In the eighth of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.
Christina Pugh ’88, Stardust Media (University of Massachusetts Press, 2020)
In this time of social distancing, I find myself surrounded by media more than ever. My Wesleyan friends, thousands of miles away, flicker on all my screens; I watch from my bedroom as my seminar courses adjust to Zoom. As we all adapt to the distance necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves confronted by the gifts and limitations of our technologies—a theme of Christina Pugh’s Stardust Media, a stunning new collection of poems that traverse the landscapes of both new and ancient technologies.
“It’s back, the virtual. Not that it ever \ really went away. I remember the word \ stayed lucent inside me like a rainbow \ in gasoline,” writes Pugh. Her poems—which explore media ranging from Italian graffiti to Gram Parson’s music to streaming services—spark with perceptive wonder and concern, brilliantly navigating the texture of our contemporary cultural moment. In her delicate dissection of personal and public relationships to media, Pugh places questions of attention and representation at the forefront of her poetry. Refusing easy answers to such questions, Stardust Media captivates through poetic representation, finding new ways into the nuances of 21st-century life.
Christina Pugh ’88 is the author of five books of poems, including Stardust Media, which was awarded the Juniper Prize for Poetry. She is a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Lara Tupper ’95, Off Island (Encircle Publications, 2020)
In her imagining of post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin’s stay on an island off the coast of Maine, novelist Lara Tupper’s prose shines with the same vibrancy of color as the scenery that captivated her protagonist at the turn of the 20th century. By implementing a parallel narrative taking place a century later in which Pete, a Maine painter and a descendant of Gauguin, wrestles with the familiar and the unknown in his art and marital life, Tupper writes an elegant investigation of family and art as conflicting forces, crafting characters for whom the experiences of loving and unloving are infinitely more complicated than their brushstrokes.
Imbued in coastal beauty, Off Island always keeps a concern with distance woven into its composition—the distance between past and present, husband and wife, and historical fact and imaginative fiction—and paints an awe-inspiring portrait that readers will be reluctant to leave.
Lara Tupper ’95 is also the author of A Thousand and One Nights (Harcourt and Untreed Reads), an autobiographical novel about singers at sea; with filmmaker Greg Eismin she also co-wrote the screenplay adaptation for A Thousand and One Nights. She presents writing workshops and retreats in Massachusetts.
Ang Pompano CAS’95, When It’s Time for Leaving (Encircle Publications, 2019)
Al DeSantis is ready to get out of Connecticut. Suffering a recent breakup and a gnarly car crash which invokes in him a phobia of bridges, Al sets his sights on Los Angeles, only to have his plans foiled by his estranged father, Big Al, who is passing on the Blue Palmetto Detective Agency in Savannah, Ga., to his son. Begrudgingly, Al finds himself in the South and wrapped up in investigating a dead body found on the agency dock—a murder case that quickly becomes anything but straightforward.
With an engaging cast of characters, fast-paced dialogue, and an intricate mystery plot that will keep readers guessing, Ang Pompano’s novel is as gripping as a cinematic car chase and as unexpected as a fully-loaded gun. For those who crave a page-turning journey about family and bravery, When It’s Time for Leaving constructs a bridge that readers will be eager to cross.
Ang Pompano CAS ’95 has been writing mystery for more than 20 years. When It’s Time for Leaving, his debut novel, was launched at the Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore in October. It was nominated for a Best First Novel Agatha Award.