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Reading With Sea

A book club on your own time

Category Archives: Writing

Reading can be exhausting and on this Monday afternoon when the sky is actually blue in Seattle (rare) I am fighting the urge to take a nap.  I should be putting on my running shoes and hitting the pavement.  I am on page 165 of The Savage Detectives, page 48 of Franny and Zooey, which doesn’t count since I have read it up-teem times, page 160 of Tokyo Vice.  I keep starring at a postcard of Joan Didion and John Dunne.  This photo was taken in 1983 the year I was born and I am wondering who is the Joan Didion of my generation? Dreaming of being back in New York.  I miss my second home.  June: come quickly.

Ok, I cannot put off exercise any longer.

Read on,
Sea

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One thing that I hate about reading is having to skip over some books while selecting others.  I love books and I love the idea of books. Even before I read I bought.  I dislike having to choose one over the other.  And thank you, but I don’t need reassurance:  I live under this vain idea that everything has got something to offer.  I realize some authors are better writers and some plots are more creative and all of these types of things.  But these facts do not alter or lift the guilt I feel for not giving some the attention and time I wish to.

There are stacks and stacks that I have yet to even begin making my way through.  There are books in these teetering piles that have been living inside these heaps and on my shelves for months and others still for years.  Titles that at one point in time inspired me to bring it home; at one point convinced me that I had a need for it.  Books that had aspirations to assimilate into my intellect and my life and I once had an eagerness to let them yet now I keep them guarded by other books who are equally zealous and not about to let some other book jump the line.  I have so many books in what some people call a TBR (To be read) mound that my nightstand pile has turned into my actual nightstand.  I had to move the furniture piece (the ACTUAL nightstand) out of the way and now have stacks of books on the floor, against the wall holding my bedside lamp.  Books are replacing furniture.  If you are wondering if this scenario is making me happy wonder no longer: it does.  It does.

Being an inquisitive person is constructive to everything but my pocketbook.  Even after I picked up a handsome pile of hardbacks on Saturday morning for dirt cheap, I found myself arriving at a book store Sunday evening.  In this particular store, biographies live upstairs while essays, criticism and poetry live downstairs.  In between my lingering in isles I created my own step class and might have even burned a few calories.  I have this innate tendency to completely engulf myself into intellectual searches.  I soon found myself sifting through biographies and when I would come across names and titles of works that interest me and I hop downstairs to look at the original works which inevitably introduce yet another author’s name to me and back upstairs I head.  This continues for the better part of an hour and I leave with postcards – a completely unforeseen conclusion to my impromptu inquisition.  The only disappointment rests in my original goal’s dead end.  At the outset, I had intended to pick up a history of Uruguay and found every other South American country represented with one exception – Uruguay.

Nick Hornby once wrote that “reading begets reading.”  This thought jumbled in my mind brings me to wonder how my reading begot my reading would trace back through its lineage.  What would be the essence or the original text that was responsible for splitting in two, then four, then eight and now a number too large to count and forever in need of reorganizing and dusting.  My recent trends of curiosity have prompted me to stockpile essays on the subject of reading as well as works written by A.M. Homes, and an attempt to find more collections of letters.  Where did I originally decide to love collections of letters?  Where did this desire originate?  I cannot remember now.

March was a total bomb.  Or maybe it was a bum.  A bummer.  A bummer bomb.  Bomb bummer.  It doesn’t matter.  Basically I purchased a lot and read practically nothing.  A bust month.  Oh, March, where did we go wrong?  Let’s retrace.

It started out ambitious as ever with a scan over the calendar and a steady, long look at those beautiful and open 31 whole days.  Looking over my lists the tallies come to 13 books purchased and a whopping 2 books read.  The reading began with Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem.  The thing I love about Lethem books is that multiple reads deliver multiple realities.  There are so many freakin’ layers to his stories and characters that I am constantly regaining a grasp on what is actually going on.  I found this similarity in all of the books I have read by Lethem with the exception of Motherless Brooklyn which I found slightly easier to follow.  In Amnesia Moon the lines of reality and dreaming (if I could call it dreaming) were so intangibly blurred I was not sure which characters were real and what to count on.  Lethem is famous for invisible foundations that somehow manage to still provide footing.  In Chronic City Lethem followed suit to the tee.  Chase, the leading complexion, carries on for most of the book carefully tucked inside his little bite of world when suddenly unleashed on the reader is something I can only consider a monster, which tears the walls down of Chase’s own little Truman Show to reveal that his life is made-up.  What?  Lethem!  Made-up?  You didn’t!  You sly cookie.  Again!  Lethem always catches me with my pants down, literaturely speaking, of course.

After having my brain dissolved and rearranged by Lethem, I lock away his tentacles between the two hard bound covers and shelve it only to pull down American Rust. I had never been acquainted with any of Philipp Meyer’s writing, but what could go wrong with a Philipp who spells his name with two p’s at the end?  Most Phillips go with the normal two l’s, but not Meyer, not Meyer.  I thought – what is a rebel like this going to do with a story about five characters out of the back country in Pennsylvania?  Come to find out, not much or in the very least, not enough.  Two weeks later after the initial christening I found myself avoiding the book like a relationship gone sour.  I found myself sneaking around my bedroom quietly hoping the book wouldn’t notice I was choosing to spend my free time without it.  I had made it through enough of the chapters to be introduced to all five of the main characters, but had no desire to meet them again.  Luckily for me, I get an email from my friend, Drenning, to meet him at a reading.  And alas, my first introduction to Melissa Febos commenced.  And yeah to Drenning.  Three cheers for him because Melissa Febos’ writing style was just what I wanted and needed.

As I wrote about earlier, when I went to her reading I was not intending to buy her book.  Not for any desire to be unsupportive, but simply because I had already bought a crap load of books for the month and was the very embodiment of a poor excuse for a reader.  I was already feeling defeated in my reading accomplishments for what I previously thought would be 31 beautiful days of reading.  Blah.  I was down and out and felt buying another book that most likely would not be read would really drop me lower.  I didn’t want to feel worse than a shmuck.  How did a serious intention of not coming home with another book turn into freshly shaved legs and hiding under the covers at midnight with Whip Smart?  Melissa Febos is just that good.  The moment she walked on that stage with her striped polo dress and gray knee high boots and I heard what came out of her mouth that so few writers have: a good reading voice, I was sold.  Simply sold.  It turned out I was not disappointed in the least bit by her wit, but her writing even continued to grow on me.

When I was through with Whip Smart, which took not as long as I would have hoped, I was still refusing to return to American Rust, so I read Whip Smart a second time.   Thus ending the month with 2 books read, 1 twice read and 13 books bought.  On one hand a very unproductive reading month.  One the flip side, I read a new book by one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Lethem and discovered a new favorite author, Melissa Febos.  I believe I described Febos’ writing as expansive and limitless.  How could it get any better than that?  Even if it was entirely an unproductive month it was a lucky month.

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[To W. D. Snodgrass]

“Sweet Snodsy,

Yes I forgive you always for not writing.  So don’t worry.  I accept you the way you are.  You are special enough to take the way you are (silent or noisy)… my good dear Snodsy.  I knew of course that things would be bad so I wrote as a note of simple love.  No more, no less […]

You said “forgive me for griping in this letter”… Jesus! What have we got each other for if not to gripe.  I have nothing but gripes.  I seem to be much sicker lately and it is really throwing me.  I wish I had the money for a real analysis.  I have been going on this three times a week basis for over 4 years.  Shit!  That’s all I can say.  Just shit.  I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life anymore.  What a mess.

Don’t worry about reading my book.  You’ll get around to it sometime.  I hope you’ll like it when you do.  I live in horrors of doubt about it … waiting for the lousy reviews.  None lousy yet – so far anyhow.  In your same issue of Hudson (crime and punish) Louis Simpson did a review of my book (the last book reviewed – and he liked it quite a lot.  And I had a good one in The New York Times … a long one there.  But then … more will come … time will tell.  And there is no guarantee that the reviews mean anything anyhow.  But you know yourself that you can’t stop caring.

Maxine’s book comes out next year (’61) and she is up for the Lamont.  I tell her it won’t matter, but she is like you were – she wants it.  At least I didn’t go through that … I didn’t try for it … my publisher’s decission.  Note that I can’t spell anything today as I am feeling rather crazy.  Only poetry saves me (and by poetry I don’t mean getting famous but the writing of it) … I am in the middle of work or attempted work and interrupt it to write you a note, to your unknown address, to a known human, Snodsy whom I love.

We bought Linda a 2 wheeler bike for her 7th birthday.  She is thriving and can swim and dive and all that.  She is not as shy as she was … Joy is the same, a little buzz of life and love.  Linda can read.  I wrote her a children’s story which she loves but that won’t sell.  I haven’t made any money in ages!  Are you going to try for the Guggy this year?  If you don’t I’d like to use you to recommend me.  Is that possible?  If not don’t worry … there are all sorts of people who like the book now … Don’t worry about not writing me or reading the book.  I’d rather have you write me than read the the book if you’re ever faced with the choice.

All best love to you and Jan
and all your emotional hotel,
Dear de,
love from Anne “

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I know, I know it’s April.

I am just behind on writing for the group.  I finally updated the Sea’s Reads page, which always feels funny to do as I am always surprised how many people are interested.  I realized that out of all the books I purchased last month I only read one full length novel. Of the other two books I read – one was abandoned and the other was experienced only in portions.  March was not productive.  March was not a good reading month.

This month, though short in days, holds wonderful promise.  I have a small stack of books being read simultaneously and half will be through soon.  Last month was a reading struggle.  This month only enjoyable.

-Sea

It was the last thing I wanted to take up the space of today, but the only thing I read today – American Rust.   Intellectual gravity has grounded me in the center of this novel for days, no weeks now.  I have been avoiding it, while muttering insults and gripes about it in my head like a frantic person.  I have been trying my absolute best for a month now to read this book and at last, today, I have given up.  I have abandoned and I am eagerly admitting that I find this book dumb.  Simply and utterly, dumb.  Really, on every level I can think of.

The character develop lacks… everything.  The plot is strictly and outrageously contrite.  I have found myself bored and bored to no end.  I am drawing a line, holding boundaries and making a claim:  I have abandoned American Rust.  Philipp Meyer, I want you to chose a different career or, in the very least, get some help and practice in before attempting another novel.  I cannot get the word dumb out of my mind.  I feel so aggravated by this book that I am finding no capacity within myself to articulately divulge the details of failings this book makes.

I spent so much time last month, with American Rust, avoiding, persisting, becoming irate, avoiding, persisting, becoming provoked, avoiding, persisting, becoming exasperated, that my reading was completely unproductive.  And now I feel more pressure than ever to make up for the loss that was last month as I have collected new books with no slowness.  I hate abandoning books.  It does not provide good feelings.  When I am evading finishing a book that I am not enjoying I carry too much guilt to pick up and read anything else.  Now that I am through trying with this book, I feel such a relief, such weight lifted.

(sigh) Ahh, well, on to better books I go…

-Sea

Sometimes, I do feel those Black Stars, Jolie Holland.  I am listening, too.

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I was sittin’ on the dock of the bay with Otis Redding this morning, whistling away and reading Langston Hughes, Black Misery, while sipping coffee from an Obama mug and it struck me that I really wanted to share some of the illustrations and some excerpts from my read.  Unfortunately, there are not many imagines of even the book cover available online so all I am left with is the ability to recommend it to you.  It is a very short read and simply written.  We, has a group, have not explored much culturally outside of American or white literature yet.  I hope we move into that more in the not too distant future.


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