In preparation for the upcoming Civic Pride reading in which he’ll be taking part, I recently read Michael Kimball’s Dear Everybody. It’s a novel I’ve heard praised by many; a few days after finishing it, I’m still assembling my thoughts on it. The structure is seemingly straightforward: the bulk of the novel is comprised of unsent letters written by a man named Jonathon Bender shortly before his suicide. We learn the basic details of his life in the first few pages, and the arc of the novel would seem to be fairly straightforward from there. Except that it’s not — we’re looking at these pieces of a life as they’ve been assembled by Jonathon’s brother Robert, and over the course of the book Robert becomes more and more prominent. It takes the novel to some unexpected emotional places, and also allows for some very interesting structural choices; all told, it’s an impressive novel, moving in ways both expected and unanticipated.
(Reviews of two of the other books I finished recently will appear around these parts in the coming weeks, for what it’s worth.)
A: Respectful Yo Mama Jokes from Lucas Klauss sounds so obvious that it could die a prolonged death, but like the best McSweeney’s lists, it gets into your head, crescendos, and is over before you know it. Behold and giggle!
B: The Awl, present company excluded, are the supreme beings when it comes to merging loose blog ramblings and half-told yarns with the day’s news. As good an example came yesterday with Choire Sicha’s short piece about hearing Philip Glass tell a story about John Cage, only to then hear a similar story from a friend about Mierle Ukeles, who I’d never even heard of until today. Maybe I’m just a week wherein performance art whets my whistle, but Holy Roller Moses, this was awesome.
C: Sunday marks the 137th Kentucky Derby, which for its wordplay, punnery, and julep-induced poetics is arguably one of the most literary of sporting spectaculars. In other words, it rules because horse names are funny. This year is no exception: much has been made in the press about the quality monikers of equine contenders Pants on Fire, Midnight Interlude, and Mucho Mucho Man. Unfairly getting lost in the shuffle are the Cartier-Bresson referencing beauty Decisive Moment and a horse that a bunch of Hollywood dudes bought named Comma to the Top, which is apparently what weird people call apostrophes! I’m learnin’ something new every day! Edward McClelland of Slate tells us why we should all be pulling for Comma: he can’t produce sperm. The horse, not McClelland. Finally, catch the fever further with a look back at Hunter Thompson’s Mesopotamia of gonzo journalism, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”, written for Scanlan’s in 1970.
I’ve had this interest in secular music crossing paths with religion, and it’s something of a surprise that there hasn’t been a really good book focusing on the Christian rock scene to develop in the late 60s and 1970s. No Sympathy for the Devil (UNC Press) tries to fill that void, and does a good job. A little more on the academic side than I’d like books on music to be, but I’ll take what I can get.