Friday, January 16, 2009

Bookish Pursuits

It's been awhile since I've wrapped my head around a book that interested me sufficiently to finish. In the past two years I've started and put away at least 6 books that just didn't move me; they interested me, but I'd get to a point where I'd just say, "Yeah, but who cares," and put it back on the shelf.

The last one I finished recently was Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which while incredibly bleak and depressing, was so gripping and masterfully-crafted that I didn't dare put it down. It is a new era Canticle For Liebowitz, which is equally bleak and depressing; but moves a bit more slowly and is best digested in smaller increments since it spans centuries of "human life."

Tired of half-reading semi-boring books, and finding myself in the middle of a bookstore while my honey was on a reference-material mission, I set about seeking new fodder that may be able to hold my attention. I came home with three titles that I think will foot the bill, two rock memoirs and one novel: Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield, Things the Grandchildren Should Know, by Mark Oliver Everett and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

I started with Mix Tape because it's the shortest; and because it sounded cool. I was always a fan of "The Sheffield Report" back in the day; it was my easily my favorite contribution to Rolling Stone.

I didn't even read the back cover; it was on the employee picks section, so I figured it was worth a shot. I'm still halfway through, but that's because I haven't dedicated any real time to it. And it's such an intimate tale that I feel to give anything but my full attention would be disrespectful.

Had I read the back cover, I would have realized how important this story is to its author. I thought it was going to be a feel-good story of the contribution of the mix tape is to romance; I was only half right. By page 14 I was bawling my eyes out.

It was then I realized that this guy wrote it about not only his wife, but his late wife. A woman he loved so completely and purely, and who died far before her prime. His recollection of her memory through pop music will equally make you laugh, break your heart and give you hope.

Next up is the Eels' (a.k.a. Mark Oliver Everett) memoir, Grandchildren. I expect it to be less upbeat and hopeful, but still a good read. The man fascinates me; his music and lyrics always have, but it wasn't until I saw Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives on NOVA Science Now that I began to understand the big picture behind his ironic view of human interaction.

I have a real soft spot for artists of all kind who can point out the wry irony of the world's complete and total loss of humanity, yet all the while embody a complete sense of blind hope regardless. Probably because that sums me up to a Tee.

So it should be no surprise that the final selection is a work of fiction of the humorous/ironic variety, Jest.

It's humongous. 981 9" pages lined in dense 9 point script with less than 1" margins ... plus 96 pages of notes. In fact, I'm not sure if it's going to be completely amazing or a complete and total waste of money. But I got it anyway, because I'd heard he was hilarious, and because for some reason the novel reminded me simultaneously of three of my favorite authors -- Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore and Douglas Adams.

And because I could have sworn I'd recently heard that he'd just died. I was right. Offed himself in September. Genius? I think I'll be the judge of that.

Hopefully these will be enough to get me through this frozen-solid winter. They had better; the entertainment budget is running low, and I have rekkids to buy!


  1. You are ambitious indeed. I should really dig in to reading what I have on my plate with more diligence. I'm currently 511 pages into a 700 page novel called The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, which has been pretty entertaining overall. At times it's so ridiculously corny it's almost eye-rolling, but mostly it's just amusing. And then I started another novel last night called Boring Boring Boring Boring Boring (there may be more Borings, I'm not sure. I think the idea is that it's an infinite repetition of the word). Anyway, it drew me in with a gimmicky use of fonts and the fact that it was on an independent publisher's shelf. I'm only 35 pages in, so I have yet to form an opinion. My expectations are low, so I hope that it will surprise me.

    Happy reading!

  2. Right on friend. The Road was fantastic. I'll be sure to check out the others. I just finished up reading Junot Diaz's "Drown" and "The Incredibly Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" and now all I want to do is buy a shack in the D.R. and LIVE. Bolaño is rocking my brain. And "Liberation" by Brian Francis Slattery might be the book that defines absolute cool (in the setting of an apocalyptic future).

  3. Wow, excellent! I will have to check that one out. Apocalyptic literature is one of my biggest guilty pleasures.