Over the past year, Speedboat kept coming up over and over, referenced in essays and other books, recommended by friends. While it’s called a novel, it’s so fragmented that any disconnected arcs are hard to link in any meaningful way. I found it pleasurable to read, despite the challenge of it. By the end I found some sense of cohesiveness, though not in any traditional sense; it might...More
In the realm of novels by Joan Didion, Play It as It Lays seems to be the crowd favorite, but after reading that one I didn’t feel incredibly compelled to read another of hers. I suppose I needed one to appear at the right time, and so it did when I was buying some books for vacation and found a remaindered import of this one. It’s a cleanly...More
Life is a form of hope?
If you are hopeful.
Maybe hope is the same as breath — part of
What it means to be human and alive.
Or maybe hoping is the same as waiting.
It can be futile.
Waiting for what?
For a life to begin.
I am here.
And I am still lonely.
Much of this book of prose poetry (or lyric...More
The essays in the book range widely in scope, from very personal to more critical to more journalistic, though a theme of understanding others’ pain loosely lassos them together. Often this manifests as her own attempt to understand, like her proﬁle of people with Morgellons Disease, who believe that ﬁbers are expelled from their skin and become so obsessed with the delusion they end up...More
Everyday life is a life lived on the level of surging aﬀects, impacts suﬀered or barely avoided. It takes everything we have. But it also spawns a series of little somethings dreamed up in the course of things.
I’ve been revisiting an active appreciation of the ordinary of the everyday, mostly in swapping moments of banal profundity in emails and texts. This...More
I’m on a laid-back mission to make my way through Susan Sontag’s oeuvre, and this in particular has been on my active reading list since I ﬁnished On Photography several years ago. It turned out to be a rather prescient selection, as shortly after I ﬁnished reading, tensions broke open again across Israel and Palestine, making the ideas here...More
I’ve read so many of Alice Munro’s stories, some of which were pre-booklog and some that I didn’t bother to write up at the time. This collection feels like a particularly strong batch of stories, if a bit more vicious overall, compared to other collections — so much death and injury!
The highlight is deﬁnitely the story that won the title, “Too Much Happiness,” which is about the...More
Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Jolted by memories triggered by an escaped hippopotamus from the abandoned zoo that was once owned by the drug lord Pablo Escobar, a man recollects on a series of events that altered his life to such a traumatic degree that he struggled to cope years later. Though the story is focused on this law professor named Antonio who unwittingly started a friendship with an older man while playing...More
Just after I started reading this book, I had a conversation in which someone said that inaccessible art can’t possibly be good art, with a side note about how some people may appreciate art solely because they can’t immediately understand it as they assume it’s smarter than they are. The discussion partially came from me describing my struggle through The...More
Earlier this year, I stacked my library holds with popular books from 2013, but I was a bit hesitant to add The Luminaries. I have a pretty narrow threshold for historical ﬁction, yet clearly people loved it. With Eleanor Catton being the youngest winner of the Man Booker Prize, ultimately my curiosity won out. Though when I ﬁnally waited my way to the top of the hold list, the book’s...More
I think what I love about Lydia Davis is how she ﬁnds signiﬁcance and narrative in the banalities of the every day. I know most people consider recounting dreams to be one of the most socially unacceptable things you can do, perhaps just below subway grooming, but rarely do I dislike a dream story. Whether or not you try to ﬁnd the subconscious logic in it, the underlying humor of dream...More
This slim novel could easily be read in a day, but I happened to read part of it on a Saturday and the rest on a Sunday morning, when I woke up far earlier than usual. It was the perfect thing for a quiet morning, the sky still lightening to day. While I’m sure some people would try to call this a lyric essay, as championed in Reality Hunger, Jenny...More
I’ve been under this misguided impression that I’ve read a few things by Lorrie Moore when actually I have read just one novel, a long time ago, during such a hectic period that even my notes conjure up very little to remember it now. While these stories circle around themes of disappointment and regret, there’s still a wry humor and playfulness with language. I like how David Gates put it in...More
The Goldﬁnch has become one of the most talked-about novels I can recall in recent years, especially now, coming oﬀ its Pulitzer win. It’s the most successful, post-9/11 ﬁction where an actual experience of terrorism is portrayed that I’ve read — though since the book suggests that its bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art replaces 9/11 as the major event in NYC...More
Late last year Teju Cole described this as “the most intelligent and most intriguing thing” he’d read in some time. A lyric essay, a memoir of aphorisms: you could get creative in how to describe this, but it reads most like poetry to me. On the surface perhaps the pages are brief and the words...More
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
After reading some rather lackluster ﬁction lately, starting Adichie’s third novel felt similarly rejuvenating to the spring-like days that have arrived as we near the end of a long winter. Centered around high school sweethearts, Ifemelu and Obinze, Americanah traces the start of their relationship and the turn it takes when Ifemelu leaves Nigeria amidst ongoing teacher strikes to...More
Page-turning thrillers aren’t my usual pick, but this one was entertaining and at times hard to put down. The creepiness centers around a ﬁlmmaker who creates horrors so awfully scary, most of them were only released in underground venues (sometimes literally, like screenings in Paris’s catacombs). As the book opens, his daughter is found dead of an apparent suicide. A reporter who was...More