I am obviously all over the freaking place. These are books I’ve been “currently reading”–the first two for quite some time now [as usual with collections], and the latter two are things I just started last night. Heh. I take what I can from books. Brodkey and Davis, in particular, are to be read partly in commemoration for National Short Story Month, a project run by the Emerging Writers Network [though Dan Wickett has yet to post something about that. I mean, come on, please?]. Anyhoo. Here’s what currently on my plate. Hopefully, I’ll deem them done before May ends.
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[#01] I’ve liked Harold Brodkey ever since I read two of his stories in Eugenides’ My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead. I mean, it’s saying something that in the anthology, Eugenides decided to include two of his. And, man, Brodkey is good. He’s my new favorite crusty ol’ goat. Aherm. From the short story, “What I Do for Money”—
My life is a mess; yet I am fairly happy. Perhaps unfairly. I can’t say I understand happiness. In my case it always has an uncaring, what-the-hell element and is a form of dizzied satisfaction that is unfeeling at its center, freed from feeling, almost a cry of enough. The sense of completion is like a satisfaction with its spine of shameful triumph… of peace and escape. It is shallow of me and in my blood—an old traditional thing—and it is the deepest and most savage emotion I ever have, it is the deepest part of me, to be happy. It is based on my ignoring an important number of things, but I have a rebellious nature of this sort. In a pagan sense it is a serious business to be happy.
I found The World is the Home of Love and Death (awesome title) at one of the BookSales scattered around the office. The collection was Brodkey’s last. I’ve read about half of the stories, but not in order–a few short ones first, then to attack the 50-pagers. And then I realized they were interconnected. Bah. Then again, the individual stories hold their own. I’d now started on the first story, and would read on in order. If only for the greater narrative, ya know.
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[#02] At a birthday-barbecue, I, quite typically, spent a lot of time looking at my hosts’ bookshelves. Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace begged me to take it home. And so I did, on the merit of the first essay, which is an account of the AVN Awards, and is basically about the adult entertainment industry circa 1997. Oh yeah. I’ve read about three essays, and dammit, they are long. But smart and witty–but the cleverness never calls attention to itself. I have been reaching for the dictionary, though. Oh, and the snag I’ve hit is a–as Wikipedia puts it–“127 page review of Bryan A. Garner’s “A Dictionary of Modern American Usage.” Yes, you read that right.
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[#03] I think I’ve been waiting for this collection all my life. Break It Down, a short story collection from The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, is what I’m reading first. Mostly because it’s right at the beginning of this cute widdle orange book. So Lydia Davis–who freaking happens to be Paul Auster’s first wife; man, the drama, the telenovela-ness of it all!)–is known for short short short stories. Very simple language, though her stuff has a tendency to be cryptic–as with all mega-short stories. Or just plain baffling. See this story in its entirety:
The girl wrote a story. “But how much better it would be if you wrote a novel,” said her mother. The girl built a dollhouse. “But how much better if it were a real house,” her mother said. The girl made a small pillow for her father. “But wuldn’t a quilt be more practical,” said her mother. The girl dug a small hole in the garden. “But how much better if you dug a large hole, said her mother. The girl dug a large hole and went to sleep in it. “But how much better if you slept forever,” said her mother.
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[#04] Crazy Heart, by Thomas Cobb. I loved the movie Crazy Heart, and it was only a matter of time before I got my hands on the book it was based on. Evil laugh. Anyhoo, I’d been joining blogosphere contests left and right for this novel, but no luck. And then, last night, right before Iron Man 2 [just had to put that in], I found this in the bookstore, one copy, and I had to grab it.
“We were afraid you weren’t going to show.” The band members look at each other, smiling.
“Son, I have played sick, hurt, drunk, married, divorced, on the run, and run to the ground. Bad Blake has never pulled a no-show in his whole goddamned life. Not even in a fucking bowling alley, backed by a band of hippies.”
See that I’m currently in a bowling alley in Pueblo, Colorado, slumming with Bad Blake. I am liking this novel already. Never mind that Jeff Bridges is super-imposed on how I read Bad Blake. They’re both made of awesomesauce; there is nothing wrong with this arrangement.