My Funny Valentine

Article by staff

Ah, love: a perpetual Valentine’s Day where the sun shines a soft copper light on the tender conjunction of two balanced souls in perfect harmony. Or, often, a big pile of shit. For this week’s Brazos Book List, we’re setting aside the lollipops and roses and gamely probing love’s slimy, putrid underside. Five Brazos staffers went to a dark place and brought back an eclectic mix of books, from poetry to fiction to memoir, to sate your Valentine’s lust for dirty love.

Some Ether Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555973032
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - May 1st, 2000

Nick Flynn’s mother committed suicide when he was twenty-two, after reading a story he was writing about a single mother with two sons. Later, Flynn met his prison-bound father for the first time while working at a homeless shelter in Boston. Jonathan, at the time, had been sleeping outside, until the night he came in to ask for a bed, a ghost appearing. The underscore to all this: Flynn drinking, more than anyone should. SOME ETHER, Flynn’s debut poetry collection, ruminates on these times. It is a testament to bewilderment, all the ways we can leave and be left, love that keeps opening. —Annalia

The Age of Innocence (Vintage Classics) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307949516
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - June 5th, 2012

Despite the title (and the delicate script on the cover), there’s nothing innocent about this classic American novel or the love triangle at its center. Aristocratic young lawyer Newland Archer finds himself frothing with desire for the dangerously independent Ellen, but there are two problems: 1) she’s still married to a Polish count, and 2) she’s the cousin of Archer’s wife. What makes Wharton’s storytelling so satisfyingly brutal is the push-pull of highly refined exteriors (including Wharton’s impeccable, lapidary style) and tortured, frustrated interiors. The rarefied culture of the Gilded Age setting will appeal to the same mental taste buds that savor Downton Abbey and THE GREAT GATSBY (published just a few years later), but whereas the tragedy of Gatsby plays out in car crashes and gunshots, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE cuts out your heart with sharp wits and tongues. —Corby

Geek Love (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375713347
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - June 11th, 2002

If GEEK LOVE hadn't been recommended to me by a friend, I probably would have thought it was a romance about a couple of gamers. But, happily, “geek,” in this context, means "a carnival performer who performs wild or disgusting acts,” including, but not limited to, biting the heads off of chickens. This book does, however, involve romance. By which I mean incest. I hope I'm not giving away too much here. I promise it's not like any kind of incest you've heard of before. The players in GEEK LOVE are members of a carny family whose parents set about breeding their own freaks. The parents experiment with a little cyanide and whatever under-the-sink poisons happen to be around and, voila, the mother gives birth to Siamese twins, a flipper boy, a dwarf and, most perplexing of all, the youngest, Chick, whose powers are disturbing and potent. Every stripe of dysfunctional family drama is on display here, except for cannibalism, maybe. Can't have everything. (If you want EVERYTHING, you should really read Titus Andronicus. I haven't, but I hear it's nice and gruesome.) GEEK LOVE touches on every dark corner of love. Also, there's a girl with a tail, so that's cool. —Brooke

Preparation for the Next Life Cover Image
ISBN: 9780991360826
Availability: Backordered
Published: Tyrant Books - November 3rd, 2015

Love isn't always pretty. This visceral and highly charged debut tells the dysfunctional love story between an Iraq War veteran and an illegal Chinese immigrant. The setting is New York City and, much like the relationship, the things hidden in “prettier” novels are exposed. Yes, Lish seems to be saying, love is real, it exists, but here are what the bumps and bruises look like. A stunning and unforgettable book where the love between two people is as palpable as the graffiti on a subway. —Mark

The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977283
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Graywolf Press - January 19th, 2016

“Will you be my Valentine?” This dumb phrase has huge resonance in pop culture, but it’s a simplification; over the course of one’s lifetime, one has many different “Valentines.” Just ask Paul Lisicky. In this dazzling memoir, he recounts two major relationships, two major loves: one with his longtime partner, poet Mark Doty; the other with his best friend, novelist Denise Gess, who died of cancer in 2009. Lisicky has been writing for decades, but this is his breakout moment, a poetic memoir that intersects the personal with the global (all of our lives take place against the backdrop of history’s lurches, don’t they?), and a perfect story of “romance”—one that shows all the different forms love can take.  —Ben

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