What're you readin'


#302

I finished The Selected Essays Of Gore Vidal today. It’s divided into two parts. The first focuses on writers/books, the second on politics/culture (primarily US).

He’s great at describing why he disdains things. His critique of Updike was so thoroughly pulverizing it made me embarrassed for Updike. Though I got the impression these sorts of take-downs brought him the most joy, there’s also a charm to his restrained praise of writers/books that managed to impress him. His essay on Calvino made me bump him up my to-read list. I hadn’t heard of Dawn Powell before reading his essay on her, but it was probably my favorite of his laudatory essays. He first reduces her writing to its plain constituent parts (almost all of her novels are about Americans from the midwest trying to make it in NYC, apparently), then builds a heartfelt appreciation back up from (and enabled by) the deconstruction.

The political/cultural stuff seems well ahead of its time for the most part (though early on he does throw around slurs ironically in a way that hasn’t aged well, imo), but isn’t particularly eye-opening today (the predicament of prescience). Still, it’s valuable to see blueprints (that now feel like recaps) of some of the fundamentals of current leftist thinking. Oddly, he seemed to be a deficit hawk - but mostly in relation to military spending, where I don’t think any reasonable person would argue with him.

Topic relevance aside, he’s a gripping stylist and I’d recommend checking out at least a couple essays by him sometime.


#303

Don’t hesitate to read Calvino; Invisible Cities hasn’t left my book-bag in a year because I never know when I’ll need a page for a ruminative bus ride against the only sun I’ve seen all day


#304

finally started readin the sympathizer and it 's so damn good


#305

mbembe’s critique of black reason is a bit uneven and the conclusion underwhelming but individual sections are phenomenal- mbembe’s treatment of cesaire, fanon and glissant stand out, as does his bit on black christianity. aside from that, many of his particular formulations are v good.

tutuola’s the palm wine drinkard is a great little folk tale kinda thing. definitely the best dragon quest game.

revisiting sexton’s amalgamation schemes and though it leans a bit hard on psychoanalysis at times he remains possibly the most rewarding theorist i have ever engaged with


#306

Lady Chatterly’s Lover

Somehow it’s not at all what I expected going in


#307

the sympathizer is one of those “told me more about myself than anything ever” books considering my background

reading it is probably the best thing I did this year


#308

Finished Malcolm X’s Autobiography a few days ago. Obviously it doesn’t need my praise, but it lived up to its classic status. The last chapter (pre-Epilogue) in particular was rousing as hell. I think what struck me most was how honestly he represented his emotions/beliefs as he felt them at the time. While he occasionally referenced upcoming fallouts and the like, it felt more like a narrative tease than an attempt to paper over mistakes/regrets. As someone who finds basically everything I’ve ever done embarrassing, I admire that kind of bravery - it unquestionably adds to power of his newfound sense of enlightenment at the end.

Problematic opinions on women aside, the book is worth it for the sheer number of times the phrase “white devil” appears alone.

Side note: Pynchon definitely used this as a source for Gravity’s Rainbow. Many of the details in the “Kenosha Kid” chapter are ripped straight from the book, and the description of the black fetishes among white elites is a recurring theme too.


#309

Well yeah, Malcom even shows up in that chapter as a minor character (I think he is referred to as Red Malcom, but it has been awhile) in his job shining shoes at the ballroom.


#310

Right, he shows up at the end again too. I was just surprised at how much of the detail was taken directly from the autobiography.


#311

Oh fair, and yeah, Pynchon is hilarious in both how well he researches things, and how clearly he references them once you know what they are. He doesn’t hide his work.


#312

the astrology stuff in Mason & Dixon makes it seem like Pynchon probably spent 20 years becoming one of the foremost astrologers in the world in order to write it. that book is amazing


#313

Agreed. That’s my favorite of his novels, and maybe my favorite novel period. Also, there was 24 years between M&D and GR (with only the far shorter and less complex Vineland breaking them up), so he very well could’ve spent most of that time researching.


#314

bolano’s by night in chile: man, real antagonistic towards literati in history, burns hard visually, gonna dream of blue and yellow tonight


#315

I’m reading Roadside Picnic by the brothers Strugatsky, in preparation for the imminent digital remaster of the incredible film adaptation Stalker.

In this 1972 Russian novel, ne’er-do-wells retrieve and sell mysterious, powerful artifacts from an alien landing site. One of those artifacts… is literally just a fidget spinner.


#316

holy shit


#317

It’s real good!


#318

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell made me reconsider being Catholic


#319

i had to read that n high school (Cleveland author plus Jesuit school meant yeaaah) and i remember liking it, but remember nothing of it.


#320

Finished Jitterbug Perfume and To The Lighthouse recently. Both are cool.

JP is really fun. Robbins is a master of metaphor (though he abuses his talent fairly frequently). And he has an impressively light touch given the scale of the story. The “Dannyboy’s Theory” section is great, though I didn’t care for Dannyboy as a character.

TTL is well-observed and has many sinuous, semicolon-laden, sentences that are fun to parse out (if you are a nerd like me). The mysterious middle section is a highlight.

For some reason I’m feeling drawn to both Ulysses and War & Peace lately (neither of which I’ve read before), so I should probably seek medical attention.


#321

War & Peace is fuckin great, it’s a soap opera for the type of people who like arguing political philosophy in salons.