Big guy on the corner of Portland Avenue and Hudson - photo by Paul Dodd 1976
Big guy on the corner of Portland Avenue and Hudson – photo by Paul Dodd 1976

Determined to do something that didn’t leave me exhausted I quit my carpentry job the week before we were married. I could tell my boss, a hard working immigrant named Salvatore Caramana, was completely bewildered by my announcement. 

After our honeymoon I found a job working for the City of Rochester as graphic artist. My salary was paid for one year as part of a grant package and I was told they would cover most of my tuition if I wanted to take classes at night. I signed up for two four hour photo classes, taught by Bill Jenkins, at UR (then the UofR) and decided to cobble together a degree from Empire State. They gave me credit for the job I was doing, my semesters at IU, the paintings and prints I did on my own and they assigned an art mentor, Kurt Feuerherm, who I could work with. 

The only other teacher I remember was Bill Ciroco, who taught English and lived across from us on Hall Street. Bill gave me a list of ten books to read and we met to discuss them in his office. I came across the list (all men) today and may have to reread them all because I only remember “100 Years…” and how much I liked Italo Calvino.

Gabriel Marquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude
Julio Cortazar – Blow-up and Other Stories
Donald Barthelme – The Dead Father
Samuel Beckett – How it Is
John Hawkes – The Blood Oranges
Robert Creeley The Island
Italo Calvino – The Watcher and Other Stories
Cesare Pavese – The Devil in the Hills
Italo Svevo – Confessions of Zeno
Henry Roth – Call It Sleep
Bernard Malamud – The Assistant
John Fowles –  The Magus


6 Replies to “PoolsideLibrary”

  1. That’s a good list. Add some Don DeLillo, some Barry Hannah and some Tom Wolfe neo-journalism, and you’ve nailed the smart writer aesthetic of the 80s. ALSO, this teacher of yours liked writer’s writers: stylists, the experimental, and yay, not just Americans — because in those days we were reading with an eye toward ‘globalism.’ You couldn’t go wrong reading those. The lack of women is pretty shocking. Not even Joan Didion, Toni Morrison? I wrote my high school ‘thesis’ for the International Baccalaureate, age 17, on the Magus. A revoltingly superior tale told by an English man sneering at his colonial Australian girlfriend. I still loved it 😉

  2. Thank you Louise. I’m so glad you approve of the list. I remember pushing myself to get through them at the time but discovering a whole world out there. I will probably start a second go-around with 100 Years as I remember it being like a daydream.

  3. I reread 100 Years last year and it was as fantastic (literally!) as I remembered. As for the lack of women writers, it is important to remember that even the writers Louise mentioned, were seldom known back then. Considered rarities. Even Joan Didion. Though your teacher neighbor’s list is quite outside the popular milieu of the time. And yes, The Magus is exactly what Louise describes. It is interesting to see how many of the books written back then are weird to read because of inbred norms regarding women and race. But Marquez did not suffer from that affliction. He thought all humans were equally ridiculous.

  4. Interesting, what Martin says about women writers. My father was extremely keen that I “be a writer” and luckily enough, I guess, he revered Joan Didion and gave me everything by her, as well as Katherine Mansfield. (He also put up a massive framed photograph of Mansfield in my room (I still have it, it faces the wall in my basement). I am trying to remember who else…. in school we read Judith Guest (Ordinary People), Maxine Hong Kingston, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, and younger writers such as Deborah Eisenberg, Mary Robison, Ellen Gilchrist (she was big)! Then came Jamica Kinckaid… Mary Gaitskill, many more of course… And the Poets! Sharon Olds was getting going, Sylvia Path and Anne Sexton of course, Louise Gluck, Alice Notley, you get the idea… (I realize these authors don’t come in chronological order). Cheers. PALE HORSE, PALE RIDER — Porter on surviving a pandemic. I wept. I really did, back in 2000 when I read it. 😉

  5. Plus NADINE GORDIMER going strong in early eighties then winner of the NOBEL like Alice Munro and

  6. I have read many of the women Louise references but chronologically how many were selling in the eighties? Plath died in 1963. Fortunately, and it took far too long, women now dominate literary writing, especially poetry. I’m gearing up for the third Hilary Mantel Cromwell book. And considering trying to read the Ferrante books again since I have time for that monumental task.

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