Friday Reads: Ponyboy, Poetry, Kees, and You

I have started reading too many books to write about just one, so for this post, this time, I’m writing about four books. A debut novel with Nebraska connections getting national critical attention, a poet often overlooked in favor of more famous compatriots, another Nebraskan of cinematic mystique, and a brand new non-fiction book about tech that will make you want to put down your phone camera. Let’s go!

Longlisted for a National Book Award, and written by an author born in Nebraska, Eliot Duncan’s Ponyboy is a globetrotting story with a trans, addicted protagonist—but the story is about relationships: between parent and child, within friend groups, and also the relationships we have with ourselves–and with our pasts and our futures. This is the first novel from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop alumnus. More about the book, the author, and recent press can be found at the author’s website .

I recently read about Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945, and I want to read more of her work. I checked out this enormous book, The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry, because it shows each work in its original language as well as its translation into English. Being able to read Mistral’s poems in Spanish and English helps me appreciate her intentions and the beauty of her work. Mistral wrote about unexpected things in unpopular ways. You can read some of her work here.

Weldon Kees is a fascinating character, born in Beatrice in 1914. He had a colorful and exciting life in Nebraska and neighboring states, eventually moving to California, where he disappeared in 1955. He produced art in many forms, and also worked as a librarian, among other interesting jobs. After seeing a recent story about new acquisitions related to Weldon Kees at University of Nebraska Libraries, I picked up a used copy of The Ceremony & Other Stories. I am still waiting for the movie of his life. Check this link for a photo from Kees’ diary in 1954 to see a list of books and movies he enjoyed that year.

Your Face Belongs to Us is an important story about what happens when technology moves faster than ethics or the law. Kashmir Hill writes about the tech company that best optimized facial recognition software, and the various motives of the people involved with the project. If you think they don’t have your best interests at heart, you are correct. No matter your opinion of facial recognition software, if you’re interested in the technology and its effects, this is some old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting that will surprise and disturb you.

Duncan, Eliot. 2023. Ponyboy : A Novel First ed. New York NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

Hill, Kashmir. 2023. Your Face Belongs to Us : A Secretive Startup’s Quest to End Privacy As We Know It First ed. New York: Random House an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Kees, Weldon and Dana Gioia (ed.). 1984. The Ceremony & Other Stories. Port Townsend Wash: Graywolf Press.

Stavans, Ilan. 2011. The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry : An Anthology. 1st ed. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

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1 Response to Friday Reads: Ponyboy, Poetry, Kees, and You

  1. Audrey Heil says:

    It is nice to know I am not the only one reading way too many books. The information on Weldon Kees was fascinating and if you liked “Your Face Belongs to Us”, you might also enjoy “The Fight For Privacy: Protecting Dignity, Identity, and Love in the Digital Age” by Danielle Keats Citron.

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