I sat patiently up to the sixtieth page, growing more and more bored by the second—how many ways can you insist that two people love each other even if (gasp!) they’re in their forties, and that this magical sex-strike just ruined everything? how many lackluster, unworthy-of-book-space characters (armed with their sex-lives-that-were) are you going to introduce us to? And then I realized I was being a complete idiot and just skimmed to the end. Where, lo and behold, the townspeople arrive at epiphanies and voice them publicly, on stage!—and the spell lifts and people can start bonking each other again! (It’s not Disney, goddammit!) And don’t forget the mysterious nomad who’s been—wink to the reader!—doing this for years. Hurray for magical Greek plays! Goddamnitall. [Continue reading.]
There is only so much unwarranted and unrewarding absurdity a mind can take, John Irving. I expect you to know that, I expect you to be skilled at toeing that fine line between the ridiculousness that turns when you least expect it and plain lack of sense. You are not supposed to be the kind of old friend I’ve been forced to mutter, “Are you fucking kidding me?” over and over whilst I am in your company—and after years of nothing. Goddammit all to hell and back, John. [Continue reading.]
Cutting to the chase: MacLean’s One Good Earl Deserves a Lover is the first romance in a long, long, far-too-long time that had me floored; it’s the best historical romance I’ve read in recent memory (or, judging by my Goodreads, in a year or so)—it’s one of the most affecting books, no matter the genre, that I’ve ever spent a handful of hours with. It had me muttering, over and over, “Oh man, you’re a good book”—and almost despairingly; I would look up to P., who I’d shooed away early on and complain, “This is such a good book!” [Continue reading.]
[Is someone making a list of cover art that do great disservice to the book’s content? If so, could you please add this horrendous cover for Eros? We’ve got rudimentary vector images of a man standing on the neck of a very disinterested woman, while ‘splosionz happen beyond them and a fleet of fighter jets […]
Why do I keep buying books at a time when I am least predisposed to actually reading them? How awkwardly—how unnaturally—I seem to be reading lately!
My brain has atrophied, I self-diagnose. And I am quick to heap the blame, if prodded; after all, surely I can’t be accountable for my own inability to respond to the provocations of literature? The heights of marrow-sucking the past couple of months of weekdays have reached are close to convincing my poor brain [my even more wretched soul!] that it’s best for everyone involved if whatever intelligent faculties I pride myself on having simply find a shadowy corner to mewl in. The weekends are too delicious a respite—naps must be made, people must be loved, secondhand bookstores to trawl, inihaw to fill my belleh. And naps must be made. [Continue reading.]
Books are deceptively tidily-packaged keystones of great power—and, if you’re lucky (as I consider myself to be), years of reading will arm you with presentiments about what a protracted brush against that power might do [to] you. And I had that hunch with The Bell Jar. I’ve known everything there was to know about the novel before I read it, and every little thing was bad news for someone like me. Call it readerly superstition, call it a far-too-strong awareness of my own psychological climate: I stayed away from Plath’s novel because it was about me.
And once I closed the book, I went back to the little gauge in my soul. There was the usual hum that runs through you after a good and/or timely book. But beyond that: I felt strange—both superior and self-pitying; I looked at all the teenagers that swarmed that coffee shop, all those souls that would never ever need to be scared of a book like The Bell Jar—all for naught or otherwise. [Continue reading.]
There remains a Sasha-shaped clearing on my bed; it’s the debris from the stillness of hours devoted to one book alone—there are (the leavings of lunch:) empty soda cans and bags of potato chips, an ashtray and a hollowed pack of cigarettes, a cellphone guiltlessly ignored. That is: I’ve finished reading Stephen King’s The Dark Tower—meaning, the seventh and last book; meaning, all of it. I can’t remember the last time I was so consumed by someone else’s world for months. The last time I had something constant to turn to, a much-needed something to get lost in. [Continue reading.]
The thing is, children: The short story will persist, and our attitude toward it will endure. The novel may die, resurge, die again, get resurrected endlessly by its legion detractors and champions; the essay will toy with medium and length and preoccupation and ethical standards; the novella will always be the special little snowflake it’s grown comfortably into; poetry will keep curdling our blood with its beauty, its inscrutability, and its conceit that it’s the best form for thought-and-soul that ever will be. And the short story will be in a corner, nursing a warmed beer, brooding over an overflowing ashtray, trying so obviously and awkwardly not to meet anyone’s eye for fear that it might seem too needy—and it’ll be there in that complicated metaphor of a corner forever. And, kids—we’ll all just have to deal with it. [Continue reading.]
I spent a couple of calm-before-the-storm days with Lowell Lake, the martyr of his own hapless (even bewildered) making and the contra-hero of A Meaningful Life by L.J. Davis. In neat encapsulation: “There was a sense of dwindling, like a slow leak in a balloon, as if all the vigor was slowly going out of their existence, all the light from the sky, all the color from the world, all the good thoughts from Lowell’s head.” And lest you think there’s something spectacular in this disintegration, Davis is quick to repeatedly disabuse you of that notion; for example: “His life wasn’t breaking up. On the contrary, it failed to show the smallest fissure in its bland and seamless surface.” [Continue reading.]
Yes, the kind of reading I’ve been doing lately is one that, primarily, seeks to reassure myself that Real Life and the myriad terrors it’s been serving up lately can be staved off—even vanquished under the onslaught of words, words, words. Although, haha, I don’t know why I gravitated to the three up there, as collectively they seem to be tailor-fit to depress the bejeebies out of me. Davis’ novel is about a man who hates his job and whose marriage is falling apart (and there is no assurance of a happy ending); Shields has constructed a manifesto on the kind of writing I have long ago forgotten how to do; the Plath is infamously about a young (promising!) woman who descends into a crippling and vividly described depression.
Done. I have no idea what just happened to me—what happened, period. All throughout, I kept telling myself it was difficult to surrender to this book, not only because I couldn’t understand why it was saying what it was trying to say, but also because I couldn’t trust it fully. Surprise, surprise: In Shields’ begrudgingly provided afterword to “his” manifesto: “This book contains hundreds of quotations that go unacknowledged in the body of the text… Your uncertainty about whose words you’ve just read is not a bug but a feature.” [Bet that really hurt, having to say it so baldly, and because of legal constraints, too.] So, at least, there’s that. [Continue reading.]
This is a great volume to have in a romance-reader’s shelf, in an art-lover’s stack of coffee table books. But I wanted it to be an invaluable book—and a little more effort, a lot more digging through the stacks, a lot more reading of the actual books featured, would have made it thus. [Continue reading.]
This is what I’ve been doing for more than five years: Consciously cultivating a shared language with P., and actively searching for the books (because how else can I do this) to help me do so. “I am interested in this because this interests you” signals how contrived this kind of reading is, but over time my own curiosity grew, and I came to these books—“his” books, I first figured—willingly, and on my own. There remains a tiny whisper, though, that this a secondhand fascination. I can’t shake off the feeling that I’m impinging onto someone else’s territory. [You are literature, Sasha; they are everything else.] [Continue reading.]
The noticeable ambivalence to questions of nationality is what allows Tenorio’s short stories to freely focus on the outliers that people his stories. Race and sense of place, the politics of leaving and of staying gone-too-long—are relegated to simply being among the many circumstances that make life a pain in the ass to live. The country one was born in is simply an inherent part of one’s character—one that, via Tenorio, willfully shuns preeminence. Yes, itt’s the color of one’s hair, the tinge one’s skin takes in high summer, the hardness of one’s consonants—the fact that, at a certain era, one couldn’t enter a bar through the front door. And it’s up there alongside figuring how to kiss someone onscreen for the first time, after a career of having “gouged, bitten, clawed, stabbed”; alongside watching one’s grandfather scoop chicken liver from the sidewalk, glimpsing the white on the crown amid the haphazardly applied dye; alongside learning how to make a habit of hiding in the garage as a child, waiting for one’s too-young, too-beautiful sister to return from her date with a no-good asshole. [Continue reading.]