Indexing: New Orleans bookstores, Denis Johnson, Dwight Macdonald, Jarvis Cocker, and more

Tobias Carroll
This will be a short week for me; my reading (mainly conducted on a trip to and from New Orleans) consisted of a small selection of longer books, some of which I’ve either written about elsewhere or, well, will write about elsewhere on Vol.1. (The Four Fingers of Death, for instance.) I will say, though, that Karl Marlantes’s novel of the Vietnam War Matterhorn — much praised by readers whose opinions I trust — exceeded my expectations: it’s taut and angry and never less than compelling.

I should also throw a quick note in here citing the excellence of the Maple Street Book Shop, which I visited while on the trip in question. Its fiction section was excellent, the staff picks promoted two purchases (We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Street of Crocodiles), and I found a copy of Robertson Davies’s The Deptford Trilogy in the used shop. Highly recommended if you’re in town.

Look for some thoughts in the coming weeks on Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods and Vincent Standley’s A Mortal Affect. For now, I’m heading to Asbury Park for the weekend, Edmund Wilson’s Memoirs of Hecate County in tow.

Jason Diamond

Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams is one of the 3 or 4 best things I’ve read all year.  He’s the only guy who can pull something so epic off in under 120 pages.  The character, laborer Robert Grainer who lives in the early 20th century, doesn’t live an exceptional life, but sentence by sentence, Johnson somehow makes his story into something remarkable.  The book will take half an afternoon to read, and is well worth it.

Got the collection of Dwight Macdonald’s essays from NYRB Classics, Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against The American Grain.  I read his first essay, which the book takes it title from, and will now skip ahead to the essay on Hemingway, after reading his thoughts on The Old Man and the Sea.

For research purposes, I read George Plimpton’s essays on Brooks Brothers, “Under the Golden Fleece,” and it made me think to myself how much I’d love to have an iconic American clothing brand pay me to write about their history for The Atlantic (in 1993).

I’ve found myself listening to Jarvis Cocker’s eponymous 2006 solo debut a lot over the last few days.  Trying to get into the swing of things with summer being over, but the damned indian summer is making that somewhat difficult.  Been starting to listen to more Fahey, and Favourite Colours by The Sadies.

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