Reading Mindfully: Charles Bukowski’s “Bluebird”

Reading Mindfully: Charles Bukowski’s “Bluebird”

Charles Bukowski was a renowned and prolific poet, short story writer and novelist who struggled throughout his lifetime with alcoholism and depression. Drawing on his experience growing up and living in Los Angeles, his work paints a portrait of downtrodden urban life and masculinity in America. In the San Francisco Review of Books, Stephen Kessler wrote, “Bukowski writes with no apologies from the frayed edge of society.”

As you read his poem “Bluebird,” published in 1992, consider if there has been a situation in your own life where you’ve put on a tough exterior.

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Reading Mindfully: Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”

Reading Mindfully: Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”

Jamaica Kincaid’s short story “Girl” appeared in the New Yorker in 1978 and later went on to become one of the most anthologized short stories of all time. Brief and powerful, “Girl” reads as a “how-to” list for living relayed from mother to daughter in a mere 650 words.

As you read, consider: Do the expectations of parents or family members help or hinder you? Or both?

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Reading Mindfully: Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations”

Reading Mindfully: Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations”

Renowned and prolific science fiction writer Tom Godwin’s short story “The Cold Equations” takes place aboard a cargo spaceship bound for a far-off planet in need of medical supplies. The ship’s pilot finds himself – and his ship – in an unexpected predicament when he discovers a stowaway on board.

As you read, consider the many hard choices we must make in our lives – should decisions be rooted in reason or emotion?

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Reading Mindfully: George Saunders’ “Puppy”

Reading Mindfully: George Saunders’ “Puppy”

By turns hilarious and heart-breaking, George Saunders’ short stories satirize the absurdities of every-day life and humanize even the strangest of characters. His story “Puppy” appears in his collection Tenth of December, winner of the 2013 Story Prize and a finalist for a National Book Award. In classic Saunders style, “Puppy” portrays a single situation – the purchase of a puppy – from the perspectives of multiple characters. As you read, think about the power of first impressions. What spurs us to judge others?

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Reading Mindfully: James Joyce’s “Eveline”

Reading Mindfully: James Joyce’s “Eveline”

James Joyce is one of the most celebrated and influential writers of the 20th century. Born in 1882 in Dublin, his novels are known for their stream-of-consciousness prose and experimental style. His early short story volume Dubliners is a more straightforward read. Published in 1914, the powerful collection depicts Irish middle class life through the eyes of Dublin’s residents, including young Eveline Hill. His short story “Eveline” is a musing on home and family. How does our definition of home evolve throughout our lives?

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Reading Mindfully: Philip Levine’s “What Work Is”

Reading Mindfully: Philip Levine’s “What Work Is”

Philip Levine was born Detroit, Michigan in 1928 and was raised and educated in the city. After graduating from Wayne State University, Levine worked for both Chevrolet and Cadillac where he gathered material for his future poems. Levine went on to teach at Columbia, Princeton and the University of California at Berkeley. He was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States for 2011–2012. Levine’s poem “What Work Is,” published in 1991, is a musing on the purpose of work. What does work mean to you?

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Reading Mindfully: Isaac Asimov’s “Youth”

Reading Mindfully: Isaac Asimov’s “Youth”

By all counts prolific, Isaac Asimov wrote or edited over 500 books in his lifetime, and he is best known for his science fiction. “Youth” first appeared in the May 1952 issue of Space Science Fiction. Although known for such works as the Robot series and Foundation series which are concerned with humans in an advanced scientific future, “Youth” is a rare Asimov story dealing with alien characters. What does this story show about the power of perspective?

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Reading Mindfully: Willa Cather’s “A Wagner Matinee”

Reading Mindfully: Willa Cather’s “A Wagner Matinee”

Willa Cather’s “A Wagner Matinee” was among her first published stories, appearing in Everybody’s Magazine in 1904, and then in her first short story collection, The Troll Garden. An iconic American author of short stories and novels, Cather was born in Virginia and moved to a Nebraskan homestead when she was 10 years old. Her writing often dwells on life in the western United States, as well the role of art in the world. How does “A Wagner Matinee” help us consider the relationship between the work we do and our souls?

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