Tuesday, January 30, 2007

old friends

Today I got a package in the mail, well, I got three, but there was one that was a surprise.

Underneath the brown paper wrapper marked "better late than never" was Diners of Pennsylvania by Brian Butko and Kevin Patrick. Butko!

It was from an old friend that I rarely talk to now. That makes me sad. It was nice to get this in the mail, a piece of our shared past, the book we never wrote. I just flipped through it and I saw many familiar stainless steel facades and many more that will remain fantasy.

Thanks Ray.

Robinson by Muriel Spark

Okay, so I said that 2006 was a great reading year, but so far 2007 is kicking ass. Robinson was a great book to start with. Robinson is a great book full stop. Because it came after of the amazing The Comforters, a first novel envied even by me, a person with no ability or desire to write fiction, I expected something fitting Muriel Spark’s gift, but maybe not-so-good, a space filler in a long and distinguished career. I came away from Robinson totally sated, wishing I could reread this again for the first time.

“I feel that we were all unwelcome on the island. The emergency is over.”
The book opens with a map of a place that does not exist, including places such as “Burial Ground,” “The Furnace,” and “Secret Tunnels” in the key. Is there a better way to immediately suck a reader in? The map is of the island of Robinson, a small, privately owned island where a plane crash-lands, leaving only three survivors. One is our heroine, January, who at the advice of the enigmatic and stern island owner, Robinson, keeps a journal of her time on the island, waiting for the pomegranate boat that is sure to arrive in a few months, bringing itinerant workers and a manner of civilization. He urges her to “keep to the facts, that will be the healthiest course,” a constriction that Spark goes wild with. Well, wild in her quiet, powerful, British way.

The book is a first person retelling of January’s time on the island and weaves in effortless detail about her life before and after that J sneaks up on you—pop! — as a fully formed character. Passages from her island journal litter the narrative to provide support to J’s later claims, or to give urgency to a story that, to J, increasingly seems like a dream. January is a converted Catholic with a sense of humor (as many of Spark’s main characters are), has two sisters and two brothers-in-law, one son and a wild past. Her pre-island present, which was much monitored by one disagreeable BIL, is sketched this way: “And when I tell you that I have another category of acquaintance, certain dry-eyed poets and drifters dear to my heart, you may see the extent of my temptation in the matter of accepting Jimmie.” So dry, somebody get me a brandy! The other characters pop and crackle their way into existence with Spark’s delicious sentences and major flashback skillz. All these gifts are evident in Spark’s later novels, especially Momento Mori. Check it out…

One very realistic touch that I love is January’s fear of becoming too close to the other islanders. She feels that if she cares too much or gathers too much information about these people, they will become real and therefore cancel out her life before the island and, perhaps, extinguish her life after. This feeling is so near-sighted that Spark’s attention to it and emphasis on it shows just how far she got into January, and how fully she imagined the situation. No sketchy details here.

There is also a short primer on how to teach a cat to play ping-pong: “You play it close to the ground, and you imagine the net.”

“And sometimes when I am walking down King’s Road or sipping my espresso in the morning—feeling, not old exactly, but fusty and adult—and chance to remember the island, immediately all things are possible.”

I may be woozy from too much tea, or happily blinded by the afternoon sun, but I think this book is perfect.

Friday, January 26, 2007

I think I managed to convince the temp agency people that I am not a stinky misanthrope with club hands and poor dental hygiene. Since that is what I planned to accomplish today, I feel at ease and ready to tackle the two writing projects I have to finish in the next few days. If anyone knows of jobs that aren't overly concerned with words per minute, drop me an email.

Distractingly, I am reading Half Life by Shelley Jackson. I am loving it, especially when she zooms in on detals of the characters lives, like partial lists of their bookshelves' contents and press releases from aggressive factions of the siamese twin subculture she has modeled on San Francisco gay culture. Was that a spoiler?

So far, I would recommend HL to anyone who is horny for details or just wants to read more fiction (Matt S, I am looking at you) because HL feels like truth so far.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A few nights ago, B and I were talking about our favorite money. I said I'd like to have all my money in 10-dollar bills, two-dollar bills, dollar coins and dimes. I also said that I used to like the fives, but the new notes leave me wanting. That’s a surprise since Abraham Lincoln is my favorite old timey guy, not because of the Emancipation Proclamation, or the tall hat or the beard, but because of Lincoln’s beautiful writing and his relative openness in writing about his melancholy, the old timey, flowery name for depression.

Depression stops a person from being a person. It is hard to write about. Recently, I heard about a book called Against Depression and another called The Noonday Demon and another by an old media guy/politician/something important (I can’t quite remember); all these book are about depression in some way and are, by most accounts, good writing. When I heard about them, I felt a strong, strong urge to read them, to hear my story told by someone “important,” to be validated. “Look person-I-care-about, this is what is wrong with me. It is real. This is what it is like.”

At the same time, I felt (feel) ambivalence toward reading something that might, to my mind, misrepresent me. I also feel fear about reading something that could drag me down and destabilize my generally tenuous well being, even just for a short time. I don’t want any more lost days.


Perhaps it is the time to give it a try, if only in the spirit of fulfilling my 2007 goal to read more nonfiction.

All these thoughts started swirlin after reading this amazing post, via Dooce. Go read it. Dervala, thank you for your eloquence.

Monday, January 22, 2007

For Francis

So now that I have finally completed the reviews for 2006 in my own unfocused and slipshod way, I can lecture you about the environment. Because of the glitter of YouTube fame, sludgie is on hiatus, so I am without my daily dose of enviro-anger n laffs, so I will have to cobble together my own helpful and haranguing hippie post. Beware of the smell!

A few nights ago I had a dream about my recently purchased outdoor composter. Yes, kids, I spent money on a trashcan with holes in it, shaming my DIY ethos and self-proclaimed resourcefulness. If you live in the NYC and have proof, you too can get an outdoor composter at a discounted price and tips on how to start it (fall is the time) from these folks. For more composting events, lookie here.

Now you are saying, Carrie, my apartment is fucking tiny and my life is a miserable wreck! How could I possibly set aside space and time to compost? This is what I say to you: stop yer bitchin.


If you are a successful businessperson who has much dry cleaning each week, or just look like one, this service journalism is for you:

How to make intriguing, City-accepted Giant Waste Candies for the Rich and/ or Classy.

Want to delight the trashmen and assuage your conscience by rocking the recycle, reduce, reuse trio? Well, avoid buying expensive and annoying clear recycling bags by using your old dry-cleaning sheaths as bags for your cans of caviar, shredded financial documents and Crystal bottles.

Step one: retrieve your dry cleaning and marvel at how sexy you look in pressed pants.
Step two: put on some crisp duds, and remove the plastic from the hangers. Set hangers aside for eventual return to the dry cleaners or to give away on freecycle.
Step 3: in a swift motion befitting of your breeding and social station, tie the hanger end of the sheath in a simple knot, as close to the bottom as you can.
Step 4: fill the newly created bag with sorted recyclables ¾ of the way to the top.
Step 5: tie off the end and take to the curb on your appointed pick up days.What you will have now should look like a giant hard candy.
Step 6: emit a jaunty chuckle at how easy it is to be fabulous AND green.
Step 7: mentally chastise yourself for saying fabulous, even though it wasn’t out loud.


Those wonderful freecycle nyc folks are having another live event in Feburary. Here’s the trunacated announcement text:


Saturday, February 3, 2007
11am - 4pm
at the Harlem YMCA(in the Little Theatre)
180 West 135th Street at 7th Ave.
New York, NY 10030

Bring your reusable items and take that which you can
use. You don't need to bring anything to take anything
(though a tote bag might help).

Leftover items will be donated to local charities to
the extent possible.

*Come early if you’re dropping things off (before
3pm). Please bring portable items only. Log on to to find new homes for furniture and
other heavy items.

These events are always fun. Just go. Sadly, I will be out of town…

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet

For someone who likes her so much, I sure have been a jerk to Lydia Millet on this blog. First, I called her Linda for a while, and then I dropped the “Oh” from this here book I have been touting for a few months. I am sorry Lydia. There is no excuse for such poor publish- button control.

If you read the internet, then you know that OPRH is about what happens when physicists Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard reappear in the mortal coil circa 2003 in the exact places they were when the first atom bomb test clouded the skies of New Mexico in 1945. What you may not know is that this event was dreamt before it happened by a woman named Ann when she was laying next to her devoted husband Ben in a cozy martial bed in sunny Santa Fe.

OPRH is really Ann and Ben’s story, or at least it seems Millet wants it to be. Ann becomes obsessed with the reanimated physicists and develops a relationship with the three that flirts with the maternal, the devotional and the romantic. Ben gets left behind many times in this book and is fully aware of his desertion, and Millet gives us enough of him as a character that it matters. Watching the two work within their changing relationship is interesting even when we know what is going to happen, even when Ann is annoying and Ben is annoying, even when the moral (wrong word) of the book threatens to overwhelm. Their story is one of passion and compromise, as well as a thoughtful meditation on marriage. I didn’t quite expect to be thinking about them after I finished the book, but I have been, or at least I have been thinking about the effects of external forces on relationships, which sounds boring, but isn’t.

The physicists are roundly imagined by Millet and as each becomes less a ghost and more a force in today’s world, their presence takes over the book, and in Oppenhiemer’s case, we are let into the thoughts and feelings of an impossible being. Leo Szilard is an amazing character, so keenly observed, even in his scheming, lonely foulness, that I can almost imagine the dead man chuckling in his grave.

The three physicists live out a perverted version (but maybe an increasingly common one) of the American dream. First they get the fame, then they get the money, then they become a plague, then they became puppets and then—nothing. They are forgotten again, after a cruel murder by the supporters who came to control them. Millet creates a whole world of characters in the physicists followers, Ben’s landscaping clients, Ann’s library patrons, each with a back story that teases and tugs, each a mirror of America’s fringe and mass. As she showed in George Bush: Dark Prince of Love, Millet has a strong grasp of politics and history, and she is angry. OPRH is full of facts, culled from what must have been a total immersion in the world after 1945 and an obvious, but not repugnant in that, agenda. Orwellian, even. That’s right, I said it! What I liked about this was that it sent my mind creeping around my memory of books read and history learned; when I came up short, a desire was kindled in me to do some biography reading continue my limping quest to learn all that I didn’t in school. I have been doodling around the WWII era for quite a few years (briefly sidetracked by an interest colonial America) with the Chinese lady Communists, and the code breakers and the spaceship SF, and now I want to know more about the science.

OPRH may be big, but each page rejects chunky text blocks. There is tons of dialogue, lists and font-based interruption of the narrative. For me, a little of this goes a long way, and sometimes my eye got tired navigating the jumps and underscores to get to the words. This book also suffers from what I call the “one paragraph punch in the face.” Perhaps because the book is so dense, or maybe because of the desire for textual interruption, there are approximately one zillion one sentence paragraphs of power. It stops working, sadly, and I began, instead of taking that sentence as important and deserving of extra consideration, to be pulled out of the story and annoyed. Punch, punch, dodge.

Overall, Millet has seen what I have seen, but instead of stewing and feeling impotent, she wrote an awesome, smart, imperfect, hurtling SF book that more people should read. I can’t get over how insightful she is, and how her imagination made this impossible story so terrifyingly urgent.


Bye bye 2006.

Fun for $5

Tomorrow there is going to be a show here with both comics and comics. See what I am saying?

Sounds fun.

via Journalista.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Only one more book to finish writing about and I will have finally rounded up 2006's list. Right now I can't seem to focus on the fantasticness of Pure and Radiant Heart; I am thinking of other things.

Things like:
_ I never knew that Prince had a son, a son that died in infancy, until this weekend. Poor Prince. Also the new ruined music stories are pretty good.

_ Scrabble is such a fun game. Why don't I know anyone who likes to play as much as I do? I am very out of practice now. Sometimes B beats me and I think bad things about him. That can't be good.

_ It is too wet to paint, no matter how much I want to finish the kitchen and bathroom. No. No! It is too wet.

_ I recently went home and visited some of my old books. Between the two of us, my brother and I amassed a giant collection of really bad SF and horror books. With the addition of my mom's mystery paperbacks, my old bedroom looks a lot like a confused baby goth's library.

_ Which brings me to my hair. It looks more and more like a teen rebellion gone bad, but oh so good. Fuck you Dad! I'm going to hang out behind the WaWa and you can't stop me!

_ Got some tiny projects in the works. Hope they turn out.

How are you?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"All the people who borrow my books and don't return them don't even read my blog. Note to those people: Fuck you, you fuckers!"

I feel you Doppelganger.

My trick is just to have a really bad memory so I never remember which books I own, which I got from the library, which were loaned to me and which I loaned out. If someone reminds me that I have a book of theirs, I certainly give it back and if I do remember that you left my life with one of my books, well then, a pox on you!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Right now I am reading Stiff by Mary Roach and really loving it. The downside to that is that I keep reading it then deciding to take a nap, causing disorienting dreams and not a lot to talk to my boyfriend's parent about since cadavers are on my mind.

Yay for nonfiction. Up next is a quasi-academic take on the ladies in the scifi which I have had around for awhile. I got a strong urge to read it a couple of days ago. Maybe it will come back.

Two Girls, Fat and Thin by Mary Gaitskill

Oh how I wish I could have kept this book out longer so that I could have quoted some of the fabulous sentences that made this story of the ramifications of sexual abuse, body image, sex and friendship so nasty and so subtly moving. Since I couldn’t, I will do my best to make you understand with my own words.

TGFT is about two women who meet by chance as interviewer and interviewee. Also one is fat (Dorothy) and the other is thin (Justine). Also they both were victims of childhood sexual abuse, Dorothy continually by her father, Justine in an isolated incident with a family friend. Now they are grown up and Justine is a freelance journalist in her spare time. She is writing an article about a female guru (the mother of “Definitism”, basically Ayn Rand in a purple cape) and meets Dorothy through an ad in a laundromat looking for sources that were close to the guru. The two paths that their lives took before meeting and how their lives changed after are the focus of TGFT, though the latter part is really never quite fleshed out and left as a tantalizing what if. Will they heal each other or just act out the betrayal that marks their past?

Gaitskill is adept at spinning out creepy situations that hook you; by placing utterly visceral images in scenes of, oh let’s say, violent S&M sex, that compel you to remember (and admire her craft) in spots that many people would be embarrassed to admit they paid attention to. She talks about “holes.” She brings the reader into a world of women that is dark, angry and pained in a way that doesn’t call attention to itself, but is not dismissive or patronizing toward women who understand because they have lived it. Bodies haunt the prose in all their wet, nasty, lovely and confusing glory. The novel is told from both women’s POV, but Dorothy easily dominates the narrative. Gaitskill gives her great insight that is only limited by pride and fear, and during the passages that remember Dorothy’s time with the cult, Gaitskill gives really develops her character—unpleasant, stubborn and (for me, grudgingly) sympathetic.

Despite all the darkness and bodily fluids, this book is enjoyable. It is funny and clever and probing. My biggest beef was that it seems that Gaitskill has never been to Philadelphia. Not a crime in of itself, but it is an issue when you set part of the book there. Gaitskill's riff on Rand and her philosophy is fun and unexpected. I never could understand what all the Rand rage was about among some especially annoying teens (I found her books besides The Fountainhead unreadable) and TGFT made me glad of that.

TGFT is a first novel but I don’t know that that shows, except in a lack of a strong plot. I want to read more Gaitskill, but after a pause. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"lions" "thaw" according to a UK news source: is global warming to blame?

This intrigues me.
What could they possibly have been fighting about? I always wonder about those that hold grudges. What do they get out of it besides an energy-sucking hole in their heart? Isn't the vigil of remembrance more painful than just moving on?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Persuasion Nation by George Saunders

Dear Lisa,

How are you? Sorry I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been really busy and I got sick over Christmas and stuff. I am happy to hear that your new job is fun—dude, anything would be better than leather tanning! I didn’t want to tell you at the time, but Jesus Christ, I couldn’t get near you without thinking of that time in high school when we took all that acid and met those hobos behind the playground…

Things are okay with me. After all the confusion after the surgery I really needed to get out of my head/ bandages so I got a really excellent book called Persuasion Nation that I’ve been hearing about forever. I was happy to find out that it was short stories (is short stories?), because it was sometimes so hard to keep my eyes open for long periods of time with the continuous ocular lancing and all that.

Remember when we went to sci-fi camp together and we spent the night in the mess hall “building dream-machines” and talking to those guys about Philip K. Dick and then you got all drunk on some peach schnapps and made out with the one with braces? And then your tongue got so swollen, but the Kligonese freaks were all over you? Well, when I was talking to the one in the shirt, I said I loved Dick (he got all embarrassed. Ha!) and how he manages (at his best) to take the absurdities of his present and project them into a future so jumping and ugly and glib and dangerous, but somehow painfully recognizable. Well, PN does that too, without being dervivative and with a humor and compassion that Dick could never seem to muster.

Fucking brilliant and exactly what I was looking for. I’d write you some quotes from the book, but my hands get cramped so easily now. Suffice to say, you need to pick it up on your day off, or have Lucius do it for you if he’s not too busy “working.”

Anyway, so I love my new eyebrows and finally-working legs. I can’t wait to visit. I have so many new scars to show you. We can add them to our book. Send me some pictures of you’re newest corn sculptures soon!


Indiana, Indiana by Laird Hunt

Awhile back, I reviewed The Exquisite for KGBbar Lit. It was my first review for them, and I was nervous. I was not sure how I was going to explain how I felt about TE; I was conflicted and confused and it took a reread to straighten that out, and even so, I think my review does not tell the whole story.

Since then, I have heard a whole bunch of nice things about Hunt. He also stopped by and dropped a comment, which I thought was very, very nice. I wanted to read some of this other stuff but wasn’t sure where to start. Luckily for me, the library had both The Impossibly and Indiana, Indiana. I decided to go with II because it seemed far away from the traumatized New York of TE.

When I got into II on the train from New York to Philadelphia, all of a sudden I was slogging through a fever dream set on a farm. I finished it that night on the floor of my childhood bedroom, stricken (again) with insomnia and the incredulity of having a brother that never came home. Maybe this was not the best time to read about a life marked by unfairness and misunderstanding, full of ghosts and loss. Maybe. But what I found upon reflection is that II is a story about the persistence of life and memory, two subjects that are forever nibbling at my ears and leaving inconvenient and embarrassing turds in my brain.

Here is the part where I would tell you about the plot but I actually don’t think it is necessary with this book. A few quotes should suffice:

Almost immediately his “babbling dreams” stopped. Noah associated their cessation not so much with what the Minister had said, but with the Minster’s imposing forehead and long arms and strong smell.

Noah looks down at his feet, decides where he can place them without causing too much damage, then turns. Or starts to.

What she did was1) hire a private investigator form Kokomo who all but hauled Virgil back to the farm, 2) scream, 3) pray.

The characters come alive mostly through the prism of one damaged man’s memory and the artifacts they left behind, and yet they each person’s story can be caught and examined through other alleys in the book. That is a tough thing to pull off. Hunt is great at creating spaces in this book where objects and rituals have arms that reach out and slap you around. Surprisingly, this is not overwhelming.

One of the things I have enjoyed about reading both II and TE is how the texts require thought and reflection. In fact they almost insist upon it; my mind was full of the books for weeks after I read each. Both are short works, but I like how they don’t really end until the thinking is done. Very satisfying.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Girls* on Film**

Ed has a bunch of links to terrible author interviews on Charlie Rose. Why did I like that guy in high school? Anyway, they are best viewed as time capsules/ things to make you feel better about being less of an asshole than Charlie.

* well, actually only one female person
** well, Google Video

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Black Hole by Charles Burns

Shortly after B gave this to his sister as a present, it returned to our apartment for many, many months. I keep seeing it, and after B told me he was going to give it back to his sister, I read it quickly.

BH is a thick, slick graphic novel set in the 70s in a suburb of Seattle. Burns takes the rather rote story of the boredom and small desires of the town’s teen population and makes a meditation on adolescence bubbling with mutation, hatred and murder. You see, the stoner kids and the popular kids and the nerds alike have been getting it on like mad in between getting drunk and high and driving around. Then they start growing extra mouths, or giant hairy lumps on their faces or their skin peels of in big chunks. Way worse than herpes, my friends. Just like a horror movie, parents are useless and the other kids are not to be trusted.

I had heard that this was a book of genius. Maybe the single issues worked better to tell the story because the wrap of the two storylines was unsatisfying for me. Maybe this was intentional; after high school things get less dramatic and generally, life after 18 is less full of small personal mysteries solved and full of the same large questions. I don’t know… The art is beautiful though (I like his natural details especially) and the dialogue is great, so it’s still worth checking out if you are a fan of smart comics.

Nekropolis by Maureen F. McHugh and Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland

Both of these novels are set in future- sorta-Islamic societies, Nekropolis in the nearer future, Floating Worlds in a future after years of space travel and human diaspora from Earth to other worlds.

I decided to check out the MFM book after reading MOM. A portion of this novel appears there as a short story, not one of my favorites, but I wanted to see how she carried the ideas expressed in the story in novel format. Nekropolis is about a woman named Hariba, who, after seeing a love affair tear her poor, but happy family apart, decides to reject marriage and go into the workforce as a jessed servant. The jessing process causes the patient to become loyal to whomever they imprint on, usually their employer. This allows the person to work without complaint and attain all the qualities wanted in service people, without their being naturally submissive. As a concept, it reminds me of the various classes in Counting Heads, each class cloned from a human being with extraordinary personality qualities (like loyalty, empathy or sexiness), which caused them to live lives and have jobs that fit into a rather strict hierarchy of folks. In that case people were designed to fulfill certain societal roles. In Nekropolis, this is a voluntary process, but one that sets the course for the rest of the person’s life. When Hariba falls in love with another servant, a genetically engineered beauty, her life gets crazy and she changes in unexpected ways.

I liked how MFM used the constraints of her rigidly religious society to create a compelling plot, but I never felt all that close to Hariba, though much of the story is told in her voice. The latter fourth of the book tackles what it is like to be an expatriate living in a hypocritical land, and I found this part of the story to be more interesting.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it didn’t blow me away like MOM. I wish the library would buy some more of her titles so I could see what the rest of her novels are like.

Floating Worlds is a big yellow chunker I picked up on a whim at the Strand. The main character is an anarchist from Earth named Paula. She has a shitty boyfriend and no real job and lives in a commune like almost everybody else on the planet. Because of a stint in jail, she happens to know the Styth language, the language of big, angry, protectively racist people descended from humans that live on a far-off planet. She gets a job as a kind of diplomat to these folks and starts screwing the leader of their rag-tag and rowdy delegation. Then she realizes she is pregnant.

This book was written in the mid-seventies and it shows, but in a way I found kind of charming. Paula is supposed to be a “liberated” woman (read: really aggressive) and her navigation of various other, more repressive societies is interesting, but often the choices she makes (many of which drive the plot) make no sense. Since that is often par for the course in spacey SF with a message, I didn’t mind, but this book fell short of good for me. I did, however love falling into its hugeness and seeing how Holland imagined how the human race ended up after wriggling its way out into the solar system.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Holy shit, this is cool. Those Javanese make me crazy with their hott style.

Margaret, I think we could manage to puzz this one out in a few hours.

I could look at collections like this for hours, and today that is exactly what I am being not paid to do.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ellen Forney and Megan Kelso are signing books on Friday

I wonder if I could get my copy of Queen of the Black Black signed...


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The awesome Lauren Weinstein is teaching a cartooning class, starting next week.

How I wish I had psychic powers... But that's another story.
Or is it?
Scroll down (good god!) to see my review of the excellent House of Sugar by Rebecca Kraatz.

What I didn't really get into in the review is how much Kraatz's work reminds me of Lynda Barry- the soothing, creepy, self-contained quality of the writing- and the simple drawing style that somehow manages to capture perfectly facial expressions, feelings and places. I never wanted it to end.

Buy it and pass it around.

more 2006

While I think you should read my review archives, peer pressure has made me think I should give a list of my favorite reads from 2006. At first, I scoffed, “the best”- what does that even mean? Then I was listening to an old bat segundo show (#60 with literary journalist Robert Birnbaum) and RB said about media’s tendency lists and list making this: “I think there’s a very understandable impulse there… The good impulse is that, really, don’t you always try to keep somewhere in your top of mind or close to you a list of the things that you really like? You know? Don’t you frequently find when someone asks you, you can’t remember them? [chuckles] So, making the list, sort of, is a way of organizing the information… You’re just trying to stay in touch with the things you’ve liked and experienced.”
Ding ding! So true! Staying in touch with the things I like is what try harder is all about.

I had a great reading year. It is hard to pick favorites (and impossible to pick a favorite) and truthfully my list would change if you asked me tomorrow. And since I haven’t finished reviewing some of these books, I hope you find some surprises:
_ Mothers & Other Monsters by Maureen F. McHugh (short stories)
An amazing short story collection. Just read it.
_ Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender (short stories)
Twisted, awesome stories about lost people and times.
_ Fun Home by Alison Blechdel (graphic memoir)
A beautifully realized memoir that is a treat for book folks.
_ Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet (novel)
A novel that took a silly “what if” and turned it into a sharp and incisive look into contemporary America. Chilling and sad and funny.
_ Persuasion Nation by George Saunders (short stories)
Excellent, funny short science fiction.

Upon reflection, I realized that there are a few more books I wish I hadn’t wasted my time reading, simply because they did nothing but waste my time. Here they are:
_ The Secret Society of Demolition Writers, edited by Marc Parent
_ My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl

My top author discoveries were:

Aimee Bender
Lydia Millet
Kelly Link
These women are smart, wicked and great at plucking elements from the mind and the world and making them into something new.

My favorite personal trends this year:

Reading lots of great SF, and actually buying single issue comic books, going to literary events

What I’d like to do in 2007:

Read more nonfiction
Read more reprints of old novels (a la NYRB)
Read more translation
Go to more readings
Read more men
Read more small presses
Keep try harder going and gain more smart, informed, sharing readers like you
Improve my book writing

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

just call me lucky?

Check out my review of Gabrielle Bell's newish book Lucky at KGBBar Lit.