Friday, October 30, 2009

Hey gang. My review of Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem is up at Identity Theory. It starts like this.

There was recently an interesting discussion at The Quarterly Conversation about what constitutes good literary criticism. J.C. Hallmann suggests that his fellow critics ought to approach literature not in the way critics do, but in the way writers do, in that writers are “perfectly comfortable saying that they simply liked a book—or disliked it.... Writers set out to celebrate the work rather than exhaust it....” In response, the editors quote Harold Bloom, who “gives us a phrase that is quite possibly the ideal definition of a critic: ‘the strong reader, whose readings will matter to others as well as to himself.’”

Reading these essays helped me find a way to write about Jonathan Lethem’s eighth novel, Chronic City. I think from these essays I took the permission I needed to plainly state here three things that I know already in my head and heart. First, I am not the strong reader I might like to be. Second, I found Chronic City tedious, boring, and uninspiring. Third, the second might find cause in the first.

Head over to Identity Theory for the rest.
"Man, did you miss a big story," he greeted Doc.

"You too, man."

"I'm talkin about sets of fifty-foot waves that wouldn't quit."

"'Fifty,' huh. I'm takin about Charlie Manson gettin popped."

They looked at each other.

"On the face of it," Vehi Fairfield said finally, "two separate worlds, each unaware of the other. But they always connect someplace."

"Manson and the Surge of '69," said Doc.

"I'd be very surprised if they weren't connected," Vehi said.

"That's because you think everything is connected," Sortilege said.


- from Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

...all of which, combined with this, (via The Rake, with whom I agree), has me feelin' a might bit pe-cyul-yar...but such is to be expected. This is actually (a third of the way in at least) a straight-forward novel, a novel's novel, if you will, and it's great fun, even if I'm only partially attentive, life being life, and all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Also, the new Dan Chaon book is really good so far, and is making me glad I'm reading fiction again.
For the Murakami-ites up in this joint: we'll start seeing 1Q84 in 2011. So you've still got time to read the other 186 books of his that have been translated into English before then.
Francine Prose goes a long way toward making me want to actually read that optimistically purchased hardback of 2666 that's been sitting on my shelf for an age and a half now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The National Book Award finalists for 2009 are out. I haven't read a single one of them. Win! There's still time this year, right? Somewhere?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dear publishing industry,

Please give me a two-book publishing deal. I hear you are making them available now.

I Know Some Words

Monday, October 12, 2009

I've recently become obsessed with which is crack cocaine for modern nerds, I swear. (Somehow I'd never heard of it before, and then in the span of two weeks, it was recommended via two separate channels. I win.) They've just posted a talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It's on the danger of a single story and it's quite good and it makes me feel quite unaccomplished, boo.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I've been reading nerdy books about type and design principles lately, and when I've not been doing that, I've been doing every thing in my power to avoid doing certain assignment-ish things I really ought to have been doing (sorry, Matt), but I'm starting to put a for-the-moment wrap on these initiatives, and I stopped reading the graphic novel I'd been reading that had been my de facto fiction of the moment, because that book sucked hard, and so now I just need to start finishing working my way through Don Watson's American Journeys, which is basically okay so far if not yet entirely revealing to a native American (what are these "racial divides" of which you speak? religion and business are critical to our society, you say?) if yet still somewhat indicative of how we might come across to the occasional outsider, but there is still time, all of which is fine because once that time is up I will feel in-the-clear to go back to reading fiction, which I find quite exciting, because I'm still planning on reading the new Dan Chaon and Thomas Pynchon books, after which I might just give up for the year, because, uh, duh. Knock on wood.

Monday, October 05, 2009

2009, gang:

"It's pretty clear that even though the recession likely has ended, not too many people are likely going to be humming that Bobby McFerrin tune, 'Don't Worry, Be Happy,'" said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida.