A roundup of things consumed by our contributors.
I finished The End of the Affair during my commute this week. Awfully dramatic for a subway book, but exactly what I needed. The romance pummels you, but the religion protects your neck. I was surprised to find the original New York Times review nailing it, describing the story and the prose as “vulgar and ideal, coarse and refined.” I teared up a few times — ugh, in public — at some of those ideally coarse sentences. When Bendrix and Sarah fall in love over a plate of onions, for example: “Is it possible to fall in love over a dish of onions?” And then: “I said, ‘It’s a good steak,’ and heard like poetry her reply, ‘It’s the best I’ve ever eaten.'” Greene sets the moment up so well, and now I’ve spoiled it for you. Trust me, it’s super sad in context.
The sporadic crispness of the early autumn air has me catching a full-on case of the bookworms. They’re crawling everywhere! Specifically into an interesting exercise from Picador and The Paris Review entitled Object Lessons: The Art of the Short Story. I initially intended to talk about it here, but have so much to say about it that I am looking to have a full-on review o’ the Review completed shortly. In the meantime, it gets a solid writeup / Sadie Stein interview in The Millions. For now let us simply say that it is an ideal October companion, warm and witty, telling you all sorts of things you thought you could have learned on an adventurous summer, but instead come to find in a compendium of old pals.
Object Lessons‘ arrival did cut into the time I was spending with Steve Erickson’s Zeroville, picked up at the Europa booth of the Brooklyn Book Festival. Which, incidentally, was great! Zeroville seems designed for me (all the moreso on its publication five years ago, back in my more extreme cinephile listmaker days), as it’s all about film and being a weirdo. Everyone from Ali McGraw to Francisco Franco enter lone wolf editor/obsessive Vikar’s life, which coincides with the twilight of the Hollywood (or as Vikar dubs it, “Zeroville”, in contrast to Godard’s Alphaville) studio system. Vikar is a menacing Forrest Gump for the Manny Farber sect, and Erickson’s short chapters emulating cuts and scene changes give the piece the majesty of an American epic, like some dirty orphaned spawn of Kazan and Didion, with Cassavetes as the midwife.
Continuing last week’s theme, much of my reading this week has been for assignments; I will say, though, that as a side effect of working on a profile of Reinventing Bach author Paul Elie, I’ve been listening to an abundance of the Bach’s compositions; never a bad thing. I also read, on Ms. Filgate‘s recommendation, Clarice Lispector’s Near to the Wild Heart, a beautiful and fragmented novel. It’s fine stuff, the kind of book that, nearly seventy years after its release, still feels fresh and challenging.
I’ve had a number of conversations about Steven Millhauser lately, which served to remind me that I hadn’t read anything from him in a while. I rectified this by picking up his novella collection Little Kingdoms, which I’m presently halfway through, and enjoying. While reading it in Ovenly earlier today, the guy sitting two seats down turned to me and said, “That guy was one of my professors!” Evidently, it’s Steven Millhauser’s world; we all just live in it.
I should also point out that the new Dum Dum Girls EP, End of Daze, is terrific. And that I picked up Bill Peters’s novel Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality at WORD earlier this week after hearing Peters read from it at the Brooklyn Book Festival. That there’s a Sam Lipsyte blurb on the front doesn’t hurt, either.
As I type this at 9:45 in the morning on Saturday (a few hours before we actually hit publish on this latest Indexing), I’m watching No Country for Old Men on USA. I’m unsure what’s stranger: the network showing the film so early on a weekend morning or me sitting around watching it. Whatever the case, I’ve seen the movie about a dozen times, I’m willing to say it ranks among my favorites. Watching it this many times leads me to believe that it’s finally time to read the book, and maybe go on a Cormac McCarthy spree. It seems like the right thing to do since I’m going to go pick up anther book the Coen brothers (re) adapted for the screen, True Grit by Charles Portis, inspired by my reading of Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany — out October 1st via the folks at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.
I followed up the Isaiah Berlin biography with Tony Judt’s Thinking the Twentieth Century. The only explanation for this sequence of books is I guess I’m on a British (in Berlin’s case, Latvian-born, English-bred) Jewish intellectual kick right now.
After listening the Other People podcast with D.T. Max, I kicked myself in gear and bought the new DFW biography. Readers of this space are no strangers to This book, but I am surprised at how well-integrated Max makes the fiction correspond with Wallace’s life. It’s very obvious Max spent tons of time breaking down every nuance of his work.
Further listening– the new D.Watusi album. It’s an incestuous Nashville band that will appeal to Ty Segall fans. The direct link is escaping me, but just take a peek at www.Nashvillesdead.com.