Archive for the 'books' Category

Wide Eyed

August 21, 2011

I was really into this but here’s the thing, don’t make the same mistake I did: don’t read this short story collection all in one day, because there is a lot of sugar in it. It’s like eating a quart of ice cream in one sitting or something. I mean the metaphor doesn’t really work because the ice cream would have to have something grim or brutal in it, not as the primary ingredient but definitely as one of the primary ingredients- like, chocolate, hemlock and peanut butter, or vanilla strawberry glass shards. Which makes it sound like an Urban Decay ad in Spin from ten years ago or something, but the way these stories are laid out, it both seems totally appropriate that she also wrote a book called A Unicorn is Born that’s just about unicorn culture and birth and also appropriate that this book was published under Dennis Cooper’s Little House on the Bowery imprint of Akashic.

(being published by an imprint of Akashic is unimpeachably cool btw)

Actually having Dennis Cooper was a useful reference point- the only other thing I’d read by Ms Dalton was Sweet Tomb, one of those (also unimpeachably cool) square little Madras Press books, the cover of which looked like it involved a lot of tracings of pictures of women in slutty halloween witch costumes. Which actually also is a pretty good metaphor for what her writing is like… but anyway Cooper’s a good reference point for the way that she is just talking, in the vernacular, and her boyfriend Matt shows up a few times, and most of these stories are not narratively shaped like- I dunno- the stories of some classic short story writer who works within litfic genre constraints. I can’t think of anybody. Some character on a sitcom whose occupation is “writer.” ANYWAY what I am trying to say is that it seems like Dalton just kind of turns her obsessions over and over in her mouth and on the page the same way Cooper does, except her obsessions are like unicorns and witchy magic and animals instead of dazed gay teenagers and consensual mutilation. I’m into it I just got excited and overdosed on it. I did order a copy of A Unicorn is Born though so I will keep you posted.

[at powells]


Tree of Codes

August 17, 2011

I thought of a mean-spirited simile to describe Tree of Codes while I was walking home from work: Tree of Codes is like scene hair. Theoretically, it’s cool, and very pretty, and intricate, and worthwhile, but in practice, up close, it’s kind of gross, and way more work than it’s worth, and not as cool as its Platonic ideal, and once you interact with it a little you feel kind of sad whenever you think about it.

Tree of Codes

August 17, 2011

Y’know, I have pretty fond memories of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but as I read it I think I might have been convincing myself that I liked his first novel more than I actually did. (I was living in New York, drunk or hung over most of the time, and reading in half-hour chunks on subway trains. Nobody knows what I was thinking about anything at that point.) But this thing… I dunno.

So okay: I didn’t read it. I opened it up, read the few words printed on each of the first ten or twenty pages, realized I wasn’t comprehending anything, and put it down. So maybe it is fantastic. But it’s hard for me to separate the reading experience- the cover, the smell, the margins, the font, the author and book’s back stories in my head- from the actual words on the page. And so maybe that is the point? The reading experience, in combination with the ethereal semi-sentence incidental poetry or whatever. But it wasn’t enough to make me care.

Two minutes of internet research make it look like what this book is is a book from the early twentieth century, translated into English from Polish, which was not titled “The Street of Crocodiles,” which JSF decided to pretend WAS titled The Street of Crocodiles, and then he cut most of most of the passages out of all of the pages, so each page is literally made primarily up of holes- like if you gave Salvador Plascencia’s “The People of Paper” acid. So it’s this beautiful art object made mostly of holes. It’s striking to open up. I can see why he went for it this way. But at the same time, I think Plascencia and the self-conscious updated magical realism thing he was (or at least to me appeared to be) a part of- which I thought was so cool, although in retrospect I think I might have been trying to make myself be more into than I actually was- is a good reference point for this, because this book, with its holes and its poetry and its ephemeral summer nights or whatever the fuck, seems like something out of a more wistful Aimee Bender story, or something the boy detective would find in The Boy Detective Fails (which I am afraid to re-read, because I liked it so much half a decade ago when I was a tiny baby without a shell except for the permeable one I wore made of booze and appropriative New York City toughness), or even maybe something I’d think a little more highly of than that stuff, like Isabel Allende. But it doesn’t read like a book. And while I will admit that I just got accepted to graduate school and am panicking about how I’m going to pay for it, I don’t think it would seem worth forty dollars to me even under normal circumstances.

I didn’t read Only Revolutions because I didn’t want to have to go back and reassess House of Leaves, so I think I’m just gonna go “man yeah that thing is pretty” when somebody brings up the Tree of Codes and leave it at that. I don’t think it’s quite as unexciting a prospect as Only Revolutions, because JSF did publish a book made up entirely of black words on white paper before this one (which I didn’t hate), but this is three of his four books now that have significant gimmicry. Or… I guess Everything is Illuminated was made out of words, too. I don’t know. Whatever about that- maybe rich people in New York can appreciate the fragile beauty of an objet d’art[e?] like this and that fragile beauty is worth forty dollars to them and their extremely skinny jeans and face bones and their incredibly long, thick chestnut bangs, but I don’t think I can. And Chris was so stoked about it! Maybe my heart is just dead. He was showing it to this girl and she was like “whoa, cool,” and I was like “scoff scoff” which I feel kind of bad about.

[At Powell’s]

A Wrinkle In Time

July 30, 2011

Did you know that I hadn’t read this until like a week or two ago? When I was in fifth grade I read the first couple pages and decided it was too advanced, or serious, or something, and took out Locked in Time or Stranger With My Face from the school library again.

Um, I don’t really have anything to say about it. It’s pretty solid feminist anti-conformism YA sci-fi from the early sixties. I can see why folks like it so much. I only picked it up ’cause a used box set of the three books in this series came into the store, and y’know, consumerism. I’ll totally read the other two though.

Women Must Not Be Allowed Into The Canon

June 20, 2011

By Harold Bloom. Yeah, I guess this was pretty good

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

June 15, 2011

A puppet at Pegasus Books in Berkeley, California reads the blurb I wrote for Aimee Bender’s last book, back when it was new and I still worked there.

I’m Tired of Lions

June 14, 2011

Let’s Share, Grumpy Bunny!

June 14, 2011

I make this faceThis is a good book for me because I have been grumpy lately. Hopper O’Hare is a lot like me; he is painting a meadow with another bunny and he doesn’t want to share the paint or anything and then accidentally there is a splotch in the sky so he gets super pissed and flips out but then he calms down and is like ‘let’s just draw a monster over that splotch,’ which I think is a pretty good solution.

Go The Fuck To Sleep

June 13, 2011

I don’t care about this

A Visit From the Goon Squad

May 30, 2011