30 November 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year

The New York Times Best Books of 2011 list is out. Five quick thoughts:
  1. 4 for 10! Probably the best I've done on this in years! (Last year I was 2 for 10 at press time.) But I'm fairly sure I disagree with 2 off the top, so it didn't help. 
  2. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW is the greatest book title Dr. Seuss never had the chance to use (RIP Theodor Seuss Geisel)
  3. Surely someone else here has read THE TIGER'S WIFE and can back me up when I say that the summary provided is titanically inaccurate. I can only assume all of them were boiled down from longer blurbs for space, but something went awry there.
  4. I can't wait to purchase a gag gift of ARGUABLY for a friend who's on an adverb crusade. This has nothing to do with the list, I just remembered and it fills me with delight. Maybe I'll even mock up a second cover with the title BASICALLY -- in his view, the worst offender of adverbs -- just to pile on. I'd use this author photo, found by Google searching "young hot christopher hitchens" because I live my life without regrets. 
  5. It was only last year FREEDOM came out? So great, now time is slowing down.

Spotted on the subway

The surveillance continues, only the posts have slowed. On one of my flights out for Thanksgiving the woman next to me was reading UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN. Apparently, people still do that?! On the way back I saw a woman who was watching back-seat TV but had a copy of THE MARRIAGE PLOT planted on her tray table.

I know a lot of people who own this book and not many who have read it cover-to-cover like this guy on the train was. Sandy brown hair, plaid shirt under a peacoat, corduroys. He was totally engrossed, more so than I was in my book (clearly).

Also take note of the Better Book Titles version of this cover.

29 November 2011

Headline speaks for itself

From Gothamist.com: Introducing The Caulfield, A Phony New Bar Holden Would Have Hated

Why the birds and pigs hate each other

"We just loved that they wanted to share something so essential to their culture with us and other fans - the pigs try to steal the eggs because they are hungry and these recipes are a huge part of that tale." -- Rovio VP Sanna Lukander on the first Angry Birds book, BAD PIGGIES' EGG RECIPES. Really, an essential bit of backstory.

28 November 2011

There are some odd synergies. The two met years after their wars, onstage at a literary festival in 1968, and became great friends and eventually neighbors. Heller’s war was up in the air, as a bombardier in the nose cone of a B-25. Vonnegut’s was at ground level, as an infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge, and ultimately beneath ground level, in the basement of Schlachthof-Fünf during the firebombing.

Both men were profoundly, and with respect to their war novels, specifically influenced by the French author Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Both their novels were numerically titled — Heller had to retitle his original “Catch-18” when Leon Uris brought out his “Mila 18.”

In a detail that struck me as, well, weird, Vonnegut’s breakthrough moment while he was trying to get a handle on how to write his novel came during a visit to a war buddy — in Hellertown, Pa. More ironic is that both World War II novels ended up being Vietnam novels.

--Christopher Buckley on Vonnegut and Heller in the New York Times Book Review this week.

27 November 2011

Didn't expect it to be that easy! (That's what she said.)

Normally when the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Literature finalists are announced every year I recognize one, maybe two of the titles under review. Well, this must be my lucky year because I can speak to two closely and one with a fairly high level of probability. Hooray? Who knows, next year I could end up a panelist! Great, let me clear some space on my résumé of questionable life experiences.
  • Regarding PARALLEL STORIES by Peter Nadas: There are a lot of sex scenes in this book and I was unable to find which one was up for the blue ribbon here. If it's the epic hundred-pager interrupted by a Budapest drawing room with a bunch of middle-aged biddies clucking over it, then no, that should be up for the Most Audacious Sex Award. If it's 10 pages in the same pair of pants, then no.
  • Regarding THE GREAT NIGHT by Chris Adrian: Since this is an adaptation/ updating of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the sex in this book tends toward the dreamy fairy orgy variety. It's not particularly graphic, but a little tiresome in the overwhelming Meaning Of It All.
  • Regarding THE LAND OF PAINTED CAVES by Jean M. Auel: I'm only noting this because if this woman wrote a book every year she would make this list and win every year. Just keep that in your pocket the next time you see your great-aunt reading this in hardcover. And that's where my vote would go. Anecdotal evidence in 2011 has revealed to me that there ought to be a support group for past readers of this series.
Among the other nominees: Stephen King for 11/22/63, Simon Van Booy's EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL BEGAN AFTER (a little quirky) and James Frey for THE FINAL TESTAMENT OF THE HOLY BIBLE (oh I just bet).

26 November 2011

One-Star Revue: 2666

All real 1-star customer reviews on Amazon. No spoilers.
  • "I feel like I lost time and I don't want my money back (only because I borrowed it from the library)."
  • "I wish he was alive so that we could ask him, 'Why Roberto? Why?'"
  • "Guess I'm destined not to get Bolano, like I don't get Jean-Luc Godard... " [Ed. note: *~~*SAD TROMBONE*~~*]
  • "There are many reviews here that are way more specific than the ones I had heard/read, and I appreciate that some people really like this book. I am fascinated to meet one of them live some day and have a conversation."
  • "As to comparisons with Kafka's unfinished masterpieces, The Trial and The Castle, that only makes me angry."
  • "I can see how this might have been written by a very ill man."
  • "This book would make a great table leg, coaster, or booster seat for a small child."
  • "I would prefer to be boiled alive in oil."

Earlier (a long time ago): One-Star Revue: MOBY DICK

25 November 2011

Black Friday haul

Books purchased at independent bookstore: 2
Books purchased at independent bookstore as gifts: ...0.

24 November 2011

Inscription in my secondhand copy of THE ENGLISH PATIENT

In gold marker pen:
"This is the first book
I've really read in
years. Enjoy,
love L...... (x)"

There's also a bit either in French or some other Romance language I don't recognize. And a bookmark from the Longhouse Bookshop, 497 Bloor Street West, Toronto.

23 November 2011

Reading on the Road: For this relief, much thanks

This is my third weekend of travel in November and my fourth out of the last five. It's been a busy few weeks over at HQ -- I wonder if my roommates remember who I am? (Kidding! I'm the one who got them hooked on homemade espresso! It's a gift that keeps on giving.) I'm packing a stack of paperbacks that have been sitting around including THE RISK POOL, THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS and THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE.

Would you characterize your holiday family breaks (that's for all of you who may not celebrate American Thanksgiving) as high-downtime or low-downtime? I guess "it depends on the holiday" would be the prevailing answer, in any case, but Thanksgiving in my family has been fairly high-downtime in recent years. I feel I have to establish this before you paint this picture in your mind of me hiding in a corner while the rest of my family carves the bird in order to read more. (But at age 6, sure!) The downtime is not only how we roll, it's how the 3 members of my family who are in education (2 in college, 1 teaching) get caught up so they, too, can actually enjoy some of their time off. And if I end up spending my entire vacation laughing at cheesy holiday displays and talking my sister out of dragging me to see "Happy Feet 2"? There's always the flight time.

21 November 2011

I love writing about giant unapproachable novels, so the news of a forthcoming 27-volume novel should be right up my alley... but, every three months? And Mark Z. Danielewski? That first vol better be a grabber.

Hot Guys As/ In Literature

This list of the Top 10 Literary Hunks (Classical) (in other words, Shut Up, TWILIGHT) is fairly solid, despite the placement of movie screenshots in such a way as to invite a person to judge according to those and not the associated books. Florentino Ariza is a particularly inspired choice. I think most of you will have problems with #6 (valid), but I would initially dispute #10, Queequeg (MOBY DICK) and #9, Yossarian (CATCH-22) as being, well, not that discriminating of their bedfellows. Ironically, this is a great quality to have if you're a sailor or in the military, but not so high in what the article calls "hunk qualities." (When did the word hunk go out of style? Just wondering.)

I humbly suggest replacing them with Nick Carraway, as played by Paul Rudd in the lost TV adaptation no one but me ever watched, but which I swear is real, and Vronsky from ANNA KARENINA (see 1997 adaptation), of course.

As a question of order, I would hold that you either put Heathcliff at #1, or Darcy at #1, and in either case you think the other side is crazy and should probably go back and read the related books again. I would put Darcy at #1 and accept that that is a predictor of my personality in some way. Hey, I see a new line for those Team [Whatever] shirts! (Ugh, just kidding.)

Thanks to Orrin for having my best interests at heart in sending this in.

20 November 2011

Incomplete bibliography of Benno von Archimboldi



19 November 2011

Reading on the Road: I was unrecognizable to myself

I'm off to Philadelphia today to run a half-marathon tomorrow. I will endeavor to move as little as possible in order to wake up fresh -- this is called "strategy" -- so of course some quality reading material had to make the luggage cut. I'm taking my library copy of Jennifer Close's GIRLS IN WHITE DRESSES, much praised by friends for its realistic depiction of the lives of city-dwelling late-20-something women. I should say, some friends -- I mentioned I was about to start it yesterday on Twitter and got a few people who said, actually, they wouldn't recommend it. (And then I said to myself, "I'll be the judge of that!" No offense, everyone. And I'm hoping to catch up on the insidery-media Kindle singles I bought ages ago, THE JUNKET and VANITY FAIR'S HOW A BOOK IS BORN.

If anyone has recommendations of good independent Philly bookstores, I would extra appreciate them, particularly if they are centrally located. I know the airport there used to have a well stocked Barbara's Bestsellers, but that seems to have turned over -- not that I'll be in the airport anyway.

18 November 2011

Caption this photo

CAREY MULLIGAN AS DAISY: You guys I am so excited to be in this movie!!! You guys!!!
LEONARDO DICAPRIO AS GATSBY: Look at how mysterious I am. That has "Oscar bait" written all over it.
CAREY MULLIGAN AS DAISY: Leo! I used to have posters of you on my wall, Leo! Okay, I can totally focus for this shot!
LEONARDO DICAPRIO AS GATSBY: Maybe I won't even need this 3-D piece of ridiculousness if J. Edgar takes off. Never mind, practicing my Oscarface anyway.
CAREY MULLIGAN AS DAISY: My hair is so pretty!
LEONARDO DICAPRIO AS GATSBY: She came so well-regarded. I don't know what's going on here. Was Gwyneth not available?
CAREY MULLIGAN AS DAISY: I have read this book like 500 times you guys! But I never thought I was going to play Daisy! I mean, Daisy, right! In your face Knightley, in your face!
TOBEY MAGUIRE AS NICK CARRAWAY: Derp derp derpy derp! Derp.

Source. And before you start, I'm sure Carey Mulligan is plenty smart and Leonardo DiCaprio has done a lot of movies that did not directly lead to Oscarville. And I still like Baz Luhrmann even though it is definitely not cool to do so right now.

How about "Occupy n+1" ?

Keith Gessen (ALL THE SAD YOUNG LITERARY MEN) was arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest yesterday. Girlfriend Emily Gould commented incorrectly, "Also your sad young lit man jokes are not now/ have never been funny."

17 November 2011

Speaking of the NBA

BookPerk is banking on the fact that you are still mad at LeBron James, but are also not bitter about the doubtful future of this basketball season. The drink coasters are a funny touch. I wonder where those came from.

NBA News from Last Night (Not That One, The Other One)

Your National Book Award 2011 winners are (drumroll, please):
  • Jesmyn Ward, fiction
  • Thanhha Lai, young adult literature
  • Stephen Greenblatt, nonfiction
  • Nikky Finney, poetry

John Lithgow hosted, there were some Occupy Wall Street jokes (fitting, I guess? given that the award were held at a restaurant near Zuccotti Park), and the awards were also webcast for the first time this year. I preferred to watch people watching them on Twitter, but GalleyCat also has a liveblog if you want to feel like you were really there.

Some are calling Ward's award a major upset because it didn't go to Tea Obreht (whose novel THE TIGER'S WIFE I'm fairly sure was the top seller in the bunch), but the predictions I read were fairly split between them.

16 November 2011

There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year

I wonder what people who don't read do when they need a quick hit of accomplishment. Just, that little taste to remind them that they are not on autopilot, that ground is being gained. Obviously, there are a lot of options, but this one (for the most part) is mine.

This book at left ruled my life for about, hmm, two weeks not counting the days when I just goggled at it and said to myself "Got to review that book. Definitely getting around to it. Definitely going to pick it up off the floor and start it." 1152 pages later, I'm free! (Until edits get back.) Free! And able to say definitively that you are probably not in its target audience. Well, one out of two is not bad. I'm going to go stare down some more tomes right now.

Uh huh.

15 November 2011

Steal from the best!

Kirkus Reviews' best of 2011 fiction list included (I assume it will be removed soon?) the plagiarized thriller ASSASSIN OF SECRETS. (Excited for the inclusion of THE FORGOTTEN WALTZ, though.)

14 November 2011

Filmbook-to-Be: Trailer for "The Hunger Games" (2012)

High hopes for Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. (I did finally finish this series and will probably post about it a few times, once as a guide for those of you who don't know what the big deal is, and once to talk about third volume MOCKINJAY and its issues. For now, suffice to say if you've been shelving these books in the TWILIGHT category, I think you're mistaken.)
"Ivanov's fear was of a literary nature. That is, it was the fear that afflicts most citizens who, one fine (or dark) day, choose to make the practice of writing, and especially the practice of fiction writing, an integral part of their lives. Fear of being no good. Also fear of being overlooked. But above all, fear of being no good. Fear that one's efforts and striving will come to nothing. Fear of the step that leaves no trace. Fear of the forces of change of nature that wipe away shallow prints. Fear of dining alone and unnoticed. Fear of going unrecognized. Fear of failure and making a spectacle of oneself. But above all, fear of being no good. Fear of forever dwelling in the hell of bad writers."
-Roberto Bolaño, from 2666

13 November 2011

Fall crafting hour

Here's a cool DIY project if you're handy with a box-cutter: iPhone dock and charger in a hardcover book.  (I believe the blogger will also make you one for donations... but you'd have to check with him on that.)

Am I sorry about the Alfred Lord Tennyson mutilation? Not particularly. I don't think anyone was reading that volume anyway.

12 November 2011

After THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS leaves town

After the runaway critical success of her fourth novel A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD, many people are going to expect a similar experience from Jennifer Egan's debut THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS, and some of them will be disappointed. Much as it pains me to start there, it's how I found my way to THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS, whose fragmentation and shifts in time indeed feel much more conventional than those in GOON SQUAD. I still found it satisfying and sad, if not dazzling.

THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS runs along three tracks: The first, in 1978, traces eighteen-year-old Phoebe O'Connor's trip to Europe to retrace the steps taken by her older sister Faith in 1968 before Faith disappeared and was found dead in Italy. Faith's trip -- relived stop by stop thanks to a series of postcards she sent Phoebe of her trip -- is the second track. Faith and Phoebe were never close, not only because of the brother between them, but because of their father who favored his oldest child and died young. Memories of their childhood, and of the last glimpses Phoebe had of her sister as she became absorbed into the San Francisco hippie underground. (The Invisible Circus is a club Faith and her older boyfriend Wolf, who was traveling with her in Europe, would come home from at 4 in the morning, where Phoebe waited up to hang out with them and their friends.)

The circumstances of Faith's death are suspicious (and get even more so), but that's only Phoebe's pretext for the trip she takes in direct defiance of her mother's wishes. What THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS really shares with ...GOON SQUAD apart from more superficial similarities is her chase after the sense of belonging, the need to feel part of something bigger. The dissolution of Faith's old "scene" in San Francisco mirrors the slow separation of her family after her death, to the point that Phoebe has to find out about her mother's new boyfriend from seeing them together on the street, and in its absence nothing fills the gap. In this sense, her impulses to self-destruct are easier to understand than some of those in GOON SQUAD, as a near-kid playing an adult game.

Phoebe sees her older sister as having participated in something that she will never access and having died with the secret to that freedom adulthood brings, but she died with a lot of other secrets as well, and as THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS gets deeper and weirder I got more invested in what she was going to find. If possible, read this book in one sitting (or as close to it as possible) because the last 100 pages or so are hard to look up from.

11 November 2011

What my bookshelves likely reveal about me... this week

Inspired by Leah Price's "The Subconscious Shelf":
  • The bookshelf is the focal point of the room in which it is kept. 
  • I definitely have a system for things, even if that system is completely impenetrable to an outside observer. 
  • I find it difficult to get rid of '70s paperback editions, particularly of books I believe I won't find somewhere else (like my falling-apart copy of KISS KISS BANG BANG). 
  • Biography collection : low turnover :: memoir collection : high turnover
  • Grandparents should be written to more often.
  • I recently went on a tear to find something within the stacks and not everything fit the same at the end of it.
  • Alphabetizing is overrated, color-coordinating is underrated. 
  • I would like to not be a knick-knacks person, but I am not putting that into practice.
  • Not a lot of people graze my bookshelf alone which is why I feel safe keeping a few of my personal notebooks on the same set of shelves.
  • Still kidding myself that I'm going to get to all of these... but not giving up yet.
Well, better than a bunch of painted spines anyway.

10 November 2011

I've been really, really good this year

Edna St. Vincent Millay's famously tiny Greenwich Village townhouse is on the market again. Sure, you wouldn't want to move with your whole family to 75 1/2 Bedford St. (a half!!!!!), but for 1000 square feet (and a garden!) you could not go cuter if you have $4.3 million lying around. And you are under 9 feet tall, because the whole place is only 9 feet wide -- narrower than a Mini Cooper is long.

(Cary Grant also lived there... not at the same time.)

The lessons of "Q.R. Markham," thriller plagiarist

This is about 18th on the list of important scandals this week, but anyway...

1. If you're going to plagiarize your thriller novel, don't steal from James Bond. Those Bond fans know everything, including that Q.R. Markham's debut ASSASSIN OF SECRETS was mightily stolen from a number of sources. Markham (pseudonymous with Quentin Rowan, Brooklyn bookseller) just had his first book yanked and the remainder of his contract canceled. Oops.

2. Even if you also steal from Graham Greene, people will know you as the guy who stole from James Bond. (Nine paragraphs in.) (9!)

3. This is not the correct way to vent your anger at not being one of the chosen Brooklyn literary elite:
In an interview with The New York Daily News last week, Quentin Rowan [alias Q.R. Markham] said he had previously written several literary novels, "but nothing wound up happening with anything I'd done."

He said he had grown "disillusioned" as he saw other Brooklyn writers such as Jonathan Safran Foer (EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED) strike it big as "wunderkind writers."

"There was a bunch of books by people who were technically my peers that felt showy and one-note. Maybe I had to dumb it down."
Showy and one-note? Burn!

4. Kaavya Viswanathan is never going to clear her name. I mean, not to minimize what she did, but we could pick on a comparable adult here (there are lots of them!)

5. It's too bad "Without A Trace" isn't making original episodes, because this would make a great one. Just look at this guy's picture. 43 minutes later, he's discovered in Istanbul going to the steam bath after his advance.

6. Things are going to get slightly awkward at Spoonbill & Sugartown, the bookstore Rowan co-owns.

09 November 2011

I would prefer to

Finally, they hit me where I live: Days after hosting Jonathan Lethem and Jennifer Egan, Occupy Wall Street will now be hosting a marathon reading of BARTLEBY THE SCRIVENER starting Thursday at 3PM.

Watch Chad Harbach make protein bars

Full disclosure: I had to watch the first minute over because I was so distracted by the host's shirt. So many zebras.

"There's probably some virtue in it, and at a certain point you're just trapped."

I don't agree that people can't dislike THE ART OF FIELDING, and surely they don't all object to him on the grounds Harbach describes. But the group he describes, they would certainly object to it, yes. (But I'm from a margarine family, so what do I know?)

08 November 2011

"Those Penguin Modern Classics did not have the allure of drugs or under-age drinking; there was nothing illegal or subversive about them (except insofar as the constant infusion of knowledge steadily undermined parental authority), but consuming them was an expression of independence and discovery. Let’s put it as modestly as possible: acquiring and reading them provided an opportunity to accomplish what every adolescent craves — going somewhere and doing something without one’s parents."
-Geoff Dyer

07 November 2011

Gosh, isn't it amazing that whatever book news comes out, Bret Easton Ellis manages to make it all about him?

Likes big books, cannot lie

Great news for biography fans: Robert Caro's fourth Lyndon B. Johnson volume, THE PASSAGE OF POWER, is due out next May, nine years after MASTER OF THE SENATE. Less great news: It only covers up to 1964 (vice-presidential campaign to post-JFK assassination), meaning his putative LBJ trilogy will not be completed until Volume 5.

06 November 2011

'Cause two is not a winner, and three nobody remembers

If I were in charge of Publishers Weekly I would want the world to know that the trade is invariably first on the line with its Best Books of 2011 list. Granted, the editors and writers there enjoy an advantage over you and me in getting galleys well enough in advance that they're already into next spring's future bestsellers, but there's something about first place... Still, this year I had to hear about it from a PR person with an author on the list, not the magazine itself (which notice I appreciated, no doubt). Here's the list:
  • Jeffrey Eugenides, THE MARRIAGE PLOT
  • Donald Ray Pollock, THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME
  • Ann Patchett, STATE OF WONDER
  • Tina Fey, BOSSYPANTS
  • Robert K. Massie, CATHERINE THE GREAT
  • Ali Smith, THERE BUT FOR THE
  • Paul Hendrickson, HEMINGWAY'S BOAT
  • Christopher Hitchens, ARGUABLY: ESSAYS
The first thing that struck me was how few of the titles I recognized (who knew someone even wrote a biography of Hemingway based around his boat, Pilar?) By this metric I have not been reading the best of the year. Last year's was a lot more familiar to me at the time. And although I loved this book, I think they might be courting backlash putting BOSSYPANTS on the list. The other book I have read up to this point, THE MARRIAGE PLOT, I loved but suspect I am too close to the material to be objective. (While I have not read the Christopher Hitchens book, it does carry one of my favorite titles of the year. A perfect merger of form and content.)

Looking at this list I'm reminded of an article written by Laura Miller on Salon a few weeks back arguing that the National Book Awards didn't matter because they chose to nominate smaller/ indie titles this year over "heavy hitters" (like the aforementioned MARRIAGE PLOT). Miller felt the NBA judges (all published authors themselves) were overreaching in trying to push books that didn't receive very much critical attention into the spotlight -- somehow punishing better books that got more media attention, for being too commonly celebrated. (You may have encountered this argument elsewhere, such as in film criticism when it is often referred to in shorthand as "cultural vegetables" -- whether you like 'em or not! No exceptions!) I can see both sides to this argument. I want my "best books" lists to actually reflect the best, not "the best with caveats A, B and C according to certain leanings," and the suggestion that nominations are politicized is not exactly surprising. On the other hand, why shouldn't an outlet like Publishers Weekly seek out the best books everywhere, not just in common coverage? That's their job, and if there were no surprises on this list I'd surely come back and complain about that. (Blogger's privilege.) And for all I know, these books whose authors and titles are a mystery to me now may end up becoming my favorite books of this year -- or next, when I can get around to them.

04 November 2011

Reading on the Road: Just Elvis and me edition

Oh happy day! I'm in Las Vegas right now. I packed Peter Nadas' PARALLEL STORIES, a truly massive tome that ought to stand up to 2 cross-country flights... plus the Kindle, just in case. For the flights, of course. I was going to toss in 2666 as well, but some things one cannot justify, and anyway I needed that space for shoes. Email me if you want a postcard!

(The last time I was in Vegas I did the whole theme reading bit with FEAR AND LOATHING and so on, which helped to give a sense of the place... I think it helps. If I had more time this time I might have done similarly.)

Photo: mkoukoullis

03 November 2011

Elbow room, elbow room

Given my propensity for spying on people's reading material I am not always in the right on these issues. But there's a difference between "glancing at someone's book for a second" and luxuriating in someone else's entertainment*, particularly while also breathing heavily and expanding to fill the space between someone and yourself. Actually, it was more the final two that caused me to actually get up (out of my window seat on a bus) and move away from one such Space Invader, who naturally wouldn't get up to let me out, and then acted all offended when I tripped over his feet.

I don't have many moments of but what are all these PEOPLE doing in my CITY?!?!?!!! but between this dude (because, of course it was) and the homeless guys trying to offer me romantic advice**, I have pretty much filled my quarterly quota of strangers who think I owe them my attention. I'm going back to my book and if possible I would like to crawl inside, thanks.

* How do I know he was reading over my shoulder? By the derisive snort he gave after I put away my book, opened my laptop and started writing an email describing being trapped on a bus with a "heavy-breathing creepshow." Yes I did, yes I did. He did stop with the heavy breathing for a bit after that, but... 
** More than once, and not only that, one guy tried to dispense said advice at 5:30AM. Swell timing. I don't even talk to my actual boyfriend at that hour. 

02 November 2011

"Let me offer a restorative, a philtre to reawaken and remedy this soul-sickness: The Communal-Seclusive Reading Camp. This is not merely a book group, that often ersatz reason to get together for a meal or cry together over the newest Times bestseller—the housewife’s Jonestown Kool-Aid. Rather, the Communal-Seclusive Reading Camp is a get away for the technology-laden reader and existentially hounded being who wants to soak up the grafs and suck the poetry in. Say ten folks spring for a cabin in the woods, somewhere secluded with a village nearby for supplies. These folks decamp to a comfy space and simply…read. That’s it. Maybe affix a giant bowl in the center of the room to dump cell phones and distractions. The seclusion is a necessary no-brainer. The company is for reinforcement and accountability and conversation—and for drinking with after a long day of reading and thinking. It would be a myriad book binge, a way to counter the crawling moist hand of futility and mortality."

--"Books are an existential crisis," Vouchedbooks.com. Read the whole thing even if you don't share my recurring dream of a reading vacation (she says ungratefully)

01 November 2011

Unbookening with special appearance by Keith Gessen

"I really like my books, as a whole, but going through them one by one revealed just how many of them came into my life because they cost a dollar, or, more exactly, forty-eight cents. Anyway, I put on my game face and made what I thought were some mature decisions. I did not need four copies of PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, I realized." --Four?!??!???? Keith Gessen needs an intervention.

Received as a gift: 1
Bought: 6
Got to review: 4
From library: 8
19 in

Gave as a gift: 1
Donated: 8
Returned to library: 11
20 out.

Hey, I'm awesome!! But I still buy too many books. You know what would be great? If there were a movement like NaNoWriMo (something I love) called National Read The Books You Bought Month. NaReTheBooYouBoMo. Rolls off the tongue. But I'll come up with a better name (or maybe you have an idea?)

As I write this I guess it's probably too late to start for November, but how about December? That would align perfectly with Judeo-Christian traditions often involving the influx of new books into one's life. For now your homework is to go home and make a list of all the books you bought this year, then cross off the ones you already read. Due Friday.