The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.
In our morning reading: interviews with Brandon Taylor and Paul Yoon, a review of Andy Davidson’s new novel, and more.
Judge a book by its title. It’s a good idea. I bought $50,000 because it’s called $50,000 (and because Publishing Genius never lets me down). Since I first opened the book and read it in one sitting, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I read it again. And then a third time. And then I found myself walking to work thinking, Writing poems like invoicing a prior self, and then I stopped walking and whispered to myself, “That’s the best line I ever wrote.” But I didn’t write it. Andrew Weatherhead did.
Thomas Chatterton Williams always knew there was something off about the simplistic race classifications he was forced to deal with since childhood. The son of a light-skinned black man and a white woman, Williams understood he was different, that he inhabited an interstitial space between the rigid racial categorizations society imposed on him. For years he performed intellectual work to break away from those impositions. However, holding his newborn daughter, a pale baby with blazing blue eyes, triggered a need to finally come up with a solution. Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race is the result of Williams’s quest for answers.
Bohumil Hrabal’s All My Cats is a bomb wrapped in gift paper. The cute kitties on the cover, the innocuous title, and the synopsis, which mentions the book is about the writer tending to “a community of cats,” all contribute to making the book seem harmless. It’s not. Instead, the narrative is a brutal chronicle of a man’s descent into madness because of his cats. Bloody, violent, and dealing with themes like fear, suicidal thoughts, and mental illness, All My Cats is a wild, explosive read that should contain a warning: many cats were harmed in the making of this book.
Dennis Callaci is an esoteric guy. He’s the man behind the excellent indie label Shrimper Records, who have released music over the years by the likes of Woods, the Mountain Goats, and Dump. He’s also a talented musician and writer, with a new album and a new book both set to be released on February 14th. The album is The Dead of the Day; the book is 100 Cassettes. Along for the ride on the former are a group of musicians including Franklin Bruno; contributing an introduction to the latter is Jonathan Lethem.
With the arrival of February, it feels like 2020 is getting into high gear, for better or for worse. A cursory glance at the month’s most anticipated new books could best be described as eclectic: there are experimental and transgressive works here, along with career-spanning tomes and thematically ambitious works of fiction. If this is a harbinger of what the rest of the (literary) year looks like, it’s a good omen.
In our morning reading: interviews with Charles Yu and Emma Copley Eisenberg, new writing from Robert Lopez, and more.