I just wanted to say hi! I like you guys. I hope you guys are okay at home! About a year and a half ago I went on anti-depressants to stop smoking (a truly helpful medicine for my anxiety and ocd and all that for over 30 years) and for some reason they really made me flinch at the thought of social media or ilx. I just wanted to read. Books and also online. I read so much online. Newspapers, magazines, all kinds of stuff. I got a subscription to the New Republic and went through their archives like a crazy person. I’m always looking for good long author interviews too. Unfortunately, between reading online and my insane television watching, books can get ignored. I go to Lithub and The Millions now too. Do you guys go there? Where else do you go for Lit stuff these days? Maria also got me a print subscription to the NYRB. I read some article about recent “workplace fiction” and also a piece on Ottessa Moshfegh (they were probably both in the New Yorker) and for the first time in a LONG time I started seeking out new-ish literary fiction. The new-ish writers sounded cool. Prior to that, I had been reading 3 volumes of correspondence between Carlyle and Emerson. Anyway, I found some stuff I didn’t dig – I bought three books by Joshua Ferris and couldn’t finish any of them – but some cool stuff that I really liked. Mostly women. Which is usually the case with me. I really like Ottessa. Even though I still haven’t read her last smash yet! It’s in a pile at home. I liked The New Me by Halle Butler. Probably others I’m forgetting. Nell Zink is my new fave. It’s funny, I saw my friend – and former ILXor – Beth Parker last summer, and ALL she is reading is Sci-Fi! So much Sci-Fi! I was like uh I’m reading a lot of literary fiction uh….I felt lame. Anyway, the pandemic made me feel like reaching out on Facebook and it didn’t kill me and I thought I’d reach out here too. Me and the family are good. We had some scary stuff happen right BEFORE the pandemic in March, but everything is cool now. Cyrus is turning 15, and thus, spending about 15 hours in his room every day. Rufus got a full scholarship to Mcgill! He’s excited. Go Canada! Sadly, he will be online for the first semester. He’s hoping he can still go up there in the fall though. My big worry is my mom and dad. Dad alone and my mom in a nursing home that has tons of virus. We get to video chat with her. She's pretty far gone with the Alzheimers, but she's still smiling. Hope your families are okay!
This is a list of stuff I’ve read recently. With bonus comments! Didn’t want to clog up your seasonal thread. How long ago did I start this board!!!??? Sooooo Long ago. Rufus was a baby.
Jack McDevitt - Chindi (Entertaining SF but too long. It definitely needed pruning. Which is how I felt about the last Hutch novel I read by him. It’s probably not worth it for publishers to give SF writers dedicated editors. I’m guessing. I have no idea. They certainly don’t give SF writers dedicated proofreaders. I don’t know if younger people will read books like this in the future. Very old-fashioned. Very 20th century. Jack born in 1935. The silent generation. You don’t need to be told that when you read his men/women/sexes stuff. At least his most popular series character was a woman. There is that. I have a hard time visualizing the action and science in his books sometimes. That might just be me. BUT he always has some really cool ideas/scenarios. The chindi ship being the most obvious in this book. I could have spent a LOT more time inside that ship. I can see other writers ripping off his best ideas wholesale. Also, I do kinda love the idea of an outer space filled with the corpses of long-dead civilizations for some reason.)
Outline – Rachel Cusk (Page-turner! I haven’t read a book that I wanted to gobble up like this in a while. Rachel Cusk REALLY likes the word “extraordinary”. She uses it dozens of times. A bravura performance for real. I never get to use the word “bravura”. That part where the guy is sleeping on the kitchen floor with all the drying clothes everywhere around him and he stares at the refrigerator magnets. So many moments like that.)
Transit – Rachel Cusk (Ditto!)
Kudos - Rachel Cusk (That kudos kid! Loved him. I devoured this trilogy. When was the last time that I wished a book/movie/album were longer? Its been a bit. That conference in Greece? Sicily? Portugal? Maybe it was Portugal. That was the set-piece to end all set-pieces. That woman who was jealous of her sister! Oh, I could go on…)
The Uninhabitable Earth – David Wallace-Wells (Fake news obviously. There should be a real time daily updating of this book online. I kept reading it thinking…yeah, but wait until you get a load of the firenados in Australia! This book is actually being made into a movie by the director of Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby.)
Gutshot: Stories – Amelia Gray (I am all for this explosion of talented, weird women. I will support their work for as long as I am able. Do all of these stories work? Hell no. But there is more than enough that does work. It was hard to read these stories slowly. I might actually have to read it again someday. Patricia Highsmith’s Little Tales Of Misogyny is a good starting point for reference. But nobody needs reference. I want to send all these freaky writers a copy of The Hungry Girls and Other Stories by Patricia Eakins in case they missed it. I’m just so happy that younger writers are not afraid these days to blend horror and fantasy and whatever else floats their boat into their fiction.)
The Big Aha – Rudy Rucker (I bought a bunch of the Night Shade Books Rucker reprints. They look nice. I only have beat up old paperbacks of his books and I never want to read them. This one was entertaining. Wacky, madcap, antic, etc. Entertaining and still too long though. So much you could edit. Night Shade Books also not hiring proofreaders. Its really starting to bug me in my old age. Whattayagonnado? I like the idea of “qwet” or quantum wetware. And the book never devolved TOO far into shaggy hippie territory. Although his intent to was to show what a cyber-psych flowering would look like in the future. Didn’t make me cringe. VERY goofy. But too long. Goofy at almost 400 pages is a bit much to ask. Definitely will read the other titles I bought though.)
Olivia Laing (I rushed through this like a crazy man. As if it were meant to be read at a mile a minute. A Trump novel that is also a tribute to Kathy Acker? Count me in. Not perfect, but very entertaining and at times poetic in the way that I like my poetry and my women. Sloppy, funny, and brainy.)
A Princess of Roumania - Paul Park (I stopped reading after 130 pages. I picked it up because of the big fat Ursula K. Le Guin quote on the cover, but this was a book made for bigger fans of YA-style fantasy than me. The main characters were vague and poorly sketched even by the standards of pulp sci-fi. And that’s saying something! So, if I don’t have characters to hang onto in a book this trad, I’d better have some page-turning plotting going on. Not so much.)
Flowers of Mold & Other Stories – Ha Seong-Nan (Odd stories that are not horror or fantasy or “weird” fiction. They are more homely than that. Some great little details. I found that a character in reverie over a billboard seen from the bus was more captivating than some of the strange twists and turns that came later. Would really like to read a novel by the author. This was translated from Korean and published by Open Letter Books at the University of Rochester. They are devoted to translating books that would probably never get translated into English otherwise. Bully for them! They have a very cool catalog of books you have never read. They even have a special deal where you can buy 100 of their books for $500 and it is totally tempting even though I am not officially a library or research facility.)
Dept. Of Speculation – Jenny Offill (Kinda hard not to read this book in five seconds. It’s built for speed. Read it now and see what effect it has had on quirky writers both male and female in the last six years. I really am all for fun fact fiction. Not that I want EVERYTHING to be Lydia Davis + Bartlett’s + Trivial Pursuit + Jokes. But I have a pretty big capacity for the style. Like if W.G. Sebald and Fran Lebowitz had a kid who became an expert Googler. I want to say that The Mezzanine is one of the founding fathers of this kind of writing as well (along with all things Lydia Davis), but I haven’t read it in years. I could be wrong. Baker’s non-fiction probably a big influence on people’s stuff now, no? And Susan Orlean? Janet Malcolm? Connect-the-dots streams of consciousness and anything can lead to anywhere and everything you have read is a part of all of it and everyone keeps repeating the word “autofiction” over and over. I’m reading Ducks, Newburyport right now off and on as well as all of these smaller books and I can’t help but think of Erma Bombeck AND James Joyce and all the high/low pop art/post-mod/meta takes on everything on earth from the 60s on. Ducks might very well be the Ulysses of our time. I mean I just read a breezy autofiction book based on the work of Kathy Acker! Anything goes in this topsy turvy world. I like pastiche. I like collage. I like hip hop. I like that people feel that the world is theirs. That they can re-make it and re-name it. Again, this is why I’ve drowned myself in SF for the last dozen years or more. Make it new. Make it yours.)
Wild Milk – Sabrina Orah Mark (LOVED this! I like my surrealism funny. I’m dumb like that. I could read a book like this once a week. I wanted to read the whole thing out loud to the chagrin of my loved ones. Even the cat ran away. These stories must have been so fun to write. The best book about family that I’ve read in a while as well. The family theme probably wouldn’t be evident by just browsing through the thing.)
Winners Take All – Anand Giridharadas (I hope everybody reads it. It seems like a lot of people are! I am definitely an Anand fan. In the end, a really sad book. But well worth reading. His new t.v. show is good too.)
Song For The Unraveling Of The World – Brian Evenson (I got this because in my hunt for new non-SF I might like Brian Evenson seemed like a big blurber on book covers that looked interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by him and I see on Wiki that he’s been at it for a long time. My problem with some newer “weird” fiction I’ve read is that it can be too vague for me. I guess part of me really wants to know what the dark lurking horror really IS. It can sometimes read like someone else’s boring dream. There are some interesting ideas in these stories that would probably work well in a future reboot of Tales From The Darkside. There is not one scary thing though. Which seemed odd. Maybe “scary” is overrated now.)
California – Edan Lepucki (Edan Lepucki is a great name. Let’s get that out of the way. In a nutshell, California is entertaining pop dystopia. Not great, but worth reading for fans of near-future doom. Seems like a natural for future Hulu limited series action. Sometimes It can be interesting to read a non-genre writer’s take on genre clichés, but not in this case. They were just clichés. You get a lot of vagueness now with middle of the road writers of dystopia/zombie books and t.v. /movies. No big explanations. Everything just ended. That’s all you need to know. Kind of a Sundance Festival vibe. Things are evocative and atmospheric because I said so! I also think that writing a coherent and easily pictured physical description of a character is becoming a lost art. Genre writers are WAY ahead of lit fic writers there as well. So many of them can’t describe their way out of a paper bag. It’s something you learn to live with. I don’t even need some long-ass 19th century description or anything. Just a deft thumbnail sketch will do. This is also my big problem with Film criticism of the last however many years. They can blab all day about THEMES and SUBTEXT and METAPHORS and BLAH and all that boring term paper shit but they have mostly given up on trying to describe what a movie looks or sounds like. It’s beyond them. Which is a little sad. A better doomsday book that I read recently by a non-genre writer was The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones.)
Hardly Children: Stories – Laura Adamczyk (I liked this a lot! Also, some of these stories were WAY more frightening than any of those Brian Evenson stories I read. And they aren’t horror. Just every day real world horror. There is one genuine doozy in here. Yeesh. She is great at channeling kids. Not everybody has that gift. I feel like the modern women I’m reading now are more artful AND more visceral than their male counterparts. So much more fierce in a world with so much at stake. I feel this way about television writers too. Maybe I don’t read the right men. I just re-read Lorrie Moore’s story “Debarking” the other day and I can’t imagine a man writing a story like that. I don’t know why. What a story that is. I saw the big Everyman’s Library hardcover of Lorrie’s collected stories and I was tempted to buy it even though I don’t really need it. Also, Everyman hardcovers – like Library of America hardcovers – never feel fun to pick up and read. I feel like I have to crack them in half to get them started. Anyway, Laura Adamczyk is cool.)
The Wall Around Eden – Joan Slonczewski (Quaker Sci-Fi! I dig it. I like Plain talk. This was also a way cooler end of the world book than California. I’d never heard of the author, and now I will look for more. This book is from 1990. And it is straight up SF with lots of great CONCRETE details about life after the bomb. But also there are aliens. Win/Win.
A father And His Fate – Ivy Compton-Burnett (Even later I C-B is well worth reading. Not as virtuoso a performance as some of her earlier books, but, on the other hand, most humans could never write a book like this in a million years. I doubt anyone living in 2020 could. She is such an unlikely hero, but a hero she is all the same. I don’t know how many people still read her, but I certainly will for as long as I shuffle along. If you’ve never listened to the audio of the interview that Studs Terkel did with I C-B you should find it online. It’s great.)
Nicotine – Nell Zink (What a hoot. Pretty crazy. And fun. Her dialogue is so awesome. A very talented writer. Reading her Doxology now…needed some more Zink in my diet.)
― scott seward, Thursday, 14 May 2020 16:25 (one month ago) link
hi scott!! glad to hear you're doing ok and keeping busy. (congrats to rufus by the way!)
― porlockian solicitor (Karl Malone), Thursday, 14 May 2020 16:28 (one month ago) link
Scott hello! Glad all is well :)
― xyzzzz__, Thursday, 14 May 2020 16:30 (one month ago) link
― Frank Bough: I Took Drugs with Vice Girls (Tom D.), Thursday, 14 May 2020 16:30 (one month ago) link
Hey, Scott! Good to hear you are riding out the storm in reasonable shape. Your mother's situation sounds dicey, but it sounds like you understand the limits of what you can do about it.
Ivy Compton-Burnett still has readers! They'll probably keep her flame alive for a few more decades at least. It's hard to make it solidly into the canon, but even if you don't you can still hang out on the culty fringe for centuries. I wish her luck.
― A is for (Aimless), Thursday, 14 May 2020 16:45 (one month ago) link
― spruce springclean (darraghmac), Thursday, 14 May 2020 16:45 (one month ago) link
Ivy Compton-Burnett still has readers!
― Frank Bough: I Took Drugs with Vice Girls (Tom D.), Thursday, 14 May 2020 17:00 (one month ago) link
High Skot, I'd been wondering what you were up to, also remembering your early mention of your mother's Alzheimer's---been there, keep on truckin'---a counterbalance is nec. part of that, so another reason to be glad you're enjoying the reading---given The Department of Speculation etc comments, wonder if you've read Lucia Berlin? A Manual For Cleaning Women or other collections, subsequent reissues---also, given your frustration with film criticism, do you like Emily Nussbaum's TV critiques? I haven't read her collection, I Like To Watch, but some of those pieces, orig in New Yorker, turned me on to good stuff (although I didn't follow her from network and basic cable to stream, and may well never, but I like to read her watching). ICB rules!
― dow, Thursday, 14 May 2020 18:15 (one month ago) link
Hey Scott, welcome back!
― pomenitul, Thursday, 14 May 2020 18:17 (one month ago) link
― COVID and the Gang (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 14 May 2020 18:57 (one month ago) link
hi skott! i haven't read it yet, but jenny offill has a new one that came out in february
mcgill rules; he should live in molson hall imo
― mookieproof, Thursday, 14 May 2020 19:06 (one month ago) link
welcome back, scott! really enjoyed the brian evenson collection, def more skin-crawly than hair-raising. i loved doxology (well, i loved the first half) and i'm curious to hear your thoughts
― sleight return (voodoo chili), Thursday, 14 May 2020 19:11 (one month ago) link
I bought the new Ofill book. Haven't read yet.
Also have those two recent Berlin collections, Dow, but only read a few stories. Will get to them one of these days.
Emily Nussbaum I have read, but I can't really remember anything that I've read. I keep almost buying that Jia Tolentino book. I like her a lot. speaking of new yorker people.
― scott seward, Thursday, 14 May 2020 19:14 (one month ago) link
Hi! I really like Doxology. I'm almost done with it. And the odds of me liking a gen x indie rock novel in 2020...slim! but she's so quick and funny and all that. Plus, she mentions my pals Byron Coley and Robert Christgau in the first couple of pages. I will read whatever she writes next.
― scott seward, Thursday, 14 May 2020 19:16 (one month ago) link
Yeah, came back to add the Tolentino===haven't read the two most recent Berlins yet, but A Manual For Cleaning Women is one of my all-time favorites (and I mean all).
― dow, Thursday, 14 May 2020 20:06 (one month ago) link
I did really like doxology, just immaculately constructed sentence after immaculately constructed sentence
Tried to order zink’s earlier book mislaid from a couple local bookstores, but no dice
― sleight return (voodoo chili), Friday, 15 May 2020 05:00 (one month ago) link
just here to say hey scott!
― methinks dababy doth bop shit too much (m bison), Friday, 15 May 2020 05:29 (one month ago) link
Hi Scott! Very happy that you are popping back in. Always nice to hear what is going on in your world.
― Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Friday, 15 May 2020 05:33 (one month ago) link
Scott, so nice to have you back. You have been missed!
― Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Friday, 15 May 2020 07:07 (one month ago) link
Welcome back Scott!!! So nice to hear you're doing well, reading and all. Hearing Beth Parker (<3) going full sci-fi def brought the smiles, and I'm happy Rufus is ok too.
― Hey, let me drunkenly animate yr boats in about 25 to 60 days! (Le Bateau Ivre), Friday, 15 May 2020 08:15 (one month ago) link
Bloody Seward, i curse him when I look at the Scott mixtapes taking up all that space on my hard drive. Good to see you, and pleased to hear about Rufus as well.
I go to Lithub and The Millions now too. Do you guys go there? Where else do you go for Lit stuff these days? Maria also got me a print subscription to the NYRB.
more and more i'm just going to the lists of contemporary small publishers. one of the things that's happened during lockdown is that I've been reading contemporary stuff from small publishers - as a number of people on here will tell you, the Dostoyevsky Wannabe list is variable, but their approach encourages innnovation and has produced some really interesting writing.
― Fizzles, Friday, 15 May 2020 14:15 (one month ago) link
I follow a few small publishers on twitter, for when I'm after newish stuff - Tilted Axis and Silver Press spring to mind straight away.
― emil.y, Friday, 15 May 2020 15:11 (one month ago) link
I forgot to mention, the SF and Fantasy writer Kelly Link got an arts grant and bought a book store that was for sale near me in Easthampton, Ma and now its filled with weird cool new stuff. She also runs Small Beer Press which is a cool indie:
also, i mentioned Open Letter Books up top, and they are really worth checking out for international writers that probably never would have been translated here otherwise:
― scott seward, Friday, 15 May 2020 15:41 (one month ago) link
Cool. Didn't know she ran Small Beer. Or maybe I did and forgot.
― Louder Than Bach's Bottom (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 15 May 2020 15:46 (one month ago) link
Kelly link rules
― brimstead, Friday, 15 May 2020 16:56 (one month ago) link
nell zink and jenny offill are both wonderful. i'll try not to fill another thread with my negative thoughts about t*lentino's work
― mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Friday, 15 May 2020 16:59 (one month ago) link
anyway hi skot you've been missed!!!
― mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Friday, 15 May 2020 17:00 (one month ago) link
Kelly Link's 2014 Get In Trouble=can't-bust-'em short stories: punk, never mind the cyber. It's like she scarfed down the best issues of RAW as a child, for one thing. Also ace: "The White Cat's Divorce," in 70th Anniversary Issue (September/October 2019) of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (orig. commissioned by an art museum for exhibit "Dread and Delight," prev. appeared only in their catalog).Think her husband runs Hard Case Crime?
― dow, Friday, 15 May 2020 18:53 (one month ago) link
Maybe. Almost said no, but was thinking of a different power couple in that circle.
― Louder Than Bach's Bottom (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 15 May 2020 18:57 (one month ago) link
Seems he’s married to Naomi Novik.
― Louder Than Bach's Bottom (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 15 May 2020 18:58 (one month ago) link
Oh yeah. Link's hub is her partner in Small Beer. Really enjoyed Novik's fantasy novel Uprooted.
― dow, Friday, 15 May 2020 20:51 (one month ago) link
Think what I was thinking of was the Hard Case Crime guy's day job boss was married to somebody with whom I had some passing familiarity.
― Louder Than Bach's Bottom (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 15 May 2020 21:01 (one month ago) link
Scott did you ever read Zazen by Vanessa Veselka? I thought it was really cool and might fit in well with some of what you've been reading. I feel like I've heard good things about Flowers of Mold elsewhere but can't remember where.
― JoeStork, Friday, 15 May 2020 22:46 (one month ago) link
i have not read that.
there is a big wave of cool Korean and Japanese and Chinese women writers (and men too) and I try to write their names down when I see them.
i bought this recently:
― scott seward, Friday, 15 May 2020 22:57 (one month ago) link
got this too. speculative Chinese stories:
In this first book in the brand-new Calico Series, we bring you work by some of today's most exciting writers from China and Hong Kong, including Dorothy Tse (tr. Natascha Bruce), Zhu Hui (tr. Michael Day), and Enoch Tam (tr. Jeremy Tiang). Lightly touching on issues of urbanization, sexuality, and propaganda, the collection builds a world both utterly disorienting and disturbing familiar, prompting the question: Where does reality end and absurdity begin in a world pushed to its very limits?
― scott seward, Friday, 15 May 2020 23:00 (one month ago) link
those are some good covers
― JoeStork, Friday, 15 May 2020 23:04 (one month ago) link
I thought Ha Jin's novel Waiting was remarkable, got into it like a Gong Li-Zhang Yimou movie. Entranced/unnerved by Tang Fei's "Broken Stars," title story of Ken Liu's latest anthology. Will have to try again with some of the others. Tang Fei! Remember the name.
― dow, Saturday, 16 May 2020 02:16 (one month ago) link
Vanessa veselka has a new novel coming out later this year.
― Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Sunday, 17 May 2020 00:04 (one month ago) link
Hey Scott, hey ILBGood to see you last summer. Thanks for the list! Thanks for starting ILB! I remember that. I loved The New Me by Halle Butler too, and also I’m about a third of the way through Ducks, Newburyport and love her, she makes me laugh every couple of pages… when she’s not freaking out about something ELSE. Yes Erma Bombeck. I’ll give Rachel Kusk another try. I liked Toxology (first part) too. Novels I liked: Recent Work by Andrew Martin, about recent MFA grads trying to find their way; A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen about spending a year with his grandmother in Moscow. Cassandra At the Wedding, from 1962, by Dorothy Baker, who wrote The Golden Arm, she’s like Hemingway. Natalia Ginzberg’s Happiness, as Such. Sally Rooney. Crime: The Smack by Richard Lange
― donald nitchie, Friday, 22 May 2020 23:47 (one month ago) link