Critical Mass

What Are You Looking Forward to Reading, Debra Gwartney?

By David Haglund

Now that my teaching year has ended, I’ve turned to the new Milkweed volume called Views from the Loft, edited by Daniel Slager, a collection of nifty and brief pieces on the writing life from Kathleen Norris, Vivian Gornick, Mark Doty, Grace Paley, Lewis Hyde, and others. I’m counting on these two-to-three-page essays of insight and advice, along with the smattering of interviews, to move me away from the slog of pedagogy and instruction and back into an imaginative state of writing. Though I don’t know if even Lewis Hyde can keep me from the just-emerged sunshine outside (it’s been raining for nearly a solid six months in Oregon).

I also plan to take the summer to read some NBCC finalist books I haven’t yet been able to get to. I was knocked over by Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage, and am eager to fall into Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall—I admired Eula Biss’s Notes From No Man’s Land and have next on my pile of books the Blake Bailey Cheever biography.

Everyone’s talking about the Girl with the Tattoo books. I suppose I’ll finally open the first one (on a comfortable chair in the sunshine) and see what the fuss is all about.

Debra Gwartney is the author of the memoir, Live Through This, which was a finalist for the NBCC Award for Autobiography in 2009. She is a member of the nonfiction writing faculty at Portland State University in Oregon, and is co-editor, with Barry Lopez, of Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape.