The Milk Bowl of Feathers -- Mary Ann Caws

Staff Pick

The Milk Bowl of Feathers is “Essential Surrealist Writings”, all the more so for being made of so many underrecognized creators and works. It’s poetry; it’s stories and their excerpts; it’s manifestos and niggling obsessions. It’s an excellent primer: short and diverse, with every piece adding something that could only be added by that piece in particular. It’s a great reminder that the most radical writers and thinkers were responsible for the most beautiful love notes (see: Breton’s “Dear Hazel of Squirrelnut, see: Robert Desnos’s “I Have Dreamed of You So Much”, see: everything by Paul Eluard). And it’s a refreshing and perfectly unconventional gift book.

The Milk Bowl of Feathers: Essential Surrealist Writings By Mary Ann Caws (Editor) Cover Image
By Mary Ann Caws (Editor)
ISBN: 9780811227070
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: New Directions - September 25th, 2018

Letters from Max - Sarah Ruhl and Max Ritvo

Staff Pick

The single false note in this exuberant, moving, and endlessly fascinating book is the title: Letters from Max also includes letters from Sarah, and not only letters. Both writers contribute poems, songs, dialogues, dreams, thoughts, fears, and jokes. They engage, challenge, and support each other on any number of topics, from soup to the afterlife, Buddhism to writing, children to the nature of listening. This collection packs a tremendous emotional and intellectual punch. Ritvo’s cancer was steadily gaining on him throughout the period he and Ruhl corresponded (during which he nonetheless graduated from Yale, earned an MFA at Columbia, got married, published a chapbook and a book), and this adds great poignancy to the already moving account of a vital friendship. The depth of affection these two people felt for each other comes through clearly; it lives and breathes in their writing, and is inextricably bound up in their wide-ranging and passionate curiosity. While this collection is an intimate portrait of courage on both sides (it surely takes as much courage to lose a valued friend as it does to endure the relentless, debilitating rounds of radiation and chemo Ritvo did), it’s also a spirited writing workshop and philosophical debate. Nearly every page offers something irresistibly quotable, whether for its wisdom, its language, or its spirit: “when we ask about the afterlife, we’re conquering death,” Ritvo declares. And, “pain is just panic sitting still a moment.” Ruhl, inspired by Max to resume writing the poetry she gave up for plays, celebrates his life and work by asking “What is love, if not boundless imagination?/ What is imagination, if not boundless love?” The voices here are so warm and vital they embrace the reader as they do each other, and there’s a sad silence when you finish the book.

Letters from Max: A Poet, a Teacher, a Friendship By Sarah Ruhl, Max Ritvo Cover Image
ISBN: 9781571313690
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Milkweed Editions - September 18th, 2018

A Carnival of Losses - Donald Hall

Staff Pick

Funny, spirited, touching—this is vintage Donald Hall. His outlook is signaled in the first essay, where being old is described as a state in which “you learn” about the world in new ways—even if it’s just that “you learn it’s May by noticing that daffodils erupt outside your window.”  Being old does not mean that you just hang around passively, and “when an essay of reminiscence takes eighty-four drafts,” Hall is being anything but passive.  He’s also as honest as he is humorous; yes, being old also means naps and a compulsion to notice how and at what age people die. It means easy things are now hard and hard things are impossible. It means younger people stop seeing you.  But most of all, it means there are more memories to draw on. This collection chronicles people and places that will be familiar from Hall’s earlier poems and essays, and if he reiterates themes, he offers fresh observations—he’s never seen things from a nonagenarian’s perspective, after all—and tells new stories. These mostly brief anecdotes, profiles, and impressions are as sharply observed and wittily reported as ever, whether from Hall’s childhood, his marriages, or last week. Since writing is exhausting, he makes the most of every sentence, capturing writers as varied as Bellow, Pound, Dickey, and Faulkner at a glance. Hall had a long and rich life, and these essays splendidly curate the treasures, giving the title’s “losses” a distinctly bittersweet edge.

A Carnival Of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety By Donald Hall Cover Image
ISBN: 9781328826343
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Ecco - July 10th, 2018