Friday, December 19, 2014

Essay Gift List picks from Kati Standefer

Kristen Iversen - Full Body Burden: Growing Up In the Shadow of Rocky Flats

"The body is an organ of memory, holding traces of all our experiences. The land, too, carries the burden of all its changes. To truly see and understand a landscape is to see its depth as well as its smooth surfaces, its beauty and its scars."

Incredibly controlled prose, rich and sharp. Maybe it's because I once lived in Boulder, spending spare afternoons on the public land surrounding Rocky Flats, sometimes grabbing a whiskey afterward at the wood-paneled Rocky Flats Lounge -- but this is a book that took over my days and nights until it was finished. Iversen weaves her personal history and the history of a former secret nuclear weapons plant on Colorado's Front Range seamlessly, her control of tone and liveliness of research astounding. Disturbing, compelling. Give it to your friends. Talk about it.


Sallie Tisdale - Talk Dirty to Me: An Intimate Philosophy of Sex

"The translating of belief into behavior is the most radical sexual behavior of all. My personal sexual revolution will come when I do what I really want to do, don't do what I don't want to do, let others do what they want to do, with a whole heart. It's not how mundane or exotic our behavior is, but how wholehearted we are that counts. I want to be the agent of sex. I want to own sex, as though I had a right to it, as though sex belonged to me, to us all."

Despite the section on pornography being woefully pre-Internet, this book is a masterpiece -- funny, hot, and as relevant now as it was when it was published in 1994 (if not more so). Tisdale's work here makes me want to put down my own pen: she's said it, she got it right.


Sarah de Leeuw - Unmarked Landscapes Along Highway 16

"Not until many years later do I come to know that living here was living in a land so real and raw that it slipped into the impossible, a land of legends not to be believed, a place of things not real. No one believes the tales I have to tell, the tales of balancing rocks and whales spitting on highways. Of road fissures so deep that a constant stream of cement cannot fill them, tiny earthquakes always re-opening the pavement. Drink from the water near this fracture and your blood will be charged like a magnet; you will always return, a compass needle veering towards the magnetic north. Sometimes the need to return will fill you with a draw so urgent your teeth will chatter and the joints in your body will ache."

This is my lyric pick, slim essays full of grit and rain, the lumber camps of British Columbia. Early this November I'd pick one to read in the middle of the workday and find myself transported, sipping on language soft and crisp and tense, emerging refreshed.

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