“Before I was twenty, I mean, I used to think that life was a thing that kept gaining impetus. It would get richer and deeper each year. You kept learning more, getting wiser, having more insight, going further into the truth-” She hesitated.
Port laughed abruptly. “And now you know it’s not like that. Right? It’s more like smoking a cigarette. The first few puffs it tastes wonderful, and you don’t even think of its ever being used up. Then you begin taking it for granted. Suddenly you realize it’s nearly burned down to the end. And then’s when you’re conscious of the bitter taste.”
“But I’m always conscious of the unpleasant taste and the of the end approaching,” she said.
“Then you should give up smoking.”
“How mean you are!” she cried.
“I’m not mean!” he objected, almost upsetting his glass as he raised himself up on his elbow to drink. “It seems logical, doesn’t it? Or I suppose living’s a habit like smoking. You keep saying you’re going to give it up, but you go right on.”
— This week’s theme is The Sheltering Sky. If you haven’t read it yet, let me just say that it’s very close to being a perfect novel.
I thought I had problems until I read this book. Sexy and scary, it tells the story of Ruth, an American living in London. She is followed by an unknown narrator and you never know if the narrator wants to love her or hurt her. Ruth is young and she both loves and hates the attention she garners from men. It is both her life-breath and her destruction. This book hits at the core of what it means to be unhappy. You will finish this book knowing Ruth in every way.
One of the best parts of this job is finding a book you never saw coming: a book that knocks your socks off, is so compelling you can’t put it down. Crimes in Southern Indiana is one of those finds. The stories it contains - the half-Southern, half-Midwestern fully compromised world it creates - are urgent and addictiveThere is a spare, savage beauty to the writing that demands every ounce of praise we can and should muster. I’ve been lucky to encounter a number of great, new (to me, at least) writers this year. Frank Bill is one of the best. I can’t wait to read what he’s cooking up next.
P.S. This was Tom’s pick for our Best of 2011…Frank Bill’s latest is Donnybrook.
The two Jeffs are coming at you, with poetry and graphic novel recommendations. If you feel inspired to check out these books, you can come visit us (!!) or you can click on the title for a link to our website.
Aesthetically pleasing-just as the poet would have wanted-succinctly introduced-which is a rare treat in poetry publications-this large edition is curated to perfection. Frank’s glib style is balanced out by his hard-earned perspective on life. He contemplates the pains of modernism, and the beauty of a record while cracking a joke about poetry itself. He so craves the world that tortures him. This perverse, mildly abusive, relationship to society is one shared by all the New York School poets and part of why they mean so much to me. O’Hara’s work has inspired generations of creators and this edition gives him the gift of a clean, humble presentation. His love of film, sex and a pleasant afternoon shine here; so too do his ponderings on the torture of artistic pursuits. My personal favorite finds a spot among this tasteful collection, Ave Maria, an ode to the beautiful corruption of the silver screen. So find a dark spot, get comfortable and get acquainted with this gem of a book.
This collection of Rickheit’s odd, depraved, graphic shorts may not be for everyone, but it is a curiously clever book. Equal parts H.R. Giger, Lewis Carroll and Georges Bataille, Rickheit’s characters include twin nymphets in scanty negligees and masks, a teddy bear-faced man who pursues music through hellish landscapes and Jeffery, demented and flatulent dwarf. Do narratives like these bear recommendation or are they the pornographic etchings of a possibly dangerous lunatic?
This spectacular book has left me feeling a bit fanatical about the desert. The story revolves around a rock formation in the American southwest, creating a polyphonic narrative that layers mystery on top of mystery, invoking the kind of madness that can only take place within the harshest of environments.
Kunzru’s gift for dialogue just barely grounds his characters, and their tenuous connections with one another amplify the chaos they are experiencing. His powerful evocation of the desert and the sprawling nature of the story are both unsettling and disorienting in the best way possible.
Dogcrime: Blexbolex is a bookstore staff favorite. A French comics illustrator with an iconic ligne claire style, he designs eerie children’s books that revolve around a series of visual coincidences (please, take a look at his People) and even stranger adult noir fantasias, like this brief dystopian tragedy of dogs, crime and death.
The Bridegroom: This is a weird, sexy little book. It got in my head and it wouldn’t leave, just like the titular bridegroom/dog gets into Ms. Kitamura’s schoolhouse and won’t, ahem, give her a moment’s rest. I don’t know anything about Japanese surrealism, so I can’t tell you anything about what any of it means. Something about alienation? Maybe? Bulgakov wrote Heart of a Dog about a dog turning into a man, so maybe this is a response to that? I’m grasping at straws, people. Whatever it’s about, it’s…potent. And small. And lovely. And absurd. Give it to your sexy, weird sweetheart, the one with a good sense of humor and a lascivious hunger. That’s what I would do.