4. The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

I picked up this one on the recommendation of the folks at Mount Benson. A father and son travel on foot along the roads of a timeless post-apocalyptic landscape. The world is gray, a gray ash falls endlessly leaving a gray dust on the gray world. The only other hue in the story is black, which is the vast fire burnt landscape revealed only where the cold wind has blown the ash away. They are starving. And walking. Get it? Really. It's that bleak. Whatever happened happened years before and pretty much all resources have been depleted. There is absolutely no life left but for an occasional fellow human, but none will dare to risk getting close. The potential for horror is high and the reader encounters it often (and in surprisingly creative ways).

As bleak and futureless as this world is, the father and son relationship is remarkably beautiful. A book of hopelessness and horror and yet a heartfelt tale of the best of human emotions.

I definitely recommend this book. It's really quite a good read.

3. Jump Up and Say!

edited by Linda Goss and Clay Goss.

This is a small "collection of Black storytelling" that provides a wide range of themes and geographical perspectives on the Black experience. There is also a wide range in the quality of storytelling, in my opinion. Even some of the works by the famous Alice Walker and Zora Neal Hurston were lackluster stories, making me wonder what the editors' intensions were. I still don't know. It is not merely a collection of inspirational writing. Nor is it simply writing about identity. I don't know why these stories are put together as they are in this collection. I also don't know why there are four stories from William Faulkner (by far the most of any author in the book) in the very beginning.

But some of the stories were great. Anyway...

2. From Both Sides Now: The poetry of the Vietnam war and its aftermath

edited by Phillip Mahony

The is a very moving collection of poetry from a troubling war. Reading the American voices helped me replace many Hollywood images and ideas with ones closer to the event. The kind of truth I seek always seems to lay in the hearts of poets. After filling my head with so much of it, there is a general feeling of pain and hopefulness. What is most moving about the American poetry are the connections made between the soldiers and their enemies. These American soldier/poets try to love their enemy in very real ways. There is an underlying sense that both sides were trying to understand eachother while being compelled to fight.

The very best, most mind-expanding part of this collection was the mountain of poetry from South and North Vietnamese poets. Wow. It is so beautiful, so heartbreaking. And yet so damned hopeful. Like the American poets, the overwhelming majority were preoccupied with knowing the men on the other side. It made for memorable reading.

Finally, I came to further understand that while Americans saw this war at the "Vietnam War," the Vietnamese viewed it as a civil war, one that would lead to the inevitable requirement that they learn to live together in the aftermath. Where the Vietnamese poets concerned themselves with trying not to become hard hearted, finding pathways to peace and reaching reconciliation, the American poets did not have that pressure. Nevertheless, all sides share a sense of tremendous loss and longing to understand that war and its effect on the soul.