Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading (Aug & Sep & Oct) and Autowin Book Club #3

Hey guess what! I'm a finalist in the 2008 Webblog Awards for Best GLBT Blog. I bet you guys are really excited for voting to begin on January 5th, you know how annoying I get when there's a contest to be won, I won't stop 'til I've snagged a Pulitzer and/or Nobel. Autumn's got her trigger finger ready, Lozo's got his zipper ready ... go team!

It's been a while since I've rolled out a "Stuff I've Been Reading" (read the first one here) but I wanna start book club again in January, just in time for your New Year's Resolution, which'll probs be "read more books," so you know -- here we are. Is it weird when I go from like "this is my heart" to "I like books!"? I figure I've gotta do a New Year's Post which'll probs have feelings and that's in like two days. Listen up I feel my feelings. Oh, life. I thought you were supposed to be a film? A thriller? End in tears?

Re: Book Club -- I considered pulling an Oprah and making everyone read one of my already-favorite books so I can re-bask in the glory of its goodness all over again (don't worry it won't be holocaust lit or a heartwarming family saga) but then I had an even better idea (more on this later).

Have you ever noticed that Oprah's books generally employ identical sentence structure in the titles? [Noun/Adjective] + of + a/in/an/"is a" + [noun]: Light in August, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Pillars of the Earth, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, East of Eden, The House of Sand and Fog, A Map of the World, Mother of Pearl, The Heart of a Woman, The Deep End of the Ocean, etc.?

My first novel, The Autobiography of Sancho Panza, will fit neatly into that category as soon as publishing houses actually start printing books again therefore motivating my agent to motivate me.

Onto "Stuff I've Been Reading." I've fallen terribly behind. I'm catching up.

Books Read in August:
The Worst Days of Your Life, ed. by Mark Jude Ponier

In September
Lying, by Lauren Slater
The Night of the Gun, by David Carr
Samuel Johnson is Indignant, by Lydia Davis
The Housekeeping Vs. the Dirt, by Nick Hornby
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

In October:
Going Down, by Jennifer Belle
I Live Here, by Mia Kirshner w/J.B MacKinnon
The Black Veil, by Rick Moody (started, couldn't get into it)
Anagrams, by Lorrie Moore (began to re-read, finished in November)

So I'll get to that. But I left off in August, yeah? The August of my thwarted content, hot hopeful August in which I managed to almost read one entire book while preparing to leave Planet Harlem.
"When children learn to acknowledge the gravity of their loved ones' sorrows, they're no longer children."
- Rattawut Lapcharoensap, At the Cafè Lovely
While waiting for Book Club selection Lying to be delivered apparently by Sherpa or Camel, I charged slowly through The Worst Days of Your Life, twenty short stories with adolescent protagonists edited by Mark Jude Ponier, which I wanted to like, and usually did, but sometimes didn't. It may've been slightly too long, and I'd get caught in endless quagmires interspersed with gems like the editor's own Thunderbird and Kevin Canty's Pretty Judy.

On the subway from one apartment to another, Milton the real estate agent kept reading over my shoulder and asking me questions, I wanted to smack him in the face or mentally pimp-slap him with a cheeseburger.

By September I felt the right book could turn my mood right around, frown upside-down, and I started reading Lying (discussed here) right around the time I stopped couch-hopping and moved into A;ex's Long Island Family Palace for the month. The Long Island Rail Road is a Supreme Place to Read and so I read a lot.
"The problem with your life is behavior, not disclosure. Secrets are what addiction calls foreplay. If you want to live a life that you can be honest about, live one that is worthy. The answer to life is learning to live." -David Carr, The Night of the Gun.
After Lying, I needed The Night of the Gun as rehab and it was on sale at Target and I'd read about it in New York Magazine. I'm always a fan of high-achieving addict stories. Where Slater disregards truth and deliberately misinforms to service her sociopathic, self-indulgent and self-important motivations, Carr straight up "investigates" his own history (one tends to forget things when one is often on crack) with sixty videotaped interviews, legal and medical records and three years of reporting. His prose and consequently his narrative is sparing, balanced, exacting and compelling. It felt solid, like a lot of things did then in my life, reassuring & methodical, redemptive. His insight on addiction and truth too, was valuable.

Then I read Samuel Johnson is Indignant by Lydia Davis. I don't remember a word of it, but I remember it made me feel slightly crazy like all my thoughts were actually thought fragments. The stories felt like story fragments I am not clever enough to understand. Maybe it took three days to read. Amazon recommended. Babypop sleeps on the train, sometimes when I was reading this book I'd fall asleep too. Have you guys read this? Am I missing something?

At the Border's by Penn Station, I used the bathroom, bought a coffee, extracted a Borders Rewards card that turned out to be a gift card I'd forgotten about (and still don't remember the source of) and walked out with The Housekeeping Vs. the Dirt , Nick Hornby's most recent collection of "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns from The Believer, which I enjoyed very much.

Guess what. Nick Hornby's done with his "Stuff I've Been Reading" column at The Believer. I don't know why. Obvs they should hire me to replace him. I'm already doing it. It was a good collection per always. Wit and literary recommendations. An excerpt from And Then We Came to the End, which I then got my brother for Hanukkah.

People have been telling me to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower for centuries, but every time I thought about it I'd see that mtv books label on the front and think, eh, this is crap, it's practically neon. But it wasn't crap, it was perfect.

I ate this book in two days. It was so honest. It was the book I needed to read. Sometimes a book hits the spot like a meal. I read it at Alex's, and on the train. It's so tiny & perfect.
"The feeling I had happened when Sam told Patrick to find a station on the radio. And he kept getting commercials. And a really bad song about love that had the word "baby" in it. And then more commercials. And finally he found this really amazing song about this boy, and we all got quiet.
Sam tapped her hand on the steering wheel. Patrick held his hand outside the car and made air waves. And I just sat between them. After the song finished, I said something.
"I feel infinite."
And Sam and Patrick looked at me like I said the greatest thing they ever heard. Because the song was that great and because we all really paid attention to it. Five minutes of a lifetime were truly spent, and we felt young in a good way."
-Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
It's a YA novel, maybe. It makes all the hard parts about high school seem sweet and important, all the little things. What it's like to be an adolescent with major depressive disorder who's too smart to just descend into oblivion as your emotional brain desires. I think this book was in my head when I wrote this post.

In October I moved from temporary living situation #4 to temp living situation #5 -- a teeny tiny room in Haviland's former NYC apartment. I walked places a lot so there wasn't as much reading.
"New York is a convenient city to go crazy in. You can always stop and have a diet Pepsi with a malfunctioning straw. You can remember what soothes you and what you must do next. I had a date with a client who loved my young skin and my "gentle touch." It was almost my birthday. I stopped at The Gap. They didn't have any more striped shirts, but when I got back to the dorm, I found it."
-Jennifer Belle, Going Down
I ate Going Down, by Jennifer Belle, which Slicey reviewed in Interlude magazine [the same issue I wrote a book review for] and they had it at my favorite church thrift shop where I often get books. The topic of sex workers in Manhattan is one of my faves, and its' rich storytelling material (see: Mary Gaitskill, Miranda July, Michelle Tea, Maggie Estep) when not infused with the typical trappings of glossy Showtime-ready fluffly romance-novel shit (see: Tracy Quan, The Secret Diary of a Call Girl) -- when it addresses ugliness frankly and without condemnation rather than making it into a kitschy oh-ew-menaresogross-thisishowishavemylegs story. Bennington is a keen and searingly honest narrator, and her voice made me feel crazy and reckless but hard.

I ate this book pretty fast. Also though it got a bit redic at times w/r/t clever precious quirkiness, like a super-amateur Tama Janowitz. Also sometimes the protagonist became redic to the point of losing my sympathy or empathy to any degree. It's clear Belle could've done better, she's got the talent. If you like Miranda July you'd probs like this book. I mean I ate it, it was delicious, for real.

Caitlin sent me I Live Here (written by Mia Kirshner who plays Jenny Schecter in The L Word, along with J.D MacKinnon, the creative directors of ADBUSTERS and really a whole ton of amazing artists, mostly it's stories from the people they talk to) 'cause she knew I'd appreciate how fucking cool it looks -- and it ain't Jenny Schecter's book, y'all. It's kinda strange when Mia's actually talking about herself. She's no Hemingway but that's totally besides the point -- it's clear, too, that Mia sees her acting work as earning money to do real worthwhile work like this project. All profits go to Amnesty International & The I Live Here Foundation, dedicated to telling the stories of unheard & silenced people. Kinda puts the Jenny nonsense into perspective.

I read it during the election. I don't know. It's just amazing -- the will to live. Chechen refugees, ethnic cleansing in Burma, the disappearing women of Juàrez, AIDS in Malawi. People go on just to go on, like just to survive, in situations so horrific and inhumane, after being raped, beaten, seen family members murdered, lost their homes, gone hungry, worked as sex slaves, been sent to prison unjustly, transformed into child soldiers, born with HIV ... and here we are watching Hardball and talking about Sarah Palin's shoes. The Juàrez section was the worst, the hardest. You should get this book. I mean it's a good cause, and the book itself is beautiful, just really stunning, in four little notebooks of documented tragedy. I mean; any way to become aware of what's going on is a good way, we all need to be more aware.

SO! Autowin Book Club. I'm doing something that'll seem totally random this time but I think it'll be interesting.

As I may've mentioned, I interned at nerve.com in 2005 -- I've published two long essays there (one under a pseudonym, you'll never find it/guess, trust me) and some shorter pieces while interning. I wanted to work there 'cause it's one of the first successful internet magazines ever, it basically defined the genre. It's possible you've gotten a date on nerve personals, but um, that's not the point of the site, though it was a genius profit-generating concept.

Rufus Griscom & Genevieve Field, co-founders: "We chose [sex as a subject] because sex is a subject that people lie about, which provides a great opportunity to do some truth telling. We chose it because it's a subject rutted with cliches and fogged by convention,; a subject few have navigated with originality ... we believe that women [men too, but especially women] have waited long enough for a smart honest magazine on sex ... it's about sexual literature, art and politics as well as getting off."

Nerve continues to win awards, defy expectation, diversify content, and has now released Nerve: The First Ten Years, which I got in the mail two days ago. Everyone who's entered my room since then (all three of them) have been like "ooo! what's this! it looks so neat!" 'cause it does. Also it came with condoms and lube from Good Vibrations.

Soooo all ye poor college students -- the entire book is available online for FREE. Yup. All of it. For free. A "stunning retrospective [which] celebrates Nerve's impact on popular culture with its stimulating essays, interviews, fiction and photography."

Whaddya say? If you wanna buy it, go for it, it's really hot, or just sit in the bookstore and read it. There's heaps of stuff in there that we can talk about and you can tell me your favorites, I'll tell you mine, and we'll all become more evolved people, discussing a plethora of topics that will suit your ADHD.

Includes: Dr. Joycelyn Elders and Rev. Dr. Barabara Kilgore on masturbation, Chuck Palahniuk, Spalding Gray, Lisa Carver, Jonathan Lethem, our dear dear Lauren Slater (opening: "My father sleeps with prostitutes."), Robert Olen Butler, Em & Lo, Sam Lipsyte, my favorite Mary Gaitskill interview ever, Steve Almond, Alice Sebold, Aimee Bender, Jonathan Ames, Will Doig interviewing Norman Mailer, pieces like "Goodbye, Metrosexual," "Heart of Glass: My Sexual Fantasies about NPR," "The Guide to Being a Groupie" and "Innocence in Extremis." Plus cool photos and a story that opens with "as her Siamese twin joined at the skull, I know Becca wants to fuck Remus as soon as she says she's going to dye our hair."

You in, Brooklyn Boy? Okay, let's go! Finish by January 31st. It's in short pieces, there's photos, just like the internet, I think you guys can handle it. Discussion begins first week of February. RIGHT Here! Here!

Also as pennance, the February book club book is gonna be a serious literary novel, so get your brain ready. But read this one first.


Vashti said...

I actually have The Night of the Gun on my to read list. What I had read about it up to this point seemed promising so knowing that you approved of it gives me an extra push to read it.

Again, I will attempt to read the book club book [and actually participate this time? Maybe? I won't make any promises cuz I don't want to disappoint if I don't follow through.] but I have a few reading heavy classes this term so we'll see how it goes. But hey! I'm a poor college student! That link totes applies to me. [auto]Win[?].

Anonymous said...

I want to recommend a book to you by Cori Crooks. It's called Charlottes seventh sin.. She original wrote a blog about her mother & finding father through letters, poetry & music. A publisher came a calling. It is a wonderful book & a bit unusual. You can find it on Amazon.

it is also proof that blogs can pay


Al said...

Excellent, I will definitely check it out online due to the fact that I fit perfectly in that broke college student category.

I got your buttons in the mail a couple days before Christmas and it MADE my day. I was SUPER excited. They look fantastic.

My new years resolution is also to read more books, which I have a set number of them in mind so hopefully I don't completely fail that like that one time I completely failed *cough* nanowrimo *cough*.

The Brooklyn Boy said...

I find it hilarious I responded to your tweet before reading the full post, and based on my last poem, it just might be possible for this BC choice to work out. Survey says, yes, I'm in. Ha.

Kelly (Gold Star Dyke) said...

Congrats on the nomination. Your writing is the voice of a very interesting generation and individual all mixed into one. You deserve a win and I'll give you a push on TLL as well!

Haviland Stillwell said...

congrats on the nomination, riesling! how many does this make, now? you're such a rockstara.

Meghan said...

Yessss. I bought this a few weeks ago despite being a broke student so for once I might be ahead of the game. Also this book is hott.

riese said...

vashti: NOTG is pretty fail-safe -- it's a solid book for sure, you won't regret it. the nerve book will easy to read in bits & pieces, between you know the heavy college stuff.

anonymous: oh! the old days before publishers gave up on blog-to-book profits! i'll check it out.

Al: oh yes aren't the buttons the bestest! they are! don't worry, I epically failed nanowrimo. Actually though I feel like I made serious significant progress -- most importantly realized that if I set down to write it, i could. I just need that time to sit down and write it (which I've had before, and disregarded)

Brooklyn Boy: No pun intended! ahahahahaha!~

Kelly: thanks! I'm hoping to proudly represent my generation and all of it's interesting-ness and yay, hope to auto-win some, I think I'm the Al Gore of blog contests.

haviland: It sure does feel like a lot yeah? I think it's 'cause there's the nomination round, then the finalist round, and um, well. You know. I've got my eyes on the prize and by that i mean nobel peace prize.

Meghan: You are so far ahead of the game, you ARE the game.

The Brooklyn Boy said...

Haha. It wasn't intended at first, and then I definitely left it in after a long waffle to try and find a better phrase. Figured all six of you to have met me in real life or via Facebook would enjoy it.

in kc said...

I always enjoy seeing what you've been reading. I inevitably walk away with several new recommendations. This time around I'm intrigued by the Mia Kirshner/non-Jenny Schecter selection. I have worked in the refugee world for a few years now and never cease to be amazed by the stories I hear. I got into this work right out of college and was too young and inexperienced with life to realize what I was about to learn. And it continues to be that way each and every day. Any way, all that to say thanks for sharing. I do appreciate reading all about it!

laura said...

have you ever been through the tunnel in pittsburgh?

Anonymous said...

you MUST see the movie "reprise"

just do it. trust me.

autumn m said...

GAAAAA!!!!! that is how i feel inside. so...i might actually participate in this book club. might as in, maybe, as in im not making promises. but there is more of a chance this time. and yay for nominations!!! i utterly failed you last time, cause i didnt vote enough times. this time i will try harder. i promise. and have i mentioned that i hate people. no? ok then, i hate people. they anger me. i am hereby becoming a hermit and not having any friends. its probs better that way.