filling it with information and plans, I have pretty much failed to do so. For once, the satisfaction and comfort I normally get from planning have failed me. I'm almost as overwhelmed by the prospect of organizing my list of possible programs to apply to as I am by the thought of writing my 6,000 - 10,000 word portfolio.
I don't really know where I'm going with this. (I promise I'm about to get to the book review list). I always find it helpful to write down my thoughts and I find this to be particularly true when it comes to distorted thinking. I know that the panic I feel about my MFA applications isn't entirely rational and I know that fear and uncertainty are struggles that every writer deals with, especially when preparing to submit work to be judged. I guess I just don't know what to do with my panic and my binder and my avoidance of writing deadlines. I'll work on it.
So where did April go? I say this at the end of every month nowadays, but somehow I feel like I blinked and missed this month. I did finish several books that I absolutely loved.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng | You can read my post about LFE here. The beginning made me skeptical, but I was fully drawn into the storyline by the middle of the book. My favorite characters were Izzy and Mia.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward | I loved Ward's prose and her characterization blew me away. But I felt a little thrown off by the supernatural elements in the book and I feel a little ashamed of the fact that they really made me dislike the story a little bit. The story reminded me so much of Toni Morrison's Beloved and I do truly believe that it's a beautiful and masterfully written novel. It just wasn't really my cup of tea.
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer | I feel a little mixed about Wolitzer's latest novel and I'll admit that I feel entirely unqualified to react to it. Up until age 19 or 20, I would not have called myself a feminist. As a "young woman," I was taught that women were to submit to the men in their lives, first their fathers (and brothers, when necessary), their pastors and church elders, and then one day their husbands. I'll never forget my 18th and 19th century lit class during my first semester of college when I spent the entire hour and a half utterly lost during a discussion of Mary Wollstonecraft. Everybody kept using the word 'misogyny'. I had to google the word after class because I didn't know what it meant. All of this to say, I still don't feel caught up with feminist thought enough to give a fully-educated opinion on the various forms of feminism portrayed in Wolitzer's novel. I will say that I loved both the characters of Zee and Cory (more than I liked Greer, who I'll admit felt rather one-dimensional to me). Overall, the book just made me want to re-read The Interestings.
Educated by Tara Westover | Read this book, I am begging of you. I swallowed this memoir up. It made me cry and it made me furiously underline entire paragraphs and it made me believe that I am capable of writing a memoir about my childhood inside fundamental religion. I'm hoping to write a post about it soon...I have so many things I want to say. But it's going to take me some time to articulate them.