Monday, December 27, 2010

Although of Course, You End Up Becoming Yourself

This book consists almost entirely of transcriptions of conversations between David Foster Wallace and a Rolling Stone writer who was sent to profile him toward the end of his Infinite Jest book tour. It makes me want to put it down and pick up Infinite Jest again. Every time they talk about it I'm like "Infinite Jest -- now *there's* a book. Why am I reading this crap?"

Got some good holiday loot this year -- Big Girls Don't Cry by Rebecca Traister, Just Kids by Patti Smith (another New York story), Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges and some Laurie Notaro for the plane or for relaxing at cocktail hour in the suburbs.

Tomorrow: back to New York.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Super Sad True Love Story

Did not live up to the hype, but I liked it okay.

The author, Gary Shteyngart, managed to take subjects that can trigger a good old rant from yours truly -- stupid trendy NYC bars and their even stupider names, "the kids" walking around practically naked, overreliance on the Internet -- and, by satirizing them in what I thought was an alarmist, clumsy and tone-deaf way, make me downright defensive of young people today.

I am re-reading Female Chauvanist Pigs by Ariel Levy and when I'm done I'm going to have more to say about exactly how Shteyngart gets it wrong.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

According to the records I keep on Goodreads, I read a book just about every two weeks. So I'll probably read about 25 books this year. It doesn't sound like a lot, does it?

I just finished An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel. I started reading it because a friend left it in my apartment, and also it's a lightweight paperback, perfect for schlepping back and forth to work for lunch break reading. It's extremely well written, but the affect is flat.

Here's a good example:
"They were brown lace-up shoes, like school shoes. The laces were very badly knotted. Julia picked at them. Her occupation made her look humble, like someone in the New Testament."

Mantel paints a beautiful picture. But everything in the book is like this. The main character describes the scene in front of her, nothing further.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New York stories

So much of what I've watched and read since moving to New York -- a year ago tomorrow! -- have been New York stories. That's partially because so much takes place here, of course. I would have read Freedom, where maybe 1/3 of the novel is set in New York, whether I was here or not. Probably still would have gone to see the Wall Street sequel. Maybe would have read Liar's Poker. But then, I definitely would not have read There's A Road To Everywhere Except Where You Came From, and probably not Super Sad True Love Story, which I started the other day, either.

Freedom and Liar's Poker are excellent books, and also universal stories. You don't need to have ever been to New York to enjoy them. Super Sad True Love Story is so far ... kind of an angry but not really on-the-nose joke about New York today. I have to think more about it. There's A Road To Everywhere rings completely true, and it should -- it's a memoir about the recent past.

But today I saw a movie that surpasses them all in terms of being so true to life it could be a documentary. It's called Tiny Furniture, and the set-up is a standard one: twenty-something returns home from college, directionless, to live with mom, takes up with crazy friend, meets bad news guys. Everything that is said and done I swear I have already seen said and done. Yet it feels original. Not-quite-right New York movies show people living in sprawling spaces with a sort of gleaming minimalist aesthetic. But this tony Tribeca loft was lined with storage cupboards and the daughters' rooms were really just one room with a fake wall down the middle. Young actors bitch about staying in Bushwick. A drug-addled daughter of privilege complains about how weird her mom's gotten since taking up with the Landmark Forum. One character doesn't know the difference between Ohio and Ontario. Manhattan dwellers take cabs home from Dumbo instead of the train. They never make little references to the 6 or the L to make it sound real -- they don't have to, because everything they say and do sounds real. Highly and completely recommended.