Issue Forty-Two - Summer 2023

What We’re Reading, Summer 2023

By The Editors

Here’s what SHARK REEF editors have been reading lately.

Fiction Editor Shari Lane
There are so many reasons to love being on the SHARK REEF editorial board! We have front row access to marvelous writing and art, and we get to support writers and artists. I imagine each story, essay, poem, and work of art as a glimmer of light in the darkness, and am reminded of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” (Also quoted by Willy Wonka, in case you’re wondering where else you heard the sentiment.) I’m also selfishly glad because, with each issue, I get a delectable list of book recommendations from our What We’re Reading section, and I get to share my recommendations with you.

I deeply enjoyed The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V. E. Schwab (Tor Books 2020). An eighteenth-century French woman makes a deal with an ancient demon to avoid marriage, which she views as foreclosing all hope of autonomy and adventure. The price is this: Addie will be invisible to and utterly forgotten by everyone she meets, as soon as she is out of their sight. Immortal but eternally unknown. Apropos of what we and other literary journal are trying to achieve for our contributors, the main character says, “What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind? . . . Stories are a way to preserve oneself. To be remembered.” In the non-fiction realm, I’ve laughed and cried and laughed again at Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (HarperCollins 2019). We are all broken in one way or another, trying to find our way, and this therapist’s description of her restoration work with others and on her own behalf is fascinating. Last but definitely not least I join so many others in saying I believe Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead (HarperCollins 2022) is the best book I’ve ever read. No contest. Between the covers co-exist heartbreak and laughter and a can’t-put-it-down storyline and a wholly new perspective on Appalachia.

Poetry Co-Editor Richard Widerkehr
This winter and spring, I’ve been reading Elizabeth’s Strout’s novels and books of short stories with recurring characters that are very real; her Maine is real. Three of her books revolve around a character named Lucy. Two focus on Olive Kittredge. Also, I came across a novel in verse by a young-adult writer, Karen Hesse, Out of the Dust, about a girl growing up in the Dust Bowl in the 1930. I read and reread that one. Recently I enjoyed a short story by Sherwood Anderson, “Sophistication,” and Lionel Trilling’s “Of This Time, Of that Place.”

Poetry Co-Editor Linda Conroy
This spring I have been enjoying the poetry of Ada Limon, Poet Laureate of the United States, from her book The Hurting Kind, published in 2022 by Milkweed Editions. Limon explains the book’s title as meaning “sensitive not only to the world’s pain and joys, but to the meanings that bend in the scrim between the natural world and the human world.” She knows the power of a good story as she writes of kindness and compassion and shows the everyday events that carry them. She talks of pain and overcoming it, and the changeability of life, using juxtaposing images of nature and human nature. Her poems, though in plain language, are not always readily accessible and I have learned to read them patiently, seeing the layered themes and letting Limon’s sentiments and my own fill the spaces.

Editor Emerita Lorna Reese
With world affairs continuing to be tumultuous, I’ve been reluctant to engage in any dystopian writing and am unwilling to submit my psyche to violence or cruelty in any way, shape or form. Happily, I discovered Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series (Penguin Random House). To quote a reviewer: “The books feature an insatiably curious professional philosopher and amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie, one of fiction’s most richly developed women detectives. Whether she is investigating a case or a problem of philosophy, the indefatigable Isabel is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life’s questions, large and small.” Isabel can be a bit nosy and, at times – like most of us – irritating. But she always makes the reader stop and think!

I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed Roland Merullo’s “Buddha” series: Breakfast with Buddha; Lunch with Buddha, Dinner with Buddha and now Dessert with Buddha. As well as The Delight of Being Ordinary: A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama (PFP Publishing). They’re a light-hearted approach to some of the existential questions humans have been wrestling with for centuries. I like them.

Also on the coffee table to read next: Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics and The River Why by David James Duncan, whose work I just discovered.

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