all the books i read on my way out of town

today the news is very bad and the bad news i woke up to is the same and also different from the bad news i fell asleep with. in twelve hours i am getting on a plane and leaving this city and this country for an indefinite period of time, an adventure of a sort i have not gone on in a long time, which is an astounding privilege and a blessing and i am nervous and sad and grateful all at once. what a fucking time to be alive. last night i had a very unsubtle panic dream in which i was running through the labyrinthine corridors of a vast apartment building trying to find someone who would sell me a klonopin. but actually i am mostly packed (30% clothes, 10% black eyeliner, 60% books) and more or less ready, so here we go.

a couple of weeks ago i went to see kate zambreno in conversation with haley mlotek for the launch of kate’s new book Screen Tests and they were both so smart and so funny and so inspiring and i went home remembering that at one time i was a person who had and wrote down interesting thoughts about things, in fact quite regularly, and maybe i will become that person again in the near future. Screen Tests is savagely smart and very, very, very funny and also very sad, but in a good way, a way that made me think about things differently, and go look up a lot of other books to read, and write a lot of notes in my little journal about archives and memory and so on. like all of kate’s books it is a book robustly in conversation with a lot of other books and a nice reminder that there are a lot of ways to write a book (ugh) and think about books and live with and in and among books. i felt smart again after i finished it which, these days, is a real feat.

a couple of weeks ago i finished bathsheba demuth’s Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait, a fascinating and far-ranging and terrifically well-informed history of the intersections of capital and “nature” and exploitation of nature and indigenous peoples of the arctic that draws all kinds of extraordinary connections across histories and landscapes and human and animal activity and the ways in which energy is translated into different substances: nourishment, money, human and animal bodies, geological time. my copy is covered on almost every page with notes about capitalism and ecology and whales and time (i love writing in books but cannot bring myself to dogear a page ever, is that strange) or sometimes just “!!!” it is such a smart and thoughtful book and it is full of tools for thinking about the things i am particularly interested in thinking about right now and it is always very exciting to read someone writing about history in a way that feels completely new.

i am partway through What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other, which i found i think through mary annaïse heglar’s work (are you reading mary annaïse heglar on climate crisis? you should be!!!!!), and which is an series of profiles and reported pieces about climate justice activists, the kinds of people who get sent to jail for shutting down clearcuts and u-locking themselves to fences and basically making the mainstream environmental movement look like a bunch of sad feeble liberals. wen stephenson has some definite dad energy happening and i haven’t finished it yet so maybe it goes wildly awry but if you’re going to read a white dude reporter who recently discovered climate crisis (ok, to be fair, 2010, but still a little late to the game) he is, methinks, your fellow. it is nice to read for once about people who are coming to terms with climate crisis through radical action instead of just writing a lot of sad essays on their personal blog that i think only like four people are still reading at this point, ahem, sarah. (for real, bless all four of you.) but really! stephenson is much smarter and bigger-thinking on who exactly is responsible for and who will be most affected by climate crisis and who has been doing the work for a long time than the white-dude-reporters cranking out bestsellers nowadays CAN I JUST COME OUT AND SAY THAT I FUCKING HATED THE UNINHABITABLE EARTH SO FUCKING MUCH I THREW IT ACROSS THE ROOM EVEN THOUGH IT WAS A LIBRARY BOOK and again it is i think extremely important and useful to read about people who are often very literally putting their lives on the line to enact change. also it’s nice to read about people who remind me of the people i used to hang out with (hi earth!) who were all very robust and muscular and inspiring and could do a lot of feats in service of the earth.

on friday i went upstate for basically ten minutes to read with my beloved friend lyric hunter at bushel collective in delhi. everyone was so nice and friendly and asked great questions and i met four (4!!!!) extremely good dogs and lyric and i stayed at our friend’s amazing rambling old farmhouse surrounded by fields and ponds and woods and hills and for breakfast we ate omelettes made with eggs from the neighbor’s chickens and hot sauce our friend made from last year’s peppers and kale we went out and picked from the garden and it was too cloudy to see any stars but there were wildflowers and motherwort and healsall and raspberries newly ripened in a little patch in the woods. i think i might be breaking up with the city but i’m not sure yet. every time i come back i try to remember why i live here and then i try to remember i’m not supposed to make those decisions in august.

oh! i have to go find my passport. take care of yourselves and turn off the internet for a minute and go for a walk around the block, okay, and i’ll write about some of the 8,655 books i am taking abroad with me soon. another world is still possible, so help me god.

xoxo sarah