Monday, September 14, 2009


for the lack of bloggin'.

My stupid camera broke.

In the meantime, my favorite person in the world, Bobby E. (his name is protected for professional reasons) wrote me a killer email about all the books he's read this summer. I love Bobby so much it's insane. For more on him, you should read Dear Diary. But for now, you should just read this.
And then I guess you should read these books.


I am going through a weird phase where I want to start cataloging the books that I've read. And, I have 20 minutes to kill before a faculty meeting. So, I'm going to give you the low down on what I've been reading the last 6 months or so, since this came up when we spoke the other day. I just finished a book today. I have a short one to read next and then Middlesex. I'll keep you posted! Maybe at some point we can talk about some of these nuggets. I am dying to be in a book club. What is wrong with me? Here goes:

Lush Life (Richard Price). Excellent crime novel that goes well beyond normal genre limitations. Ultimately becomes a very rich character study. It takes place in 2009 on the Lower East Side and critics seem to think he nailed the nuances of LES life. I'd like to see what you have to say seeing as you're the fucking mayor of that town! Price is definitely a top-notch writer. A-

The Turnaround (George Pelecanos). My favorite, current crime writer. Price is the critical darling, but I like Pelacanos more despite some of his shortcomings. I was turned onto him because he was a writer on The Wire and consistently wrote their most powerful episodes. Which basically means he is responsible for the best episodes in the history of dramatic television. His stuff is somewhat formulaic detective/cop/crime stuff, but he does it incredibly well. This book had an excellent premise, nice characterization, but an uncharacteristically sloppy ending. A slight notch below his best books, which I highly recommend. B

The Short Stories of John Cheever. There are like 68 stories all together. To be honest, I only read about 40 or so. There are a small handful (five or so) that are easily among the best short stories I've ever read. Very few of them are clunkers. Undoubtedly one of the best short story writers I've ever come across. At his best, his writing is beautiful. A-

The Falconer (John Cheever). Better than average, but not great novel about a professionally successful, but emotionally disturbed heroin addict who ends up in prison and falling in love with another inmate. The ending was fantastic. Overall, I like his short stories better. B

Rabbit Run & Rabbit Redux (John Updike). These are the first two "Rabbit" books. There are four all together. I am waiting to read the other two because I want to savor the experience. Both of these books are truly great. In terms of simple, straight-forward, beautiful prose, I think Updike might be the single, best writer I have ever read. I literally wanted to underline certain passages every few pages like a gay college student. Rabbit is one of the most well-drawn, confounding protaginists I've ever come across. Among my favorite books of all time. A

Sleeping Murder (Dame Agatha Christie). This is the 30th book of hers that I have read and I'm beginning to worry I've exhausted the classics. This was below-average Christie. Which means it was light and fun while reading, and immediately forgettable once completed. C-

Libra (Don Delillo). Great writer, incredible premise, but only pretty good results. He took one (of the hundreds that are out there) conspiracy theory about the JKF assassination, assumed it was true, and wrote about it using a creative non-fiction narrative. Overall, I liked White Noise more. I plan on reading Underworld this winter. B+

Salem's Lot (King).One of his few "classics" I never read so I gave it a shot. I honestly didn't know it was about vampires. If I did I probably would not have read it. Vampires are played. It was only so-so. C (for creeeeepy)

Oracle Night (Paul Auster). One of my favorite contemporary authors, but this book was a let down. The premise and set up were fantastic and then it puttered out. If you ever decide to read him (which I HIGHLY suggest), I can suggest some others to start with, but not this one. B-

Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy). McCarthy continues to be an enigma to me. I've only been able to finish two of his books (this one and The Road) and they both let me down big time. I have tried so hard to like him and I've decided to give up. I totally get why so many people like him and why this book is considered perhaps the best novel of the last 30 years, but he's just not for me and I've finally come to terms with that. I find the ultra-violence and barren landscapes and religious imagery boring and redundant. There is something about his overly-minimalistic writing style, which most people love, that annoys the hell out of me. I'm clearly in the minority here. C

The Crying Of Lot 49 (Thomas Pynchon). Many consider him the greatest living author. So, I started with his shortest and supposedly most accessible book. It had a few redeeming qualities, but overall I found it dated, pretentious, and tedious. To me, it was like Vonnegut without the charm and plot development. I will probably give him a second chance at some point. C-

The Moviegoer (Walker Percy). Super fucking boring and meandering. I gave up a little over halfway in. I doubt I missed much. D

The Price of Salt (Patricia Highsmith). I am a big fan of Highsmith's. This was not as well plotted or suspenseful as her best stuff, but it was interesting to read a book that was so taboo when it was published, but is so tame by today's standards. Spoiler Alert: It's about lesbians!! I liked it, but didn't love it. It is middle of the road Highsmith. B-

American Pastoral (Phillip Roth). Blew me away. It's a slow-burn, it's oddly structured, and the tangents get frustrating at times, but it is one of those books where the tangents all matter. In retrospect, nothing in the book is insignificant. I continued to think about this book long after I finished it. Roth managed to write a 360pg work of fiction that more or less explains the major cultural shifts that have occurred in America over the last 60 years, without ever explicitly spelling it out. And, the writing is unreal. Great Novel. A

Black Water (Joyce Carol Oats). Her stuff is always so-so to me. This is a novella (that reads more like a very long poem) that is heavily based on the Ted Kennedy chapiquitta incident, but told from the victim's perspective. It is very short, and nicely written, but ultimately whatevs. C+

I also tried to read all of the Raymond Carver (who I continue to love) stories that I had never previously read and a bunch of Hemmingway short stories (not a big fan, to be honest).

I also read two essay collections. One on Springsteen and one on Robert Altman. I enjoyed them both.