It all starts on a Frontier flight from Denver to Phoenix, where W.G. Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction and the screams of an abusive mother blend into writer Craig Reinbold’s reflection of marriage and the tests he (and we all) must endure to keep love from falling apart. “That’s what love does: it does what it can, and when we fail, forgives.” “The Many Ways to Die” is featured in the October 15th issue of Guernica. Below, Reinbold lists his reading recommendations that helped model his meditative essay.
The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald
Neither entirely fiction, nor fact, I think of The Emigrants as belonging to that fourth genre—the essay. The stories presented here are meditations, the characters often amalgams of actual people, the narrative voice so disarming and charming that I’m ready to believe that whatever he says is accurate to the world, whether it’s true or not.
Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century by Patrik Ouredník
Ouredník takes a deep breath and then in one long-winded go gives a schizophrenic overview of the last hundred years of humanity, a mix of fixed facts and oddball observations regarding just about everything—from war to Barbie to consumerism to bras to death camps to soap. Says critic Jonathan Bolton, it’s “less a book of history than a book of how people talk about history.”
The New Intimacy by Barbara Cully
Barbara originally introduced me to Sebald, and her poems reflect similar preoccupations: personal and collective memory, distance v. intimacy, time(lessness), and the mind at work, thinking. Most importantly her work, like Sebald’s, revels in the universal humanness that exists within history and culture, which posterity so often seems to forget about.