What're you readin'


That’s good to know. I only knew of it as The Book That You Gotta Read in 2k16 or whatever, since then I’ve heard a few things that make me feel less interested in it. Would love to read more about southern leftists and class consciousness: Weirdly, I sort of thought that was what this book was supposed to be about, without actually knowing anything about it.


that’s what it’s pitched as but I know a bunch of leftists in the Appalachia region that fucking hate the book for how poorly it depicts the whole region on the right or the left. it is very much a book meant for middle aged and college aged well-off liberals


My understanding of the criticism, not having read it, is that Vance ultimately diagnoses the problem of the disintegrating white poor as cultural, which of course is essentially conservative. He pays lip service to the economic and material factors but concludes the failure is moral, not systemic. This assuages the guilt of the coastal elites to whom he is selling his story and absolves their contempt for the rural poor. Turns out they’re just as shitty as we thought all along.


basically summarized very aptly here yeah that’s like the whole dial with vance in particular


Finished The Bell Jar a few weeks ago. I have a number of family members and close friends living with serious mental health issues, but was still not quite ready for how unflinching and unsentimental it is. That said, it helped me cultivate additional empathy for people in that situation, which I value so much and speaks to the power of the prose. The way it seamlessly transitions from a series of sardonic observations (many of which are funny) to a harrowing unraveling (and back again, sort of?) is unshakably effective.

Then I read GraceLand by Chris Abani. It’s set in Nigeria, a place I knew next to nothing about, so it was interesting to be exposed to it through a novel. (In addition to elements of the country’s late 70s / early 80s history being part of the plot, it incorporates recipes and descriptions of Igbo traditions as interstices.) I liked it more in the beginning as a series of vignettes about the main character than towards the end when a Plot emerged and resolved. I got a “check back in with this guy in a novel or two and he’ll probably have something great” vibe. (And he’s already published several since then, so I guess I can do this whenever I want, woo.)


Another note on Vance is that he tries to sell the town he lived in in Ohio as some totally rural small town when it is basically a suburb of Cinci. Oh and yeah, he’s 100% a conservative who thinks if he just doesn’t mention that, he will be fine. It’s not surprising now that he is a VC in Columbus, Ohio’s city of desperately trying to be other places, which has shifted in the past few years to really wanting to be Silicon Valley.


At first I thought this was about Jack Vance and was v. confused.


tbf both write about dying earths


Yeah, but one of them is honest enough to admit it is fiction.


spending most of my day commuting right now, seemed like the ideal time to get into book of the new sun


began to read karl ove knausgaard and fredrik ekelund’s book of letters written during the brazil world cup. I’ve been reading one letter a night from each writer before I sleep—they wrote back-and-forth to each other throughout the tournament—it makes me feel nostalgiac for the time of life when football was something I really cared about and thoughts of it took up most of the time I wasn’t actually playing. also stops me from reading the third part of knausgaard’s my struggle before time; I gave myself a limit of one every six months, desirous of a life of tradition where none really exists


neal stephenson is still a huge nerd


no way


his new book about magic and time travel is really just a book about a world where everyone should get shoved in a locker


I absolutely cannot get enough of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I’m about halfway through and every page has been a joy. This is one I am in no rush whatsoever to finish, as reading it is so wonderfully pleasant.


I’ve been reading the Three Body Problem Trilogy by Cixin Liu. I’m about to finish the third book. These are like the most popular sci-fi novels in China, and for good reason. They’re all over the place, throwing together big weird ideas, unlikeable characters, history textbook passages describing hundreds of years of future history at a time, and odd out-of-place but well executed vignettes from various random genres. The writing style is totally unfamiliar to me, probably because I’ve never before read very much prose that’s been translated from Chinese to English.

Reading them all together was a bad idea. All three of them are good, but they’re TOO MUCH taken all at once. The final quarter of the last book has devolved into a series of almost self-contained episodes that are essentially monster-of-the-week format, except the monster is always a totally weird space-time anomaly based on extrapolating from weird actual theoretical physics ideas. A man gets eternally trapped in the event horizon of a black hole, a space crew discovers bubbles of 4th dimensional space they can use to warp around, an alien race uses a weapon to collapse part of the universe into 2D space, killing an entire civilization.


I went back to this big anthology of Pablo Neruda poetry (translated into English) that I’ve had for a number years and have been working through slowly. I did Canto General. It was good. Some of the leftist stuff is very cool, and there’s a section called “The Great Ocean” that was jaw-dropping. I can only imagine how good it was in Spanish. I remember liking what came before quite a bit, but I last read something from it three years ago, so I’m not sure how I’d rank Canto compared to the other stuff I’ve read.


Notes From Underground is so weird, I loved it. (I think!) Hadn’t read Dostoyevsky before, but was impressed by how well-rendered the narrator is (especially given the length of the book) - at turns totally off-putting and unnervingly relatable. Also, seriously funny (e.g., the narrator pacing back and forth in the restaurant for three hours to not lose face, the relationship between the narrator and his servant, etc.)


notes from underground is genuinely one of the best novels I have ever read


the real question is, what am i not reading at this point
i gotta finish that anna antropy book before i forget again