#tobyreads: Voyages, Art, and Visions


After several months of being told by numerous smart folks that Will Chancellor’s A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall was fantastic–and running into its author at a fair amount of literary happenings around town–I cracked into it. And: ever read something that you’d wished you’d read earlier for any number of reasons? Well, Chancellor’s novel certainly falls into that category. First and foremost, it’s terrific, a story that covers everything from political unrest to a complex father/son dynamic to competitive water polo and manages to make everything cohesive and very compelling.

I can’t quite explain what I admired most about this book in this space, as it has to do with aspects of how it reached its conclusion; part of the delight that came from reading it was in how it proceeded, rarely to the places I might expect.

As for one reason why I wished I’d read it earlier: last year, I wrote a piece for Hazlitt on fictional artists.  And Chancellor’s book has a terrific one, a German artist named Kurt Wagener, who suggests a potentially sociopathic riff on Martin Kippenberger. The descriptions of art, of sports, of philosophy, and of music are uniformly consistent and believable: these characters, all questing, all fundamentally honest (even when it’s about their own malevolence), have tastes and idiosyncrasies and unpredictability that renders them sharply drawn.


A lot of my reading this week has been for freelance assignments; that said, I’ve been catching up on a backlog of publications, print and online. In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Tayler’s look at Dostoyevsky and St. Petersburg made for fascinating reading, as did James Parker’s musings on the life and legacy of Dylan Thomas. (Which, in turn, reminds me that I need to check out Under Milkwood before long.) I’m a little late to the game on this, but I ended up binge-listening to Serial while reorganizing parts of my apartment, which was followed by tracking down assorted reactions and responses to it. And I’m presently working my way through The Dissolve’s in-depth look at Michael Mann’s Heat.


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