I work out every day, but that's only because I'm neurotic and anxiety-ridden and 'cause if I didn't, I'd officially never leave my apartment for days at a time. I wouldn't even know what the weather was like.
So, I figure I've got about 10-15 good years left. If you think about it, that's not really a lot of time to read every book I want to read. At this pace, I'll be 40 before I embark on the most recent round of recommendations, including:
This Book Will Save Your Life (AM Homes)
Crime & Punishment (Somethingosky or Soemehingoskyov)
Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts)
Savage Detectives (Roberto Bolando)
Orlando (Virginia Woolf)
The Yellow Wallpaper (Charlotte Perkins Gilman)
The Night Watch (Sarah Waters)
The Broom of the System (David Foster Wallace)
Class Dismissed (Meredith Marin)
Fingersmith (Sarah Waters)
Norweigian Wood (Marukami)
Electroboy (Andy Behrman)
The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner)
Is that everything you guys have told me to read? I think so. What if I gave a really bogus recommendation but acted like it was real? If I was like, "You guys, everyone needs to read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants RIGHT NOW," or like, "Have you ever read Jurassic Park?" We had a convo about Jurassic Park last week actually. Raise your hand if you'd never heard of veloca-raptor-whatevs until you saw the movie/read the book, now raise your other hand if they seemed very real and you used to have nightmares about raptor attacks. Now lower your hands, and gimme a hug. That's right! Hug it out. Model through it. You WORK.
Also; still haven't finished Don Quijote.
Welcome to "Stuff I've Been Reading." Inspired by Nick Hornby's "Believer" column by the same name, "Stuff I've Been Reading" examines the wide terrible gulf between what I'm buying, what I'm reading, and how smart I'm becoming.
The Best American Essays of 2007 , edited by David Foster Wallace
Frantic Transmissions to and From Los Angeles, by Kate Braverman
Have You No Shame? , by Rachel Shukert
Drown, by Junot Diaz
The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolano
Final Cut Express 4: A Visual Quickstart Guide, by Lisa Brenneis
Have You No Shame? by Rachel Shukert
BAE '07 was given and suggested to me by someone I'm now prohibited to talk about on my blog, so I'll just say that "someone" lent me this book, "someone" took it back, and now I can't reference it or my plethora of underlined passages. What can I say, clearly if I remembered things I've read, I wouldn't feel the need to cart 200 books with me every time I move. I recall! The introduction was golden. David F-W is a superior introduction writer.
First off; The Dog Whisperer. I'm not a fan of animals, but Malcom Gladwell's essay about the Dog Whisperer was pretty engaging ("What the Dog Saw")-- this master-of-movement stuff. How do I get him to come fix Caitlin's dog? It's his birthday today and he bites people. Do we have to move to L.A. to get the Dog Whisperer's help? Anyone know the Dog Whisperer? Tell me.
Due to my "must read everything in an anthology" rule, I was subjected to several unpleasant experiences in this anthology. All BAEs and Best American Non-Required Readings have the same problem; by the time the book hits the shelves, I already know that the U.S. uses torture unethically and that we shouldn't be at war with Iraq. I'm totally over reading anything else on either of these topics, unless the headline is "We Are Getting out of Iraq today." It's just depressing, and old news. Yet I soldiered on. (Get it? "Soldiered on?")
I was reading this book during some of April's cruelest days, and so my attention was erratic. There's entire essays I don't remember reading, though I know I did. I remember most acutely: a study of stage fright called "Petrified" (John Lahr), "Afternoon of the Sex Children" (Mark Greif) from n+1 and "Shakers" by Daniel Orozco, which was about something I don't remember, it was well-written though. Oh yes! Earthquakes. I think. Sigh.
I read Frantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles on my way to and from Los Angeles way back in April, which's poetic, yes? The subtitle, "An Accidential Memoir," drew me to it, as did Kate Braverman's oft anthologized short story "Tall Tales from the Meekong Delta." The book was like a long prose-poem about ice cream and streets that got dirty and women growing up and out and the history of a place that seemed all veneer the first time I went there. I like urban history; until I feel that a city has roots in something, it's easy for me to feel it's just all gloss. It probs subtly affected my impression of the city this time around.
Although I didn't think I would -- I really loved this part: Interview with Marilyn Monroe. If you've ever been intrigued by the dichotomy of image and reality, you'd enjoy it too.
At a nerve.com party in December of '05 (which I barely remember, except for the part where, inspired by the sexual avant garde spirit of the party's host publication, I left with a boy I'd just met 'cause he looked good on paper (Ivy League alum, an artist, rent-controlled West Village apartment, friends w/a nerve editor) and good enough in person, at least that night), I met Rachel Shukert. I was thrilled, 'cause I loved her essays muchly.
In a state of disorderly drunken-ness, the following exchange occurred:
Me: "I really love your work."
Me: "No, I mean, I REALLY love it, you're one of my top ten heroes. You know what I really liked, that essay where you said, [I go on to misquote a section from this essay about how the author's pissed and confused that her boyfriend's not okay about her kissing other girls]."
Rachel; "That wasn't me. I didn't write that essay."
Me: "Yes, it was, I'm sure it was."
Rachel: "No, it wasn't, I'm sure it wasn't."
Me: "It was you."
Rachel [laughing, backing away]: "No, it wasn't me."
Me: "Are you SURE?"
Rachel: "Yes, I'm sure, I didn't write that."
Me [turning away, muttering]: "I think you did."
Humans generally make those mistakes when they don't recognize their conversation partner; but I did know Rachel's work. Her personal essays reminded me of -- well, mine! -- and I'd wanted to make a real connection to express my genuine love. However, like most situations in which I attempt to communicate love, I screwed up big-time.
In retrospect ... I know why I thought she'd written that essay -- she hadn't. It's cause at the time, Rachel's bio photo on nerve (which's changed now, to something more professional and new-book-writer-worthy) and Carrie Hill Wilner's (the actual author of this essay) both featured girls with long brown hair who looked kinda drunk and maybe Jewish. I have this weird photographic "memory" that lumps images together thematically and confuses me. Howevs, it's possible I'm wrong about this too (their previous author photos), my memory clearly isn't stellar, that's why I keep such fastidious records.
I loved reading Shukert's recent excerpt from the book -- "The Anorexic's Cookbook" -- on nerve and so did Haviland ... and so I bought the book. I ate it real fast. It was fun and light and funny but also sad sometimes and poignant and you should read it. In fact, I'd recommend it for the apparently imperative "beach reads" list so many people are making these days. It got me through a one-hour wait for a prescription at CVS and also affirmed many of my opinions about my overall unemployability. I quoted a large section about temping to Natalie, and even LOL'ed a few times.
Shukert deftly mines a (relatively) unremarkable life for gems of comedy and tragedy -- moments of explosive tenderness and LOLity -- displaying brightly how entirely possible it is to write a solid book without making shit up about being in a cult a gang or spending time in jail after a dangerous bout of drug addiction. Her parents actually seem kinda nice. So, James Frey and all ye like him -- write this down: you don't need to sensationalize. Have you no shame?
RKB's recently done an interview w/Shukert: watch it here and here.
Junot Diaz - "Drown." Beautiful. "The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao" won every award possible this year, "Drown" was shorter, so I picked it up. I've enjoyed Diaz's stories in The New Yorker on more than one occasion, even though I thought I was maxed out on Latino-American lit after taking an entire course on it and o.d.'ing on Cisernos in high school. Clearly I prefer reading novels and stories about suburban housewives with dark secrets or young girls in big cities with lots of opinions and sexual deviance. To really expand my horizons.
In fact, Drown's compact size means I've carried this book all over the country, but hadn't started it 'til (obvs) recently, 'cause I thought: 'it is time.' There were a lot of characters named "Papi," which's always good. His sense of place is thorough and vibrant, his sentences precise and perfect. If you haven't read his work, then you are stupid and should be drowned in the local swimming pool. It will be a hate crime, but you will deserve it. Read!
I just heard a gigantic explosion, what happened? Maybe it's Al Queda.
I keep thinking I must be missing something on this list; surely that's not the sum of my accomplishments? It is. It certainly is. When left to my own devices, I'm sometimes not such a good reader, and I don't really know what to do about that. I mean -- I feel extra-motivated to start a book when someone near & dear to me forces it upon me, but when people who are far-away & dear, or near & not-incredibly-dear force books upon me, I take my sweet time. Unfortunately that time is running out, so omg, what am I gonna do, someone hit me over the head with a book right now.
I feel guilty as I believe it's my personal life mission to revive the art of reading, which's dying. How do Bookslut and RKB and Sam Anderson find time to read all the books they write about? [Someone] told me that speed-reading is about recognizing words as symbols rather than a series of letters. I've been trying to do that but then I realize I've just "read" four pages and don't remember a thing.
A few other ideas:
Situations that force me to read faster/at all:
-Reading contests (e.g., Tipping the Velvet contest w/Alex)
-Someone I'm trying to impress asks me to read something specific
-A new book by one of my favorite authors
-Desperate for writing inspiration, facing "the block"
-Eating a lot in the kitchen instead of in my room, usually a result of critter-related paranoia, requiring a book as I must be entertained at all times.
-Stability w/employment and overall position in life, subsequently enabling relaxation and concentration
-I claim to have read something I have in fact read, but it was a long time ago, and so if I'm gonna keep up with this new present-tense conversation, I'll need to play catch-up fast
-A book totally grabbing me -- or a new writer totally grabbing me
Situations that make me not read something I've been told to read:
-A suggestion being contradicted by a counter-suggestion --
Caitlin: "Don't read This Book Will Save Your Life, it's not that good, but if you want to read it, I own it."
Adam: "I would only read The Savage Detectives if you're willing to give a couple of days/a week to it and just do it all in one big rush. The form is just too confusing/convoluted otherwise. I mean...he pulls it off...he really does have a cast of like 25 characters all of whom have distinct voices and can narrate and contribute...but gah... also, I'll prepare you now, after 150 pages of making you like your rather unlikable friend and narrator he's going to take him away and not give him back for another 300 pages."
Haviland: "I could never really get into Night Watch, I don't think I finished it."
Perhaps I should start an Auto-win Book Club to force everyone to read a book with me, like we're all having reading contest. I know fo'sho that Caitlin and Alex would participate, but that's sort of a My Friends Book Club. The thing is it'd have to be a new book so that no one would've already read it, but it'd also have to be a paperback 'cause I'm not going to make y'all go get hardcovers. Perhaps we'd have to choose a new book in trade paperback. I'll think about this and amend this section. Then if you wanna buy it, you'll click through from here and for every book you buy, I'll make .005% of a cent, and when I save up enough I'll buy a dolphin and we can all go swimming.
Suggestions? FYI; no chick lit, nothing about people dressed in period costumes, no Native Americans or really any stories involving native peoples/tribes especially if it's about the clash of the white man and the natives, no pre-electricity lit, no "Bright Shiny Mornings" of any kind, no spiritual quests in Southeast Asia, nothing by a guy who beat up his wife, no memoirs by television actors and nothing over 500 pages. I'll probs be amending this list too.
Also I have another question; is it strange that while you have a visitor from out of town, it's rude to just sit and read in front of them, but it's okay to watch television together? I understand why this is, but I don't like it.