Round table on Stone Arabia

Okay, so, okay: more stuff coming, but, and I’m way late on this, but: I took part semi-recently in a super cool round-table discussion of Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta, which is a pretty good book, and I think the conversation was pretty good, too, despite my being in it. It’s over at Reluctant Habits. You can start at part one and then work your way forward. Thanks again to Ed for inviting me to take part and to everybody else for making the discussion so lively and good and all-around spoiling-me-with-regard-to-most-everything-else-I-read-now-in-that-I-wish-I-had-a-collective-to-discuss-with-once-done.

(And aside from that I “finished” The Recognitions which I just need to re-read some day because, huh? And I am halfway through Infinite Jest and love it even though it’s a much darker book the second time through plus ten years. So. More on all this later. Also I’ve got a review that is in the works for mumble mumble about mumble by mumble which I’m excited about because mumble mumble.)

Spoiler alert: it’s really not all like that first chapter…

…our hero realizes (recognizes?) as he reads through the readable, though highly disorienting, second chapter. As Matthew Cheney put it, some time ago:

I enjoyed much of The Recognitions on that first reading, but also knew that I was missing a lot, perhaps even 80% of what the book was up to. For one reason or another, I didn’t mind being lost in the book, though. I was both lost in the book in the traditional sense — engrossed, enchanted, beguiled — and lost in the pedestrian sense: I kept forgetting which character was which and how they related, had no idea for many pages what was going on, and sometimes wondered if English were even a language Gaddis and I shared. Consequently, my memories of The Recognitions are impressionistic, imagistic, and not tied at all to narrative or meaning.


Which, well, yeah. Suddenly we’re in Paris and there’s a lot of French dialogue and a lot of non-linear descriptive about stuff I’ve got little bearing on, and, uh, yeah. Maybe not the best chapter to try to get lost in with an itchy bandaged finger pointing one way and a pre-dinner stomach point another way.

Still, the book keeps coming back to some kind of ground, some entirely relatable, entirely, ah, forgive me, again: recognizable bit of prose. Such as:

He painted at night, and often broke off in a fever at dawn, when the sun came like the light of recovery to the patient just past the crisis of fatal illness, and time the patient became lax, and stretched fingers of minutes and cold limbs of hours into the convalescent resurrection of the day.

– page 69

Which is a strange way to put it, and a strange call-back to the sunrise stuff from the first chapter, but: it’s enough. Enough to move me into the next paragraph, which may or may not be immediately (or less so) get-able.

Smart people books aren’t just for smart people, or shouldn’t be, at least

“Something to keep in mind when you start reading, Gaddis considered this [The Recognitions] a comic novel. Don’t forget to laugh amidst all that erudition and fancy language.”


Which: yes.

Standard disclaimers and apologies aside about infrequent posting, etc etc etc, yadda yadda yadda, full time job, school, recent discovery that I’ve likely been suffering from a sort of frakking eczema the last six months; the usual. That said there’s some cool stuff in the background that is in fact straight up book-related which will be coming around over the next couple months. So that’s fun.

But anyway, back to The Recognitions, by William Gaddis, a book that marks the incredibly fat, incredibly dense mid-point of my reading challenge for the year, a reading challenge I humbly admit to pridefully believing I’d have been all the way through by now. Because ambitious goals for unrealistic times, right? Anyway, no, still here, still reading, slowly, occasionally, but, with something like something to show for it. Or so.

Anyways. The Recognitions, I’d like to blog about this one a bit more, because I think I once said I would; give me about a month and I might have more time to make good on this promise. I’m going to at least in good faith start by saying I’ll admit to actually knowing terribly little about Gaddis or his works, other than, they’re big books by a white male protopostmodernist, which is fancy talk for shit people brag about reading cuz nobody actually does. Except me and some other people along the way I guess.

The thing about some of these “great books” people don’t actually read because why would you bother reading this “great books” is that they can actually also just be good books. See also, War and Peace. See also, Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, a book I just now noticed I completely missed blogging about, even though it was awesome and made for a really phenomenal follow-up read to War and Peace. These books, many other books, whatever, you get past the professor talk and snobby attitudes and bad raps, and they’re still books written by people for people. Which sounds a little kumbaya, sure, but.

But, so: I’m one chapter into The Recognitions so it’s too soon to declare the book great or good, but what I can say I’ve found in the first sixty pages that I didn’t expect to find has been a lightness of tone, of that modernist sort, that makes me really glad I’ve got some John Barth lined up for later in my reading list this year, because I think there’s going to be some nice call-and-echo action there. I was going to say it avoids slapstick, but then, here, the quote I find for an example of that deft lightness of humor:

—It looks fine, it still looks fine, the Town Carpenter said now, backing into a chair stacked with paintings and sketches and knocking the whole thing over, which immediately put him at his ease by giving him something to do.

– page 52

Which, yes! That’s awesome. Or, another line that had me laugh out loud, as out main character

…was taken with a fever which burned him down to seventy-nine pounds. In this refined state he was exhibited to medical students in the amphitheater of a highly endowed hospital. They found it a very interesting case, and said so. In fact they said very little else.

– page 41

Which, again, yes! That’s awesome. And also tells you most all you need to know about the doctors coming up; and also those delicious, loaded words, burned and refined, exhibited and endowed

Bottom line being, while I’m sure the remainder of this book will not be “easy,” there likely being a reason Jonathan Franzen (oh, Jonathan Franzen) dubbed it “the most difficult book [he] ever voluntarily read in its entirety,” (which, yes, Jonathan Franzen, but whatever), what I can safely say is that it has a pretty stellar self-contained opening chapter, a sixty-page coming-of-age story that I’d rank up there with any other coming of age story you might toss out there. Which, okay, coming of age is about the most difficult thing there is, in some ways, but…still, it’s at least slightly relatable, no?

Because I needed a way to make The Instructions feel like a short beach read I went ahead and read War and Peace and it was good

Things went from “I’m busy and then I’m lazy when I’m not busy” to “wow I’m really completely busy” to “well I guess I’m busy but now I’m also mostly lazy since I know I’m just going to be busy again soon” so I haven’t properly post-mortem’ed my reading of War and Peace, a book that I read somewhere in there between the being busy and the being lazy. Here goes.

First, the great thing about War and Peace, is that when you’re not reading a lot, or you’re not reading as much as you might like I should say, because you are being too busy and/or lazy to read as much as is proper, when you’re sitting there thinking you’re way under-read for the year, you can look up at your pile of books you’ve read in the current calendar year, and you can see War and Peace sitting there, and you can say, well, I read War and Peace. I did that thing nobody really does. Even though I was busy! Even though I was lazy! And you can pat yourself on the back, because guess what: you win. You read War and Peace. You are a better person than you were a few short months earlier.

Second, the other great thing about War and Peace, is that War and Peace is actually really great. It’s a really great book. The question people who have not read War and Peace will ask you is, is it worth it? Is it worth reading this book everybody talks about and nobody actually reads? And then when you’ve read it you can answer that yes, actually, it is a great book, and it is worth it, and when you’re done, you’ll sort of wish it was longer, because it sort of felt short. As short as a 1200+ page novel can feel, at least.

See, here’s the thing they don’t tell you when they tell you that War and Peace is this great book that nobody reads: War and Peace is a great book that is entirely readable. At least, in the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation, the one I read, it was entirely readable. On a basic human activity level, fundamentally, as a thing that a person has to sit with and doWar and Peace is readable prose; it is story with characters and plots and digressions and you don’t need a doctorate in doctorology to make your way through the thing. Because it’s great literature doesn’t mean it isn’t funny and sad and moving. It is a book. I enjoyed engaging with it.

It is, of course, however, still a long novel, as will most every novel I’ll read between now and likely the end of this year be; it is true that a cup of coffee will help propel you through the pages at a bit more steady of a clip, and you’re going to hit points when you realize you’ve read four books worth of text before you’ve even hit the halfway point. But then you keep going and weeks or months later you finish and you feel good for doing so because it was enjoyable far more often than it was not.

Which probably all seems like a shallow read of the book and I admit, perhaps it is. Perhaps I did not read this book like a blogger looking for a scoop or like a student looking for a paper topic or like a reviewer looking for a lede. Perhaps the next time–because I believe there will in fact be a next time!–I read War and Peace I’ll read it with a few extra hats on and a few more pairs of glasses and I’ll drink the coffee straight from the pot. But here, now, I’m please to submit a defense of War and Peace as a book that can be read purely for the pleasure of reading the book even when there’s a lot of other things going on in your life and that it works just fine for that purpose. In evidence of my defense I submit myself. Case closed!

Also I think the book changed how I view history, at least a little bit. Well. So. There’s that, too.

Freedom from Freedom

Okay, maybe I’m not done thinking about Freedom yet, end-of-year forgiveness aside, because I read this article, and it’s by Bret Easton Ellis about Charlie Sheen, which, I know, I know, but it’s actually interesting and makes some points, and as a toss-off comment there’s this bit about how it’s totally “Empire,” whatever that means, to not like Freedom because one finds the characters “unlikable.” Which—–aside from the fact that I’m not sure what the “Post-Empire” way of not liking or liking Freedom would be, and aside from the fact that this point feels shoehorned into an otherwise fairly well constructed list of this-that’s—is a statement I kind of agree with (said reasoning being Empire) even as I disagree with the plainspoken assumption that the book is great and you’re a dick if you think otherwise.

Because I get it. Got it. A little bit. Freedom, freedom, we’re all free. Ride our machines. Act like ninnies. Great. Good point. And I still didn’t like it. But: it had nothing to do with the fact that I found the characters unlikable. I loved the aspect of the book, when you get down to it. I loved that essentially each and every character in the book was a jerk in their own special jerk-like ways. None of them were unredeemable jerks; I liked American Psycho just fine and that book is nothing but unredeemable jerk-ness. (Right?) Frankly, I say: bring on the jerks. Let’s get more books about characters I personally hate, characters I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with at a cocktail party, characters I’d rather dissolve into the margins to escape from than spend time with in the text. Bring on the boors!

What I didn’t like about the book were the fundamental aesthetics of the thing: it was long and drawn out and chunky and clunky and gratingly predictable and inherently sort of dull. It wasn’t good story. And it didn’t offer enough else aesthetically to make up for the fact that nothing really interesting happened. I’m nearly finished with War and Peace, a book over twice the length of Freedom, a book which, frankly, has moved more in the two or three hundred pages I’ve just read than Freedom did across its entire length. I really loved The Corrections when I read it a couple years back and I plan to read it again someday and it’s highly possible I’ll read that book and realize it was everything I just said Freedom was, which is sad, maybe; I do seem to recall that The Corrections featured a cast of miserable, deluded jerks, itself. It’s also possible I’ll love The Corrections again the next time I read it and it’s also possible I’ll give Freedom another go some day and it will click better for me the next time through; the opening two hundred pages or so seemed pretty solid, I think, right? From what I recall? I don’t know.

Point being, you’re perfectly free to like or not like Freedom because or despite the characters were all wackadoodle. I liked the jerks—I just wish they’d been given a better story to tool about in.

(Matt linked to the original article, by the way, so blame him for the above mess. Personally. (We’re all on a first name basis here on the Internet now, right?))

Still alive, sans cake

I’m almost–almost!–half way through War and Peace. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve, you know, said hi, here. I’m also about halfway through a semester’s worth of a drawing class. I’m at the beginning of some other cool things that are starting up that I hope to be able to share with you in the not so distant future. I’m really–really!–working my way around to the redesign of this blog I’ve been threatening for an age and that might even motivate me to stop wasting time on Twitter and start wasting my time back over here again, because, really, Twitter? Really? Of course I say all this as I am also dangerously close to complete domination of the game Lumines on the PS3; having just finally beat the Dig Down mode for the first time earlier this week, I can say that there’s only a few more things left for me to do in the game before I can claim I am the greatest Lumines player of all time. Seriously, though, I’ve logged almost as much time in this game as one might for a small-ish RPG. It was a thing for a long time and then I got off the thing and now I’m back on the thing. It’s intense. Yeah.

Yeah. But I’m also still thinking about that long list of long books I want to read this year and the road through them leads through the rest of War and Peace which yes is long and sometimes slow and certainly Russian and all that but it’s also engaging and moving and question-raising and funny and all sorts of things people want in books they want to read. I’m glad I’m taking my time with it but I’m also wishing I was taking more time with it, like, on a regular basis. But, other stuff, and such. Long and short of it being that I remain an absolutely terrible person from whom to receive book recommendations right now, if not for the foreseeable future. Like, oh yeah, well, I’m reading this little book, guy you might have heard of. Tolstoy? And again in a month or two from now?

Anyways, Twitter still happens, and I’ve been posting dribs and drabs of my drawing work over on Tumblr, if you’re inclined toward that stuff. And then this place is either going to disappear in the night in complete shame or it’s going to finally be the place where I figure out how to talk about merging all these various things I’ve been thinging lately or it’s just going to keep on going with the apologies and the silence and really whichever option is probably okay, no? Yes? Does anybody even use blogs anymore? The future is so 2007, isn’t it?

Initial final reaction to The Instructions by Adam Levin: or, that really certainly was one way to start the year

As if there could be such a thing as an initial final reaction to a book I’ve been reacting to steadily for the last two straight weeks: the dust has barely settled on the cover of my copy of The Instructions by Adam Levin and I know there’s conversation set to happen at some point at Counterbalance and so I’m going to try not to blow all my best material here (the bestness of my material being, as always, intra-comparative as opposed to extra-comparative) but I don’t think any of that should halt me from at least tentatively suggesting that this thousand page McSweeney’s title is essentially a good book, a better than good book, a book that no one’s taste could be cast into doubt for considering it a “great” book (“greatness” here being a relatively internal-relative concept, the book potentially being great in itself without attempting to necessarily draw direct comparisons to other “great works of literature,” though it certainly wants that, wants to be taken seriously on that level, a modern day classic in the self-making, as it were), though, personally, I might stop shy (at least for now) of affixing (any sort of) “greatness” to it, in that the dust is still settling and I’m still reacting, still reactive, still a bit taken off guard by how much I did, in fact, like this book (being quite a bit), and, well, the time of judging is no time to cast judgment. Or I’m just a puss. I don’t know. All of which said (and there being much more yet to be said, and I hope as much of it gets said as possible) my main point for now is this: if it’s the kind of book you think you might be interested in reading, then, well, it’s a book that is largely worth reading. I couldn’t fault you for not wanting to read it, or just for falling off onto the wrong side of the fence; lacking the particular nudge I received this time, I’d really rather have likely opted not to read it any time soon, just, because, well, things, but, here I am, and I read it now rather than later, and, in the end, the beginning of the rest of the life I’ll lead after I’ve read this thousand page McSweeeney’s title (a reference I drop again so I can at least tentatively admit that this book is no The Children’s Hospital though that’s a fine thing for it not to be because The Children’s Hospital was a brutal book that broke parts of my brain and heart and I couldn’t have standed to have gone through that again just yet, but, still, yet, this book, The Instructions, it works in a similar sort of sphere as The Children’s Hospital which kind of points the way toward McSweeney’s being a focal point for interesting contemporary literature about fucked-up religious things, which is, you know, cool by me), I can say that I’m glad I read this book now, and, someday, I might read it again, which, I think, is saying something.

Y2K11: So It Begins

Hey! 2010. That happened. It did. And now it’s done. I forgive it for being done! It had to happen eventually. And on this last day of my winter vacation, the day devoted to drinking a strong pot of coffee before nervously spending the rest of the day crying myself to sleep in anticipation of having to wake up before 4 pm tomorrow and, like, having to actually shower and shave for the first time since 2010, I’m really officially ready to forgive myself all the posts I didn’t get to finish. Goodbye, unwritten posts! Goodbye, incomplete thoughts! May you rest in heaven with the angels now. Yet that said I’m not quite prepared to make incredible promises about the year to come. I mean, posting wise. My TBR pile for the year is already huge. I’ve made some of those promises to myself, a big stack of fat novels I want to finally get through, a couple classics I want to re-read, stuff that will stand as the backbone of the reading year. And while I’d like to say I’m going to post about them a bit more frequently, these books, yeah, maybe not. School is still happening. I’ve been through enough optimistic beginning-of-semester stretches by this point to realize my belief that I’m going to finally crack the knack of cramming two hours into one is probably an ill-founded one. I can say I’d like to keep trying, that’s something, right? Yes? No. It’s not. But.

What I can say is I do plan on doing another handful of reviews this year, so long as the fine folks out there who let me write for them continue to let me write for them. So that’s fun. I like doing reviews. I mean, in the sense that I like getting dental work done, right after I’ve had the work done, and I can go home and eat a bunch of pudding and be like, well, that was a good thing I did. (I kid. I mean, reviews are hard. But fun hard.) And I’m currently reading The Instructions by Adam Levin, because nothing says “starting the year off with a thousand page novel” like actually starting the year with a thousand page novel. There’s a planned discussion set to begin sometime later this month over at Counterbalance, which I would link to but the Internet seems to be crying itself to sleep along with me today, so, you know, maybe later. I really wasn’t planning on reading the book any time soon, there being enough other thousand page novels on my shelves to last me a lifetime, but, I guess it did seem like a good warm-up for the year? Maybe? I don’t know. We’ll see. The first chapter was pretty good. Good. Good enough. I will read more of it.

If you’re interested, other books I’ve got lined up to read this year include:

  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It’s been ten years since I first read the book, which, just thinking about that fact, makes me sort of want to vomit. And not sort of but more like definitely. But I’ve been saying ever since that I ought to re-read it and a ten-year re-read seems like the relatively arbitrary but oddly motivating way to go about doing so. Plus, I would personally rather re-read Infinite Jest than begin to tackle The Pale King, the pieces-parts draft of his final novel that’s set to come out this year. I mean no offense to anybody who will be reading King this year, of course. Someday I imagine I will. Right now though, I’m not ready to confront the partial final remnant of a partial life.
  • Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon. It has been a little over two years since I read this book, which in a personal lifetime sense is actually not that long, and which in an Internet timeline sense is about a billion years, and which in a Thomas Pynchon sense is a fractally long time (since he has actually published another book since Day came out), but, but, I’ve been yearning to re-read it ever since, and now, this year, I am going to. Probably. I have such a positive memory of reading the book that I think I need to see for myself if it was good in a just a one-off sense or if it could be the classic I think it was. Is. Plus I’m pretty out of touch with literary culture as a whole, I mean, in the sense that as someone who, having done the blogging thing on and off for a while and the reviewing thing for a little bit now probably “ought” to know a thing or two about the literary culture, but, that said, saying that I have little to no right to actually say this sort of thing, I will still say that I kind of get the sense that everyone sort of got “done” with this book already? Maybe? Like it came out and those who read it did and now it’s left for the nerds like me to think kind thoughts about it? Or something? Like, blah blah blah, obsessed with the new, high turnover, etc etc etc. Something. Modern culture, you fickle 140 character mistress. Point being, I’d like to read it again and try to talk about it some more because I think it probably remains an excellent book that people should keep reading and talking about.
  • The Recognitions by William Gaddis. My word. I’ve picked this book up a hundred times and read a paragraph or two and then I’ve put it down and then I’ve picked up something else that is made of candy, comparatively, because I’ve never felt ready to eat steak wrapped in steak on a plate of steak. This year: steak.
  • Giles Goat-Boy by John Barth. Barth is one of those authors whose entire oeuvre I’ve been planning to work through for quite some time now. I last left off with The Sot-Weed Factor in 2007, a book which mostly consumed me for a while, and now I think I’m ready to get back into the Barth groove. I mean, it will be a different sort of groove, of course–a Cold War groove, a groove I can dig. (Though to be fair this was actually the first Barth book I ever picked up and I’d started it well before I did The Floating Opera or The End of the Road but which I dropped for whatever reason made sense at the time. Here’s to fresh starts.)
  • Warlock by Oakley Hall. This is, yes, the shortest book on the pile for the year. (So far. This is hardly an all-inclusive list of books for the year. Like, yes, there will be some review titles, and yes, there will be some very short books, and yes, there will be books by women. Pinkie swear.) It’s a book I’d picked up randomly because, hey, NYRB books equal good fun. Then I reviewed this really good debut novel by Grace Krilanovich called The Orange Eats Creeps. It’s a book that has received a really gratifying amount of buzz–it’s nice to see something so weird and fun and “uh!” get so much attention. That attention included a stop by Krilanovich at Codex in which she discussed five books she’d recently read, one of which was Warlock. I don’t normally dip into the “western” genre, but that bit of serendipitous timing, coupled with the up-front blurb on the book cover by Thomas Pynchon, equals a sold me.
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I hear this book is okay. I think it made a lot of year-end blog lists in 1869?
  • Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. Speaking of really huge Russian novels. This is a recent acquisition–the kind of fat book that draws the eye then hooks into it with that little NYRB bubble on the spine before devouring it whole with its back-cover description. A WWII novel submitted for publication in 1959, summarily censored, and later smuggled out of Soviet Russia and published in the U.S. in 1980, I’m kind of imagining this is going to make for an interesting paring with War and Peace. Hunches.

All of which seems like a bloody lot of book to read in a year, and it is, especially when I plan on taking a drawing class in the spring because I have a strange desire to feel humiliated to pieces on a twice-weekly basis and an independent study in the fall because I have a strange desire to do an absolute shit-ton of crazy-work for four months, and what with the day job and all, but, at least, when physically measured with hands and fingers, this pile only measures up to half the stack of the 2010 pile, which, admittedly, was smaller than it probably ought to have been, since I got lazy on occasion in 2010. (And The Instructions is way bloody fattier than it needs to be. I think the thing is bound with a used-up Slinky.) So, you know, plenty of time for the other things I plan to read and then fail to talk about as much as I should, except for those books which I will very much talk about almost as much as they deserve, including books slated to come out this year, some of which you fill find in a list at The Millions and in a list at Reading is Breathing and in a list at Conversational Reading. (So, yes, publisher-type people: I still want to know about books you think I might want to review that might be up my alley. Drop me a line. I’ve had the most fun with reviews when I’ve picked up a book, started it, and then felt compelled to find a place to make me write about it.) Plus I might actually catch up on books from 2010 that I never got around to. (I’m looking at you, The Passage and Skippy Dies, you also not-skinny novels.)

Also I am vaguely planning other things that may begin to fold in my interest in design and visual communication work. Here’s to seeing.

New Review at The Quarterly Conversation: Stephen Dixon, What Is All This?

The Winter 2011 (2011?) Quarterly Conversation is live. It includes my review of What Is All This?, the new Stephen Dixon short story collection. The review begins sort of like this, though you’ll have to go over there to see the footnotes (footnotes?):

What Is All This? is a potent, refreshing collection of previously uncollected short stories by Stephen Dixon. Though the music world might label this an “odds-and-sods” collection, this volume cannot be dismissed so lightly. This? is a book that reminds us fans why we enjoy Dixon’s writing and gives inquiring neophytes an excellent opportunity to sample the kinds of things he has gotten up to over the last five decades.

Any attempt to sum up Dixon as a writer would be a fool’s quest. So, allow me: he uses male narrators and a lot of dialogue and limited description and down-to-earth language, except when he doesn’t. His language can be transparent, translucent, opaque. His sentences can last for pages; three words alone can knock you out of your chair. He avoids grand statements and shuns the workshopped sheen of the parabolic arc, preferring instead straight lines or scribbles, action that bleeds off the edges or compresses all into boxes of black ink. Sometimes he shatters frames and builds new things from the slivers. Sometimes, his stories are simply stories. To put his work in context, the back flap author bio has it that Dixon grew up reading Joyce, Hemingway, and Kafka. Fair enough: his work reads like each filtered through the rest.

Also, timing is everything, I suppose? The December 2010 issue of Bookslut includes a lengthy, excellent interview with Stephen Dixon (not by me). The money quote comes down at the bottom and gives me the chills:

You have been working on a novel, His Wife Leaves Him, for the last four to five years. How would you best describe the scope and scale of this epic length work-in-progress?

I’m not quite sure. It’s definitely my most emotional work as well as, perhaps, being my funniest. It might also be my most adventurous structurally, and also the cleanest and clearest writing I’ve ever done. It’s also my most elegiac. I’ve never been so satisfied with a work, which is why it’s so difficult to complete. I don’t want to let it go, but it’s told me recently I have to — that I’ve come to the perfect finish — and anything beyond what I’ve planned as the ending will hurt the book.

Today’s November 15. I’d say that by December 1, the novel will be done. It won’t reach 900 pages, but it’ll be close.

Uhm. Yes. Please.

Aw heck

And for my next trick, I’ll be teaching a master class in how not to blog.

Anyway, I’m avoiding another project right now, long enough to say that I read all those books I said I was going to read, and I haven’t said much of anything because if you don’t have anything nice to say, avoid blogging about it for two months? Well, not that I have nothing nice to say, more like, I have nice things to say, but I mostly have not nice things to say, and I didn’t really think anyone would mind if I opted not to rant off like a total jerkface for a while. Because do you really need a long post by some guy with a blog talking about how he’s sort of not that crazy about Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and about how he pretty much completely disliked Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas, a book that may have single handedly killed all joy our humble narrator may have once taken in self-indulgent meta-fiction? Both of which are true things I could say about my recent reading experiences? Yeah, things got a little dark and despair-ridden there, so, you know, best to duck and cover until the nuclear wave of ugh passed by. Or something. How does this work again?

I do still have some good books I want to talk about before the year is up, like Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy, which, do us both a favor and just read it and help me avoid the embarrassment of not having told you to read it sooner, yes? And other books from this year. And stuff.

And, uh, yeah. I’ve also got a review coming out sometime soon. That’s for a book I liked. Get excited.

Plus, you know. Dostoevsky.