Suggested Summer Reading: Part 2

You seemed to enjoy our alumni-authors’ book recommendations last month, so we thought we’d bring you a second installment. This time, we asked professors from Penn’s illustrious English department to suggest a book they’ve taught before and that alumni readers would enjoy. Here’s what they came up with:

by Percival Everett (Hyperion, 2002)

Recommended by: Herman Beavers, specialist in 20th-century African-American literature
Taught in: “Belonging and Desire in African American Narrative”

 Beavers says: “It is a book that is at turns hilarious and sobering, a novel that uses the absurd to question our understanding of racial identity in the U.S. I recommend this book because it satirizes the kinds of distortions and assumptions that obscure the fiction of racial identity. Thelonius Ellison is a novelist who, upon reading a novel that utilizes every stereotype of black life in the creation of a book that becomes a best-seller, writes a book that attempts to go that novel one better. The novel alternates between Ellison’s efforts to come to grips with the deaths of his father and sister and his “novel,” which features ‘terrible’ writing meant to send up how critics expect black writing to sound.   The book’s conclusion raises questions about the blindness that accompanies how we seek to view one another across the color line. Readers can expect to be entertained, even as they are invited to challenge their own assumptions about racial identity.”


The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (W.W. Norton & Company, 2006)

Recommended by: Wendy Steiner, Richard L. Fisher Professor of English; specialist in modern literature and visual art
Taught in: a contemporary fiction seminar and “The Fiction/Nonfiction Perplex”

Steiner says: “This novel is both an intellectual challenge and a deeply moving fiction, the second of three that the Brooklyn novelist Nicole Krauss has written to date. It’s a story of lost loves and lost manuscripts, a literary and emotional mystery spanning three far-flung generations from the Holocaust to the present. By turns funny, dazzlingly ingenious, and poignant, it demonstrates the unpredictable ways literature can influence our lives.”


Suzy Zeus Gets Organized by Maggie Robbins (Tin House/Bloomsbury, 2005)

Recommended by: Max Cavitch, associate professor and Undergraduate Chair who teaches all forms and phases of American literature, along with gender and sexuality studies, historical poetics, and cinema
Excerpts taught in: “American Poetry,” “American Fiction and Memory,” and “Mourning and Sexuality in the English Elegy”

Cavitch says: “This is a short, brilliant, hilarious, and harrowing novel in verse, about a young woman’s mad, erotic, spiritual odyssey. It takes in Brooklyn, Berlin, Barbie, the Buddha, the Bible, boys, bliss, bathos, birth control, Being, barfing—the breath of life and poetry. And it’s a great reminder—both coy and technically dazzling—never to assume we know what poetry can or ought to be.”

1 Comment

Filed under Faculty/Staff, Written Word

One response to “Suggested Summer Reading: Part 2

  1. Pingback: The best of 2011: Arts Blog edition | Penn Gazette Arts Blog

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