The fall edition of Blydyn Square Review is now available. This time around, we’re featuring a theme: “My Life in Books.” The issue is jam-packed with book-related stories, poems, essays, and anecdotes, sure to inspire the reader in you!
Enjoy a sneak preview of some of the content below:
My Life in Books
by Marylou Ambrose
A Facebook friend of mine writes eloquent posts every day about what she’s grateful for—everything from carpools to her old summer camp to the U.S. Constitution (she’s a lawyer).
This got me thinking about what I’m grateful for. The first thing that popped into my mind? Books. Not surprising, since I was holding one at the time.
Actually, I was holding a Kindle, my almost constant companion, a gadget I never imagined back when I first started reading. But whether I’m swiping a screen or flipping paper, I’ve turned a lot of pages in my life. . . .
by Mike Power
I was not intimidated by the size or scope of Infinite Jest, but maybe I should have been. I like a book with some meat on its bones, which is saying something for a vegetarian. David Foster Wallace’s facility with language, and narrative, and his genius for weaving them together, made reading his masterpiece inviting in spite of its size. I have since gone on to read Moby-Dick and Ulysses, and I am grateful to Wallace for knocking down any walls of resistance to books that require a little extra effort to lug around on the subway, or to the beach.
But I found the experience of reading Infinite Jest demoralizing. . . .
The Giving Tree
by Evan Purcell
There’s a special magic inside Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. The entire story is just a boy talking to a tree that loves him. Two characters, very simple illustrations, and yet . . .
Every time I read it as a child, I would instantly start crying. I was too young to know what an allegory was, or symbolism or poetic language, so I couldn’t quite understand what the story meant, but I knew that every time I got to the ending—an old man sitting on a tree stump—I was overwhelmed by guilt. . . .
by Mike Vreeland
“Go outside and get fresh air!
You’ll suffocate yourself up there,”
my mother hollers up the stairs.
Reluctantly, I head outside;
I need to find a place to hide,
somewhere I can avoid her glares.
If I’m careful I can wedge
myself behind a row of hedge,
then read my books where no one cares. . . .
A Book I Hate
by Elissa Matthews
I’d like to discuss a book I hate. It was written with so much insight and so much depth, so much poignancy and pain, that obviously the author had either experienced sexual abuse or she’d had the courage to get far enough inside it to understand what it truly feels like. She held up a surgically precise mirror, reflecting with merciless clarity what was missing from my own writing. I was stunned. Up to that point, I’d smugly thought of myself as a pretty darn good writer, but I walked away from that book with the resolution to improve my work, to be a stronger, better, more courageous examiner of human complexities and frailties, including my own. . . .
“COME HITHER” by Walter de la Mare
by Dr. Roger Craik
At forty-five I’m leafing through the book
That Auden read while still a boy,
Or youth at most, slate-eyed, his face unlined,
And ponder, as I skim, this rattle bag’s
Assault on him of ballads, folk-song scraps
Of elphin, ouph, and fay, or else of fairs,
Of beggars, gypsies, vagrants, or the names
That even then were falling out of use. . . .
The Daughter of the Great Steppe
by Diana Sovetova
I am Kazakh, and I had always felt uncomfortable saying it. Truth be told, I grew up in a very unpatriotic family that is eager to emigrate, and I’m not alone. There are millions of Kazakhs with similar values. No one wants to tackle the social problems that plague our country. Very few individuals are truly interested in our culture or literature, and no one takes issue with that.
Honestly, I had never read any book written by someone of my descent, until one day my schoolteacher forced me to read The Path of Abai by Mukhtar Auezov, one of our most famous writers. I was reluctant to do it, and even doubted its value. But this epic novel eventually woke me up from the deepest dream of my life. . . .
Black Beauty at Bedtime
by Tara Tomczyk
I’ve always loved books. Truth is, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a reader, so I have countless book-related memories I could share, like the time I was in the hospital with meningitis at age three and reading the Berenstain Bears—and debating a nurse over whether it was pronounced Beren-STAIN (as I argued it was) or Beren-STEEN (as the nurse insisted; my guess is that she wasn’t much of a reader herself).
For me, though, one book memory stands out: reading Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty with a flashlight, curled up under the covers in my flannel nightgown, past bedtime on a school night. . . .
The Magic of Childhood
by Valeriya Badambayeva
Different ages read books for different reasons. Older people use the simple act of reading to try to brighten up their loneliness. Young people, meanwhile, read books with fairytales to learn and be entertained. They see amazing and stunning worlds, and it’s a real shame that as we get older, we lose the ability to actually think that these magical stories are real. . . .
So Many Books!
by Karen Miller
“We’ve got to get rid of some books,” I keep saying. My partner agrees, but it’s so hard to choose which books to keep and which to sell or give away. Each one evokes a memory, an “Oh, yes! I love this author, this book.”
There is the library, the online option. A bookmobile supplied me with books as a child and teen in rural Arkansas. My siblings and I would walk the few blocks to downtown where entry into the air-conditioned bookmobile was always an adventure. I picked out as many books as I could carry and spent the summer reading. Since I was a tree climber and there was limited privacy in our home, I often found a seat among the tree limbs and read. My dad, a conservative preacher, wouldn’t allow us to have a TV, so I read a lot.
But back to my books. . . .
The Funny Story
by Nelya Slugina
Books are the guide for our life. Thanks to them, we can learn from the mistakes of others, analyze very different situations, and make our own conclusions. Books can be about love, patriotism, historical events, or just growing up. No matter the topic, though, every book can teach us something.
In my childhood, I used to read a lot of books. They were all interesting, but one of them stuck in my memory. This novel is so strong that it struck the strings of my childhood soul, because the author described manhood, patriotism, humanity, honesty, and love of life. It showed the importance of staying human in any situation. . . .
Into a Book
by Keira Schaefer
I dive into a new story
Like a dolphin in the waters
Captivating my attention . . .
The Love of Reading
by A. V. Griffin
Quests through Narnia and epic journeys through space were some of adventures that reading allowed me to experience as a young child. My passion for books began when I first started learning how to read. The experience of being able to read by myself was eye-opening to say the least, and shed light upon an exciting new world of possibilities. As a young girl, I began reading just about anything I could find, including fantasy stories, classic novels, and mysteries. I reveled in the time I spent reading stories such as A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because of their ability to take the reader on fantastical adventures. These stories held a certain magic for me during my youth, and continue to do so today. . . .
Fifteen Minutes with Fame: Truman Capote
by Paul Rousseau
He was discovered unconscious in a hotel room in Montgomery on his way to his childhood home in Monroeville, Alabama. It was 1983, seventeen years after the publication of his “nonfiction novel,” In Cold Blood. He was rushed to a local hospital, where it was determined he had inadvertently overdosed on the epileptic medications Dilantin and phenobarbital. He had been diagnosed with seizures a few years earlier, and the medications were prescribed at that time. I was a resident physician completing my training in internal medicine, and was, in part, responsible for his hospital care.
He was a diminutive man, with sparse hair and a high-pitched, nasal voice. His face was that of a man older than his years, wearied and worn. When he spoke, his words were slow and deliberate, as if pulled through molasses. He was dismayed that most patients failed to recognize him; in fact, I remember his glum refrain: “Nobody knows me, nobody knows me.” And they did not. . . .
“I’ve Been Through the Mill—and Also Through The Mill on the Floss”
by Margaret Stetz
I found Maggie Tulliver only after I’d been to the gynecologist. I wish I’d met her earlier.
It was a traumatic first appointment—not just because I was naked, and my feet were in stirrups (growing up in New York, I’d never even ridden a horse), but because of what the doctor said. Had I read The Mill on the Floss beforehand, I might have felt less alone; I might even have risked talking back.
In the opening of George Eliot’s 1859 novel, the protagonist is still a young girl—a very intelligent one. To Maggie Tulliver’s father, this is unnatural. He complains about her being “Too ’cute for a woman,” meaning too acute and sharp. For him, “an over-’cute woman’s no better nor a long-tailed sheep,—she’ll fetch none the bigger price for that,” alluding to her future worth in the marriage market. In the nineteenth century, a woman with brains was a freak. Eliot wanted readers to be outraged over this judgment, and we are.
If only I could have quoted Eliot and made the gynecologist feel ridiculous, when he made me feel small. . . .
A Reading Quandary
by Aditi Kataria
Should I drown in the raging passion of Heathcliff
or should I surf on the sycophantic words of Mr. Collins?
Should I let my mind be shrouded by the mysteries of Rebecca
or should I watch peacefully the growth of the Little Women?
Oh! I know the Importance of Being Earnest!
but what do I do? I live in The Glass Menagerie! . . .
Writing in Books
by Catherine Ann Winters
The first book I wrote in was On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I had been told that the book would “change my life,” so it felt important to prove that I engaged with the book. Writing in my cheap paperback made this visible. I underlined moments that seemed poignant, as if maybe that would be the line that transformed my view of everything.
At the time my brother was stationed in Iraq. My family would send him packages every few months with snacks, drink mix, and things to pass the time. At some point, he asked for books. My parents bought him the novels he enjoyed when he was younger; I included whatever I had recently read. Often, the copies showed a bit of wear from my handling, but other times they were new, standing in for borrowed books. The Penguin Classics edition of On the Road with a monochrome blue vintage car passing by had underlining in blue pen, proof of me. . . .
Excerpt from the Forthcoming Debut Novel Leftovers After Life
by Lini S. Kadaba
Neena’s first-grade teacher has asked to meet with Neena’s mother after school. While she waits, Neena hums “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to calm herself. When her mother returns, she has a frown.
“Ma?” Neena ventures. “Did I do something bad?” She looks at her mother and holds back her tears. Her mother studies her for a moment.
“No, beta,” she says, her face softening. “Mrs. Fleisher is saying you need to practice reading aloud. She is saying the other children read better than you. Is that true?”
Neena moves her head, with confusion at first. She wants to shake it yes, but that would disappoint her mother. The initial weak nod of affirmation quickly turns into a vigorous shake. “I can read,” she insists.
“Show me.” . . .
Shelter in Place: Part II
by Nicolette Fermi
Quarantine Day 22
“Five miles—hell yeah!”
Claudia stomped into the house feeling strong, almost exuberant. She’d made it five miles (just three weeks after surgery, when all the books said it would take six weeks to go three miles), and something had occurred to her on her walk: She was happy. Almost.
She felt good, hopeful. Sure, she was stuck in quarantine and had just lost a uterus, but for the first time in longer than she could remember, she had a job she (almost) liked (and she felt ready to get back to it, maybe as soon as this coming Monday). She had some decent friends in her writing group. And she knew, for certain, she was healthy. The past few years, either during her post-divorce crushing poverty or more recently when she actually had health insurance but was too scared to use it for fear of what the doctor might tell her, any happiness she’d felt had always been tempered by the lingering belief that she was secretly dying, that there was some kind of cancer growing inside her that would be her demise. Let’s face it: Most of the time, you knew when something wasn’t quite right with your body. She’d been right about the growth but (thank the gods) wrong about the cancer. And after the battery of tests, she knew all her remaining parts were working just fine—and had nothing growing on them or in them that wasn’t supposed to be there. For now, anyway.
That in itself was cause to feel pretty good. Throw in some endorphins from a fast(ish) five-mile walk, and what Claudia was feeling could only be described as jubilation.
“Five miles? Is that a lot?” Dad asked, not looking up from the crossword puzzle he was putting together.
Way to destroy a good mood. That kind of soul-crushing was a unique talent only parents possessed. . . .