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Original Essays | September 4, 2014

Edward E. Baptist: IMG The Two Bodies of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism



My new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, is the story of two bodies. The first body was the new... Continue »
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MichelleRenee has commented on (2) products.

The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (Harvest in Translation) by Luis Sepulveda
The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (Harvest in Translation)

MichelleRenee, April 20, 2014

Wow. This is an amazing book. I just sat down and read it after a bad day. It made my heart do things I can't even describe. Gave a quietness to me, a gentleness to my anger and pain today, a gentleness to my own patent uselessness.

Sepulveda's subject matter reminds me a lot of Hemingway but he's far from Hemingway in how he describes the world around him and who he counts as heroes. The dead women are the saints and the rabid widow ocelot the old man hunts down. The old man is gentle and driven to violence by the stupidity around him, not by his own desire. He'd much rather be in his hut reading his love stories. Watching him on a hunt then is a great tragedy. He is a romantic hunting down a woman he understands and loves but must ultimately kill.

I think this may be one of the better books I've ever read. Wow. Sepulveda, thank you.
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I Loved You More by Tom Spanbauer
I Loved You More

MichelleRenee, April 14, 2014

There are many books I read to escape, they are what I affectionately dub brain candy. Tom’s books aren’t escapist, they’re sinewy and achy, they live in the body. They’re a sort of imagism seared into the body, a living, twisted memory.

‘I Loved You More’ is about a relationship triangle. It’s not even necessarily romantic in nature, but about those relationships that get so close and so much a part of who we are that it’s painful to even move. Propinquity. Hank and Ben meet in a writing class in the 1980s and grow extremely close. There are romantic gestures between the two but it seems to be the romance born of intense love that has no boundary, that wants to show itself in every way possible. Eventually both Hank and Ben move away from New York and start different lives, although the deep connection remains. Ben gets AIDS and goes through the trauma of seeing many loved ones die. His writing student Ruth forms a deep bond with Ben and he with her, although his desires and propinquity are fundamentally at a different place with her than she has for him because he is gay. She also bases the relationship on what she gives to Ben, perhaps to make him beholden to her because she needs love so much, perhaps something else. (Her desires are not questioned a whole lot in the book, everything is filtered through Ben, and Ben doesn’t question why she is giving so much, perhaps because he is so needy himself.) Again, as with Hank and Ben, because of the closeness and indebtedness between Ruth and Ben, the romantic gestures seem to be born of intense love that doesn’t know boundary, doesn’t know what it actually needs, just what it wants in the moment. Because of the relationship unevenness, when Ben introduces Hank and Ruth, things go quite badly, the way deep relationships in mountainous terrain often do. This book plumbs the dimensions of Ben’s closeness with Hank and Ruth. The entire book lives in the grieving body of an older Ben which is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book.

I am a biased reviewer, I am a student in Tom’s class. But this is a great book, regardless of my bias. Let my visceral reaction speak for me, what his book did to my body and my dreams.

When I was done reading I went to sleep. I dreamed of my own friend, about Hank’s age, who recently also died of liver cancer, and who I also was not speaking with because of painful stuff.

Odd dream details like he was inside a rocket ship talking to me. He was dying and talking to me. The rocket went off with him on it and I was on the ground. There was fire all around. Then my brain, I guess, did a kind of loop and dreamed the part where he was talking to me, over and over. I didn’t want to wake up because I didn’t want to stop talking to him. I wanted it to go on forever.

This is the effect ‘I Loved You More’ had on me, the emotions it brought up. It made me sob. 30 pages in I had to get up and wring my hands a little because of the built up emotion inside of me. Walk around, turn in a circle. Drink a cup of cold water. Smile at the person across from me in the café. Remember where I was. Try to not act like a crazy girl who talks to herself, wraps her arms around herself to keep herself from falling out of herself.
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