Last night I read an essay called "Up, Simba," written during the 2000 Presidential campaign, originally published in abbreviated form by Rolling Stone and now available in its entirety among the contents of David Foster Wallace's new collection, Consider the Lobster. Had someone suggested, as recently as yesterday's lunch, that seventy-nine pages of journalism about a losing candidate (John McCain) from an six-years-past election would excite my interest in politics, even briefly, and (more unlikely still) inspire me to walk directly from the couch to a desk chair and start typing sentences for strangers to read, I would have confidently assumed that said "someone" was either a) drunk; b) naïve; or c) confusing me for a look-alike who treats the front section of newspapers as more than a protective coating for Sports and Arts. And yet here we are....(read more)
Smart books are good for your brain. Funny, smart books provide valuable nutrition to other parts of your body, too.
The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil
by George Saunders TBaFRoP has garnered many a comparison to Animal Farm. Fair enough: they're both novella-length, political fables written by men named George. But Saunders is so much funnier and more playful. If you haven't read his work, here's a perfect place to start.
Oh, the buzz of reading great new books before they hit store shelves. Every now and then I consider what it might someday be like to lose prepublication access to books, and I shudder. I make myself think about something else.
by Aimee Bender
On the surface, most of the stories in Willful Creatures shouldn't ring true at all. But think of a roller coaster: Bender's magical flourishes crank you up, up, up along the tracks until, suddenly, break-necking back toward reality, a single line tears your stomach out. The ride gets addictive mundane and surreal, fantastic and familiar, one rush leaves you clamoring for the next.
by Roger Angell
Once I lived for ten weeks in a van with a friend, traveling from major league park to major league park. Another summer brought me to sixty-three minor league parks. Before all that, it was Roger Angell who got me hooked on baseball. Anything he writes about the sport is worth reading. Game Time, a new collection gathering forty years of his most memorable essays, is an ideal place to start.
Books I've recommended to friends at one time or another. Some, like Bel Canto, I'd recommend to just about anyone. Even you. (It doesn't sound like the kind of novel you generally read, maybe, but that was my first thought too and since the minute I picked it up I haven't stopped raving.)
by Ann Patchett
As Patchett's fourth novel opens, fifty-seven men, eighteen terrorists, and one remarkable opera singer begin their new life behind the closed doors of the vice presidential mansion. Inspired by the four-month-long, 1996 Peruvian hostage crisis, Bel Canto "is ninety-eight percent fiction," the author says. Roxane Coss was her idea....
What I've Been Reading Lately
Updated on December 16, 2008
I didn't read as a child, unless you count the Sports section of the Boston Globe. Maybe this explains my late-blooming interest in children's books.
James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl
Magic green pills spill, accidentally, onto the ground beneath a peach tree. A peach appears overnight, the only fruit the tree has ever produced; by morning, it's swollen to the size of a houseboat, and soon enough James Henry Trotter is climbing aboard for the ride of his life. If John Lennon had written a full-length children's story instead of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," this would be it. Even the ending is true: The English orphan boy finds happiness in a home near his magical friends in New York's Central Park. I love this book: the story, the drawings, the characters, and most of all the adventure.
"Heaven, such as it is, is right here on earth. Behold: my revelation: I stand at the door in the morning, and lo, there is a newspaper, in sight like unto an emerald. And holy, holy, holy is the coffee, which was, and is, and is to come. And hark, I hear the voice of an angel round about the radio saying, "Since my baby left me I found a new place to dwell." And lo, after this I beheld a great multitude, which no man could number, of shoes. And after these things I will hasten unto a taxicab and to a theater, where a ticket will be given unto me, and lo, it will be a matinee, and a film that doeth great wonders. And when it is finished, the heavens will open, and out will cometh a rain fragrant as myrrh, and yea, I have an umbrella."
from Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell
"Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in 'sadness,' 'joy,' or 'regret.' Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, 'the happiness that attends disaster.' Or: 'the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy.' I'd like to show how 'intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members' connects with 'the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.' I'd like to have a word for 'the sadness inspired by failing restaurants' as well as for 'the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.'"
from Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides