I’ve been slogging through Ulysses, and people keep asking me what I think, but it’s really hard to formulate an opinion on a book like it without finishing. I think I may have mention that I was forced to read the book when I was about fifteen, and frankly, I fucking hated it. I was more interested in getting girls to inevitably turn down my advances to make out, less with James Joyce.
Also finally got a copy of Blues and the Poetic Spirit by Paul Garon. I’d read a beat up old copy a few years back and have considered it one of the finest books on the culture of blues music that’s I’d ever read ever since then. I still think that, and suggest it to anybody who is interested in American music.
The past week’s reading has involved more than one acclaimed work of fiction that I, sadly, have taken my sweet time to getting around to reading. I’d had James Salter’s Light Years on my to-read shelf (technically, one of about four to-read shelves) for a while now. It was my first time reading Salter, but certainly won’t be the last: he has an utterly disarming way of shifting his characters through time, of arranging sensory descriptions, and of making the most ordinary conversations disorienting. There were a few scenes in it that I didn’t love — the mugging of one character in particular — but those were never enough to derail my enjoyment of it.
This past week also found me delving into David Foster Wallace’s Oblivion and Gary Lutz’s Partial List of People to Bleach. In terms of the Wallace collection, I’d been curious to read it before opening up The Pale King, as I’d seen certain concerns from one reflected in reviews of the other. (Said unfinished novel is what I’m currently reading.) By and large, I’m utterly stunned by what I read — in some ways, I’m tempted to say that it’s my favorite of Wallace’s books, though it might be too premature to say that. What’s done in it with language, structure, plot, and pacing are masterful; it’s a book to savor, and to learn from. Right about now would probably be a good time to point you to Blake Butler’s essay on Wallace’s “Mister Squishy.”
I also quite enjoyed Lutz’s collection, which renders the familiar from unexpected perspectives. I’m not quite sure what else to say — the composition is impeccable and uncanny, and the fractures that emerge in the telling of these stories mirror the flaws and gulfs in the lives of their characters. While I’m pointing you in the direction of essays, here’s Derek White on Lutz.
Also this week: inspired a trio of fine literary events: An Afternoon of Failure, held at PS1 last weekend, which included readings and performances from Eileen Myles, Joshua Cohen, and U.S. Girls; Tuesday’s edition of the Adult Education reading series, which left me wary of brunch and eager to try Azerbaijani food; and at Greenlight, yesterday’s roundtable discussion featuring four writers who’ve contributed to the 33 1/3 series.