Each week, Vol. 1 editors band together as one to discuss their week among literature and the written word. This is the place to hear about all the best that they’ve thumbed through, bookmarked, lauded, and consumed in the last seven days. This is where “praise” hits the blogosphere bong and becomes “high praise”. This, dear reader, is Indexing.
I made my way to Los Angeles last week for the Experience Music Project’s Pop Conference, this year held in conjunction with UCLA’s Department of Musicology. It was my first time in Los Angeles in seventeen years, and I split my time there between attending assorted presentations at the conference and reconnecting with friends who now reside there. Other highlights of the trip involved visiting Los Angeles’s fantastic Skylight Books and Amoeba Records, where I spent far more money than I had expected. (Also recommended: the fine comics store Secret Headquarters.) While a full report is forthcoming, I will say that his presentations at the Pop Conference reminded me that I really need to read something by Ned Sublette; I’ve since put in an order at WORD for The World That Made New Orleans.
Travel generally means an abundance of reading, and this one was no exception. For this trip: David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System; Patricia Highsmith’s A Suspension of Mercy; Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love; Ann Quin’s Berg; Kira Henehan’s Orion You Came And You Took All My Marbles; and Bruce Chatwin’s On the Black Hill. It’s the last of those that I’d like to focus on here, because it’s utterly fantastic, both deeply moving and…
…actually, no. I’m not going to say much more about this book, because part of its appeal is in seeing just where it goes, and that’s not an experience I’d like to disrupt in any way. I’ll simply tell you something you’d know from the first page: it begins by describing the lives of a pair of twins, as old as the century, living on a farm near the border of England and Wales in the early 1980s. I’d suggest that if you’re a fan of, say, William Boyd’s Any Human Heart or John Williams’s Stoner, you’ll find much to like here as well. It got me teary-eyed on a cross-country flight, which is no small accomplishment.
My current reading: Geoffrey Wolfe’s Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby. Up next is likely to be another trip into Mr. Chatwin’s body of work — in this case, In Patagonia. And then: Adam Novy’s The Avian Gospels, I suspect.
I spent a good chunk of this week in our nation’s capitol, doing a lot of browsing, and realizing how much a city’s culture can influence what I’m reading. Maybe it was the two hours I had to spend at the Union Station Barnes and Noble–looking through their extensive selection of political periodicals that eclipsed anything I could find in NYC– but I noticed that I put down the books I had been working on — opting instead to go through a pile of magazines and political journals, and listen to people like Peter Beinart, Mona Eltahawy and Bernard Avishai.
I’m no slouch when it comes to politics, but I’m no whiz either. I did find it interesting to completely immerse myself in the culture for a few days, even though I did miss reading Changing the Subject by Stephen-Paul Martin and Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin.