As the wall to my left begins to destabilize in the oppressive heat of full sun, I am, like Will Smith, reminded of summer. Summer-summer-summertime. Now let’s all sit back and unwind.
Here, in no particular order are a few of the books I intend to read this summer. You could call it a ‘summer reading list,’ but you could also call it a ‘books that have been piling up next to the lamp in my bedroom list’ and be just as accurate.
Speedboat, Renata Adler, NYRB 2013
What I know about Speedboat: Virtually nothing. I know it is ‘experimental’ (whatever that means). I know that it is ‘good’ enough that the tremendous NYRB series deemed it worthy of resurrecting (the novel was initially published in the 70s). I know that Renata Adler is a terrific name, just terrific. Just look at all those ‘A’s and ‘E’s and ‘R’s. It’s rhythm even reminds me of being out on my grandfather’s boat when I was a kid. He’d gun the engine and if the water was at all choppy you’d get this pulsing shoom-shoom-shoom as the boat glanced over the waves. reh-nah-tah-add-ler shoom shoom. I know that Renata is a woman, and I’ve been making a conscious effort to read more ‘classic’ works by female authors. Because the canon is, well, ::sighs:: And yeah, I’m going to try and stop employing scare quotes throughout the remainder of this post.
Where I learned about Speedboat: Flavorwire?
The Dead Father, Donald Barthelme, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (reprinted in) 2004.
What I know about The Dead Father: Earlier in the year I had the fortune of reading Barthelme’s subversive take on the Arthur legend The King. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately snapped up some of his other works, though not his most famous 60 Stories. This novel has a new forward by Donald Antrim that further sold me on buying it, as I laid waste to Antrim’s 3 short novels over the past year. So, basically if your name is Donald you should really consider writing acidic, funny, ‘postmodern’ literature (dammit with the scare quotes, I just can’t help it with words like that). I’m also entirely unsure how to pronounce the author’s last name. In my head I say Bar-tell-me, which is as good a guess as any.
Where I bought The Dead Father: The Harvard Bookstore, a half hour after the marathon bombing (I’d still not heard about it happening yet).
Geronimo Rex, Barry Hannah, Grove Press 1998(?)
What I know about Geronimo Rex: Complete shot in the dark. Hannah is an author that the folks on HTMLgiant are always going on about. His books seem to have fallen out of favor, or at least out of print. I’ve only ever found his stuff in used bookstores. I think he’s one of those aggressive, hyper-masculine authors in the David Gates mold, or at least one who exposes toxic masculinity for what it is. But he could be something else entirely. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what to expect here. The taxidermied-looking coyote on the cover is intriguing. Yes, I certainly do judge books by their covers.
Where I bought Geronimo Rex: Rodney’s Bookstore (Central Square, Cambridge, MA)
Miss MacIntosh, My Darling (2 vol set), Marguerite Young, Dalkey Archive 1993 (originally published in 1965)
What I know about Miss MacIntosh, My Darling: a) it has a terrible name, b) it is frightfully long c) it may or may not be a kind of American steam-of-consciousness novel Faulkner always wanted to, but didn’t have the ovaries to write d) or maybe it’s a Proustian digression-o-rama. Either way, it looks amazing. I had to special order this one from Dalkey themselves, because evidently bookstores have a hard time moving books like these.
Where I heard about Miss MacIntosh, My Darling: Twitter. An author I follow has spearheaded a couple ‘social-readings’ via twitter, where a group of folks choose a big, daunting novel and then read 10 pages a day, discussing our thoughts in 144 character bursts. This worked admirably well for Gaddis’s JR, and semi-admirably for Delaney’s Dhalgren. Anyhow, after a glut of dude authors, Lee proposed we tackle this behemoth, but the group fizzled out. I still intend to surmount Young’s magnum opus, though it might just kill me.
Cigarettes, Harry Mathews, Dalkey Archive 1998
What I know about Cigarettes: Well, smoking them is a bad habit and can take years off your–I’m just fucking with you. Let me cut and paste or failing that paraphrase what I know about this novel from one Jeff Waxman: “Cigarettes, if you haven’t read any Mathews, get it. Read it, love it, do it.” I’m not sure if he is requesting that I sleep with the novel or not. Possibly.
Donnybrook, Frank Bill, FSG (again) 2013
What I know about Donnybrook: Another author with two first names and no last names and there’s a guy getting punched in the face on the cover. More books should feature guys getting punched in the face. You know, instead of headless women’s bodies or dismembered parts of women’s bodies (seriously, scan a display in any bookstore. Nothing but women’s legs, women’s torsos, just count how many have eyes or suggest any kind of subjectivity). More novels should punch people in the face. More novels should get punched in the face. Geez, what’s with the violence, settle down, bro.
Where I bought Donnybrook: Porter Square Books (Cambridge, MA)
Beauty Was The Case That They Gave Me, Mark Leidner, Factory Hollow Press, 2011
What I know about Beauty Was The Case That They Gave Me: It’s poetry. More titles of poetry collections should be riffs on classic Snoop Lion (ne: Dogg) tracks. Because reading poetry is incredibly stimulating for a fiction writer. Because I might take a class in the fall on poetry and this dude’s name is on the reading list. Because the publisher is Factory Hollow Press, which is in Northampton, MA and not NYC and there should be more publishers that are not in Brooklyn or NYC.
Other books I might read or books I have already started that I might possibly finish:
Capital, Marx (600 pgs down, untold hundreds to go)
Postwar, Judt (couple hundred in)
Theory of Prose, Shklovsky (about halfway done)
The Double Helix, Watson & Crick
Blueprints of the Afterlife, Boudinot
We, The Children of Cats, Hoshino