A roundup of things consumed by our contributors.
I’ve been trying my hand at writing a weird detective story I’ve had kicking around in my dome for much of the year, which led to me inhaling two Sherlock Holmes collections purchased at the Crosby Street unit of Housing Works. Arthur Conan Doyle is a ridiculously fun writer, full of vinegar wit and easily digestible yarns that pack a wallop of clever entendres and satisfying mystery hooks. There’s also a beautiful throughline within all of these stories wherein the character of Watson is the stand-in for both reader and writer alike, and you end up having this very interesting metafictional textuality in which the good doctor is inviting us into the craft both detective work and writing detective stories. The latter of the two collections, called His Last Bow, has a marvelous grizzled vet vibe to it as Holmes is confronted with the aging process and the increased frenzy of Britain on the verge of war with Germany. See these out and get titilated.
Two really fun movie theater outings after having not been in ages: Moonrise Kingdom was the typically excellent Wes Anderson production design with a great script to match. I’d forgotten that he and Roman Coppola can write really funny scenes, and the thirteen year old leads steal the show. Easy Money does such a good job of showing off la dolce vita of Stockholm socialites that I found myself wanting to go back to the good times sequences once the heist setup starts and everything goes to hell. Joel Kinnaman and Lisa Kinni are perfectly stunning, looking like ABBA had two love children with a stern marble statue.
And to combine two of my recent Indexings into one serene nosh, check out Action Bronson’s Grub Street Diet! It’s as bewildering a hybrid as the marijuana-infused branzino that the dude cooks for himself. Yes, you read that correctly.
Spent part of the week driving to various parts of the great state of Florida, hitting the beach before summer comes to a complete close. I picked up audiobook editions of Steve Almond’s Candyfreak and Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park. I skipped through Candyfreak–I liked his nostalgia, but the factory visits became a little old. I got into the one about GooGoo Clusters and the Five Star Bar, but that’s about it. However, I was completely surprised by Lunar Park. I liked it. Dare I say “really” liked it?
I’m not a huge Ellis fan, I think I’ve only read Less Than Zero. But a good metafictional yarn always pulls my heartstrings taut. Fact, fiction, let’s let them ride together, and let’s place all of our 80s celebrity burdens at the footstep of Ellis–he seems at least like he wants to bear them. It opens with Ellis describing his rise to fame–some parts of it seemed true, some of it is sure to be false, nevertheless it made everything else that follows–the haunted house story, the double visions, the father impersonators, all seem actual. Real. Uncanny in the complete Freudian sense of the word.
Only one crucial plot point seemed too much, but the rest slid nicely from fact into meta into complete fiction and I enjoyed the ride. Most of the reviews I read afterward were hung on the idea that Ellis wanted to copy a Stephen King novel–but the genre bias shouldn’t keep people from reading it, because it’s more than that.
This week went by so quickly. A lot of projects, a lot of work, but I found some time to read, somehow. On Sunday I read all of Seduction and Betrayal by Elizabeth Hardwick in one gulp. Her essay on Sylvia Plath has really stayed with me. I have since moved onto A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes, and I’m savoring it. How does this book not get mentioned every day by every single person I talk to? It’s absolutely bewitching.
I also revisited Hell Hath No Fury, Clipse’s 2006 masterpiece, and listened to that about twenty times, and I alternated between repeat listens of the new Taylor Swift song and the new Cat Power songs. Oh, and I want to see The Master so bad that it hurts me. That’s where I’m at. Hey, thank the lord, I’m going out of town this weekend. I demand to relax! I don’t want to think about anything the whole time, I just want to hang out on a lake and read A High Wind in Jamaica and maybe have some ice cream.
Joined a fantasy EPL league this week. The funny thing about this, of course, is that I don’t know much about the Premier League — I’ve decided that I’m a Wigan supporter primarily because George Orwell once wrote a book about Wigan, and hey, who am I to argue with George Orwell?
Also, my team’s name is a Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace reference. Doubling down on the Anglophilia, apparently.
I suppose I should also invoke some books. It’s been a good week for reading: got to talk about Stefan Zweig’s The Post-Office Girl at a book group at Community Bookstore, and while I’m not sure it’s the indictment of capitalism promised by the back cover, it certainly made for a searing portrait of 1920s Austria, with characters reeling from traumas suffered both in war and economically, in said war’s aftermath. Christopher Beha’s What Happened to Sophie Wilder was terrific — but I’ll be writing something longer about the book in question for next week. (Ditto J. Robert Lennon’s Familiar.) Danilo Kis’s The Attic was a weird, playful work that reminded me a bit of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds in its fictional deftness and irreverence. And I’m now in the middle of Claire Vaye Watkins’s Battleborn, a collection about which I will have much to say.
In forthcoming-book news, I just put in an order for Frank Hinton’s Action, Figure, which looks promising. (I type that with the disclaimer that Hinton published a story of mine at Metazen last year.) I’m hoping to make my way to more live music in the months to come; I kicked that off with a trip to see Deep Time and The Babies play at Union Pool, and was impressed with both groups — one taut and progressing in unexpected ways, the other coming off in a style that wouldn’t have been out of place on stage at Brownies in 2000. (Think: straight-up catchy indie rock with some nonintrusive soloing; if they’d been around in the late 90s, they’d totally have been on Up in the era of 764-HERO and Modest Mouse.) Picked up tickets to see Alvarius B. in the weeks to come…
End of summer fiction detox got me to the local library to pick up several P.G. Wodehouse biographies, and Ron Chernow’s Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. It’s not that I don’t want to read any more fiction, I’ve just been reading so much that I need a little change. Biographies seem like a good detour for the time being, especially after I just finished Lisa Cohen’s fantastic All We Know. I just figured that I’m on a decent biography kick, might as well keep it going. Also got a copy of Daniel Mendelsohn’s Waiting for the Barbarians, and skipped immediately to the essay on Mad Men.
I haven’t abandoned fiction altogether. I’ve been slowly going through Battleborn — which is totally wonderful. I’m hoping to wrap that up this weekend and then get started on Paula Bomer’s Nine Months.