Indexing: Island Vacation Books, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Noy Holland, Patrick Melrose Converts, and More

A roundup of things consumed by our contributors.

Josh Spilker
I’m in a mad dash before the end of the year to finish Frank Hinton’s Action, Figure. I interact with her on a sort-of-regular basis and I feel bad for not having finished her book.

After seeing it recommended by our very own Jason Diamond, I made a point to pick up The Patrick Melrose Novels. I found it at the used bookstore for $1.50. Some people just don’t know what they’re missing.
It’s a month or two old, but I listened to great podcast episodes this week–Radiolab’s “The Fact of the Matter” and the Longform Pocast interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates. Both are a must for any writer, I think.
Haywire. It’s this movie that came out at the beginning of the year by Steven Soderbergh. It reminded me a lot of The Bourne Identity. I don’t think the film quite knew what it was trying to do, but there are some great moments. Better than a lot of other action movies.

Tobias Carroll
And so I go, back to the world of nonfiction.  Finally getting to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts, purchased earlier this year. It’s the first book chronicling his early-1930s trip to Constantinople; this one gets him as far as Hungary. In between, he stops for digressions on this region’s future history, meditations on nature, and thoughts on art. (Am I crazy for finding a not-insubstantial aesthetic overlap with Dave Hickey’s The Invisible Dragon in places?) Sometimes the richness of Fermor’s prose is jarring — it’s like eating a chocolate cake after an already-dense meal. That said, there are far worse complaints to have about a book.

I also continued with my Donald Antrim reading — specifically, The Verificationist. Of his loose trilogy of novels, I’d agree with Justin Taylor that it’s the one that works the least well, but it’s still entertaining — a dizzying, deeply stylized take on personal anxiety and professional rivalry. And so far, William Gerhardie’s Futility is a fine comedy of manners pitting a young British man against an eccentric Russian family as the latter’s country descends into civil war. So far, I’m enjoying the hell out of it (and finding the Waugh and Wharton endorsements quite understandable), even if the narrator’s occasional racism is infuriating (and completely unnecessary.)

Up next? John Jeremiah Sullivan’s highly-recommended Blood Horses, to kick off a nonfiction block also featuring work from John McPhee and Nicholas Bouvier.

Jason Diamond
I was curious to read Noy Holland’s Swim for the Little One First since it arrived in the mail, but ended up misplacing my copy for a few weeks until it magically revealed itself on Thursday in the last (and most obvious) place I decided to look (underneath my clean laundry pile).

I leave for a two week vacation on an island with no bookstores. The selections I make to bring with me will have to all be perfect ones. Some will be for upcoming pieces I’m working on, but so far I’m up to six books and thinking about capping it off at about ten.

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