Saturday, February 02, 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading: January 2008 Edition

"A Hilarious and True Account of One Man's Struggle With The Monthly Tide of The Books He's Bought and The Books He's Been Meaning to Read."
-the cover of The Polysyllabic Spree, by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby does a monthly piece in "The Believer" called "Stuff I've Been Reading," about "the how, and when, and why, and what of reading—about the way that, when reading is going well, one book leads to another and to another, a paper trail of theme and meaning; and how, when it’s going badly, when books don’t stick or take, when your mood and the mood of the book are fighting like cats, you’d rather do anything but attempt the next paragraph, or reread the last one for the tenth time." For those of you who aren't into reading, let me add that Hornby wrote the novels High Fidelity and About a Boy. I bet you liked those movies, right? Lozo can quote About a Boy. See, I pay attention. I'm bloody Ibiza.

I once turned down an outing w/a cute boy to see Hornby read at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. "I've got dork stuff to do," I explained. It was the most crowded reading I've ever been to aside from David Sedaris , which actually involved buying tickets. A few weeks later, cute boy cited my choice of a reading over drinking-beer-with-him as one of many reasons he crushed on me. Anyway, now he's married to the same girl he was long-distance dating then, so it worked out for everyone: him, me, his wife, Nick Hornby, Lozo, all the lesbians in the Niagra Falls area, and you.

So right. Hornby's first column (with full text available online) contains more mission-related detail -- I personally discovered "Stuff I've Been Reading" via Hornby's book The Polysyllabic Spree, a collection of 14 such columns, which I read in '04. Last week, while reading The Believer's 50th Issue, I thought: "OMG! I should do something like this on my blog!" That's right; I'm going to talk about the random books I read and I'm floating this idea -- a monthly column -- on a bright burning ray of hope that at least 3-4 people will care?

Also, The Believer (fantastic magazine, p.s.), has a particular favorable-review-only policy, which Hornby describes like so: "The Believer has taken the honorable and commendable view that, if it is attacks on contemporary writers and writing you wish to read, then you can choose from an endless range of magazines and newspapers elsewhere -- just about all of them, in fact -- and that therefore The Believer will contain only acid-free literary criticism." He got in trouble for trying to circumvent this by stating that although he couldn't comment on the overall quality of a certain book, he'd say that Crime & Punishment was definitely better.

I generally believe this too -- there's no point in totally bashing a book, unless it's soooo super-super bad that I no longer care about the author's well-being, like Pure by Rebecca Ray or Smashed or anything by Ann Coulter. Generally I wish good things upon all authors and writers of books, even Dan Brown and Plum Skyes. Also, I wouldn't want a good writer to google themselves, find this, and be like "OMG, who is this nobody saying bad things about me? Where's HER book?" to which I can say: "I'll never tell/I dunno, I can't spell." But also I have an honesty problem. I'm going to see how this plays out, hopefully in the author's favor.

Most of these book links go to my amazon associate account's a-store, which means if you buy something through that link, I'll get about two pennies, and I think by 2020, those pennies will add up to approximately 30 bucks, and then I'll buy everyone their own dog-purse like Tinkerbell and obvs , hook the world up with a Coke. That's not why I'm doing this, I'm only mentioning it 'cause it'd annoy me if you bought a book I talk about by opening a new window when you could just link through here and therefore help Tinkerbell get a flea collar.

Just a few more things:
-I'm following Hornby's format (BOOKS I'VE BOUGHT, BOOKS I'VE READ), with a few of my own additions (MAGAZINES READ, WEBBERNET, and BOOKS BORROWED/LENT OUT)
-When I say (finished), I mean that I started it in another month but finished it during the month in question.
-It's good to have someone in your life who engages with literature even more intensely (or as intensely) than you and can make recommendations -- this role has been filled by many peoples over the years, including my agent when I worked at the agency every day, Krista when I lived with her, Meg/Ingrid/Sheetal/Delp/John while at Interlochen, etc. Right now it's a friend who I'm going to call "B." (named after the second letter of the alphabet -- the first is too confusing, 'cause it's also its own word) because it makes me feel literary and mysterious, like a spy in a really juicy novel by my favorite author James Patterson. JK! Never read JP, but he sounds thrilling. Maybe I'll have a contest about B.'s identity and you could win underpants.


Party of One: A Loner's Manifesto, by Anneli Rufus
A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, by Haruki Murakami
Drown, Junot Diaz

The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories, edited by Tobias Wolff (finished)
Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress - Susan Jane Gilman (finished, audiobook)
A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf
Party of One: The Loner's Manifesto, Anneli Rufus
Re/Search #13: Angry Women, edited by A. Juno & V.Vale

The Safety of Objects, by A.M. Homes - to Alex
The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls - to Haviland
n+1 (literary journal) - from B.

New York Magazine (4), The Believer, Marie Claire, Glamour, Nylon, Curve, The Paris Review, Esquire, Bust, Bitch, Missbehave, n+1, Women's Health, Lucky, Vogue.
I don't smoke, I don't need to lose ten pounds and I could never give up the drink, so my major New Year's resolution was to Read more. I mean -- I actually already do read plenty, but I want to do more concentrated reading of books (sitting down. reading.) -- I'm always reading online, at the gym, or while waiting for something (e.g., Godot, the doctor)/in transit, but I also bitch to whomever'll listen that no one sits down to read anymore. That means I'm bitching about myself, which is bad for my self-esteem. Also, January's a hot month to execute this kind of thing 'cause the weather is shitty, there's plenty o' new books from holiday season, and I went on vaycay!

Pre-vacay, Cait and I went to a tiny used book & music store on 72nd where I got A Room of One's Own and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The latter is likely to stare at me and beg to be read for at least five months, but it had notes in the margins, and so I had to get it, I love other people's notes. The others I got that day at Barnes & Noble -- Drown 'cause Diaz's new novel's been all over the year-end lists & award circuits and I've enjoyed two stories of his in The New Yorker this year (Alma and Wildwood) , The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle 'cause a commenter told me to read Murakami and it was on a front table and I thought "a-ha!" and Party of One 'cause I saw it on a table last summer and have wanted to read it ever since and thought now is the time. A lot of my reading choices are influenced by B&N table selections, which troubles me, w/r/t the ability of B&N to dictate cultural trends.

i. The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories
Though the actual ability to read a ton on vaycay is totally overestimated, especially when your friends are as fun as mine, I do find airplanes specifically conducive to reading -- flying from Newark to Fort Lauderdale, I finished, finally, The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories, which I've owned since the high school writing class I bought it for, back when I used highlighters instead of pens -- I've made an orange mess of Dorothy Allison's (BRILL!) "River of Names" and Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" (one of the best short stories ever written). Apparently we were only assigned a few stories in this book, school is awesome. I've got a few books like that -- unfinished that I carry from apartment to apartment -- and I always end up reading them when I've just finished something else, haven't picked up anything new & exciting that fits my mood and need something to take with me on the train right away, I'm like, OMG, "Hello, you! I want you back now, let's get it on!" and then I pick it up. I'm totally OCD about reading anthologies: I force myself to read every story/essay, even if I've read it before, and I didn't mind re-reading Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," Mary Gaitskill's "A Romantic Weekend," Kate Braverman's "Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta" and Joyce Carole Oates' anthology staple "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

It took basically all of December and January to read this book, especially when I got stuck on stories I didn't like, e.g., stories about Native Americans or Pioneers. I'm into post-electricity lit. The anthology was understandably heavy on men w/midlife crisises (and their corresponding issues with alcohol and/or fidelity), and stories related to war veterans. Wolff himself wrote one of the greatest war memoirs I've ever read (In Pharaoh's Army), so it's probs like the Best American Essays that Susan Orlean edited that was suspiciously heavy on birds and nature. It also introduced me to some new writers I want to find more of, through stories like Scott Bradfield's "The Darling" (which I read on the Metro-North, which means I must've read it in early December, which means I suck at life to finish it two months later, wtf was I doing all that time?), Robert Stone's "Helping" and Ralph Lombreglia's beautiful portrait of my favorite kind of dynamic -- the Sancho/Don Quixote thing, aka madness & its sidekick -- "Men Under Water." There were also stories by many other writers I've enjoyed like Stuart Dybeck, Richard Ford and Joy Williams. What a canvas! I feel much smarter now. Good call, Mr. Driscoll or whomevs.

ii. I Also, Coincidentally, Need a Room of My Own and 500 Shillings
I started A Room of One's Own on the plane and felt fully retarded for not having read it 'til now, it's clearly the basis for everything that anyone's ever thought ever, especially women, lesbians, female writers, and smart people. The book itself continued to fall apart (literally) as the trip continued, its pages threatened to fly away at the Tranquility Pool in Key Biscayne, and it's currently bound by a rubber band. Normally the combination of old-school writer + falling apart book + poolside = not gonna happen, but I was totally into it and read it in about 24 hours, even though I was in paradise and the pool was tempting. Also, it was short. Woolf addresses the issue of a woman being unable to write when she's expected to raise children and be financially dependent on her husband -- a burden which has lessened significantly since her time obviously, though not altogether -- and I found myself thinking about how writers, women in particular, are now expected to work full-time, maintain a social life, and somehow ALSO write novels, which's really hard. It's romantic -- the slaving away on one's laptop during the Metro-North commute, scribbling poems on napkins while waitressing -- but it really blows to have to do that.

iii. I Have Been Alone For a Very Long Time
My therapist right now won't talk to me about my desire to cut my social life by 75% (from perhaps two live encounters a week to 1/2 a live encounter) until I'm completely finished reading Party of One: A Loner's Manifesto -- which's billed as "a recognition of loners as a vital force in world civilization rather than damaged goods who need to be "fixed"' because she knows how I get with books. How I get = I want to change my whole life when I get into a writer's particular ideas. So anyhow, I finished it a few days ago (it was an easy read), and I still feel it's time for me to stop apologizing for my inherent anti-social behavior and not let people be mean to me about it! I'm a loner, I love myself, I'm okay, I'm good enough!

Combined with A Room of One's Own, I feel a large majority of my seemingly irrational or psychologically unsound beliefs about the world (and being a writer) have been validated through literature this month. I'm even more self-righteous than I was in '07. It's probs how a lot of people feel about chicken soup for the soul, but I don't like chicken soup because I don't like chicken in that context, I doubt my soul wants any either. My soul is vegan.

The writing in Party of One (which I began reading on a beach chair, pausing frequently to read passages out loud to Cait, like this one: "Someone says to you, 'let's have lunch.' You clench. Your sinews leap within you, angling for escape. What others thrive on, what they take for granted, the contact and confraternity and sharing that gives them strength leaves us empty. After what others would call a faun day out together, we feel as if we have been at the Red Cross, donating blood.") got a bit over-the-top and melodramatic at times and, had I not been in the author's camp, I probs would've found the defensive tone offensive (which I guess was the point) (isn't it annoying how I keep writing in brackets?) but anyhow I loved it, it changed my life, just like it changed the life of amazon reviewer I.B Cooper. This is probs how angsty depressed teenagers felt discovering Elizabeth Wurtzel. It's like "OMG! There I am! This is mememeeme!"

In fact, I've got SO Many feelings on this topic, and was SO inspired and excited about this book that I'm saving it for another post -- next week or the week after. Get excited!

iv. Adventures in Audio
So I listen to audiobooks, which is totally uncool. But I joined audible about a year ago 'cause Krista told me to, and I want to pack every vacant minute of my life with consumption-of-literature and/or archived episodes of This American Life. I'm still perfecting the sort of book to listen to -- nothing dense, important or complicated (you'll miss about 25% of it unless it's for a long road trip), nothing I'm reading to admire the writer's style specifically (no underlining), nothing that might suck (I can't preview it or take it back) -- but I think that short humorous essays are generally a safe bet, e.g., Jonathan Ames' I Love You More Than You Know and Wendy Spiro's Microthrills. In January I finished the brilliantly titled Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress (Susan Jane Gilman), a memoir who's name I'd run across a few times when doing market research for my own book.

The book, like most memoirs, didn't grab me right away -- I'm well-versed in the childhood w/urban hippies stories, and as I read in The Guardian this month, "childhood is never interesting" -- but I was fully engaged by the time she reached adolescence and adulthood and started crushing on Mick Jagger. Refreshingly free of man-hunting stories, Gilman's voice is honest, entertaining and quick and her stories were pleasurable and funny, like good chick lit. (There is such a thing.) Had I read it in print (I should've), I would've probs found it less cutesy than I did -- the reader's voice was grating & my heart is 95% darkness. Oh well, too late now. I listened to it while I walked, washed dishes, waited in line at Starbucks, did crunches, rode crowded trains.

If anyone listens to my hypothetical non-existent book this way, I'd be horrified.

iv/a. Every Girl Is Straight Until They're Not?
When I read memoirs by ladies, I'm always waiting for the moment when they go gay, even when there's no evidence that they will. I just like to imagine that every female artist at least thinks about going gay for a chapter or two, right? Even if it's not in the blurb or anything? I'm like: "This affection for Cindy from down the street is gonna result in nudity real soon, I just know it!" "She says she ADMIRES her college roommate, but she really means she wants to go down on her! It'll happen soon!"

I've plowed through many books waiting for the gay moment and then I'm inevitably disappointed when the heroine marries some kind patient sensitive man 3/4 of the way through instead of getting a girlfriend and riding off into the sunset. These non-female husbands generally have non-threatening names like Tom or Aaron and hover vaguely in the background pointing out the heroine's neuroses which he inevitably finds endearing. So, dear reader, SJG never went gay, though she was presumed gay for a chapter, which's something I guess. Wow, I'm thinking about it right now and it's quite pathetic, really, my attachment to this false hope.

v. Fire Just Waiting For Fuel
B. told me she was ordering Angry Women 'cause she'd heard it had a good section on Avital Ronell, her obsession of the moment, and I was like OMG, I HAVE that book! My Mom picked it up for me at a garage sale randomly last year -- it's "16 cutting-edge performance artists" discussing a wide range of topics "from menstruation, masturbation, vibrators, S&M and spanking to racism, failed Utopias and the death of the Sixties." Given a context (B. wanted the book), I developed renewed interest in it and kept it next to my laptop most of the month, picking it up every now and then, even sitting with it open on my bed and reading it. All in all, I read probs about 20% of the book, though I looked at all the photos, there were lots of naked ladies doing art and being radical about sex.

I heart heart heart books like this even though I might not finish the whole thing 'til 2010. They feel like glorious relics from forgotten times (1991) where I imagine (read: I know nothing) the written word was a vital and revolutionary force in counter-cultural political movements, like the radical pro-sex feminists of this book. I don't think people realize, in general, how hard these women worked -- even as late as the 90's -- to make things possible like women's erotica and Toys in Babeland as well as lending their force to the pro-choice movement and bisexuality acceptance groups. We're still fighting, obvs ... I hope.

Admittedly the only interviews I read from start to finish were Kathy Acker's, 'cause everything she says is magic, and this woman Linda Montano, who does art-as-life stuff, which's what I wanna do some day, except I just wanna do it for fun, I have different plans for what I want to do to changing the world. 'Cause a lot of this work is so fringe-oriented that it almost negates itself by not even reaching the audience who needs to hear it most -- preaching to the choir and alienating the masses. I guess ideally the choir will gain steam and revolt, inspiring the masses.

Anyhow, Montano and Teching Hurst ROPED THEMSELVES TOGETHER for an ENTIRE YEAR. They had a contract: tied at the waist with an 8-foot rope, never touch, and stay in the same room. This woman is serious, it's crazy, I love it. So that's what Tinkerbell and I are going to do starting now. ART AS LIFE, Y'ALL.

I love crazy radical feminists. I don't know what's happening to me, I'm becoming who my mother used to be before she bought a house in the suburbs. With her wife. And her wife's adopted children, one of whom is African-American. NM.

Also I read significant portions of interviews of Susie Bright (who edited the Best American Erotica 2007, which I was in. She interviewed me about it here), bell hooks, Annie Sprinkle and obvs Avital Ronell. Actually the last one I xeroxed so I could read it at the gym, discreetly shading the photo of Ronell naked and dressed in tree branches with my towel. I know I'm not supposed to read serious stuff at the gym, but I'm not gonna be alive forevs, I gotta maximize my time. Abstract theory kinda makes my head hurt, I have to read it slowly to understand, 'cause I'm slow. Mostly, the fact that books like this EXIST -- that enough people made its printing worthwhile, and only 16 years ago -- is inspirational to me as a woman and as an artist and gets me really excited about political and social change. In the 90's. Also, the Ronell interview was really long. I'll finish it though seriously.



I read a lot of magazines, often linking to my fave articles in the auto-fun so you can be my BFF. I'm really digging this new magazine Missbehave -- hot design, interviews of people I like (e.g., Ellen Page, Bjou Phillips) and a voice that sounds a hell of a lot like mine. Also it's great for collages (other great collage magazines include Nylon, Flaunt and Bust). Like Nylon, it's a magazine you really must hold in your hands, the online experience is incomparable.

Of the plethora of magazines I enjoyed this month, my fave articles were Nick Flynn's "The Ticking is The Bomb" from Esquire (the reason for mentioning "The Allegory of the Cave" in our vlog, actually) and Eileen Myles' "Lost in Canada," from The Believer. It's "an elegy to a lost notebook." Also, for anyone who's ever written in the second person (myself included) -- read this. You will need to read this, it will feel necessary.

I have a really bad habit of sometimes reading magazine articles almost all the way through -- through like ten "ctd. on page ___ ..."s and then for some reason, NOT reading the last two paragraphs. It's really unforgivable, I'd hate it if someone did that to my article. I also don't know why I do it. But when B. said she'd enjoyed the Flynn essay up to the last two paragraphs, I was like "erum, yeah, skipped those, holla, maybe that's why I loved it." Then I read 'em, and they were retarded. Cait, the only other person on earth I know of who followed my suggestion to read that essay, agrees. Skip those grafs if you read it. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Anyhow I'm working on this habit. Like the Obama/Clinton piece I read in New York Magazine yesterday-- the last two graphs were the heart of the article, wouldn't've missed them for the world!

B. lent me Issue 6 of n+1 'cause there was a section called "The Intellectual Situation" that addressed a lot of things I think about alot w/r/t publishing and books, which I read on the return flight to Newark. You guys, airplanes are the best! Except there were these crying children I wanted to kill, I kept looking at Cait and/or Alex and making axe chopping gestures towards the children that their parents would've noticed if their heads weren't so far up their children's over-mediated assholes. Anyhow, the n+1's got a great piece about Gawker that caused a lot of hulabaloo in December for basically declaring its demise and death ("Gawker: 2002-2007") and a brilliant essay that uses the case of the Virginia Tech shooter to explore issues of identity for Asian teenage boys who feel outcast or unsuccessful for one reason or another, like the author of the essay.

I do a lot of internet reading, which's why my eyes ache all the time. B. says I can fix this by doing eye exercises like intermittently looking up from my screen across the room and focusing on a far-away point. This goes back to me needing a room of one's own, like a really big one, with long hallways. I link to things I like a lot in the auto-fun usually, or talk about them, so I won't talk too much about the highlights of my internet travels.

The Myles essay inspired me to dig around and find out more about her (why haven't I heard of her before?!!! I don't know?!) -- and I think she's one of my new obsessions (my other new obsession is Jennifer L. Knox, who's interview in Bookslut made her my instant hero, I want all her books of poetry now). Myles edited an apparently super-important book called 'The New Fuck You: Adventures in Lesbian Reading," which you can buy me for President's Day if you want. Check her out: Eileen Myles Dot Net.

B got a subscription to the Harper's archives this month, which's nearly as exciting to me as Krista's NY Times Plus subscription! This is total dork candy, like I flipped about the Atlantic archives going online for free, too. Since B.'s investment, I've enjoyed many delights, including a fascinating article written about Mary Gaitskill when Veronica came out (" Walking Naked") and probs the best thing I read all month, "A Lie That Tells the Truth: Memoir and the Art of Memory," by Joel Agee. I actually had to call B. right after I finished just to breathe and go "that was amazing." Probs how Lozo feels after watching a really good touchdown kickoff tackle or whatever, omg, you guys, the Super Bowl is on Sunday. Also, I got my hair cut, see:


This will help me read for sure. Also it looks totally different today than it did yesterday, life is so crazy. Cait and I went to that place where they have porn star names, I forget the name of my hairstylist, but she was really serious. It's so trendy, I might really have to go out.


Chrissy said...

Loved the Godot joke.

I actually just started reading "Appetites: Why Women Want" by Caroline Knapp. Back in like December of '06, Haviland blogged about it on myspace and it took me pretty much the entire year to find a copy. It's amazing, considering I've dealt with the whole eating disorder thing.

I'm gunna check out some of the books you mentioned here when I get some free time away from my acting classes.

Rock on/

Anonymous said...

omg i was awake when you posted. i cannot even believe it. also if i hit publish on time, i can even be the first comment, then my head my really explode. jk obvs can't joke around about that kind of thing anymore...

anyways- you are kind of like my b, i read everything you tell me to and it's always good, like right now i am in the middle of 'lost in the meritocracy' which is blowing my mind.

it was amazing when you were reading party of one saying that you wanted to be friends with her as if she'd ever want to be friends with anyone.

also i hated the last 2 paragraphs of the esquire article, but i do love lava monkeys.. this is my longest comment ever, clearly i have a lot of feelings

jordan said...

haircuts feel great. i just cut something like a foot off mine! um.... david sedaris is great via audio if you haven't already consumed all of his work. are you an anne lamott fan.... i know i'm probably late on that train, but i love love love her more than anyone else. also, always assume everyone is gay. conversation was had lately regarding that i sometimes forget people are straight, like oh they're still doing that? hmm. i feel like stranger in the auto universe. i have a new baby nephew and am so far behind.

hey auto winners, does anyone know where you can get "i love my gay aunt(s)" baby stuff? lemme know

caitlinmae said...

I'm bad at reading right now. But your hair just gets cuter and cuter. It's like one of the reasons 2008 will be infinitely superior to 2007... Superior hairstylings as modeled by Riese Bernard, created by Haviland P. Stillwell.
Even though the first haircut was a great success, and occured in the year-that-must-not-be-mentioned.
I can't comment right now. There's too much drama.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently in the process of reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and it's fine, I think. But I think that pretty much everyone and their mother should read 'Bear v Shark' or 'U.S.!' by Chris Bachelder. Easily in my top 5 authors of all time, four stars, all of that good shit. Do it!

eric mathew said...

the haircut looks so fetch. you are really making fetch happen.

the make-up also looks really good in the pic. i sometimes think macs take such good photos. Tyra would be so proud. you really are smiling with your eyes.

Chloe said...

I love waiting for Godot. In that kind of "I just spent 2 hours reading a play where absolutely nothing was accomplished, but now I'll get off hand references to it forever" type of love. Also, "I LOVE GODOT" was written on the inside of the front cover, which was exciting when I started reading it, it made me think that I'd really like Godot's character development. See how I tied that whole Godot thing into that whole other peoples notes thing?

And also, is it sad that I actually read Angels and Demons while on vacation? Or is it sadder that I then read another 2 books by Dan Brown because I realized you don't really have to think while reading them, things just helicopters...and heads. Like mine. The fact that he lived after jumping out of an exploding flying helicopter made my head explode.

Anonymous said...

Nice haircut! Less hair in eyes: easier reading.

In regards to an early thing in yr post, tell me more about your hate of SMASHED! I'd be really interested in your opinion.

Liz said...

so many words. I dont even think i have vocabulary to write that much. Loved it. reading is very good for your braincells. It creates a hyper-something that makes your brain absorbe information on a whole different level.

your writing is great. I just upgraded my braincells.

helenaraye said...

Read Mrs. Dalloway. If you haven't already. Also, The Hours.

Also ... everything that has anything to do with Virginia Woolf.

Haviland said...

chrissy - very happy you're on the Knapp train...a year to locate a book? Let me tell you about a wonderful place called ? (or actually, is even better)

caitlinmae - sadly, I am not responsible for this haircut, but it's cute, right?

Also, missbehave is really an amazing mag.

Adam Tiller said...

I haven't read Room, but whenever I've read Woolf in the past it's always left me with a sense of lack. I's beautiful, and I can appreciate it, but I feel like there's a sense in which I'll never have access to it because it's so essentially feminine. Not that this is entirely a bad thing; it's challenging to think that there's more to gender than our constructs, and to wonder what that might be. But at the same time, I just can't find the books ultimately satisfying.

I wonder sometimes if female readers get the same sensation when reading something that I take to be essentially masculine (e.g. One Hundred Years of Solitude, or maybe even Portrait, though I'm not sure on that one).

re: Ticking, I continue to read the lava monkey's retarded now, but I like to think it's a relic from a version of the story where it somehow belonged.

frank said...

holy crap. you should have made the title of this post, "Lozo Don't Read This, It's About Books!"

i would like to submit a question, though, as i skimmed this and noticed you talking about "turning gay."

where are all the black lesbians? you seem to be the lesbian epicenter for the greater tri-state area, and you don't seem to know any black lesbians. do they exist? or are they just not that into the non-penetration feelings sex? you know what they say. once you go black, you roll the credits.

frank said...

also, you liked that Lozoball deadline post? really, riese? really?

dorothy said...

This I love. I have a hard time finding a book opinion that I trust and so far you've done well- most notably Mary Gaitskill. Thanks much.
PS Super cute haircut! Your short hair has really tested my self-control. I keep imagining that I'd be hot with short hair and yet knowing at the same time that is not true. I have to stay far far away from salons.

El N said...

Win, most definitely make this a monthly post topic. My love-hate relationship with books needs more of the love, to be honest. I have this irrational fear of starting a book that sucks, it's almost crippling. This is mostly true of fiction so I need the kind of kick in the pants you can provide. I too loved the Junot Diaz short stories so I think I feel safe with trying out Drown. Anyway, rock on with the book reviews!

ps. I bought Haven Kimmel's first book years ago soley based on having a name-crush on Haven. Which also is a three-letter explanation for my continuing name-crush on Haviland. Hmm.

jenn said...

at the moment im reading "stuff i'v been reading:january 2008 edition, by riese... im a bit of a slow reader obvs im never first comment?!
its a good read so far!!

glad to see tinkerbell in there, i have adopted her as my new hero!!

loving the new doo by the way, very sixties cutie!!

Laia Balcells said...

great idea!

riese said...

chrissy: Actually, you know who recommended Appetites to Haviland? That's right ... mememememe.

caittt: Yay! I want to be kind of like everyone's "b." I hope that you finished lost in the meritocracy and that your mind is still intact or at least not throbbing?

it's the jeans: I've never read Anne Lamott, but I think I've heard about her bird by bird book? I think my hair looks like your new baby nephew's. Also there's tons 'o places with shirts like that, you can probs google the phrase or go to links on curve or the l word online.

caitlinmae: The hairstylist said my old haircut was like a mushroom. I was like oh-kay, but I like it, it's like The Beatles!

flynn: Hey! Me too! I'm also in the process of reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I like it, but I wish I could bend the pages, it's not so easy to read. I've never heard of that book but will check it out.

eric matthews: Tyra needs to do a mac-photobooth challenge. Talk about fierce/fetch.

Chloe: I've never actually read Godot, but I saw it in high school, and I remember thinking that waiting for godot was a lot like my life at the time, or so it seemed. I've read almost the entire Shopaholic series, so ... there's that.

Anonymous: My uneducated opinion on Smashed is that I read the introduction and it sounded so preachy and annoying -- like the whole thing about how every girl who drinks ever is an alcoholic (also, felt sexist to me, like guys who drink and girls who drink couldn't possibly have any of the same problems?) and it just annoyed me, like I hated her already. I mean, if I want to read about alcoholism, I want it to be a real alcoholic, like Augusten Burroughs, or Jonathan Ames, or Caroline Knapp (she has a memoir called 'Drinking') I don't wanna hear about some insecure college girl who has a few too many drinks, if I wanted to do that, I'd talk to my friends. Also Stef read it and said it was bad, I think.

LiztheLovingLass: I agree. Reading is hands down totes better for your braincells than just about anything I can think of.

Oujikun: I have! I've read Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours. I la-la-love The Hours, but it seems to be a popular book to hate.

HS: Orrr she could link to my amazon associate's store's page for Caroline Knapp's Appetites, just sayin'.

Adam: It's funny in my original draft of this post, I talked about how one of the things that hasn't changed since Woolf's time is that men by and large do not read women. I think that women are asked to accept a masculine worldview from Day One, and most of what we do read and absorb -- in school, in life, politics, sports, television, movies, news, etc -- is from a masculine voice, so it's easier for women to accept a male narrator, whereas a woman's writing very rarely "crosses over." That being said, my most favorite authors are women and gay men, though if a contemporary male writer dared to write about anything besides his mid-life crisis/subsequent affair ... I feel like it's become its own sub-genre.

I think Solitude and Portrait have been on my "Riese, seriously, read this before you die" list.

I have this theory re: ticking which's that he didn't need the grandparents. He's already weaving in so much seemingly unrelated material with surprising skill (part of what I loved about it) but he doesn't make the point with his grandparents that he means to make, and it feels like an afterthought?

I like the idea of the lava monkey too. We all need a lava monkey.

Lozo: I love that I spoke to you directly in the first paragraph about my expectation that you'd not like this post, and you're asking me to put it in the title? You know, I'm just trying to give you eye exercises.

There's gazillions of black lesbians, weirdo, I even mention one in this very post you didn't read. I have about three friends, though, so I don't think I've got a good ethnic sampling. Well, Vega's Puerto Rican. I was about to talk about a girl I went out with once and then decided that was TMI for the comments, I should be paid for this information.

You made a funny joke in the Lozoball deadline post< i don't remember what it was but it made me LOL, or perhaps I just shared the wrong thing. You post a lot these days, it's hard to keep up.

dorothy: yes! Mary Gaitskill! My number-one love (aside from Lorrie Moore) You know, I stayed out of salons once and then Haviland cut off my hair, so, just sayin'.

El N: The worst is that there's a lot of books I've really loved that haven't grabbed me 'til about page 100, like Middlesex and The Corrections, and that makes me scared to give up on something too early. I have a title crush on A Girl Named Zippy.

jenn: omg, tinkerbell is my hero too. She wrote a book called Peter Pan and you should read it. And thank you -- I feel like it's kinda Shane-y right now, we'll see.

Laia: Thanks!! Defo got more than 3-4 now.

Chrissy said...

Yeahhh...I kind of had a feeling it was you, considering the way she worded the blog. It's sooo kick-ass. It's very rare that something can tear me away from reading all the plays that I do, but Appetites has done just that.

asher said...

i picked up missbehave not long ago. the cover made me think it was a new version of Sassy - feminist content for younger girls. then i read the bylines - not for the youngsters so much. but the design is pretty incredible. so many typefaces! so much going on! and somehow it maintains a sense of cohesiveness.

oh, and i love the haircut. you're looking very shane today. (i can't believe i just typed that)

frank said...

whatever. i've never seen any black lesbians. and i watch A LOT of porn.

also, you could've labeled the post, "Girls' Periods: An In-Depth Study Complete With Pictures."

i can't wait for the super bowl party. it's going to be lesbiriffic!

riese said...

chrissy: I heart Caroline Knapp. she also wrote a memoir about drinking that I never finished. And a book about dogs that I never read. But Appetites, is obvs one of the best books ever.

asher: SOOO many typefaces! It's like everyone went crazy all over the magazine, like permanent Heatherette. I wish there was a new Sassy. Let's invent one, get on that asap.

lozo: Really, that's the best you can do? I know that can't possibly be true about the porn. Try the WNBA. Or the world. A lesbian bar, perhaps. a subway, the street, a park, a building. Anywhere. Speaking of porn, that's a great post title, you should use that.

jenn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Tiller said...

I was about to be all 'nuh uh', but then I went to my bookcase for examples...

and you're right...I've read remarkably little written by women.

That said, I still feel like the majority of it I can totally connect to (your article from last Spring is a great example of this), but there are some books/stories that just feel foreign. Does that make sense at all? Maybe not. Probably not.

Fer surrious, though, the Auto-Fun has been killer lately. Lost in the Meritocracy is a story I just barely escaped living, and it was innervating to see it down on paper (or lighting up my monitor, or darkening since the text is black, or whatever).

DH said...

Tiger I really like that Auto-fun quote (Nicey Nash).

I don't think I've read one book/author you've made reference to. I was staring at my undernourished bookcase the other day, thinking that I should rope you in to taking me book shopping.

Right now I'm reading the Ronnie Woods autobiography. He makes me want to be a rockstar and paint the world black.

Anonymous said...

I finished "The Safety of Objects" just... NOW. OMG.
I'm ready for whatever you have next, Bernard! Bring it on.

You havent read the January GOOD magazine issue?? It's all about food... Haviland's favorite subject.

Anonymous said...

i'm kinda baffled that you're single.

frank said...

or the world. ha.

i know someone who agrees with me on this. i'm just throwing that out there. the blacker the berry, the better the chance that it's malignant.

green said...

"Anonymous said...
i'm kinda baffled that you're single."

my fav comment quote.

missbehave! thank you!!! collage-making people unite!

hair = A+, you trendy little thing you

kazzie said...

Reading is pretty much my favourite thing to do. It's hard for me to get recommendations because the people I live with think The Da Vinci Code is the best book ever written... major sigh. After reading this, I totally trust your taste.

Currently I'm reading Don Quixote. Well, I'm trying to. I don't think I'll ever finish it.

Your hair is brill by the way.

The Spaz said...

Yay books!

Love the new coif, its tres cute!

Last book I read was This Book Will Save Your Life by AM Homes. I just bought another book by her, Music For Torching {I picked it up instead of the Wind Up Bird Chronicle!) maybe I will start it tonight if I'm not too drunk.

Chloe said...

Well at least with Shopaholic you know what you're getting into. Or not getting into? Angels and Demons sounds like some profound, great novel of the 19th century....or something. And also, I've been meaning to read the Shopaholic series for a few months now. Maybe the shallow teenage girl side of me is coming out through my book choice...

Anonymous said...

your love of leather wristbands...

Anonymous said...

Omg you should definitely read "a portrait of the artist" Amazing book!! Also check out Eavan Boland, Seamus Heaney and Patrick Kavanagh's stuff for some great reading....3 of irelands greatest poets :)

elec-tri-city said...

-- Love the haircut, esp. since in the first pic you resemble a bit of Posh Spice in the really strange hot way. It's in the mouth. And the hair, clearly.

-- LOVE reading. It's my NYears thing, too. But I'm only getting around to it now and it's mostly stuff for grad school, but that counts. Freud and Derrida and Levi-Strauss, etc etc.

-- Along the lines of fabulous NYC used bookstores, there's one between Gramercy and Chelsea that I entered, browsed for two solid hours, and decided to move in. It didn't happen. I wish it had.

-- Eileen Myles is sitting on my shelf waiting to be devoured. Maybe not her, maybe it's just her words (three books worth), but I eat words with my brain.

-- Amazon/ (which's the total love of my life) should work out a system where you can buy a gift for someone without knowing their address and e-send it to them whereupon they accept the gift via e-mail and enter their address so 3-17 days later, awesomeness in the form of an e-gift arrives to their doorman/doorstep/pit bull.

riese said...

jenn: I've never read Peter Pan, but it's a great film.

adam: Oh yeah, it's totally true, like statistically (here's a post that goes over some recent studies and theorizes about it) It does make sense. I've got a lot of theories about it, and could probs go on forever, but I think it's just the way it is, and I'm happy to know that anyone is reading anything, really. And thank you, re: the auto-fun. I read "Lost in the Meritocracy" a few years ago and was totally geeked out with happiness to be able to read it again when the archives went online for free.

crystal: Sneaker shopping with Cait, book shopping with me ... you're gonna have a busy little trip.

a;ex: I don't think you're ready for this jelly. Speaking of Jelly, I love food! I'll think of a good next book for you, sugar, you just wait.

Anonymous: Can't nobody hold me down, oh no, I got to keep on movin' ... girls girls girls girls girls all over the world

Lozo: I'm not even sure I know what you're talking about.

green: I'm nothing if not trendy. And ... you know, baffflinggg

kazzie: I'm currently on page 222 of my 728-page version of Don Quixote. I'm aiming to finish it by 2009.

the spaz: I loved Music For Torching, actually, I own it ... I'm excited for you reading it, which's true evidence of my dorkdom.

chloe: I once knew this guy and he went crazy and his literature of choice to prove his crazy theories were Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code and The Bible Code, which i found alarming, and is also why i've never read them. The sad thing is there's a maxim in Shopaholic I've been known to repeat, and some might say, live by.

Anonymous: My favorite thing about that cuff is that someone tries to kick your ass for being gay, you can just punch them in the head with the wristcuff, 'cause it's got that steel plate.

Anonymous: I know I hear it's the best book of all time. The first graf made my head hurt a little though?

elec-tri-city: That's awesome 'cause I told the lady I wanted to look like Posh Spice and she said "your hair looks nothing like posh spice's right now. NOTHING." and I was like okey dokey.

I eat words with my brain too. There's some books I know I've eaten, like I ate "Safety of Objects," for sure.

My favorite part about your proposed system is the pitbull. I think Amazon wish list has those aims, but they have to already know what they want. And update it. Hm.

Chloe said...

After that story I feel like I should get rid of those books and burn any proof of me reading them. Or maybe you're trying to tell me I'm crazy? If that's the case, there's a 33% chance you're right.

Anonymous said...

So I'm generally a very diffident lurker, but I read something by you, and it was so fantastically perfect that I had to google all your other stuff and consume it too, compulsively and at once, like those addictive two-bite brownies except more delicious and also low-cal. And I was inspired to almost comment, to tell you how your writing is so genuine and funny and lovely when the majority of contemporary writing is so often affected and pretentious and rye-catcher-phony; how reading it allows me to breathe again somehow (I forget sometimes), validates something I'd been unconsciously repressing, makes me feel more real and closer to wholeness, and it's like you're talking just behind me because your voice is so damn clear and it's awesome. And then the fangirl gushing would start, and progress frighteningly, and I would end up cursing the cruelty of Allah or G-d or Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos or Cruel Irony or Chance or what/whomsoever is the deity/(super)natural force du jour, dictating the state of the universe to be such that I could be alive in the same lifetime as you and on the same continent, and yet not have ever met you. And then I'd probs obliquely proposition Haviland P. Stillwell.
But then I realized that I'd come off as a total creeper (incapable of writing in anything but run-on sentences--I am the yogi master of the English language!) of like, Unabomber proportions if I commented to that effect, and then I would feel obligated to go into great detail about how, really, I'm too poor and too busy to stalk anyone, no need to install that second deadbolt, no really, and it would just get way awkward from there, so I decided to never comment.

And then you had to go and write a post about books, and make jokes about Godot. So now I'm basically forced to comment, and it's all your fault, but I'll try not to be too spazzy about it, like totes noncommittal and chill. Here goes:

ur blogs kewl. i like ur writing. books r kewl too.omg im awsom!!!1

But seriously? I have so much love for Virginia Woolf. After reading Mrs Dalloway, I had to take to my bed for like, a week, just to begin to get a handle on the greatness.

And I didn't really think One Hundred Years of Solitude was essentially masculine, but maybe that's just because its essential Colombian-ness completely overrode its manly musk. Either way, it's a pretty great read, though if you can get through the entire book without having to flip to the family tree chart at the front six million times, you're a genius.

Also, I really do love your blog.

riese said...

chloe: ha ha, not at all. Most madmen pick religious texts like the bible, I found his choice of Dan Brown to be at least amusing. You're not crazy. I think I am, 'cause I'm the only one I know who didn't even read any of those books.
e.: Don't worry, I totally know the difference between stalkers and cool people. Cool people write me long compliments in the comment section of my blog, and um ... I don't know what stalkers do, I've never had one in real life that I didn't already date for a little while. JK. (or am I?) Flattery will get you everywhere, especially eloquent and touching flattery such as yours. Also, I love those two-bite brownies, though they confuse me, 'cause then I always eat like 10 of them, and then I'm like, well, why didn't I just have two big brownies instead of all these little ones, I don't know.

blm said...

This is a topic you should definitely keep monthly. When I first found your blog I ran across mention of The Corrections and knew it was going to be a blog/blog-reader match made in heaven.

I hear you on how the last two paragraphs can just quash all the good you endured for hours/days/weeks/months. I felt that way with the last few minutes of the movie Life is Beautiful. Like, why, oh why, did they go there...

I hope the booktalk keeps coming. It seems to have been a hit judging by all the comments!

Also, can I just tell you how I couldn't stop laughing after I read "I'm into post-electricity lit." That was excellent. Thank you.

Annie said...

"I got stuck on stories I didn't like, e.g., stories about Native Americans or Pioneers. I'm into post-electricity lit."


Also, I saw "Godot" on a high school field trip... I feel like it's a great big hint offered by the public school system, like... get ready for THIS. (ready, ready, ready for this! a la Jock jams)

Two-Bite Brownies. Please! I only need one.