Non-Fiction

  • Giving up the Ghost

    Eric Nuzum

    Image of Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted

    The story behind this book is a bit more interesting that its execution. In his adolescence, Eric Nuzum was haunted by a recurring dream of a girl in a blue dress screaming at him in gibberish, which lead him to numb himself with various substances and fear what may be lurking behind closed doors. Another girl, Laura, in his waking life was crucial in him managing to overcome this downward spiral. But she died tragically, leaving him with a slightly more tangible ghost to contend with.

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  • Swimming Studies

    Leanne Shapton

    Image of Swimming Studies

    The best adjective I’ve seen so far to describe this book is “pointillistic,” as it was described in The New York Times review. Invariably “quietly” will qualify other descriptors, which rightfully suggests it’s a tricky book to recommend to others, especially if you don’t know how it fits in with their usual reading choices.

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  • Blue Nights

    Joan Didion

    Image of Blue Nights

    A few months ago I saw a reference to Didion’s essay “Goodbye to All That” and read it again and remembered that I still hadn’t read this semi-follow-up to The Year of Magical Thinking about her daughter Quintana’s death. While the first book is primarily about grief, this one is focused more on mortality, and, more specifically, Didion facing hers without her daughter.

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  • Good Mail Day

    Jennie Hinchcliff & Carolee Gilligan Wheeler

    Image of Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art

    The news about the USPS a few weeks ago was dire, so I bought some new stamps (I recommend a couple panes of the

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  • Consider the Lobster

    David Foster Wallace

    Image of Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays

    After reading Infinite Jest two years ago, I didn’t become a DFW fanatic, settling instead for a measured respect for a writer who manages to be incredibly brilliant and hilarious at the same time.

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  • Girls to the Front

    Sara Marcus

    Image of Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

    I became aware of riot grrrl late, mostly from a distance through zines and records. I can still conjure some sadness that Huggy Bear actually played a show in northeastern Connecticut, but on a Tuesday night when there was no way I could go. What I experienced influenced me greatly, but I never felt like I was a part of the movement in the political sense. There was a lot that I didn’t know about the origins and history. I’m glad this book exists now, though it doesn’t feel like the “definitive” record it claims to be.

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  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

    James Agee & Walker Evans

    Image of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: The American Classic, in Words and Photographs, of Three Tenant Families in the Deep South

    Words could, I believe, be made to do or to tell anything within human conceit. That is more than can be said of the instruments of any other art. But it must be added of words that they are the most inevitably inaccurate of all mediums of record and communication, and that they come at many of the things which they alone can do by such a Rube Goldberg articulation of frauds, compromises, artful dodges and tenth removes as would fatten any other art into apoplexy if the art were not first shamed out of existence…

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  • True North

    Rebecca Solnit

    Image of True North

    True North was a 2008 exhibition at Deutsche Guggenheim; this catalog is technically not by Rebecca Solnit, but I borrowed it to read her opening essay, “The Needle Points, the Ice Melts: Thoughts Facing North.” Solnit manages a fairly broad survey of the north, framed through Mary Shelley’s Fra

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  • On Photography

    Susan Sontag

    Image of On Photography

    Although photography generates works that can be called art — it requires subjectivity, it can lie, it gives aesthetic pleasure — photography is not, to begin with, an art form at all. Like language, it is a medium in which works of art (among other things) are made. Out of language, one can make scientific discourse, bureaucratic memoranda, love letters, grocery lists, and Balzac’s Paris. Out of photography, one can make passport pictures, weather photographs, pornographic pictures, X-rays, wedding pictures, and Atget’s Paris.

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  • No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4'33"

    Kyle Gann

    Image of No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33" (Icons of America)

    John Cage’s 4'33" is one of the most misunderstood pieces of music ever written and yet, at times, one of the the avant-garde’s best understood as well. Many presume that the piece’s purpose was deliberate provocation, an attempt to insult, or get a reaction from, the audience. For others, though, it was a logical turning point to which other musical developments had inevitably led, and from which new ones would spring.

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