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 finished reading this week’s New Yorker on the train ride home yesterday. As I closed the magazine, and went to put it back in my bag, a lady with gray hair put her had on my forearm and said, “isn’t that the best New Yorker issue you’ve read in a long time?”
There is still chaos in Egypt, Lindsay Lohan is probably going to get the electric chair, and The New York Times still doesn’t get that we’re all laughing at their Brooklyn obsession. But none of that matters, because we are living in a time when Tina Fey and Malcolm Gladwell both have pieces in the anniversary issue. Praise be!
I’ve also started in on Consider the Lobster. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit how little David Foster Wallace I’ve read in my lifetime, but I plan on changing that starting with his essays.
Over the weekend, I picked up the collected edition of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon’s Daytripper. I’d been fans of its creators’ work for a while — which includes De:Tales, Casanova and The Umbrella Academy — and I’d heard a number of good things about this series. Daytripper is a book about storytellers — Bras, its protagonist, is a writer; his father is a revered novelist, and his mother has honed the tale of Bras’s birth to an almost mythological level — and storytelling. There’s a pattern here — without going into specifics, it’s structurally reminiscent of the film Run Lola Run in certain ways, and its protagonist’s job as a writer of obituaries also works on a number of levels.
While it establishes its formula quickly enough, it also plays with it in certain ways: the aforementioned story of Bras’s birth, for instance, or the way in which the book’s themes of the fragility of life are refracted and upended by a subplot involving Bras’s friend Jorge. Not all life-changing experiences lead to an embrace of life, Moon and Ba seem to suggest here. By the end, it’s incredibly moving — Warren Ellis said that “it left me with a pain in my chest,” and I had a similar feeling as it drew to a close.
And on the subway this morning I started reading Emma Straub’s Other People We Married; having heard a few of its stories at readings in the last few months, I’m quite excited to read the entire collection. Up next: Alexander Chee’s Edinburgh.
To echo Jason’s sentiments: The New Yorker went for broke this week. As an editor David Remnick is ably fond (at times too fond) of trying to clobber home run Where We Are Now issues every 6-8 weeks. But this was a subtle masterpiece wherein every separate work contributed something different and left you with an actual lexicon of the frazzled mindset of the modern snob. I think Sasha Frere-Jones can dig a little deeper than he did this week with his ode to Bruno Mars: The Next James Brown, but 50% of what that Jones hypes will always be steaming hot garbage and you almost have to respect his decade-long dedication to the gimmick.
I smiled at America’s Best Friend Tina Fey’s “Personal History“, admired Mary Gaitskill’s prose, and learned from Rebecca Mead’s literary, posthumous love affair with George Eliot and Middlemarch. But nothing topped “The Apostate“, Laurence Wright’s profile of the Church of Scientology and defector/film director Paul Haggis. It’s a piece that has blown the blogosphere up like so many Death Stars and Times Square inflatable “love” dolls, and rightfully so. So fluidly does Wright interweave Haggis’ singular narrative (from dogmatic believer to reformer and finally exile) with that of the Church’s uprising that it begins to seem a funhouse parallel of Church founder L. Ron Hubbard’s own cryptic odyssey of fraud and humdrum. It is that rare peace of journalism that casts light on the obscure, reason on the unreasonable, and in doing so offers hope against hypocrisy.
But enough hope! For today I’m digging my nails into my face and my heels firmly into Beckett’s Malone Dies! Nothing cures them winter blues like listening to the diatribes of an old man narrator (and possible murderer) lying nude, bed bound in a mysterious fortress, reflecting on his life’s misfortune! Wheeeeeeeee.