I was reminded of a promise I had made to review Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad back in the day, which I mostly intend to do. But before we get started, I should probably explain something.
This was book was not on my to-read list and was instead the last pick of the now-defunct Eastsider’s Book Club. I found the hype around this book to be an instant turn off and as such, I admittedly went into it with a certain amount of prejudice. Add that to reports that it contained an entire chapter written in PowerPoint and the whole thing was almost too precious for the loaded spring of my anti-gimmick trigger to handle. Whether it’s fair or not, as a rule I hold media which carries a mainstream recommendation to a higher standard than say, something more obscure, which conversely I might read with a certain amount of leeway.
What can I say? I can be a horrible elitist snob.
Which brings us back to the novel at hand, a rare bird indeed, which not only lived up to the hype but turned out to be potentially underrated. Friend, this book is fucking amazeballs and I say that completely free of any ironic connotations because it’s just that good and trying to express that sort visceral impact would be impossible in anything more formal than the most colloquial of prose. For example, the aforementioned PowerPoint chapter? It’s not that it’s clever or novel. Instead, it’s the point at which the whole manuscript goes from really good to holy shit this is new and fresh and exciting and I want more. Yes, I know that David Byrne has been writing in PowerPoint for the last decade but he isn’t an quasi-autistic preteen capable of using software platforms to express not concept but emotion.
In the past year, my copy has traveled through multiple time zones and zip codes and back again, resting in the hands of friends I was so determined to read it that I bothered to procure a couple stamps. Do you like music? Do you have or want children? Do you know anyone who has children? Do you like to read – or think for that matter? Have you ever spent time thinking about the past and/or future of music and how future generations could possible relate to something that they will most likely know as digital and compressed?
Here, you should probably read this.
via The NY Times Sunday Book Review:
[Jeffery Eugenides] author of “The Marriage Plot” and “Middlesex” says the best marriage plot novel of all time is Henry James’s “Portrait of a Lady,” because it presents an “anti-marriage” plot. (link)
My year and a half of reader’s block has apparently ceased (not surprisingly coinciding with our nuptials this past June) and I am jumping back into the stacks with a renewed interest in escapism.
Next up is a book that has been sitting patiently on ye olde Kindle for far too long, Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, and I cannot think of a lovelier way to enter into fall than with 200+ pages of literarily acceptable zombie
Also on my radar is this GuardianUK revered novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, who’s synopsis seem to hint at a kinder, gentler and possibly more comprehendible Neal Stephenson. If anyone has beat me to the epilogue on this one, please feel free to share your opinions in the comments.
Until then, my friends, read on!
Please forgive the absence these past few weeks. The whole getting a dog/getting engaged bit really threw a wrench into my reading time.
Model Home is a truly horrible, wonderful novel. Horrible in the sense that when life goes wrong for the Ziller family, it goes terribly, morbidly wrong. And wonderful because of the incredible craftsmanship of the author, equally gifted at creating a poignant plot interwoven with social commentary and full realized characters – characters that have so much depth that each one seems as if they could pull themselves off the written page and live completely outside the realm of the novel. Usually I shy at making a cross-medium references, but if Model Home was developed by HBO, it would fit snuggly into a Sunday night line up somewhere between American Beauty and Six Feet Under. It is eerily famlier and quietly cinematic all at once.
Next up: A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan
Okay, maybe not The Thin Man exactly, but according to this article in The Guardian, 15 previously unpublished short stories by the late, great Dashiell Hammett have been unearthed in Texas.
Hell yes, ya’ll.
Everybody has obstacles to overcome in order to make room for some pleasure reading in their day. Mine just happen to be physical. And persistent.
Language is one of the principal forms our curiosity takes. It makes us restless. As Francis Ponge puts it, “Man is a curious body whose center of gravity is not in himself.” Instead it seems to be located in language, by virtue of which we negotiate our mentalities and the world; off-balance, heavy at the mouth, we are pulled forward.– Lyn Hejinian (via this aforementioned series at This Recording)
Joan Didion on why and how she writes at This Recording
I literally cannot stop reading This Recording. It’s possibly the best arts and cultural periodical since the cave paintings at Lascaux – especially this series on of writers talking about their craft, including Joan Didion (above), Eudora Welty , Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Marguerite Duras, etc, ect… Read at your own risk (and then do it anyway).