December is the best and worst month to recap my year in reading. On the one hand, I can simply scroll through my Goodreads reviews to pick out favorites. On the other hand, I usually discover several books from perusing Best Of lists elsewhere; I’ll end up reading great 2011 novels in the first months of 2012, rending the titles below provisional at best.
So read the following with a grain of salt. (This is a cross-post with Work in Progress, where 22 editors and authors listed their favorite 2011 reads as well.)
Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
The Road to Somewhere by James Reeves
The Chairs Are Where the People Go: How to Live, Work, and Play in the City by Misha Glouberman and Sheila Heti
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition by Geoff Dyer
Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age by Bohumil Hrabal
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews
Suicide by Édouard Levé
Announcing a project very near and dear to me, several months in the works. First, a bit of preamble.
Everyone knows most author readings are boring. And everyone knows most book trailers are terrible. Why not find a solution for both?
FSG is partnering with GQ to try something different: authors and musicians in conversation, hosted by David Rees (Get Your War On, Artisanal Pencil Sharpening, Kale City), in an intimate West Village loft space. We’ll film each event and edit it down to a compelling short film for broadcast online.
The first event? November 8th, with John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead, and Brooklyn’s own Caveman. Continue reading
I wish I could still subscribe to the Death of the Author theories I glommed onto so readily in college. In part, it’s easy to look at the text through such a narrow lens, and in my experience, that ease was really laziness. Who wants to trudge through the author’s biography, her critical responses, posthumously published correspondences… It’s a lot of work.
Which I’ve known for a few years can’t be avoided. Case in point: When I finish David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, I will be moved to deep sadness for all the obvious reasons extrinsic to the novel-reading experience. John Jeremiah Sullivan captures it well: “I myself was surprised, on finishing the review copy, to have the wind sucked out of me by the thought—long delayed—that there would be no more Wallace books.” Sullivan also masterfully writes out a long magazine piece in exactly the method he professes envy toward DFW for pulling off consistently, which is to say, sans direct journalistic access to the piece’s subject. A must-read.
Others have been far more eloquent than I regarding Wallace’s contribution to literature and the sadness at the heart of his early passing. So instead, I’d like to shift a little bit to “the odd how of reading,” or my observations about the changing conversations about books. Continue reading