Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Book Pile November 16, 2012

This, my friends, is a pile of books
My life is pretty much moving piles of books from one place to another. I go to work at the bookstore, I move piles of books from one place to another. I come home, I move piles of books from one place to another. Here's what's in my current pile and why.

Bibliodeath, Fight Song, and Gun Machine: I've actually read all three of these, but I'm working on reviews for them, Bibliodeath for Bookslut and the other two for this blog. Gun Machine could be one of the best crime books of 2013, Fight Song is a noble entry into perhaps the most difficult genre of literature out there: Books About Average People with Average Problems, and Bibliodeath is another brilliant book by Andre Codrescu.

Notturno: I'm actually on a second read of this because I've pitched a review of it to The Rumpus. It's a book length prose poem that the author wrote on single-line long scraps of paper, while recovering from an injury and....BLINDFOLDED. Yep. Dude had an eye injury and to recover he needed to have both eyes completely bandaged for months. It's an amazing work, beyond the fete of its creation.

This is a pile of books going all Godzilla on Paris, the only city a pile of books would attack
Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles: This is the new book by Ron Currie Jr. author of God is Dead and Everything Matters! God is Dead is a collection of speculative short stories that explore a world in which God has actually died. In Everything Matters! the protagonist is told by a mysterious voice the exact moment when the earth is going to be destroyed by an asteroid. Then he deals with that burden for the rest of his life. Sophisticated and poignant. Heartfelt without being sappy. It's the kind of book that stays with you years after you've read it. Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is a little more daring, a little more experiment, a little closer to the attitude of God is Dead. Let's just say I am very, very excited for this book.

1493: I really liked Charles Mann's previous work 1491, a book that uses fairly recent archaeological data to speculate on the world of the western hemisphere before Columbus arrived. Mann concluded the region was much more populated and the societies much more sophisticated than they'd ever been given credit for. 1493, is a look at the effect of what's called the “Columbian Exchange,” the interchange of plants, animals, products, and diseases between the western hemisphere and the rest of the world. I must say, there is something uniquely satisfying about turning over the first few pages of a heavy book of history.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: You'll be shocked to find out my benefits at the bookstore do not include stock options. But they do include free copies of books that come in too damaged to be sold as new books. I do my best to at least sample a wide range of genres so I'm not completely clueless if someone asks about one. Tinker Tailor Solider Spy is considered one of the great spy novels, by one of the great spy novelists and when I saw it damaged at the store, I saw an opportunity to close a reading gap. So far, I'm really enjoying it. There's a kind of chaos to its style, that I think successfully contributes to its atmosphere and to the thrill of reading it.

With the right filter, your pile of books can do anything.
Parallel Stories: This one has been going in and out of the reading pile for months. I've been using it as kind of a pallet cleanser, reading a few dozen pages before staring a new novel. In some ways, Parallel Stories deserves better. It is a brilliant, ambitious, massive, challenging work, and Peter Nadas often finds himself mentioned in Nobel Prize speculation, but, at the same time, books of this scope demand a kind of attention I just can't give to it. And the writing is strong enough that even if it takes me a few pages to remember where we are in the story and who we're talking about, I eventually find my place in the narrative. It's also totally different from everything being written in America. It's philosophical, directly intellectual, and ponderous. Also, there's 40+ page long sex scene. So there's that.

If on a winter's night a traveler: Book club. Your envy is justified.

Periodicals: Though they're hard to see, there are also three periodicals in the pile. I've had a subscription to Smithsonian for several years now. It might be the most underrated magazine around. History, cultural, food, politics, all well-written and informative. And Lucky Peach is one of the best anythings. A food magazine founded by David Chang, published by McSweeneys, with regular contributions from Anthony Bourdain and Harold McGee. And recipes. And Peter Meehan is slowly establishing himself as one of our best food writers. Almost certainly invisible in the pile is the very cool lit mag Cupboard. Cupboard comes out twice a year and consists of one fairly long creative work of fiction. They've done some very cool stuff, including a collection of short “stories,” by Jesse Ball. Totally different and always interesting.

2013 Guide to Literary Agents: I'm trying to find a literary agent.

Not Pictured: One by Blake Butler & Vanessa Place, Assembled by Christopher Higgs. This is on my tablet so obvious, it's not in the picture. This is an experiment in which the two authors write different sections of the story, one only allowed to write about “inside,” the other “outside,” and those sections are then assembled. I really liked Blake Bulter's There Is No Year and Christopher Higgs' The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney, so I'm pretty excited to see what they've come up with.

That's my pile, what's yours?

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