This month I combine June & July into a Big Reading Sandwich, like World Book. More about Auto-Win Book Club #2 at the end of this post. Guess who wrote a book? Mia Kirshner (Jenny from The L Word)! OMG, what if I WROTE Some of her Parts? Like, the memoir? Then we could vote on what's better, my edition of Jenny Schecter's Some of Her Parts or Mia's book I Live Here, which's not about the toolshed, it's about people with real problems, like in Africa and stuff. It's not out 'til October, but probs most of you know a thing or two about waiting.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Dìaz
Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction, edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev
The Andy Warhol Diaries, edited by Pat Hackett
How Sassy Changed my Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time, by Kara Jesella and Marisa Melzer
The Worst Days of Your Life, edited by Mark Jude Ponier
Learning to Love You More , edited by Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July
Veronica, by Mary Gaitkskill - (re-read)
Live Through This,, edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev
Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
How Sassy Changed my Life, by Kara Jesella and Marisa Melzer
Learning to Love You More , edited by Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July
I was talking about books and re-reading w/a blog commenter on facebook (I'd like to make this sentence as geeky as possible. I should add: "while reading babylon-5 fan-fic & watching re-runs of Quantum Leap."), and he asked me: "How do you know if you really like a book if you only read it once? Reading a book for the first time is like having sex with someone for the first time ... it's new, and it's exciting, but none of the bits quite line up like you're used to, and it's always a little bit confusing."
[Just as a sidenote; he also compared creative writing vs. literary criticism to sex in a recent comment.]
I'm currently in withdrawal over Mary Gaitskill's inability to pound out a Joyce Carol Oates-ian nine novels a year. I eat M.G.'s work. I'm hungry. So I returned to Veronica. I loved it! Again! I'm re-reading all my favorite books now from now on. I realized I'd missed much of the present-tense voice (w/its trees, moss, grass, etc) the first time around. Caitlin read it simultaneously for the first time so we could have mini-bookclub.
If I had to compare re-reading Veronica to sex, I'd say it'd be like having sex with an ex you know you're going to fall in love with all over again, and that this time around it'll work. That never happens in real life, that's why I love literature.
I'd suggested Live Through This: On Creativity and Self Destruction as a book club selection, then got it anyway. Firstly, so glad I picked Oscar Wao. (which clearly I won't talk about here, 'cause that's what Auto-Win Book Club is for!) I read it in about two days, 'cause I thought I'd include it in a review I penned for a new magazine, but didn't finish in time.
Anyhow, if you thought you'd like LTT, you should get it, 'cause it has some really perfect moments, I'd recommend it. OK but -- Secondly; though the collection's got a great-line up (e.g., Eileen Myles, Bell Hooks, Cristy C. Road) and several intensely compelling pieces, I did yell at my wall and scream at Tinkerbell about it.
Here's why: most essays aren't about creativity & self-destruction so much as they're about rehabilitation from creativity & self-destruction and advice on how to stop self-destruction. I know that's wise, but it felt preachy, I was expecting more about how to lessen the harm and incorporate various 'self-destructive' behaviors, not escape it. Myles's contribution, about obsessive toothbrushing and alcoholism, "Live Through That?!" is a stand-out - exceptional piece. Other highlights include Silas Howard's San Francisco addiction memoir "Friends as Heroes" and Toni Blackman's poignant "Rappin' my Wounds." An excerpt:
But what really got my goat is that of all the pieces, only ONE addresses incorporating this self destruction into their lives (sans "my work is MUCH better now that I'm sober/eating/whatevs!" waxing poetic) -- and it's a bipolar writer arguing that other bipolar peoples should eschew "cutting off" "so-called symptoms" with medicine/treatment and rather explore their inner beings and untapped capacities. Then she mouths off about how she loves her cello and sometimes she sits down and talks to it and all bipolar people should damn the man, fuck all kinds of Seroquel, mental health is just trying to keep us DOWN!
That's fine, I hope she never hits or berates her daughter/son or girlfriend/boyfriend, like um, Toni Blackman's ex-boyfriend, clearly all he needed was a cello or maybe a viola. Moving on.
How do I consistently end up w/Virginia Woolf by the pool? Key Bisquane's windy bluesy wind nearly stole A Room Of One's Own, and I found myself on the Ro-Boat deck reading Orlando. Anyways, you know how when you're exercising, you're pumped up thinking how good this activity is for you rather than how good it feels right that minute? It was like that. I kinda felt like Woolf was playing with us, but in the funnest way possible, like "I'm Virigina Woolf and I'm gonna write a crazy-ass story where all kinds of bizarre shit happens and it's kinda mostly about/for this girl I la-la-love! There's pictures! Oh, and it's gonna be GOOD!" I found it super interesting/monumental from a queer studies perspective, filled in a lot of gaps from bisexual studies books I've read.
Anyhow, speaking of page-turners -- haha! No, this one really was. I'm bursting with big revolution ideas lately and I'd been hoping to read How Sassy Changed my Life, since it came out, we saw it in a D.C. bookstore and nabbed it, I read it immediately and everywhere, then made Stef, Caitlin and Haviland read it. Hav stole it away to L.A., and then mailed it back to Caitlin who's in New Jersey with cholera.
HSCML is packed with "ooo! ooo!" moments -- "OMG, Jane Pratt and I have so much in common!" I squealed about teenage-girl-in-the-90's nostalgia (omg! postal mail was so important!), like a trip down one of the only adolescent memory lanes I'd still find charming. A bit kiss-ass at times, but I'll kiss Sassy's ass any time. I'd like to start a magazine one day but first I need my own cooking show called "One-Pot Cooking" with a guarantee no meal will require washing over two (2) dishes.
I got Learning to Love You More (Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July) at The Whitney gift shop when Alex, Caitlin and I went there with my Mom for the Biennial. July & Fletcher started a website in 2002 that invited visitors to accept assignments, complete it following instructions and send in a specified report (writing, photo, etc), this book's a collection of those things. Internet gimmick books aren't how I usually spend my money, but something about this mission -- which garnered heartfelt stories and photos from all over the world that truly penetrate a breadth of human emotion -- seemed way more beautiful than Stuff White People Like. I read it on the subway with Alex and Caitlin mostly, and then finished it at home. Howevs, I don't want to see anyone's parents kissing ever again.
Wow. It's way harder to think of books by ladies I'm eager to read -- probs 'cause men still outnumber women in what's "out there" in the media so I'm more aware of their output. I've got heaps of women writers I still need to read pre-death, but those are older books and I like newer things for book club.
When I love a lady-writer I LOVE her, I never love a man-writer with the same intensity except Stephen Dunn. But, it's kinda lame that with all the feminist and literary blogs I read every day I don't have anything on the top of my head. Maybe women don't write as many books 'cause they have their period or have babies. BAKE ME A PIE WOMAN thank you.
Auto-Win Book Club #2 ... I'm really intrigued by the first one, I've read a lot about it and it would be fun! But in the interest of a democratic process, take a gander:
What it is, by Lynda Barry
Lying: A Memoir, by Lauren Slater
Diary of a Mad Housewife, by Sue Kauffman
White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
Family and Other Accidents, by Sheri Goldhagen
Break it Down, by Lydia Davis
The Best of Everything, by Rona Jaffe
Tell me what you like, grasshoppers. Personally, I love bears.