I've fallen behind on the book blogging. Way behind. I don't know when this happened. I'm going to assume around Anna Karenina, because how to put a giant like that in a post that also involves other books?!
And then I was preparing to move, and then I left, and then I was home, and then I moved, and then I was settling in and applying for jobs...et cetera.
Now I am somewhat settled in, although not really because I have to move again by the end of the month and looking for apartments is just like applying for jobs and going on dates, AKA, the worst. But I must get back into book blogging because theoretically I would like to eventually be writing about books for the real internet, and I'd like to have some not nonsense things on my blog about it so I can be like look here, writing, books. (What I am writing right now qualifies as nonsense. This is The Last of the Nonsense.)
Since I feel too guilty to just start writing about books afresh, I'm going to do a summation of all the books I've read in the past six months so they don't go neglected. I think like, a sentence per book. Or less. And after that I'm going to change my format and try to write short posts about every book I read, for the aforementioned reasons, and so that I can remember things better. Yay.
When I am older and all my friends are busy having children, I'm going to use that time to learn math. That's what I decided while reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. I already knew that Nell Zink was a baller from her interview on Lit Up, but it was confirmed by reading Mislaid. My thoughts on not having kids were reaffirmed by Selfish, Shallow, and Self Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to have Kids edited by Meghan Daum. Reading Anna Karenina in the beer room at Hash House on break was hilarious, and oftentimes I'd go back to work confused that I was asking people about how they wanted their eggs instead of trying to understand Russian crop rotation.
I liked the self reflexive / meta nature of Daniel Martin by John Fowles, but I left the book feeling like men, maybe especially British men, get away with a lot in terms of their sentences. Alice Munro is a goddess and Runaway was the first book to inspire my current short story renaissance. Anyone who loves poetry, beautiful language, and books that intersect with current cultural problems (re: racism) should read One with Others by C.D. Wright. Ali Smith's How to Be Both was also self reflexive and meta and British, but I think she surpasses John Fowles because her style rings true instead of overwrought.
If you haven't read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates yet, you're doing it wrong. It's like a hundred pages of bare truth and harsh criticism of our current (and prior) (basically always) state w/r/t race. Nothing I can say can add to the well deserved praise the book is currently receiving. Just read it!
Short Cuts by Raymond Carver was a great, sad intro to a short story writer I'll have to delve more into in the future. New American Stories, edited by Ben Marcus, was a great intro palate of awesome weird short story writers working today and recently. Infinite Home by Kathleen Alcott made me understand the phrase 'MFA novel' but was enjoyable nonetheless. I then took a turn for the depressing with The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. Applications for my next 'depressing environment read' are currently open.
I turned back to some of my old homies with Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace, a posthumous collection of some of his less publicized nonfiction. Then came Purity, and in the words of Emily Gould, if you didn't like it you're a player hater because it was an excellent and enthralling novel. As was Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, which examines the marriage of two eccentric artists in New York. Coincidentally, it is the last book I bought in San Diego, meaning I got it for free with a thing I got from being a frequent buyer at Warwick's, shoutout.
At home I decided to get 'academic' by reading The Wall Street Journal Guide to Wine, which taught me that I am a fool for thinking I can understand wine from reading a book. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri was precise, poignant, and sad, tracing the lives of four humans after a tragic political incident in India.
I'm just going to call a spade a spade and say that the editors of Best American Essays need to step up their game. The 2015 anthology, edited by Ariel Levy, was fine, but fine is not the word I should be using to describe the BEST American Essays! Everything has been downhill since 2012.
My first novel in New York was The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, also set in New York, the story of a young unnamed artist and motorcycle rider who gets to know the city and the humans and has weird affairs and is generally great. I tried to read this book the first time around when I moved to San Diego and didn't like it, and this time I loved it, symbolism, or something. Next came another regional story, though not of this region – Swamplandia! by Karen Russell is set in the swamps of Florida and tells a sad tale of a family who runs a gator amusement park left behind after their diving mother's death. Begins fantastical but becomes a lovely story of lost innocence and accepting real life.
I happened to read A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway a few weeks before the Paris attacks, which made the news all that much sadder (as well as attacks of tragedy all over the world, yes, I know, I think about them all.) But also – F. Scott Fitzgerald was such a brat when they went to retrieve the car! I loved Hemingway's approach to writing about writing, and his own work challenges.
The Best American Short Stories 2015, edited by T. C. Boyle, contained many more gems than BAE 2015 and thus was not a disappointment. I think about one of the included stories, Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken, literally every day and it is my inspiration in writing life. On with the short story love, Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus was weird and awesome and inspiring, especially after meeting him (well, him signing my book, you know, one day I'll meet them for real) at a Pushcart Prize reading. Mary Karr was supposed to be at said reading but was sick, which was tragic but I understand, and I next read her new book The Art of Memoir, which was excellent as always and I'm sure I'll return to it many times in the coming months.
Another disappointing British dude – Norman Rush's Subtle Bodies contained very little emotional nuance for being about death and friendship, and even by the end of the book I didn't understand the differences between several of the main characters. I appreciated the shit out of the collection of Flannery O'Connor short stories I read next, but I don't think she's actually my style. Like I value it so much as literature, but probably not my personal favorite.
Yesterday I finished Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender, another weird and wonderful collection by a currently working writer. Currently I am reading Oblivion, a DFW collection, but I don't think that will be the first book I individually review because I started it in February and am picking up in the middle, so I will count that as my last one here and begin the single entries with whatever I start next. Yay.