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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 77.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily
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Isthmus Reads: Terrorist, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle , Tulips and Chimneys
"Every obituary I read listed Terrorist as one of Updike’s failures."
"Every obituary I read listed Terrorist as one of Updike’s failures."

Terrorist by John Updike

I picked this up after Updike's recent death. It gets inside the head of a New Jersey teenager, the son of an Egyptian man and an Irish-American woman who falls under the spell of an Islamist preaching death to America. Every obituary I read listed Terrorist as one of Updike's failures. It's true that the teen's perspective is hard to buy: He looks at the world with the acute sensitivity of, well, John Updike. But the prose is stunning, and Updike manages to craft a compelling story way outside his comfort zone. (Dean Robbins, Editor)

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

This is a truly moving novel about a mute boy's relationship with dogs and the nature of humanity in general.

However, one of my favorite authors is Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep, American Wife). Her protagonists are such honest depictions of imperfect, slightly neurotic, loveable women who struggle and sometimes overcome obstacles regarding relationships and routine life. I see myself in every one of them. (Rachel Tatge, Marketing coordinator)

Lincoln by Gore Vidal

How much of this can I believe? (Carolyn Fath, Art director)

The River Why by David James Duncan

It's brilliant, I'm totally into it, and I'm pumped that there's a movie in the works, even though the author is completely against it (from what I've read). (Chad Hopper, Inside sales supervisor)

Tulips and Chimneys, by e.e. cummings

I've been reading this collection in anticipation of

spring when the world is


It has secured its position at the top of my preferred reading list. The collection often invokes classical conventions like the formal sonnet and also makes use of antiquated language; however, it reinvents these traditions to the point where they become almost alien even by today's standards.

As one would expect from Cummings, many of the poems in Tulips and Chimneys espouse love and joy in a tone that can often be considered downright giddy, such as the above quoted "In Just-" and "unto thee i."

However, others, such as "twentyseven bums give a prostitute the once" quite graphically depict the tragic and sometimes cruel side of life. The prose poem "at the head of this street a gasping organ is waving moth-eaten," which depicts a scene of an organ grinder with a dancing monkey on a leash, is so emotionally powerful that I responded physically -- cathartically -- almost unable to finish it upon first reading.

Refreshingly, Cummings' distinguished style bypasses superficial grammatical convention and appeals directly to the reader's subconscious mind. His poems require that the reader feel his/her way through them, preferring raw experience and unequivocal emotion to stoic detachment and exceedingly academic thought. This collection is therefore especially accessible to people who are new to poetry, or perhaps feel intimidated by it due to a bad college or high school experience. (Craig Cady, Sales representative)

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