ILB *By The Book* NYT-Style

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*What books are on your night stand?*

A huge coffee table book called The Art Of Dynastic China that I like to look at for inspiration. A one-volume biography of Henry James called Henry James: The Imagination of Genius by Fred Kaplan. Letters To His Family: An Autobiography by Tchaikovsky. And The Barracks by John McGahern which I want to read after I am done with what I'm reading now: Oval by Elvia Wilk and The Good Companions by J.B. Priestly.

*What’s the last great book you read?*

I haven't read a great book in a while! Haha, I should really try to read one. I am just not seeking out greatness, I guess. The last books that really stuck with me and that I thought were genuinely great books were Underland by Robert Macfarlane and those three Rachel Cusk books that form the Outline trilogy.

*Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?*

Not that recently, but I picked up The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic on a whim not even thinking I would read the whole thing and I ended up loving it. It's so amazing! I had no idea. I just knew the title my whole life.

*Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).*

In the age of the internet and streaming television, ideally, there should not be any screen anywhere near me. Because I am weak. So weak. Gone is my youth when I could plow through a novel while watching a movie on television. We have an old Victorian sofa on our front porch and it is very long with big pillows on it and we also have shades covering the front of our porch. So, kind of ideal for reading. Nobody on the street can see you. You can hear the hawks making a racket in the massive pine tree across the street and there are cars but otherwise its pretty peaceful. When I was younger and would travel home to my folks in Connecticut I loved reading on the train. It was a whole different sort of reading. Meditative. Trance-like. A lot of time to think.

*What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?*

The Neighbors Are Scaring my Wolf by Jack Douglas and The Hungry Girls and Other Stories by Patricia Eakins.

*Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?*

In 1981 I brought my copy of 101 Uses For A Dead Cat by Simon Bond to school with me and a kid got so upset by it that he took it and flushed it down the toilet.

*What moves you most in a work of literature?*

Just the fact that someone can move me with words! And make me happy or sad or upset or any one of a thousand emotions. That's a pretty powerful thing to do to someone who is so far away from you.

*Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?*

If you can reach me at all you are doing a fine job. Emotionally, intellectually. It's all good.

*How do you organize your books?*

I don't. I just try to find room somehow.

*Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?*

Everyone these days loves to say that there are no guilty pleasures. I think ILX actually started that and everyone else in the world followed suit. It's the current line. I disagree. Crime novels are totally guilty pleasures to me because I often feel guilty when I'm reading one that I'm not reading a long list of other books that I should be reading. But I am a fan of mindlessness. And sometimes I need a vacation.

*What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?*

I can't imagine anything would be too surprising. I don't have a hidden love for trains or the history of aqueducts. I can't even imagine anyone looking at the books on my shelves. I don't think anyone ever has.

"Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?"

All those wild and wooly women out there! A lot of them reinventing the short story in their own image. Taking fairy tales, horror, Angela Carter, fantasy, comedy, and whatever else works for them and making fiction that feels like freedom to me. I don't even really need anything else from modern fiction. Or not much else. Nell Zink, Kelly Link, Ottessa Moshfegh, Megan Milks, Bo-young Kim, Oyinkan Braithwaite, Emily Fridlund, Sayaka Murata, Xuan Juliana Wang, Shruti Swamy. The list goes on and on. Its only the tip of a very big and very cool lady iceberg. You would think that the internet had killed all the wild imaginations out there but it turns out to not be the case.

*Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?*

I tried to read The Topeka School by Ben Lerner and I got that feeling I get when I'm reading something and I realize that the author only really knows school. School and after-school. That's their entire world. They know their intellect and a little bit about people like themselves. And it shows. Which is why I prefer reading the wild women of world short fiction. They do NOT want to be the next John Cheever. Having said that, John Cheever was a complicated person who led a complicated life. Her knew some stuff. I don't think modern academic American fiction is really for me. Too many author photos now look like they came out of Town & Country magazine. Nobody has any scars. None of it feels like its for keeps.

*You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?*

Jiddu Krishnamurti, Sappho, and Emily Dickinson.

*What do you plan to read next?*

After the books on my night table, I'd like to tackle Zenna Henderson's People books. Pilgrimage, The Anything Box, No Different Flesh, Holding Wonder. She was a school teacher who wrote Science Fiction on the side.

scott seward, Tuesday, 11 July 2023 20:34 (one year ago) link

sorry, i don't know how to do bold for questions. feel free to fill one out! i would love to read yours! You know you want to....

scott seward, Tuesday, 11 July 2023 20:35 (one year ago) link

Not yet feeling capable of the full NYT-style, but agree about cool lady iceberg keepers of the flame and most of my interest in contemporary fiction, especially but not only short. The only one of your picks I'm very familiar with is Kelly Link, but shout-outs to Karen Russell, Helen DeWitt, Miranda July, Karen Joy Fowler, ZZ Packer, Mary Gaitskill, Elena Ferrante.

dow, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 03:48 (one year ago) link

What books are on your night stand?

Usually a lot of comics (currently: Blood Of The Virgin and Judge Dredd Complete Case Files, Vol.3) and whatever book I'm currently reading that's too long/heavy to read on public transport (about which more later).

What’s the last great book you read?

Eliete by Dulce Maria Cardoso, a wonderfully waspish chronicle of one woman's mid life crisis; Cardoso rose to fame with a book about a white Portuguese family returning to Portugal after Angola declared independence. That was good, but I think probably successful as much because of the previously underexplored subject matter as anything else...I think Eliete is by far the superior book. It's translated in English, I recommend.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

Currently got Ulysses on my nightstand, reading a chapter a day first thing when I wake up. Good approach I think, less clutter in my mind distracting. Do wish I'd gotten an edition with notes tho, there's clearly plenty of stuff concerning Irish politics and music that I'm missing out on.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

I love it when I bring a book onto a flight or long train ride, something which forces me to read for a prolonged time. Back in Portugal I used to go to cafes, sit outside and try to read at least 20 pages a day, but London is not the city for that I'm afraid.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

Well I could cheat and rattle off any number of books by Portuguese authors - Eça de Queirós, Nuno Bragança, Agustina Bessa-Luís, Cristóvão de Águiar- but outside of that, Simi Bedford's Yoruba Girl Dancing is a really great semi-memoir about a Nigerian girl's experiences after moving to the UK. I particularly remember the bit about the boy from her host family being forced to eat porridge every morning, regardless of the weather.

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

Well as a clichéd teen boy I certainly bonded with my clichéd teen boy bestie over On The Road.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

Speaking of clichéd maleness, I do love when immense sadness is hidden behind a facade of matter-of-factness, which explains my affinity with a lot of English literature. Also, any depictions of nostalgia and guilt at vanished worlds.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

I reject this binary but I have found ppl tend to get very hostile towards books that play formal games and I really don't get that, what's wrong with having fun.

How do you organize your books?

All non fiction is in the library downstairs. Poetry and drama in the bedroom (where all the drama happens). The Penguin Classics get a shelf of their own cause it looks pretty. Wife has insisted the French books be in her office. Everything else alphabetically in my office.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

Hmmm. Well I do sometimes read Mishima and think "lmao this fucking guy", and then I think about how I'd feel about him if I came from any of the many regions Japan colonised, and whether I'd read a German equivalent (answer: no), and sure guilt is in that mix.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Yeah, nothing comes to mind. Perhaps some stuff I've been gifted that I don't actually like but keep not to be rude.

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

Alan Moore, Juliet Jacques, Rachel Kushner, Patricia Lockwood, Percival Everett, Hwang Sok-yong.

Within the Portuguese speaking world: Teresa Veiga, Dulce Maria Cardoso, Mário Zambujal, Giovana Maladosso.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson centres around such a caricature of a Toxic Masculine Artist that I just couldn't get anywhere with it. The patriarch in it is a blustery, insecure, manipulative, abusive piece of shit and while I don't doubt these men exist the book's refusal to ever make him seem attractive in any way works against it - we are often told he can be immensely charming, but never shown it, and as a result the orbit of relatives and disciples who adore him just end up looking like idiots. The narration skips around from inner voice to inner voice, but when it gets to the asshole patriarch's voice it just becomes full of self-owns *within his own train of thought*. The book's certainty that it is Very Progressive also is undermined by its own prejudices - against a striving working class Scottish son-in-law, mostly. A comical amount of provinicialism sets in when one of the book's sympathetic characters, a female Labour MP, informs her lover that she is bringing some EU people to a Chinese restaurant - "imagine that, a Belgian eating kung pao chicken" she quips, and the reader is supposed to chuckle along, as if there were....no Chinese takeouts in Belgium? What??

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

I feel like the contrasts between ppl born in different eras would be so fascinating as to overwhelm anything related to Individual Genius. So I'd just try to get a chronologically and geographically diverse trio and not bother too much with names.

What do you plan to read next?

Alan Garner's Treacle Walker and Yuko Tsushima's Territory Of Light.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 11:09 (one year ago) link

Great idea for a thread, Scott!

What books are on your night stand?
Bret Easton Ellis - Lunar Park
Lorrie Moore - Anagrams
Alsidair Gray - Lanark
Jonathan Meades - The Fowler Family Business

What’s the last great book you read?
Diarmuid Hester - Wrong: A Critical Biography of Dennis Cooper

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?
I am a philistine so I have barely read any “classic” novels, certainly not since I finished studying a decade ago.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
I am on a long train journey on a Friday morning on the way to visit friends in a different city. I’ve got a window seat, a coffee, and something fun to eat. I am not looking at my phone, not worrying about work, not listening to music. I have a book – ideally a short story collection or a collection of essays – and a magazine.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
My taste is pretty obvious - I like post-war American fiction etc. So I can’t claim to have any under-the-counter books that other people won’t have read.

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?
When I first started dating my girlfriend she mentioned Grace Paley’s Collected Stories, which I had just read. That felt important, for want of a better word, and led to lots of wonderful conversations about what we liked, and didn’t like, about fiction. We still have those conversations now.

What moves you most in a work of literature?
Failure.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?
Emotionally, I guess, but I don’t really like this question and am never sure why the NYT asks it. Reading makes me feel good, doesn’t matter how that manifests itself when I’m with a book.

How do you organize your books?
They are all in boxes at the moment as I prepare to move house and mingle my collection with my gf’s. They will then be separated into fiction and nonfiction and alphabetized accordingly.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?
Not at all!

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?[b]
I did an BA in creative writing and an MA in American Lit, no surprises on my shelves.

[b]Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

Silly answer, perhaps, but two of my closest friends are authors. One has written two wonderful novels, the other has written two fantastic works of nonfiction. Their drive, determination and talent is an inspiration to me on a daily basis and I feel a flash of pride whenever I see their books in a bookshop.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
I put down books all the time, to be honest. There is a lot of contemporary fiction that is supposedly good that doesn’t do it for me. Putting a book down can feel just as good as finishing one.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Dennis Cooper, Scott McLanhan, Anne Enright

What do you plan to read next?
Eliza Clark - Penance

bain4z, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 11:22 (one year ago) link

What books are on your night stand?
Clarice Lispector's Too Much of Life: The Complete Chronicles. Have loved CL since first coming across her along with Bruno Schulz and Robert Coover on a great creative writing course at Reed College back in the 20th century. Also a big fan of fiction writers appearing regularly in newspaper space - Flann O'Brien's Cruiskeen Lawn, Don Barthelme's Here in the Village reports in the New Yorker. So this should be right up my alley but I haven't got to grips with it yet. One for the summer holiday I think. On the digital nightstand, ie my google books reader, various things by Gerald Murnane, who I suspect is very much my kind of guy.

What’s the last great book you read?
Mr Palomar by Italo Calvino - such a beautiful, funny, moving book. Finally got me into Calvino.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?
I am about 100 pages into Anna Karenina but keep getting distracted. Reading Middlemarch a few years back was one of the great reading experiences of my life and changed my thinking on 19th century fiction.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
Had a great time reading Mason and Dixon on a very long, half empty flight to Sao Paolo a few years back - felt ideal. Trains are good too.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
Loads of people love the film writer David Thomson, but I maintain, and will one day write about, how 4-2, his book ostensibly about the 1966 World Cup Final, is his finest work.

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?
The Pinefox and I share a number of loves - Roland Barthes, Lorrie Moore, Richard Rorty. David Thomson, Michael Wood - that we have been discussing for over 25 years now. He hates Gravity's Rainbow, my favourite book, which I find kind of baffling.

What moves you most in a work of literature?
Happysad humour - the latest Lorrie Moore is a classic example, Jenny Offil's novels, the Bishop stories by Donald Barthelme.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?
Refuse to countenance this disassociation of sensibilty.

How do you organize your books?
Alphabetically in the living room; higgeldypiggeldy elsewhere.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?
Martin Amis? Can generally find something to enjoy even in his worst books.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
Judging by the state of my garden, various volumes by Monty Don.

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?
David Thomson, Thomas Pynchon, Kay Ryan, Annie Dillard.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
Give up on books all the time. Ebooks make this easier. In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova came highly recommended but I couldn't get on with it.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
David Thomson, Kay Ryan, Annie Dillard.

What do you plan to read next?
Gerald Murnane.

Piedie Gimbel, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 12:03 (one year ago) link

These are so great! Cheers, you guys.

scott seward, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 12:29 (one year ago) link

What books are on your night stand?

I’m about to start reading Ulysses by James Joyce, so I have the Oxford World’s Classics edition of that to hand (introduction and notes by Jeri Johnson – “It has a historical validity which no other edition can ever have,” says Anthony Burgess); Ulysses Unbound: A Reader’s Companion to James Joyce’s Ulysses by Terence Killeen (with an ILXOR in the bibliography – Killeen, though, favours the edition of Ulysses edited by Hans Walter Gabler); Here Comes Everybody: An introduction to James Joyce for the Ordinary Reader by (that man again) Anthony Burgess; and The Ulysses Guide: Tours Through Joyce’s Dublin by Robert Nicholson.

Also currently reading The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer (Sherlock Holmes pastiche by the director of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan) and Dirty Pictures by Brian Doherty (pretty good history of American Undergound Comix).

What’s the last great book you read?

The last book I gave five stars to on Goodreads was Wild Seed by Octavia E Butler.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

I recently read Dracula by Bram Stoker. I thought I might have read it many many years ago, but I now suspect I probably packed it in after the initial sequence in Dracula’s castle (still the highlight of the book). Anyway, it all felt new to me.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how)

I once went away to a miserable residential training course with loads of people I had absolutely nothing in common with, so as soon as I could, I retreated to my room with a copy of Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow. I then ran a very hot bath and soaked in the water, and the book, for a blissful couple of hours. Ever since, I’ve associated the pleasure of reading with bathing.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

Do people know The Kryptonite Kid by Joseph Torchia? Or Modern Baptists by James Wilcox?

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

I was in an informal reading group with two other friends, where we would jointly read a classic for the first time. I proposed Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and ending up LOVING it, read the whole thing. My two friends HATED it, gave up after the first volume, and I am no longer in a book club with them.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

Quiet disappointment (eg the ending of Portrait of a Lady by Henry James).

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

Yes.

How do you organize your books?

By shape and available space, though I try and keep fiction, non-fiction, comics, film books etc clustered together. A friend once accurately called me a tidy hoarder.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

Anything that I’ve read or re-read before, knowing that there’s a mountain of unread books still out there.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Most people know me as a gobshite leftist, so they might be a bit surprised by the amount of Kingsley Amis I own and have read.

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

Svetlana Alexievich, Daniel Clowes, Samuel R Delany, William Gibson, Elfriede Jelinek, James Kelman, Laura Mulvey, Gerald Murnane, Thomas Pynchon, David Thomson, Chris Ware – old folks rule!

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

The last ‘major’ book I gave up on was The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil, but that was due to me not being up to the task, rather than any disappointment with the writing. I hope to return to it, one day.

I didn’t get on with Wolf Hall, either, but I think that’s due to a temperamental mistrust of historical fiction.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Janet Malcolm, B S Johnson, Philip K Dick – just because I would like to have met them.

What do you plan to read next?

Apart from Ulysses, I currently have Enough! By Donald E Westlake, The Rim of Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror by William Sloane and The President by Miguel Angel Asturias lined up in the queue.

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 14:12 (one year ago) link

lol ward way to show up my "I'm reading ulysses, me" brag.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 14:14 (one year ago) link

LOL - there is of course a vast difference between having all the reference works, and actually reading the fucker. Let's see where we both are in a month!

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 14:26 (one year ago) link

What books are on your night stand?

A random pile that ended up there somehow. Beauty Restored, After the King, Nostromo, Plato’s Republic, Le Comte de Monte-Cristo I, Cyrano de Bergerac, Songs of a Dead Dreamer/Grimscribe, Dragonquest, Racine’s Phèdre, The White People, Le Rouge et Le Noir, Complete Stories of Edgar Allen Poe, The Hobbit, Time Regained. This is actually a decent representative sample of my taste in books.

What’s the last great book you read?

Maybe Gormenghast. It has a slow first half and I took a break at some point midway through, but by the second half I was swept up.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

Gormenghast, Nostromo, The Haunting of Hill House

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

At my family cottage, either on the dock or in a quiet corner somewhere, having not looked at the internet in five days. I’m reading a great novel for the first time or re-reading The Lord of the Rings, Middlemarch, or In Search of Lost Time (my all-time favourite books). Or plowing through a bunch of sword and sorcery stories. Or, at a university library, probably reading a philosophy or lit-crit type of thing.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

I mostly read famous stuff. What Art Is Like by Miguel Tamen, maybe?

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

Not since school, that I can recall.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

My tastes these days skew heavily towards fantasy, horror, fairy tales and mythology, magic, adventure, verbosity, elaborate metaphor, purple prose. I love discovering something that I know is going to stay in my imagination.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

Emotionally, if I have to pick. Or, to alter the distinction slightly, I feel like I’m more receptive to images and feelings, or whatever stirs something in my imagination. I don’t spend a lot of time rigorously engaging with the ideas in books. I don’t think I’d make a good critic.

How do you organize your books?

They’re kind of all over the place. I have most of my Proust-related books gathered on one shelf, and most of my most of my art books on one shelf.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

Nah

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I have a copy of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne kicking around here somewhere.

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

This is embarrassing – I don’t read that many new writers. Thomas Ligotti, Helen DeWitt, Junji Ito...

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

I drop books all the time, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I wasn’t enjoying them. If it’s an academic or non-fiction book then I often read into the book up to the point where my curiosity is satisfied and then move on to something else. If it’s a reread of a fiction book then I’m fairly casual about starting and stopping wherever I want.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Can’t think of a great answer. Let's say Jack Vance, Donald Westlake, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

What do you plan to read next?

Not sure. I have Titus Alone still to read, and Viriconium sounds amazing.

jmm, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 14:32 (one year ago) link

Post And I never know whether to file my copy of 4-2 with the rest of my Thomsons ...

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 14:33 (one year ago) link

What books are on your night stand?
Whatever I'm currently reading or have just read. Currently: Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti (finished and needs to be put away) and The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (in progress).

What’s the last great book you read?
I think the last immediate 5-star book I read was People in the Room by Norah Lange. This was a good couple of years ago now and I still bang on about it, it's fucking great. An evocative modulation of a lonely broken brain and the fragility of reality.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?
The last one that I think might be in the canon was A Rebours/Against Nature by Huysmans? Initially I wasn't sure I would like it due to a rapidly lessening patience with obnoxious male protagonists but as soon as he started talking about how no woman's beauty could compare to the mighty steam engine I was hooked.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
Everyone is saying trains, but trains are great for reading so I will agree with a long train journey (preferably in the rain). I do like to smoke while reading, though, so maybe the true ideal would be something like on holiday in a little cottage, smoking, with a fire lit and a thunderstorm outside.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
Depends on the audience - for a long time nobody in my real life would know who I was talking about when I enthused about B.S. Johnson or Ann Quin, but certainly everyone here would know about them.

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?
Aside from lingering resentments over books borrowed and never returned? My family are mostly all big readers and book-gifters, and particularly with my mum I think literature in general has helped us to stay close. I have a book of old horror stories that was given by my grandpa to his dad, then given to my gran the first night she stayed over at their house to spook her, then given to me when I stayed with them one holiday - it's a lovely generational thing to have, especially now my grandparents are dead.

What moves you most in a work of literature?
Despair.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?
False dichotomy. I am a brain in a vat.

How do you organize your books?
Alphabetically by author. Although my bookshelves are full and the room they're in is full of junk, so new books tend to just go in a random pile.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?
Not really. I do love creepypasta, is that a guilty pleasure? Maybe.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
I don't get rid of things so I have a lot of books from when I was a teenager still around. I think people would be surprised that I have a bunch of Martin Amis books (b/c really, fuck Martin Amis).

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?
I don't really keep up with contemporary fiction, and I feel like saying friends who write is a cop-out. I am looking forward to seeing more Yu Miri in translation.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
I was deeply frustrated with Hopscotch by Cortazar. By all accounts I should have loved it. Metafiction and formalism are basically my favourite thing in literature, but I found the formal conceit to be completely pointless - it added no resonance or interest to the main body of the thing, and it wasn't even fun. Maybe if I'd continued things would have improved, but I found the initial chapters to be such a caricature of shallow hipster Parisian life I couldn't go on. If I'd read it as a teenager I might have been more impressed?

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Leonora Carrington, Diogenes the Cynic, Chuck Tingle.

What do you plan to read next?
Probably either Celebrations by Alan Burns or Julia and the Bazooka by Anna Kavan.

emil.y, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 14:38 (one year ago) link

lol @ both me and Ward naming Amises as 'surprising books' - I've never actually tried Kingsley but fuck all the Amises imo.

emil.y, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 14:46 (one year ago) link

Yes, I'm loving the way that certain names/themes are already recurring ... great thread Scott!

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 15:04 (one year ago) link

i just love martin amis showing up as a guilty pleasure on here! oh how the tweed-y have fallen.

scott seward, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 16:04 (one year ago) link

thanks to y'all! great to read. and i am writing down names for sure of things/people i don't know about.

scott seward, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 16:05 (one year ago) link

The Martin Amis thing is less about his writing and more about the fact he turned into an extremely right-wing Islamophobic twat. I mean, I would've grown out of his writing anyway but I outgrew Iain Banks and I'm not embarrassed by his novels still being on my shelves.

emil.y, Wednesday, 12 July 2023 16:16 (one year ago) link

Let’s have some more pls

Grandall Flange (wins), Monday, 17 July 2023 19:09 (one year ago) link

physician, interview thyself

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 17 July 2023 19:15 (one year ago) link

I am so busy mate. I just want to read the good posters

Grandall Flange (wins), Monday, 17 July 2023 19:42 (one year ago) link

Everyone these days loves to say that there are no guilty pleasures. I think ILX actually started that and everyone else in the world followed suit. It's the current line. I disagree. Crime novels are totally guilty pleasures to me because I often feel guilty when I'm reading one that I'm not reading a long list of other books that I should be reading. But I am a fan of mindlessness. And sometimes I need a vacation.

Interested in expanding on this "mindlessness" thing, scott - do you mean the books themselves or what you choose to take out of them?

Like I think many people I tend to read crime fiction with a slant towards social history or anthropology - i.e. picking up on what these books tell us about the time and place they're from. A lot of ppl (prob most?) who read them also read trying to find out whodunnit - I don't do this myself. Anyway neither of those strike me as mindless. Sorry 4 overanalysis, I'm in an airport indulge me.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 20 July 2023 14:15 (one year ago) link

i like being taken somewhere. i don't really care where. so, in a way, i feel like a passenger in a car when i read crime/detective fiction. maybe that's why i liked those jack reacher books so much. he was constantly traveling from point a to point b and back to a and then back to b. which could get tedious but i didn't care i was just there for the ride. i enjoy ride-alongs, i guess! so, i'm not that concerned with the "whodunnit" as much. similarly, i enjoy detective shows because they go from here to there and back again and i enjoy the conversation. maybe its because i hate driving and traveling in my own life. and that's why i think of it as a vacation. i don't really take vacations either. whereas, when books are more open-ended and don't necessarily follow a template - though plenty of literary fiction does and even plenty of non-fiction - i find myself thinking more. about where the author is going and where they want to take me. about the characters or the culture they are in or style or other books i have read. its not work but i feel more active. sci-fi is split down the middle for me. its a trip to somewhere and i can sit back and enjoy that but also think about tech/social aspects/the future.

scott seward, Thursday, 20 July 2023 14:33 (one year ago) link

i always liked the dreamlike quality of noir. everything in noir feels like a dream to me and i just follow it like i follow something in a dream. i don't really care where it ends or about conclusions. its just fun to drift through.

scott seward, Thursday, 20 July 2023 14:35 (one year ago) link

that movie *Once Upon a Time in Anatolia* is some sort of ideal to me. of a crime movie. of an art movie. of a road movie. all of it. definitely need it on blu-ray...

scott seward, Thursday, 20 July 2023 14:54 (one year ago) link

Wow I definitely don't read crime fiction for historical/sociological interest (tho' of course sometimes that's a nice bonus). I am a bit of a sucker just for the language of (especially American) crime fiction, that slangy hardboiled poetry. Done well, it's creamy reading. And yes, that poetic aspect feeds into the dreamlike aspect - fever dreams of greed, lust, revenge (crime fiction guys definitely do sex a lot better than SF guys, tho' things like Ed McBain's sexy chat have not aged well). And American crime fiction also always has this enormous metaphorical weight behind it - crime as politics, as corporate enterprise, as critique or celebration of free enterprise, as the expression of a larger, national psychosis. etc.

What you're saying, Scott, about the fun of genre fiction pinging around the map, reminds me of Steely Dan talking about their 'travel' songs.

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 20 July 2023 14:58 (one year ago) link

Well I don't want to seem precious about semantics but I dunno, letting yourself be swept up and transported somewhere, I would never think of that as mindless, it's enrichening! Mindless is staying in the hotel room and ordering a burger, which is necessary sometimes too.

Likewise:

And American crime fiction also always has this enormous metaphorical weight behind it - crime as politics, as corporate enterprise, as critique or celebration of free enterprise, as the expression of a larger, national psychosis. etc.

This is surely a sociological lens?

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 20 July 2023 15:12 (one year ago) link

Again, this might be a semantic difference, but to me a sociological lens implies facts, figures, participant observation, historical records etc - maybe there's some of that in James Elroy?

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 20 July 2023 15:21 (one year ago) link

I read crime fiction for the prose (Chandler) and for its celebration of human depravity.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Thursday, 20 July 2023 15:22 (one year ago) link

this is ambrassing as fuck but here goes

What books are on your night stand?

Two paper grocery bags full of books, on top is The Road, McCarthy

What’s the last great book you read?

Kindred. Amazing novel that hits on so many deep levels and is gasp-generating suspenseful.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

Kindred! Before that…. Slaughterhouse Five I think

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

Just at home on sofa or bed. Maybe on the beach.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

Escape from Undermountain, maybe some d&d/forbidden realms heads kno


*Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?*

Cadillac Desert kind of formed a structure for me and my dad to talk about books and California history and water science and politics and stuff. He’s really into water policy so it’s cool being able to like, share articles with each other about snowpack levels and stuff.

*What moves you most in a work of literature?*

The sublime… but I’m getting more emo (see below)

*Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?*

Scott’s analogy to being on a “ride along” kinda of nails it. I would say books I prefer books that educate me, entertainment me, or “blow my mind” or whatever lol. I have been opening up to more emotional fiction and am slowly learning to appreciate the rewards of getting moved by intense emotional stories. I was afraid of feeling raw emotions before but I’m finding a magical universal human connection thing when I get all breathless from a sudden tragic plot twist or something. But I also getting sucked into atmosphere. Back to the sublime again.

*How do you organize your books?*
Not at all really…I have about 7 penguin black spines grouped together on a shelf.

*Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?*

No I really dgaf

*What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?*

I don’t know, maybe people are surprised there are no Jonathan Franzen books on my shelf

*Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?*

I am still trying to figure out why I don’t care about The Great Gatsby. I read a bunch of stuff on the internet last year trying to suss out wtf my problem is.

Last book I put down without finishing was The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. It was too cozy for me or something, and I had just read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell so the bar for magic hidden world stuff was too high for me at the time, it just wasn’t as elegant and compelling as Clarke’s writing and structure. Seemed kinda labored :-(
Also,

*You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?*

Patrick Leigh Fermor, gin, tonic


*What do you plan to read next*

Don’t know, something in one of the towering stacks

brimstead, Thursday, 20 July 2023 15:54 (one year ago) link

oops, remove the “also” + add “towering stacks” to the end

brimstead, Thursday, 20 July 2023 15:56 (one year ago) link

What books are on your night stand?

Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe by David Maraniss. The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan.

What’s the last great book you read?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

Not in a long while. Maybe The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. Does The Day of the Locust count as a classic? A classic non-novel was Eichmann in Jerusalem, by Hannah Arendt, which I read about five years ago.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

Sitting in my recliner, in a quiet house, something ambient or classical on the sound system.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

I'm sure others have heard of it, but Dhalgren, by Samuel R. Delany, is a relatively obscure book that made probably the most profound impression on me in early adolescence. I reread it again a few years ago, it still stands up.

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

When I picked Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for our book club, one member (a pretty good friend of mine) left and never came back. His objection was that it was absurd and hypocritical for a bunch of middle-aged white guys to sit around discussing this book while children of color were being gunned down in the street (this was around the time that the cops who shot Tamir Rice got off). I haven't spoken to him much since then.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

A denouement that brings together a bunch of seemingly unrelated threads.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

Depends on my mood.

How do you organize your books?

In stacks and piles.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

No. I do read some YA stuff, mainly as a way to share the experience with my youngest, but I don't feel guilty about it.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Not sure. The Story of O, maybe?

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

Off the top of my head: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jesmyn Ward, George Saunders, Paul Beatty, Marianne Wiggins.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Henry James.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Mark Twain, George Eliot, Debbie Harry.

What do you plan to read next?

I've always wanted to read some Erik Larson. Maybe I'll try The Devil and the White City.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Thursday, 20 July 2023 16:36 (one year ago) link

*The Devil IN the White City

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Thursday, 20 July 2023 16:37 (one year ago) link

Great thread, thanks so much for doing this.

*What books are on your night stand?*
Rivers Edge - Kyoko Okazaki, recently acquired. It was originally published in 1996 in Japan but didn’t receive an official English translation until this year. I’ve read it before through unofficial scanlations. I think most people consider this her best work, it’s pretty special but not my favourite. Incredible though.
https://i.postimg.cc/8C8NRD0s/IMG-5773.jpg

*What’s the last great book you read?*

Probably Janet Malcolm’s The Silent Woman

*Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?*

Actual classics, no, probably not in a long time. I have a house full of them but never land on one when I want to read something. Nearest might be Rosemary’s Baby, which I read a little while ago.

*Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).*

The summer I was eight my family stayed in a house on the west coast of Ireland for about ten days. It rained almost the whole time. The room I was staying in had soft bare floorboards, high ceilings and a huge arched window I could look at the rain fall from the sky on. I remember reading Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, The Witches, and some books that were in the house. My parents had my two siblings to take care of so I got to spend a lot of time quiet and out of the way when I felt like it. I remember one evening we went out to the fishermen and bought fresh cod off the boats because the boy’s grandmother tells him in The Witches that fresh cod is the finest food in the whole world. I think about that all the time.


*What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?*

What Niall Saw by Brian Cullen. This belonged to one of my parents. I picked it up and read it as a child and it haunted me. I still think it’s great.

*Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?*

Not my husband and I cos we read pretty different things but I remember my mother asking me for a book to read when I was maybe 15 and I gave her Middlesex and we ended up having some really good conversations about it. She loved it.

*What moves you most in a work of literature?*

I’m choosing to take this question a certain way. Oscar and Lucinda’s ending makes me cry, as does the back-and-forth scene in the restaurant between the title characters. Spoilers:

The whole book the characters are built up, separately, and when they eventually meet, you want them to get together. They are both gamblers, one obsessive the other compulsive. They meet crossing the ocean and instantly bond over this. They’re perfect for each other. But Oscar is an awkward priest and Lucinda is an heiress already considered improper because of her conduct, gambling and manner of dress. In the most important scene in the whole book, they make a bet together:
Lucinda’s fortune to Oscar (meaning she would need to marry him to avoid being thrown into poverty) if he can transport a glass church made by her factory across the country; his to her if he cannot.

They debate this because Lucinda knows how dangerous it is, and then Carey casually hits you with this:

His face was very pale yet also very bright. The skin was taut, the eyes were glistening and fixed on hers. She thought it best to take her hand away. "Mr Hopkins, I like you too much to encourage you to injury." "But I must." "Come, please, this is madness now.," "I must," he said quietly. "It would mean a great deal to me."

It was then she knew that he loved her. "You are doing this for me?" It was not a question he wished to be asked. He felt his own silence humming in his ears. He would not look at her. "Yes," he said. "Do you think I wish you dead?" "I am too happy to wish for death," he said.


WHAT A LINE. He just drops it in, the culmination of hundreds of pages of groundwork, of getting to know and love the characters, like a brick through a glass pane. I met Peter Carey once and I didn’t dare to tell him how much this book means to me, because there’s no way I could be coherent about it. The whole book is very special with its detail of Australia the country, hundreds of compelling characters and the sweep and ambition of it all, but time and time again I think of this scene and feel an ache in my chest.

*Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?*

Books that can reach me emotionally are rare, so they are preferred because they usually affect me intellectually as well.

*How do you organize your books?*

I don’t. Most of the books in our house are Penguin Classics, my husband has a system for them. I put mine wherever I can.

*Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?*

Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles definitely. I reread those every summer.

*What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?*

I’ll read any old shit. I don’t think I would surprise anyone.

*Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?*

Sophie Mackintosh I think is very special.

*Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?*

I don’t know about supposed but I really like Ira Levin and was extremely disappointed by This Perfect Day. I reviewed it here.

*You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?*

Plath, Greene, Selvon.

*What do you plan to read next?*
I need to finish The Baseball Codes and then I want to read The Red and the Black. Whether I will actually do this is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

a love song for connor wong (gyac), Thursday, 20 July 2023 18:19 (one year ago) link

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

I don’t think I answered this one. Samantha Irby

brimstead, Thursday, 20 July 2023 18:20 (one year ago) link

This is rapidly becoming my favourite thread on here, so much to think about and explore (and buy!)

bain4z, Thursday, 20 July 2023 18:54 (one year ago) link

*What books are on your night stand?*
Missus – Ruth Park
Take It Like A Man – Boy George
The Guest – Emma Cline
Route 666: On the Road to Nirvana – Gina Arnold

*What’s the last great book you read?*
The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers – beautifully written AND insanely brutal. He has a very Bronte-esque connection to the landscape and evokes the feeling of the moors in a very emotional way. Ties the land and the people and history together so incredibly.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – incredible level of detail and research, and cliched as it sounds a much needed ‘fresh’ take on the Vietnam War from a Vietnamese point of view. Intense and funny, brutal and moving. Loved it.

*Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?*
Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo - didn’t finish it. It’s beautifully written but I just wasn’t in the mood for the middle of the story to break off into an entire section on the history of Paris architecture. I’ll go back to it one day & finish it though.

Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Enjoyable-ish, a fine twist at the end but such a drawn out kerfuffle, overall probably my least favorite Dickens. It did spark me to dive properly into the history of the French Revolution so I thank him for that.

*Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).*
Rainy afternoon on a comfortable sofa with a latte or hot cup of coffee, reading something so immersive I barely notice the time passing. But also so well written that it makes me occasionally look up in wonder
OR breezy sunny morning on the porch in a comfortable chair (NO insects, no leafblowers) with an iced coffee or a sparkling water
OR longhaul flight with no-one beside me

*What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?*
Sway by Zachary Lazar maybe? (Jones-era Rolling Stones + Kenneth Anger + Beausoleil/Manson fiction that is right in my wheelhouse) I dunno if no one has heard of it. Or maybe War For the Oaks by Emma Bull

*Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?*
Yes, Dune by Frank Herbert. About 6 months into the pandemic my best friend in Australia and I started a long-distance pandemic bookclub, where we chose a book to read together and then we’d chat once a week about what we’ve read.
We were desperately needing something else to talk about other than the pandemic & politics, both of which were bumming us out terribly same as everyone. And we both love literature, and have always both loved talking about books together.
I had been thinking about reading Dune for the first time since the new movie was due to come out soon, and she hadn’t read it either so we embarked on it together. It was a wonderful experience, and our little bookclub is still going strong 3 years later.

*What moves you most in a work of literature?*
Specificity, I think. The way specific experiences that are so completely removed from my own life can still trigger a deep emotional response shows a wonderful universality of the human experience I think.
Maybe that’s a corny answer though. idk.

*Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?*
Both. I like books that reach me emotionally but I think I need some intellectual rigor as well, because I tend to critique as I read & if I can see the levers i get turned off. if it ~panders~ to my emotions too much I’ll ditch it, or if it’s too overzealously intellectual or dense I’ll turn off.

*How do you organize your books?*
Haphazardly. The majority of my bookshelf is alphabetical by author but the bookshelf is too small, so I’m now into double-rows and books shoved in spaces wherever they fit so anything in the back row is alphabetical but front row and weirdly stacked ones are just sort of organized by interest level and maybe genre here and there.

*Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?*
True crime, esp Manson family. Because it’s gross to read too much of, even well written stuff that respects victims, you’re still playing tourist in a very sad & awful world. it definitely does something to my brain if I read too much of it. But I do love a well written true crime book.

*What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?*
The Bible? I dunno.

"Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?"
Samantha Irby. Beth Macy. Lots of others I can’t think of.

*Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?*
Daisy Jones and The Six. Didn’t like it at all. Corny & kinda lame? I love music oral histories and I just felt like that the author didn’t have a strong enough grasp on that style to pull it off. The best part of an oral history is the distinct differences in voice, the way they speak should come through vividly in the text if it’s done well so you get a whole feel for a personality as well as the what of what’s happening. I didn’t’ get that from this, all those voices sounded like variations on the same thing, with the author’s hand clearly visible in all of it, and it all felt forced and a bit uh juvenile.
 I think that’s why I preferred the tv series (which was still unbelievably dumb)

*You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?*

*What do you plan to read next?*
Maybe one of these?
Lou Reed: A Life by Anthony DeCurtis
The Turnout by Megan Abbott
The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Kate Lumsden
…or something else that grabs me next time I’m at the library.

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Thursday, 20 July 2023 19:56 (one year ago) link

"Wow I definitely don't read crime fiction for historical/sociological interest (tho' of course sometimes that's a nice bonus). I am a bit of a sucker just for the language of (especially American) crime fiction, that slangy hardboiled poetry. Done well, it's creamy reading."

Love how well it translated to films too. Like a species of poetry in some of that dialogue (as opposed to an actual, affecting poetry reading on film is nearly impossible to pull off).

I've never read the Martin Beck books because I feel it would have this kind of "failure of social democracy" aspect to them. Give me hard boiled dialogue and people that never got going with 'normal' life.

Having said that I will pick them up.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 20 July 2023 23:03 (one year ago) link

Chandler was the master

https://bookroo.com/quotes/raymond-chandler

https://lithub.com/revisiting-raymond-chandlers-most-iconic-lines/

· It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.
· She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.
· The coffee shop smell was strong enough to build a garage on.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 21 July 2023 00:20 (one year ago) link

oops i skipped an answer

*You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Carson McCullers, Eve Babitz and Laura Lippman

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Friday, 21 July 2023 03:19 (one year ago) link

What books are on your night stand?

Colored People by Henry Louis Gates
Hotels of North America by Rick Moody
Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates

What’s the last great book you read?

Antkind by Charlie Kaufman

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

I'd say Day of the Locust or American Pastoral, neither too recently & perhaps neither capital C Classic but w/e

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

in a lawn chair on my back patio

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

Lessons in Virtual Tour Photography - Chris Bachelder

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

Can't think of anything

What moves you most in a work of literature?

truthful tragedy

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

both preferably

How do you organize your books?

Ikea bookshelves

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

Not really

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Im not really a theater guy at all but i have a bunch of hard cover plays

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

joyce carol oates, joshua cohen, daivd grann, evan osnos, dean young

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Donna Tartt - the goldfinch

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

tao lin, david foster wallace, eugene oneill

What do you plan to read next?

unsure

johnny crunch, Friday, 21 July 2023 13:22 (one year ago) link

these are all awesome. and, yeah, tons of stuff i need to write down and remember.

scott seward, Friday, 21 July 2023 20:45 (one year ago) link

<b>What books are on your nightstand?</b>

The to-read pile is becoming monstrous. A few off the top: *The Good Immigrant* (collection of essays about the immigrant experience in the UK); David Macey's biography of Foucault; *Visions of Jazz* by Gary Giddins; *The Great and Secret Show* by Clive Barker.

<b>What’s the last great book you read?</b>

A couple come to mind: *Stepping Stones*, a series of interviews with Seamus Heaney & *The Line of Beauty* by Alan Hollinghurst

<b>Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?</b>

I think *Time Will Darken It* by William Maxwell counts. Magnificent. I have anxiety around not so much my reading stamina these days, but whether I have the capacity to hold a long book in my working memory. Can I *manage* any of the big monsters? Plus there is a desire to simply *accumulate* - wanting to read more so I can tick shit off on bloody GoodReads or wherever. Dumb. I've not read *Middlemarch*, *War and Peace*, *Ulysses*; worried I never will.

<b>Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).</b>

Either travelling (on a train, ideally, but quite like plane reading too) or holed up in a holiday house, with a fire, a few beers and fuck-all else to do.

<b>What’s your favourite book no one else has heard of?</b>

Fiction: the Borribles trilogy by Michael de Larrabeiti; non-fiction: *What is Architecture?* by Paul Shepheard.

<b>Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?</b>

I bonded with a still very close friend over Clive Barker's trippier books. We got stoned in my parents' shed and talked the sun up.

<b>What moves you most in a work of literature?</b>

I've read so much and I read precisely to be moved, so why is this such a hard question? The things of life, I guess: hope, the passage of time, grief.

<b>Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?</b>

Don't really get the distinction. One brings the other brings the other brings the other.

<b>How do you organize your books?</b>

Not going to lie: it's a bit of a mess. Broadly fiction altogether; non-fiction organised by genre.

<b>Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?</b>

Nah.

<b>What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?</b>

I like what someone wrote upthread: I do organise my bookshelves with a sense of someone looking, but no one ever looks, so the point is moot.

<b>Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?</b>

I have no idea if this makes sense, but I have a 'books not authors, albums not artists' approach, so don't follow particular artists that closely. Maybe Robert Macfarlane.

<b>Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?</b>

I feel ashamed when I abandon a book as if it flags up a deficiency or something - particularly when it's acclaimed or known to be 'tricky' or whatever. The last thing I gave up was *By Night in Chile* by Roberto Bolaño. I just got lost in it, and not in a useful way.

<b>You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?</b>

Alexandra David-Néel, James Baldwin, Borges

<b>What do you plan to read next?</b>

I've just started my summer holidays so have that slight vertigo associated with so much time and so many books. I have a Gabor Mate book lined up, Robert Merton's autobiography and a Ross McDonald. Bring it.

(picnic, lightning) very very frightening (Chinaski), Saturday, 22 July 2023 10:45 (one year ago) link

Fuck, the formatting!

(picnic, lightning) very very frightening (Chinaski), Saturday, 22 July 2023 10:45 (one year ago) link

What book is on your nightstand?

Don’t have one! (ha sorry to be literal I guess this just means “what are you reading” but the fun of this exercise is to get into the specifics of our reading habits right) I just finished the chase by alejo carpentier and am hallway through trysting by Emmanuelle pagano, a lovely book. On the tablet I’m reading locos by felipe alfau. Also have the faber poetry diary so trying to keep up with reading the week’s poem each Monday.

What’s the last great book you read?

my biggest hit this year might be oreo by fran ross. Criminal that she wasn’t lauded at least as much as the pomo white dudes of the time for this, & it has the gag density/quality of a peak simpsons ep

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

Always! I read Ulysses for the first time last summer. It’s a great experience to finally get around to something like that & you think you have a pretty good idea what it is & then you get in there & there’s a whole other book that you didn’t have any clue about. Also recently read two serious ladies: again been on my list for ages but I’d have got to it sooner if I’d known how weird & funny it is

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

in a café or pub, preferably an outside table in the sun. A lot of ambient chatter is good, if the place is quiet except for a near table having an annoying or interesting conversation I’ll put the headphones on.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
I just reread the hard boiled virgin by frances newman, a forgotten American modernist I’ve never heard anyone talk about. Another funny book, more so than I remembered! also since I started using a basic app to try and log my reading (cause goodreads is awful) I notice when I occasionally read something that is not in the database and/or doesn't have an isbn which is worth a few obscurity points

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

Literature in general more than any one book in particular but the closest friend I’ve made as an adult I got to know through talking about & swapping books. Sometimes I lend him something he absolutely hates (like middle c by William gass) but it hasn’t come between us yet

What moves you most in a work of literature?

The last lines of great books, or any lines in any books that feel like that.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

I agree with everyone that this is a bad false opposition but I will be a good sport and try to answer -- haha no I can’t

How do you organize your books?

Not my scene but god bless if you’re into that

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

Nothing I can think of

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Meantime by frankie boyle. I haven’t read it & didn’t buy it, I think most ppl would get that its being there is not necessarily an endorsement but it is weirdly prominent. Been a while since I’ve had anyone round so yet to see a reaction

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

Too many to mention in all honesty! I have a lot of admiration to go round. Han kang, Joanna walsh, kevin barry, Eimear macbride, cristina rivera Garza. Btw it’s kind of sweet to think of Pynchon as “working today” as opposed to just “still alive”

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

I very rarely leave a book unfinished, I’m just less likely to check out the author again if I’m underwhelmed. Finished books by hesse & zweig with a big old shrug eg

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
John Waters, Ishmael Reed, Flann O’Brien. Fun night in with the boys

What do you plan to read next?

Maybe the life & times of archy & mehitabel by don marquis, look intersting

Grandall Flange (wins), Saturday, 22 July 2023 11:01 (one year ago) link

I have anxiety around not so much my reading stamina these days, but whether I have the capacity to hold a long book in my working memory tote bag or my hands, with my aching back, forget about it

Grandall Flange (wins), Saturday, 22 July 2023 11:19 (one year ago) link

Hahaha - yes, this too. I think I have a particular backpain profile that is, in part, created by years of lugging too many heavy books about.

(picnic, lightning) very very frightening (Chinaski), Saturday, 22 July 2023 11:29 (one year ago) link

This is one of those threads that's going to cost me a fortune.

(picnic, lightning) very very frightening (Chinaski), Saturday, 22 July 2023 11:30 (one year ago) link

What books are on your nightstand?

Another one for don't have. Or not quite. When I moved into the place I am currently in the previous owner left two items. A framed copy of Nighthawks by Hopper, and a pretty creaky table I do sometimes place a book on. Currently it has a notebook, a pen and an old issue of the LRB.

What’s the last great book you read?

Three particular highlights from the year I want to use to answer. Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries. Just a wonderfully executed book about the world at a point in time, seen through a mother and daughter and their conversations. J. H. Prynne's collected poems, which are thoroughly modern. Camilio Jose Cela's The Hive. That's a novel like no other, as Tim Parks explained in the LRB last month.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

No recent classic novels (I am looking forward to the Lydia Davis translation of Madame Bovary in late summer), but a classic play: Shakespeare's King Lear. Reminds me I need to carry on with a read of more of his plays, something I started last year. Also made my way through Chapman's translation of the Odyssey and Golding's translations of Ovid (before I lost a copy of the later in the pub).

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

Pub in the summer on a Sunday, late afternoon onwards (families and noisy kids gone). A memory: when I overheard a woman was confessing her love while I was nearby finishing Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy a few years ago. That settled this question for me.

What’s your favourite book no one else has heard of?

They are often written by Argentinians. Rodolfo Wilcock's Temple of the Iconoclasts, but recently Father Antonio Vieira's fearsome baroque sermons have been translated into English.

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

Not a particular book but a love for literature: both of the coming together and apart happened with one person, a long time ago.

Otherwise many of my friendships have been strenghtened by book talk.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

For me its the transformative power of texts being absorbed into other texts, in the one you are reading right now. How novels can absorb so much of the world -- philosophy, history, love, hate, anything grandiose or banal. The novel is a factory for the imagination and when its working well (especially in long work, there is something about keeping the plates spinning for a long time) the effect can be very moving.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

As many have said this is a silly question. But now I want to have a stab at this. I think some books can be processed by the intellect in some way, we can think about and around them for a lifetime. But there are some things -- and I would say a lot of the best poerty is like this -- where it can bypass the intellect and get into your body. That gut feel you have about a person is a thing you can have about a line of text.

How do you organize your books?

The one bookcase I have is organised (at my mother's) roughly where I bunch books roughly by Georgraphical region: Anglosphere, Central/Eastern Europe, Italy, France, Russia, Spain/Latin America. But I don't have that many books (certainly not thousands) so not a massive need to organise.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

I am a poptimist lol would be my first answer. Then again: things are happening to the world; there is a low-level anxiety about how much time I have left. And I want to spend it with texts I am going to be stretched by, that will fire me up. More lines that get into the mind, and more to the gut.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I got nothing here. I will not surprise you.

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

I think what Ward Forwler said about "old people" is so true. People who have done this for decades and will be at it till the last. Any writer who does that has my full admiration (same for musicians).

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Gregor von Rezzori - The Death of My Brother Abel. I love a lot of Central/Eastern European writing, especially written during that post Austro-Hugarian Empire. The collapse of the European order bought some incredible writing, and while this book had some interesting ideas (isn't this genre of writing/our old culture and values boring now we have films and TV now) it wasn't cohering into anything.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Thomas Pynchon (come on now I would absolutely love it if he showed up), Thomas Bernhard and Anne Carson.

What do you plan to read next?

Peter Weiss - The Aesthetics of Resistance (I loved the first vol., now the 2nd has finally been translated after a long time).

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 22 July 2023 16:37 (one year ago) link

What books are on your nightstand?

Larry Birnbaun, Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock ‘n’ Roll
Brian Morton & Richard Cook, The Penguin Jazz Guide

Both of these are good to dip into for a few pages before going to sleep.

What’s the last great book you read?

Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind. This and The Human Condition gave me some helpful vocabulary and categories for thinking about things.

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

Treasure Island, as part of a recent dive into the work of Robert Louis Stevenson. I assumed it would be cute and Disneyfied, but it’s dark, violent, and unsentimental. The youth of the protagonist doesn’t factor in much except as an explanation for his poor impulse control and physical vulnerability. RLS seems to have been a founding father of a mode of action-adventure writing that gained very wide popularity with the rise of the pulps and the movies.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

In the evening in my usual chair, early in a novel that is getting more interesting. In the ideal version of this experience, my neck, back, and eyes are perfectly comfortable.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

One favorite that is a little obscure is Paul Cain’s Fast One, a fixup of stories that ran in Black Mask magazine, much in the style of Dashiell Hammett but boiled harder and, as the title suggests, running faster.

Less obscure: the supernatural short stories of Sheridan Le Fanu.

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

I was an early reader and editor of a close friend’s first novel, which was an exciting and intimate experience. The same book contributed to our estrangement when it became a success.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

Verisimilitude, credibility, the sense that I’m seeing how something really is or could be.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

Often I avoid fiction that I fear might be emotionally overwhelming. But fiction without plausible emotions doesn’t interest me. As a reader I’m hard to shop for.

How do you organize your books?

The newer books are usually on top of the older ones.

I do most of my reading these days on an iPad, not least because this hasn’t increased the chaos of my bookshelves.

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures?

Not in the NYT’s sense. I download a lot of ebooks without purchasing them, which makes me feel guilty if the author is still living. Fortunately I tend to favor dead writers.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Maybe Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

Like some others on this thread, I’m old and not inclined to follow current literary writers. I like many active critics and reviewers, including some ILXors.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Disappointing: Bob Dylan, The Philosophy of Modern Song

It’s not uncommon for me to bail after a first chapter or even a first page, but I see those as books I chose not to start rather than failed to finish. Recent examples: Robert Bloch, The Night of the Ripper; Nicholas Blake, The Smiler with the Knife.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

I hate this question, probably for the same reason I hate the use of historical figures as fictional characters. Also I’m not good at coming up with menus.

What do you plan to read next?

I’ll finish Le Carré’s A Small Town in Germany and then maybe try Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar.

Brad C., Saturday, 22 July 2023 20:57 (one year ago) link

Brad I read Treasure Islsnd for the first time a couple years ago & had the same pleasant surprise at it not just being a corny boys-own-adventure as expected - became a huge fan on the spot. Followed it up w Kidnapped which is equally great. He’s an excellent writer!

werewolves of laudanum (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 22 July 2023 21:33 (one year ago) link

I've been reading some of Stevenson's essays recently, a couple of which have stayed with me: 'The Lantern Bearers' and 'A Chapter on Dreams' (both available on the page below). The first is built around a metaphor of a game he used to play when he was young, where the boys of the town would congregate in the dark, each with a bulls-eye lantern lit but hidden under his coat. The second is just an extraordinary account of his dream life, and the creatures - which he called 'the browns' - that he would 'employ' to do his imaginative work for him.

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/614/614-h/614-h.htm#page138

(picnic, lightning) very very frightening (Chinaski), Saturday, 22 July 2023 21:49 (one year ago) link

Robert Bresson. pic.twitter.com/XmrqxHjnvt

— DepressedBergman (@DannyDrinksWine) August 1, 2023

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 2 August 2023 09:09 (eleven months ago) link

one month passes...

Update! I still haven’t started on Ulysses - but have restarted The Man Without Qualities and am now up to page 253. It is still slow going for me, and Musil seems to very deliberately interrupt narrative momentum at the slightest opportunity, but as you go on the possibility of story - a saga, even - starts to become apparent. As does the author’s extremely sardonic sense of humour, and his eye for the absurd which brings him close to Proust at times.

Anyway, more entries and updates pl!

Ward Fowler, Sunday, 3 September 2023 22:07 (ten months ago) link

haha I've made good progress on Ulysses, I'm in the play bit now. I did take a break while on holiday and when I came back was totally "what the hell is this again" and prob haven't entirely gotten an answer yet.

read like 40 pages of Man Without Qualities as a pretentious teen, my parents had a German language edition. It has the thinnest pages ever, which is somehow even more frustrating to one's sense of progress than big editions.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 4 September 2023 09:24 (ten months ago) link

Good to hear you are back on the Musil, Ward. It's the least big classic novel there is in the canon, and that disruption in narrative is why.

For me, because I was more 'raised' on essays rather than fiction it hasn't been a problem.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 4 September 2023 09:56 (ten months ago) link

Not sure I really get on with Gerald Murnane. Appreciate the singularity of what he's up to - felt like Borges sitting down for an epic sesh in the saloon bar with Les Murray - but feel my patience for this kind of recondite conceptual aestheticism may have passed. Started reading Anna Karenina on holiday, and I tell you what, this Tolstoy lad could go far - has been a similar delight to when I finally got round to reading Middlemarch a few years back. Struck by how funny, nuanced and sympathetic it is.

Piedie Gimbel, Monday, 4 September 2023 10:29 (ten months ago) link

five months pass...

ALL books that i bought NEXT DOOR TO MY HOUSE at my friend ray's new/used bookstore, Roundabout Books. best store. i only buy books locally. because i am a Local Hero.

scott seward, Sunday, 11 February 2024 15:48 (five months ago) link


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