Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. (Jan. 19-26)
A lot of things were happening, and I thought I was in love, maybe, ultimately, wrongly, but I was distracted. And I was devastated, and I decided to challenge myself with a difficult read. I hadn’t been reading much by the end of 2015. Bad things were happening. The light in my room was affected by a red lampshade from a previous tenant, and I lived in Bushwick, and I often raced to get through my allotted daily seventy or so pages so I could go to sleep. I wasn’t talking to anyone, and I had no one to talk to about the book. The book is about history and the removal of the experience from the event. I felt like I missed a decent amount, that there seriously lacked the emotion of Faulkner’s other great works, but I enjoyed the places and the desperate, pre-suicidal voice of Quentin, who felt like an old friend, from a time when I had been more excited about literature and life. I was happy when the novel was over.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (late Dec. 2015-Jan. 31)
I started this book sometime in December (but it was not the first book I read in 2016), and found it pedantic and boring. But after finishing Absalom!, driven (not in a car, but figuratively) to my parents’ house, I felt I had no excuse but to push through it. I hate letting a so-called classic defeat me, or get past me, and I hope to one day lay that feeling to rest. If people like this book so much it must be for a reason; there are some nice sentences, but people probably just like it because it’s like a movie, and I read it by the fire, while my parents watched TV. I read the majority in two sittings that way. Sometime earlier, however, a woman approached me, at my cashiering job at the food coop, and told me I was disgusting for reading Lolita in public. I told her I wasn’t.
The Tennis Handsome by Barry Hannah (Feb. 1-2)
I had fallen into some weird freelance things after quitting my salaried, union-benefitted, university library position the previous summer. I had reason to join the public library and was ripping video of a fashion label to media cards, testing that they worked and mailing them out all over the world at a highly inflated rate. It was nice to make money off so little work, but the work soon went away, and I had to find more. Hannah’s fourth novel is an amalgam and extension of several stories from his hit collection Airships, and is mostly about sex, like a lot of his early work. It was a pleasant read for the most part, even making me laugh, and then I was in Massachusetts. I didn’t have a car and was out of touch with most of my old friends. I didn’t have much reason to go back to Brooklyn.
Hey Jack! by Barry Hannah (Feb. 3-4)
This book isn’t so different from the previous one, but it’s a bit better. I think at one point Hannah said he’d let Lish do whatever he wanted to his books as long as it made him famous. This one reads like that. It takes place with a tighter range of characters, in a tighter setting, with one single narrator. It’s actually one of the author’s best, and the cover, like many ’80s Knopf editions, is worth judging it by. Read during that same family visit, I tried to dig into a third Hannah novel, but was called back to Brooklyn for some other job or other. It was at the beginning of a protracted period of health and dermatological problems that were a strong percentage point of fantasy, but that sent me off in a direction I don’t have incentive to return from.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Feb. 11-Mar. 1)
While driving across the country in mid-2015, I brought The Goldfinch along with me, at the suggestion of my mother. I really had enjoyed the first 100 pages on a beach in Rhode Island in May, but, on a whole, was left less than inspired. At her encouragement, and that of a dear friend in the middle of the country, I picked up Tartt’s first novel. It was a slow start. I was busy working for a TV show and didn’t have much time to sleep, let alone read. But I blew through the second half in a couple of days, sitting on the fire escape in the morning, when the sun warmed the metal in spite of winter air. I cried when it was over, because I was moved, and because I was so sad I wouldn’t be living with these characters ever again. The relationship between the magical and historical nature of education and the economic desolation of college has never been so perfectly integrated. This is one of the great novels of the ’90s, as far as I’m concerned. Its inconsistencies to reality and lengthy digressions pave the shortcomings of her second two, even longer books, but for whatever reason work in The Secret History‘s favor. I miss the way I felt when I read this book, at four a.m., in the break room of a PriceRite in Garfield, New Jersey.
Fuck Seth Price by Seth Price (Mar. 2)
I bought this one at MoMA PS1. A little recent art world history and philosophical exploration by one of the major players in the field. It’s thoughtful and funny and has an entirely beside the point (successful!) post-apocalyptic narrative of violence. There’s a part where he describes the different categorical reasons why people make art: Freedom, Craft, Money and Scene. This section really struck a chord with me, and helped me understand some of my own difficulties with production. A lot of people I was vaguely spending time with were obsessed with this book, and someone told me it was going for $900 on Amazon after it sold out, but I just looked and it’s only $720.
Surveys by Natasha Stagg (Mar. 3-4)
Natasha is a friend. I published her in Logue [blue], and she helped me get work later in the summer, when I was destitute. This is her first novel, published by Semiotext(e), and nobody has written so precisely, naturally about the state of online celebrity. Surveys sets a new bar for how we talk about the role of the internet in contemporary literature: they aren’t separate things, with separate worlds; it’s all one experience, one consciousness. It seems that over the past five years, after the blogging boom, there was a push to divide the literary world from its online counterpart, whereas every other aesthetic form has vied to merge them. The point is: there is no counterpart. And that is sort of the role of this website. And we’re very lucky to have it back. Thank you, Natasha. Thank you Blake, Gene and Lily.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (Mar. 6-14)
I finally gave in to the hype of this international bestseller, and I haven’t been happier about any series of literature, maybe ever. Though My Brilliant Friend is probably the least interesting and emotionally thorough installment of the Neapolitan Quartet, it sets the groundwork for one of the most powerful and truly human reading experiences I’ve had the good fortune of knowing. I read most of this one sitting passenger on a box truck. If you haven’t read Ferrante’s sprawling opus yet, it’s simple: it lives up to the hype.
God, I Don’t Even Know Your Name by Andrea McGinty (Mar. 15)
I took a flight to Austin because I wanted to see a friend, and to help her with an art show, where she invited me to read from my then unfinished novel. The day before my flight, I read Andrea’s short, silly, ex-pat artist travel erotica. I’d gotten it at the BHQFU book fair, and we’d all gone back to my friend’s apartment and done ketamine and drank martinis and then everyone was gone, and I left the house and ended up at some stranger’s and fell asleep. Austin turned out to feel like a mistake. I spent most of the time driving a passenger van up and down Airport Blvd, running errands and feeling agitated. I sang karaoke and slept on the floor. One morning, I went outside and called a friend who’d left a message sometime in the night. He was worried he’d committed a terrible faux pas. There was wet, overgrown grass, and bottles in the grass, and trees, and after I returned from Texas, I went three days without sleep, not returning to my apartment, visiting friends and meeting more strangers, culminating in an acid trip, during which, upon fully tripping, I entered a bar where my ex-girlfriend (of some six years, years earlier), who’d moved to Boston, had, as she put it, just arrived, after traveling to the city, randomly for the weekend. After trying to explain to her it was a sign (she assured me it was not), I abandoned the people I was with, listening to “With Them” by Young Thug on repeat, walking quickly down Bushwick Avenue, until I reached the library. The library had a beautiful aura, and the most outrageous of the night’s coincidences were still before me. Things settled down for a minute, though, and later, at a different bar that has since closed, I shared some not unhappy tears.
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (Mar. 16-Apr. 5)
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (Apr. 7-14)
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (Apr. 14-May 4)
The fallout from the (significantly abridged) episode described above (which lasted about ten days in totality) left me more than a little emotionally, cognitively, physically depleted. The time that followed was largely recovery. A person I sort of cared about came in and out of contact, I got back into a steady job rhythm and limited my leaving the city and my hours without sleep. 2016 was a confusing year for a lot of reasons. I started working on writing again, letting go of extraneous relationships and rebuilding some meaningful ones I’d let fall apart, after driving around a lot and the death of a close friend the year before. And during this time I felt increasingly attached to, almost reliant on, Elena Ferrante’s characters. Everyone I’ve spoken with about the novels feels akin to the narrator, without fail. It has the incredible effect of feeling both deeply personal and vastly universal. The political and the individual, the city and the community, the way the people who matter reenter and reenter our lives. The Neapolitan Quartet is genuinely one of the most tremendous and impressive feats in the past fifty years of literature, and it invoked a renewed love and thirst for reading that I hadn’t experienced since college. In the following months, I was voracious. I read 47 novels between May 5 and October 1, before my pace abated.
Zero K by Don DeLillo (May 5-7)
DeLillo’s latest is not a great book, but it was fun to have a chance to go back to that familiar voice, with its familiar concerns and hang-ups. An obsession with death and suspended time. With family and isolation, New York and the desert, sex and estrangement. The final scene is the book’s most successful, and that works in its favor. I read most of it on a couch one afternoon, cat-sitting, and I walked over the bridge to get drunk.
*Run River by Joan Didion (May 8-10)
The morning after finishing Zero K, I agreed to gallery-sit at my friends’ space, and I proceeded to reread half of Didion’s first novel. (The asterisk means I was rereading the book; I ended up rereading a lot in 2016.) Though not particularly remembered or celebrated, Run River is a beautiful work of nostalgia and love from the post-war period. I think she later said she hated it for those reasons, but, to me, it remains fresh, at times shattering. Like most Didion, it’s the story of a woman buried by her surroundings, responsibilities and money, and it comes highly recommended by this reader.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (May 10-12)
Despite being a huge fan of her (wildly underrated) fiction, I’d never bothered to read Didion’s essay collections. These were fine. The title piece was captivating, and I don’t care if it was the product of manipulation or flat-out fabrication. Otherwise mostly unmemorable. I was still cat-sitting, and laid out on the back porch of my friend’s apartment, watching planes appear overhead. First it was sunset, and then it was dark. I’d fallen asleep on a deck chair with a bottle of rosé. The lights from the planes kept appearing, every few minutes, coming out into my field of vision like sudden births.
*Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (May 12-13)
I reread this at work and in a cab home from work, the day I met Drake. It’s a short little, mostly perfect story of Los Angeles, the industry and the shitty people there. I was listening to a lot of Descendents at the time.
The White Album by Joan Didion (May 14-16)
This was as unremarkable as its essayistic predecessor, but I do remember enjoying thinking about Joan Didion’s relationship to Jim Morrison. It’s funny how The Doors are considered so distant and dark, when really they’re pale, sycophantic adolescents to the depth and removal of Didion’s best (notably female) characters. The book is called The White Album because the essay is about 1968 and that… Beatles album? The whole spirit of that era? I don’t know. It was unsettling, how much I didn’t care. I’m just glad I didn’t have to live through it.
Salvador by Joan Didion (May 17-18)
Maybe her greatest journalistic effort, I read Salvador in McCarren Park in almost a sitting. (I think I’d read maybe ten pages in bed before falling asleep the previous day.) I liked the descriptions of ubiquitous, almost omniscient threat, and political violence. These experiences are the defining ones that informed the back half of Didion’s fiction output: A Book of Common Prayer, Democracy and The Last Thing He Wanted. We’re lucky she had the opportunity to travel and live in Central America, among other places, and take on these stories in her own voice.
Miami by Joan Didion (May 19-20)
A more in-depth and less exciting political discourse than Salvador. I had become infatuated with a girl from Miami, who, after spending some time with, had little to no interest in me, which I failed to accept for a while. I thought reading this book, though we weren’t in contact, would somehow bring us closer together. But (now I’m laughing as I type this) it did not.
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (May 20-23)
My friend told me to read this, but I didn’t really care for it. Modernist novel that was considered very risqué in its time. To me, it was just a dull story told through several frames of reference. I wanted simple things to happen. I listened to my friend because we both love Jean Rhys. It’s okay, reading a book is a fine thing to do. I took a bus back to Massachusetts after finishing the TV show for the season, and ended up staying for two weeks and buying a car. It’s a 2000 Buick Park Avenue. It’s extremely wide and has a hood ornament. I drove into Boston to try to see a movie at the Harvard Film Archive with my ex-girlfriend, but we got lost and were ten minutes late, so they wouldn’t let us in. They have a strict policy about not letting people in once the movie starts. It was fine. We got food at a little diner around the time Budweiser changed their name to America.
Hope of Heaven by John O’Hara (May 23-24)
I really can’t remember what happened in this book. All of John O’Hara’s books feel good to read, though. I wanted a tan. I believed it would help relieve the mostly imagined dermatological problems I referred to earlier, and in the mornings, at my parents’ house, I would get up early and read for three or four hours on the back porch with my shirt off. These mornings were some of the greatest I’ve had in my miserable life. It was silent, and I was thirsty and deliriously hot. I couldn’t get rid of some viral thing, and I didn’t understand why the sunbathing wasn’t helping. Oh, what happened in this book? I know I enjoyed it. The character was probably in love with a girl. Not as good as Sermons and Soda Water, I know that much. I have a book that includes Appointment in Samarra, Butterfield 8 and Hope of Heaven in one volume that I bought at East Village Books and is falling apart.
Pal Joey by John O’Hara (May 24)
A very funny story. This is the only one I read entirely on a computer screen in 2016, as I downloaded it off the Brooklyn Public Library website. Quick read, epistolary novel. I finished it in bed late at night and didn’t know what to do next.
Ten North Frederick by John O’Hara (May 25-31)
It occurs to me that I spent more time in the first six months of 2016 with my parents than I had in the previous several years combined. I don’t expect I’ll want to spend that kind of time with them again. But in the moment, it was kind of blissful, how simply we’d gotten along. Since then, my grandfather has become infirm and moved into their house. I’ve moved into my first apartment that is mine alone. A more terrible political climate than I could ever have expected has emerged. I don’t want to be near anyone for very long. O’Hara won the National Book Award for Ten North Frederick. It’s one of the books I stole from the library I worked at before quitting. The story of a family after their patriarch has passed away. It’s a wonderful story of old politics and old white America (though not as good at that as Updike’s Rabbit Tetralogy). One that might be difficult to revisit in the future, but at the time, it seemed like such a history that I could enjoy it as one.
*The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (June 1-2)
The first time I read this book, I didn’t catch on to the fact that Jake was impotent from the war injury. I was young, and I just thought he was an alienated guy who knew it would never work out. It’s almost more fun to read the book this way. It really wouldn’t have worked out. So little does. I read this book upon returning to Brooklyn, on the roof of my apartment, with my shirt off again. Something bad happened the following day. Something I could’ve predicted in the pages of that book. I had so much awful (or good, depending on how you look at it) luck with women this year. The summer became a horrendous experience of immobility and indulgence. Better I would’ve been like Jake, I think now, but I don’t actually. I don’t actually have any opinion. Things just happen. That seems like something Jake might think. (I’m surprised I remember his name so well; now I’m worried it’s not Jake.)
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (June 3-9)
This book is fine. I read it in bed, much in the way I read Absalom!, with the good intention of getting to go to sleep afterward. The love affair is really saccharine, almost morbid in the way its dealt. Like, shame on Hemingway. Nobody falls in love that way. Or they shouldn’t. The most interesting parts were, in fact, the military strategy, much to my surprise. I was not impressed with the masculine responsibility of the character. I would’ve preferred it ended differently, but having half-assed hindsighted opinions has no effect on the way things were.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (June 15-16)
It is an incredible thing to call out your friend, who happened to be, dead or not, an extremely iconic figure, for having a small, misshapen penis and not being able to bring his equally iconic wife to orgasm. That kind of exhibitionism is at the heart of the success and excess of this little book. I liked the descriptions of being hungry while looking at art. It almost made me want to go to Paris, but I was lucky enough to have that feeling pass. I was drinking a lot, and watching a lot of TV. I was bored of life, and I still am.
Bullet Park by John Cheever (June 17-20)
A better than expected book, I read it at work mostly (after the TV show ended, I worked on another one, with quick turnaround, for a month), most memorably at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in the sun, fire-watching a bunch of camera equipment. This blog post I am writing is becoming more pointless seeming as I go along. I realize that so much of the past year was sitting around, and most of the books I read have been written about to death and bear no repeating. Life is like that. At a certain point survival is only a means of paying your bills, and vice versa. The father in Bullet Park gets addicted to drugs near the end of the novel, and that never resolves. If you are still reading, that means something to me. There’s no story embedded in these short reviews of my life with books. I have not excerpted my favorite lines or done anything but document my surrounding memories. Life exists without a narrative. It’s the job of writers to omit the irrelevancies, to seek what ties one event to another to tell a story. There is no story to life, which is why books are so fun. There are no books like life because life is too long.
*Falconer by John Cheever (June 21-23)
I couldn’t remember anything about this book except that it was a prison story, so I decided to reread it. Now, I cannot remember again. There is a little gay romance, and he also has a wife and kid. There’s some discussions of drug addiction, and cleaning up. Oh, that’s the best part in the novel, when they’re cutting back on his methadone treatments, cutting back, cutting back, and eventually, without even knowing it, he’s been on nothing but placebo for a while, and he’s perfectly fine. When he realizes this, he seems totally empty. I don’t remember how it ends, though. I like the blue on the cover, and I found the book a MoMA PS1 years ago, before I first read it. I love the summertime. It’s like your life is somebody else’s.
Oh What a Paradise It Seems by John Cheever (June 26)
Another book I read entirely at work. A nice short novel about being old and still wanting to have sex. The world falling away from you. The futility of any effort at all. This book has been forgotten, I feel, and pushed aside as unimportant to Cheever’s oeuvre, but if you like Cheever, you will like it, and you should read it.
*Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (June 27-28)
Read during my last two days of real work until late September, and so it commenced my stupid, lazy, restless summer. My dear, dear friend, who’d been living in the Midwest for two years, returned to New York and moved in with me. Someone at work made fun of me for reading Bret Easton Ellis. And Less Than Zero didn’t exactly hold up in the way it had when I was a teenager, but in the weeks that followed, I’d read (and reread) all of his books, and, as with the Ferrante before it, felt extremely excited about literature in a new and restorative way. Ellis’s ability to merge genre fiction with new literary forms, to tackle urgent sociopolitical problems with biting, embedded satire, and to create a universe, separate and contiguous within itself, filled with synapses and easter eggs for its devotees, is unparalleled in contemporary literature. I was, during this period of reading, working intensely on finishing my own first novel (titled Cool Girls Hate Their Bodies, and which, if you’re an interested party, is available for review by agents and publishers alike) and felt a lot of possibilities open up due to the freedom and rigor of BEE’s writing.
The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (June 29-July 4)
I was astounded by this book’s basic accuracy to the way people are. I watched the movie after reading it, and that wasn’t so bad either. On July 4, there was terrible rain, and I went home with a girl whose mom (I think) (maybe it was her dad) worked with my dad at a university in the ’90s. They were biology professors. We’d taken a Joyce seminar together in college (not the same one our respective parents had taught at) and I hadn’t seen her since. In fact, it took me a while, at the party, to place who she was. So is life. A few days later, I got a haircut for the first time in a couple years.
*American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (July 4-11)
Truly one of the most important books of the second half of the 20th century. I had forgotten almost all of it, especially the way the story and language completely break down in the second half of the novel. It is a psychological masterpiece, one of my favorite books, and I was glad to be reminded of this. During the time I was reading it, I went to see the Katharina Grosse installation at Fort Tilden and became sort of sandpapered over with apathy. I had started a magazine with friend and HTMLGiant occasional Erik Stinson, an arts and gossip weekly, that we were self-distributing and promoting throughout lower Manhattan. Working on this project, I became probably the least empathetic I’ve ever been in my life. Related or not, the emotionlessness and disengagement I would experience would become disconcerting, and by the time the election came around, I felt revolted with myself for participating in the whole thing. It felt like the least important thing in the world, to write about sex and New York galleries, and I abandoned my post. During July I came to somewhat identify with Patrick Bateman, and still do, on my worst days. He is an incredible portrait of humanity, priority and self reliance. All in ways that I hope we can overcome in the future, looking toward a stage of human rights violations and prospective world war. Bateman’s obsession with Trump and gaudy capital fetishization marks our country’s regression, almost thirty years later, and our ability, as individuals, to fall prey to our own selfish baseness. I’m trying to seek purpose and love, past the indifference and ennui, even when it feels impossibly painful to do so. But it feels impossible and painful to do so.
The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis (July 11-13)
The parts about vampires are cool, and the strings and tangential characters hold together this fairly weak collection of stories Ellis wrote in college. I read it mostly on the couch with the TV on in the background. I had gotten into gore horror films, especially those of Lucio Fulci and early George A. Romero. I kept them on a constant stream in the apartment, lying out, without AC, and unemployed, letting the days slip by, drinking before noon, waiting for the sun to set so I could walk around, sit at a bar or something.
Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis (July 14-21)
One of the main reasons I’d purchased the Buick was so I could go to the beach as often as possible, and I pretty much kept that promise. I bought a parking pass and drove my roommate out, hungover with a twelve-pack of Carling Black Label and a battery operated radio. One morning, early, the beach almost empty, with a high wind, I was reading Glamorama. The few people near the shore all seemed to stop what they were doing and stand up. We followed and looked out at the water, where two humpback whales were spraying and breaching, jumping into the air, playfully. The only sounds were the water, and if you turned around, the World Trade Center and other bits of Manhattan could be made out through the haze. I cried. About a week later, a lifeguard greeted us. She said swimming had been shut down for the day, as sharks had been spotted fifteen feet from the shore. We walked over to the edge of the water and stingrays were flopping around, raising their fins out in the air. Later, a different lifeguard told us the swimming ban had been lifted, and people were going in. I saw another stingray. Still, I took a dip. Glamorama is a funny, fast-paced and underrated, like, crime/spy novel. I drove home listening to the new Blood Orange record. Too hot to close my eyes, I didn’t fall asleep till sunrise most nights.
Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis (July 22-25)
My mother called and said she needed me to come clean out the house, to make space so my grandfather could move in. She wanted to have a yard sale, and if I helped, she’d give me half of whatever we made. So I drove to Massachusetts, where she told me she had no time for a yard sale and that she’d just wanted me to visit for a while. I can’t remember what we did. It’s that awful time of summer where it’s too hot to be outside and too dull to do anything else. I read Ellis’s postmodern, surreal thriller, and that first chapter, the rewriting of his own personal history into melodramatic, soap opera fiction blew me away. I was extremely excited about horror in general, and tried my hand at the genre. I’m still working on that from time to time, and it was during this visit that I was rewriting an adaptation of a long conversation I’d had with my mother months earlier. My childhood bedroom had been converted to her office, which made working in it until dinner time fairly reasonable. I left town late one evening unannounced.
*Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis (July 26-27)
Cute little noir sequel to Less Than Zero, which I’m sure many of you know plenty about. I remember trying to finish reading it quickly because someone was coming over, or I had something to do, but I can’t remember what or whom. I remember it was light, then it was dark, and I finished reading it in the dark. I went to see the author read from his most recent novel, six years earlier, at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square, when I was nineteen and broke, and he did for a moment, but he spent most of the time talking about the film adaptation of Less Than Zero, and how Robert Downey Jr. was the only impediment in getting an Imperial Bedrooms screenplay off the ground. I still love that final line: “I never liked anyone and I’m afraid of people,” and though I hope for more from BEE in the future, it wouldn’t be a disappointing end to his career.
Microaggressions by Erik Stinson (July 28)
I did a waterfront reading with Erik and Zachary German for the release of Microaggressions. Afterwards, we went to the Levee, a bar I used to love that looks that same, but somehow isn’t. Jon Leon was there. We talked about our respective long past break-ups, still haunting us, and how the writer tries to write these difficult memories out of his life. Erik’s most recent poetry collection is his finest, and his most concise. At one point it could be purchased at Target.
The Soros Fund by Erik Stinson (July 28)
A bunch of little chapbooks were also available at the reading. One by Erik, one by Audun Mortensen, which I was lucky enough to read a little of, but not get my hands on for good. Short poems about the economy and politics, a couple of Erik’s favorite things.
Agapē Agape by Williams Gaddis (July 30)
I am a huge fan of William Gaddis’s novels. And by novels, I mean the four released while he was still alive. I read them all in a matter of a few months, from 2012 to 2013, and they deeply affected by relationship with dialogue, style and the roles of religion and visual art in fiction. His posthumous, career-long effort on the history of the player piano is less staggering, but it has its moments. I read it before a ketamine binge, mostly just trying get through it so I could do the drugs. Unfortunately the best writing occurs on the first couple pages, when Gaddis is still up in arms about his own concerns: his depleting physical condition, the state of his will and assets, etc. The digressions of the self haven’t always been his strongpoint, but here, in a world of almost self-immolating, incoherent obsession with technology’s role in overshadowing art and artist, I’d rather read about mortal fears than the intricacies and implications of an economy more than 80 years past. But perhaps that very avoidance is what draws out death’s palpable urgency. The afterward by Joseph Tabbi has some nice insights. I don’t know.
The Rush for Second Place by William Gaddis (Aug. 1-3)
Decidedly fixed on reading all things Gaddis published to page (though I have still not worked my way entirely through his letters, put out by Dalkey a few years back), I forced myself through this meager, dull collection of nonfiction. A few strikes, years apart and with almost nothing to do with one another, Gaddis was a craftsman, a man of commendable effort and precision, piecing together tremendous novels at a great cost to himself, and great reward to us. These short, early writings, on predominantly fruitless subjects are throwaways and should not, in my opinion, have been collected. I read a good deal of them on the beach, my head spinning with an illness I was too nervous to explain to anyone, drinking apple cider vinegar from the bottle, and couldn’t understand how he had the patience or bad judgment to admire, let alone befriend, Julian Schnabel.
The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq (Aug. 4-6)
I stole this from the house of some friends after watching their dogs. I’d loved Submission, and Michel Houellebecq had become something of a character in my own writing. This book was not as exciting as his earlier or more recent work, but I enjoyed again the bridges between visual art and the written word, something that has become increasingly of interest in my personal and professional life. I also enjoyed his writing himself into the novel, as a secondary character, killed-off halfway through the story. The author is at his least controversial here, and his most self-pitying. His deep concern with the disenfranchisement of the middle aged white man is not resentful (it’s not in any of his books), but practical, and his desire to disappear, out of the milieu, like the rest of the old middle class he was raised with, is admirable. Post-Brexit, and pre-Trump, I have, with each of his novels I’ve read, felt a sense of prediction, or premonition. The world is changing, and Houellebecq’s worlds are often one step ahead of our realities.
The Hermit by Lucy Ives (Aug. 7)
I flew to Florida to help move my grandfather out of the house he’d lived in alone for more than thirty years. Surrounded by swamp and palm grove, the foundation was crumbling, piles of animal waste and heaps of dust, insect colonies and horrible, unusable furniture abound. It was supposed to take us (my father met me there) five days to clean everything out, but, despite the horrific stink and physical strain, it only took us three. Some stuff we donated, most things we threw out. Other things, my grandfather insisted we put in a storage unit, which we filled to such capacity that upon my his last visit, my father couldn’t wedge the sliding door open more than a few feet. His father sulked in a hotel, awaiting the flight north, assuring me he’d return and find a new place in Sarasota after his hip surgery. In October, he told me, though he’s still with my parents as I type. At a bar, after one day of cleaning, a waitress gave us particularly bad service, to which my father attributed that she was on her period. This turned into an argument between generations, and I stayed in the hotel, with nothing to do for a day. I read Lucy’s new collection of poems: meditations on dreams, self-preservation and artistic practice. It’s devastating and touching, and she has her first major press novel due out in 2017, for those keeping track.
The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner (Aug. 7)
If I were to guess, the HTMLGiant crowd is probably one of the most organized communities which, in spite of many of their (our) constituents having MFAs and institutional positions in the field of literature, like to shit on Ben Lerner. I was still in the hotel room after finishing The Hermit, and I don’t like watching the Olympics. I’d stolen Lerner’s latest from a bookstore in lower Manhattan, and figured if I already had it on hand, I might as well give it a chance. Full disclosure: I loved Leaving the Atocha Station, and I didn’t care for 10:04. The Hatred of Poetry falls somewhere in the middle. It was easy to read, made good, albeit obvious points, and maintained a light, bearable tone throughout. I may not be Lerner’s biggest advocate, but I’m neither his biggest detractor, and I look forward to looking at whatever he puts out next. I only hope he will step away from the academic and critical, and concern himself a little more with humanity. God knows we could use some humanity.
The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink (Aug. 8-9)
I read most of this on the flight back to New York. I was surprised how much I loved it, considering what a letdown Mislaid had been. Again, this was a book I’d stolen (that’s how I’ve discovered some of my favorite books; perhaps next year I’ll have a symbol like the asterisk next to books I stole), so there was no excuse against giving it a shot. This novel is succinct, perfectly paced and beautifully frank. Two people get married very quickly before they know one another and soon find out they don’t like each other much but stay together anyway because by then they know each other better than they know other people, or the world. Political, yet close to the characters, and with very real, very fair portrayals of gender relations. It gives me some hope for Zink going forward. There is is a special place in my heart for novels under 200 pages, like movies under 90 minutes. To accomplish something in less time and space is a far greater achievement than the vast majority of big books.
The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq (Aug. 12-15)
If you’re still here, then… Well… I can think of a few options as to why you’re still reading, this far down the list. Either you’re a committed HTMLGiant fan (there’s got to be some sad sack who prides himself on having read every post on this godforsaken website) or you’ve been skipping around to read one reflection or another (maybe just seeing which books I read this year that you’ve also read at one point or another). Another possibility is that you have a crush on me, or a vendetta. Some form of unhealthy interest in boring into my psyche (joke’s on you, all I do is lie) and output. Well, kudos. As you’ve probably gathered, a theme in my reading this past year was to dig into a writer’s oeuvre a little bit. Try to pick up or cover as much ground as I can before losing interest. The Elementary Particles was Houellebecq’s international hit breakthrough as a writer, and it lays the groundwork for a lot of the regions of society and psychology he explores later on in his career. Basically, it’s about the sex-craved Western white middle-aged man, and the isolated, sex-desolate one. Where is their common ground: obsolescence. Then how do they survive: cloning and tweaking out their eccentricities through science. All the pleasures of life are eventually lost. I’ve been learning to accept this all year. The most we can hope for is to feel good for a moment, in that moment, and to not wallow to hard in the suffering that surrounds it. There is nothing peaceful or Buddhist about the suffering in Houellebecq’s (or our) world. It’s just reality. And reality is beaten into us until death takes us away. If it could come soon, that can be ideal. If not, we wait.
Platform by Michel Houellebecq (Aug. 16-19)
By mid-August, most people in New York are out of town or out of work. I walked to McCarren Park, not knowing that my days in north Brooklyn were coming to an imminent close. I would sit under a tree and read for hours, looking out across the field at women sunbathing and insufferable overcast skies. I haven’t exercised in years. Just about two years actually. In February 2015 I stopped exercising. I remember the day. I’ve grown weary. I remember the days after I lost my only real companion in life, by that time we pretty much hated each other; I’d get drunk and listen to the YouTube of “Prurock” as read by Eliot (not a video, just… the only way I knew to listen to it) again and again, starting it over as it finished. This meditation felt not unlike the character in Platform‘s life with sex tourism. I don’t know exactly how I’ll bridge that gap. You can do it yourself. Last night on ketamine I went through a horrific, therapeutic circle of memories. I felt I was reaching out to my dead friend, and faces were turning in on faces, but in the end I felt all right. If The Elementary Particles predicts the obsolescence of the white man (even if we’re in a current state of those figures pushing back politically), and Submission predicts the end of neoliberalism, then Platform can be said to predict the jihad of the past 15 years, surrounding 9/11, ISIS and Syria. The reaction to westernization in the Middle East, laissez-faire economies and attitudes about sex, the burying of ideology in favor of globalism, had catastrophic effects in the Aughts into the present moment, and the bawdy provocation (and its outcome) in Houellebecq’s third novel reveal this threat. That this book turned the author’s persona into some sort of anti-Islam pariah, forcing him out of his home country to hide in Ireland, is incredibly ironic, considering that a work of fiction had nothing on the policies and war crimes for which our political leaders have been lauded. Houellebecq is brave, if not always diplomatic in his approach. He’s one of the most important living writers, and we need him now more than ever.
The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq (Aug. 22-24)
Another incredible genre work. This time science fiction, maybe the best of his novels. Not because it makes as broad or acerbic a point, but because it is so placidly reveals the way we will, and must, submit to new technologies and human decline. It both demonstrates our fears and our complacency with a new world. A rapidly evolving and out of our hands world, where human attachments and physical necessities will disappear. Where our planet will betray us the way we’ve betrayed it, and the human race will cease to resemble its current iteration. The peace this novel gives to our natural, impending end is beautiful. I live by the ocean now, and I hear the wind and seagulls. For five days, I haven’t interacted with any living creature but my cat. Houellebecq directed a film adaptation of the book too, but I heard it isn’t great.
*Ray by Barry Hannah (Aug. 25)
One of my absolute favorites. I took a break from the heavy-handedness of Houellebecq’s despair to read about the ex-pilot sex crazed doctor from Alabama (or is it Mississippi? I think they’re in both states throughout the story). Did you know Barry Hannah never actually flew planes for the army, considering the extent of his fascination on the subject? Pretty good. I just sat down and read it, it’s that quick and fun. I recommend Hannah’s The Art of Fiction. He gets the bringing the handgun into the class he was teaching story straight and some other stuff. Lish edited this book down from something like 100,000 words to 30,000, so I’d look at it as a collaborative effort, in the best way.
Reasons to Live by Amy Hempel (Aug. 27)
At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom by Amy Hempel (Aug. 29)
Tumble Home by Amy Hempel (Aug. 30)
The Dog of the Marriage by Amy Hempel (Aug. 31)
I almost forgot about this, but after a close friend of mine left town, after a summer of very little sleep, constant alcohol and drug consumption and mild skin and health problems, I became extremely paranoid that I had bed bugs. I didn’t leave my house for days, tore my room apart looking for them, after an unexplained rash appeared on my arm. This went on for almost two months. I would wake up in the middle of the night and turn on all the lights, convinced they were crawling over me, and I called my mother and my dear friend in the middle of the country weeping, out of control, trying to make sense of what was happening. Ultimately, it turned out to be nothing. But I found blood on my sheets, and strange bumps appeared and reappeared in the same places for a while, and I couldn’t do anything but lie in bed and think about how I’d go broke trying to fix the situation, which I read about to no end on forums, and which seemed as good as a death sentence at that point. There were a few days when I was able to distract myself, thoroughly and successfully, with Amy Hempel’s stories, which I checked out from the library and read one day after the other. After Ray, I had a desire for more school of Lish, and I was crying mid-way through Reasons to Live. “In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried.” Stories of death and bicoastal identity confusion, poverty, friendship, etc. It swept over me. The way she deals with death and trauma, the way she rewrites the story within the story in “The Harvest.” The sexual tension in “Pool Night” and “The Most Girl Part of You.” The twin novellas of “Tumble Home” and “Offertory.” I’m not even that interested in short fiction anymore, but these were undeniably some of the best I’ve ever read. It’s a shame, though, about Rick Moody. I cannot think of a single writer more unfit to write introductions for books by Amy Hempel and William Gaddis than Rick Moody. Also, can someone please explain why his is the only blurb on modern paperbacks of fucking To the Lighthouse? The man is pure fraud.
Dear Mr. Capote by Gordon Lish (Sep. 1-4)
There were a couple family weddings over the summer. My female cousins are getting married off. We took a bus from the hotel in Stamford to the first one. It was at my father’s step-brother’s house, and at first we didn’t understand what the allotted space in the backyard, where the banquet tent was set up, could have normally been used for. Later we realized it was the tennis court. We’d never been to the house before, and took a communal bus from the hotel. On which, I asked my mother how my grandfather was settling in. She said my father had walked in on him masturbating to Japanese porn, and that she’d had a conversation with him about his internet privileges. I told her she was being unfair. For one thing, it’s almost a miracle that an 86 year old man can still get it up. Besides, he’d entered the final years of his life, and the simple pleasures that haven’t already evaded him will, exponentially, over the coming months and years. She said nobody should be watching pornography in her house, and that she could get in trouble for it, which… I don’t know what she’s talking about at that part. In any case, he’s got what seems likely to be a permanent catheter now, and I feel his days with the teens of Japan may be over. I brought Lish’s first novel to a wedding two weeks later in Rhode Island. I sat by the ocean, while my parents and sister walked along the Breakers, and read the second half of the book in a sitting. It’s one of Lish’s more centered pieces, a worthwhile read for those who don’t want to deal with his more ambitious (even less narrative) attempts (I like them). I discovered Piper-Heidsieck at the first wedding and how to get around the cash bar at the second.
Collaborators by Janet Kauffman (Sep. 6-7)
This is one of a few books I discovered through the defunct Gordon Lish Edited This blog. It’s about a mother-daughter relationship and they’re Mennonites in Delaware, or somewhere like that. Though fairly straightforward in content, there are some nice stylistic choices, and some excellent sentences thrown in. It’s nice when they row the boat on the water, and the discussions of God and religion are perfectly honest.
*Captain Maximus by Barry Hannah (Sep. 7-8)
I was still worried about bed bugs, and, after writing a little freelance coverage on fashion week, had nothing to do for almost another month. So I took again to lying around all day. I didn’t realize I’d already read Captain Maximus until about halfway through, when I recognized the pilot story from which the title arises. It’s an extremely short book, and I must have picked it up in college at the library and blown through it in a sitting, because though I could confirm definitely reading it (via searching through my emails), I remembered almost nothing of its contents. And though I enjoyed it, I’ve pretty much resumed that stance.
Boomerang by Barry Hannah (Sep. 10-12)
This is a beautiful take on a memoir, and investigation of memory, personal history and identity. The stories, at first disjointed little blips of recollection, are held together by the strange characters of the south, and by Hannah’s code of self-mythologizing. I feel like if I keep typing this is just going to sound more like a blurb than it already does. He’s dead, the author is dead, and nobody needs to defend him. At a conversation with himself at McNally Jackson a few years ago, Gordon Lish said something like Barry Hannah could’ve been a brilliant writer but he chose to be a brilliant drinker, or something, etc., etc. It’s a good exercise to just record your memories this way. Look for the things that tie them to one another, and the things that don’t. The incoherences that construct a life. (See, I’m still treating it like a blurb, so I’m stopping.)
Never Die by Barry Hannah (Sep. 14-15)
I think I’m just getting burned out on this blogging activity. We’re at 8700 words, and we’re bound to break 10,000 by the time I’m through. I purposefully didn’t number these books, so that the reader could not simply scroll to the bottom of the page, get the satisfaction of knowing how many I read in 2016. But if you’re reading here, I’ll tell you: it was 66. I read 66 books in 2016. This one I originally started in January or February, after Hey Jack!, but I dropped it, noting its stylistic deviations and strict adherence to plot. It’s a western, another wonderful foray into genre, and the final 50 or 70 pages are just one long exposition of violence, described in both great detail and minimalist restraint. Few have the talent or the desire to carry out a task like that, but it’s as good as any shoot-out I’ve read in any other nostalgia-driven western bastardization. And at least this one has a good sense of humor, and the regular sexual appetite of its author.
Days by Mary Robison (Sep. 16-20)
My friend’s mother had read my manuscript and wanted to offer some notes and advice, so I took the ferry out to Fire Island to visit her (sans friend). When I arrived, she told me to go hang out on the beach, where I read most of Mary Robison’s first story collection (also edited by Lish) and did some of my own writing on a legal pad. I wonder what happened to that story. It was about some memories, and what I was doing on the beach. And it was actually pretty good; I meant to type it up a long time ago, and having since moved, it’s probably buried among my things somewhere. Or lost, which is also fine. Because what am I going to do with it? It’s a story, and I’m familiar with it, and you all can all live without it. I mean, like, up until now you didn’t even know it existed. There’s a good one about people preparing for a hurricane in the Robison book. I remember I had bothered my friend’s mother for a pen, then, on the walk from the cottage to the beach, lost it, and felt so embarrassed, knowing she was working inside, to have to go back, and having just asked for a pen, ask for another, and I searched in the sand, by the path and the wooden deck, under the boardwalk stairs and in the water, before giving in and going back for a new one. She said she hadn’t noticed I was gone. Later, we drank a lot of vodka and played backgammon and she won almost every game.
Stories Up to a Point by Bette Pesetsky (Sep. 27-Oct. 1)
I found a bunch of little black flecks on this book one morning. Whether they’d been there all along, or otherwise, my mind made the leap to attribute them to bed bugs feces and I stripped my bed, threw out my radio and stayed awake for three days waiting. Again, they didn’t come. This book failed to effectively mollify my escalating paranoias. I had just driven to Ohio and back, done a tremendous amount of cocaine, and was due to start work again. The joy and distraction that reading had given me the past several months had suddenly fallen away. I no longer found solace in picking up a book. I had to focus very intently to even piece together the language before me to form a cogent thought and reaction. They were just words. Individuals words on a page, and I felt sick when I looked at them. I thought I just needed to get back in the rhythm of my job, but things work in cycles. And the exhilaration of reading is something that comes and goes. As the summer saw out its inevitable conclusion, the chemistry of what I could enjoy changed too, and reading became what it had been. A simple task, with some enjoyment, and some habitual resignation.
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (Oct. 6-Dec. 23)
In the weeks before leaving Bushwick (I’d unexpectedly inherited the lease on a nicely sized studio in Coney Island from a friend who was moving upstate), I had maybe the final in a series of breakdowns surrounding my health. I went to a handful of doctors who couldn’t find anything wrong with me, ended things with a girl I could not bring myself to even talk to I was so sure I was ill, regularly worked about 30 hours over the course of two days, each Thursday and Friday, and maintained terrible eating habits. When I finally did get to Coney Island, drunk driving on two hours of sleep at eight in the morning to meet my parents, who were helping me move some furniture and get settled, I convinced myself that I was ready to accept a life of total isolation and early death. It was a delusion of grandeur, though, and I read the first maybe hundred pages of Donna Tartt’s second novel in the passenger seat of a truck before putting it down, deciding it was not worth it. Eventually, over the following two months, I was able to settle into the peace of living by the water, away from my friends, taking on a new commute to work, a little less anxious, with a waning fear of missing out. Around Christmas, knowing my mother had wanted to read The Little Friend, I quickly went through the final five hundred or so pages. Though not a great novel, it succeeds in places The Goldfinch does not, and feels more honest, more real and natural, and less fantastic (despite Tartt’s sustained interest in the magical). It feels like the kind of book a writer feels compelled to write (to pay homage, to return to the place of childhood and jumbled, false memories) than the audience feels compelled to read. I won’t spoil the ending, because it is that kind of book, but I think the author probably sees herself as very clever for playing it that way; I, however, disagree. It’s a choice anyone would make.
Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard (Nov. 2-8)
One of my roommates gave me Woodcutters the day before I moved. I’d never read Bernhard, though I had a suspicion I would love his work. I lied about this, because I knew how much his books meant to her, and I didn’t want to seem like an idiot. It was fun, angry, universal work that spoke directly to me. Woodcutters especially felt like a good place to start. How he hates everyone, then comes to empathize with the actor, has the epiphanic realization that they’re the same, then, suddenly, at the end, rejects this and walks home through the Vienna he’s come to both revere and despise. This experience felt so individualized, but also entirely ubiquitous. It’s a perfect little story told in a manic, hungry, hateful voice. Bernhard’s obsession with suicide (and his inability to carry it through for himself) becomes increasingly apparent the more one reads his books, and the physical drain of its style mimics the drain of the writer himself. It’s work of both exhaustion and great, implacable creative energy. (A side note: for those who’ve read Faulkner’s Light in August, he uses the word implacable ad nauseam in that novel. Did you notice that? It also appears in Bernhard’s work, but that’s in translation, so harder to justify. I don’t… etc.)
The Loser by Thomas Bernhard (Nov. 10-16)
This is one of the great novels on the role of art and life. The competitive, consuming nature of the art world, and the self-loathing and criticism that goes along with it. The weakness of family and friendship, solitude and collaboration are in dizzying harmony here. You may also see that these short, energized books that I read in November and December each took me about a week or little more to read. Most of their reading occurred in two sittings, spaced apart by those several days, due to lethargy, distraction, work and general lack of enthusiasm. (In years past I’ve been able to pinpoint events, experiences, moments to justify the movement of life. This year, so much time was spent alone, each day enacting the one before it, very little happens as you get older, even just a little older. A few weeks ago, I drove out to Long Island and bought a potter’s wheel from someone via craigslist. Now I’ve been making pottery and sculpture. This is new for me. I cannot assign meaning to one thing or another. I found myself among so many little relationships that were exactly the same as those before them. Nothing matters, or feels like it matters, and so I can’t write reflections of precision, just sweeping moods. Or I can. I could. I could tell you about every little thought that went through my terrible mind, each repetition, reiteration, each pooling, mounding worry, and you wouldn’t care. This isn’t a story, or even a model. This is a blog post. I’m just trying to get through it like you are. We’re in this together.) Each time that I actually committed to reading in these months, I enjoyed it immensely, but it was natural to just let the reading fall by the wayside. To make it a chore, an unpleasant idea in my head. When I forced myself, I felt more whole, more determined. In the same way we must sometimes force ourselves to write, through total apathy or resentment, knowing only we can say what’s best for us. Those days of splendor, of almost immaculate, effortless inspiration are so easily forgotten when they’re not with us. And they’re constantly behind us. It is the role of the artist to force himself (or herself; I’m really only speaking for myself here) to maintain, to overcome his (or her!) own obstacles. Very few people actually care if you create anything at all. If you’re doing this, you’re likely alone, significantly alone, and you will remain this way. So commit or give up. (And yes, you can do both.)
Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Nov. 17-23)
Thanksgiving was a mess. In the days that followed the election, new realities set in, as each passing day offers a new question of priority, fear and general unknown, a little humanity is eroded. I hope you can see a direct path to the end of the world. 2016 is not the worst year in history. It is just a history repeating itself. Those who say we can never see another world war are the bedfellows of those who believed so after the first one. The stage has been set. We’re at the point of no return in myriad ways. We have only to look forward to one decay or another, at this time or in some not distant future. We are slaves to our technology. Fewer and fewer people can even bother trying to sustain interest in someone other than themselves. We have endless options, but we’ve squandered our access to education, to person growth and conversation. The internet as community is a failure. Consumerism and self aggrandizement have become chief concerns across the board. Protesting has gone nowhere, legislation is impossible. We’re staring down the barrels of the assault weapons lobbyists insist we need, lest we be in a position to take on a government that endorses people who admire violence in the first place. Human rights violations are celebrated, and it’s my opinion that we all need to become Muslims. It will be interesting to see who among us is forced into one fight or another, and who else can remain complacent and comfortable. I read this book in my parents’ house, amidst this conflict, and found a little diversion in the narrator’s ego and stupidity, which is what we all do from time to time, because to face reality is too scary, until it’s too late. I didn’t help myself to seconds, for the first time I can remember, and I drove home in the middle of the night.
Wittgenstein’s Nephew by Thomas Bernhard (Nov. 25-Dec. 5)
This book was sold to me as two friends walking back and forth to see each other via a medical, like, commune, and some of it was like that, but a lot of it wasn’t. Nonetheless, a fine read.
Concrete by Thomas Bernhard (Dec. 6-14)
I liked this one a lot. There were parts about really hating your family, his sister, specifically, but still relying on them, and the end is fantastic. The stuff that happens at the end. I read it at the laundromat. I finished it there, I mean. The last 100 pages or something like that. And this guy was talking to me. He was saying you have to shake out every piece of clothing individually before you put it in the machine or else it won’t come out clean. I was like, okay, but let me just do it this way, because I don’t care. And he started to get indignant with me, like, that I was being careless, because my clothes weren’t going to get clean and that he’d spent 40 years servicing washing machines and that I didn’t know what I was doing. And I was like, okay man, but I do my laundry all the time, and it comes out fine, and he wouldn’t leave me alone, it took me five minutes just to get away from him to make change so I could put the quarters in the washing machine. I love that album by Sonic Youth. Here’s a quarter, stick it in a washing machine. Is that the exact lyric? I spent this morning, after I woke up, watching Kim Gordon interviews on YouTube. That album is my third favorite of theirs, behind Daydream Nation and Sister. Zachary said obviously Daydream Nation is the better album. Just because you like to listen to Sister more doesn’t mean it’s a better album. And on Christmas my neighbor Willy saw me putting stuff in the trunk of my car, and he’s a down on his luck guy, lives in the halfway home next door, so when he asked for money, I thought, it’s Christmas. So I gave him a five dollar bill. And he said he needed a couple more dollars because he wanted to buy a hero, and I said okay, and I gave him two more dollars, and then he said he needed one more dollar because the heroes are eight dollars where he wanted to go. And so I was laughing, I gave him another dollar. I’m still in love with someone from, I guess it’s a long time ago now. Funny how that… is. I’m going broke and spent $85 on dinner. Then some tiny little fat white lady comes along and she says if I’m just handing out money she wanted some, but I told her I’d just given a lot to Willy, and she said could she just have some quarters, so I went in my glove box where I keep quarters for parking meters and gave her all that I had. But then Willy said couldn’t he have some quarters. He wanted quarters so he could have a soda. I told him, Willy, I just gave you money, and he was okay with that, and he put his arm on me and told me that Obama had been bad for black people and why don’t we give this new guy a chance. And I said, yeah, I don’t know, and that Obama had tried hard, and Willy said that he (that Obama) was just one man. And I agreed. And he asked if I’d talked to my parents lately, and I told him I had.
The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante (Dec. 28-30)
I bought my mom a bunch more Ferrante books for Chanukah, because of how much she liked the Neapolitan Quartet. But she’d already read The Days of Abandonment, so I borrowed it from her. I liked how much of it took over the course of that one shitty day. How fast paced and cerebral and different it was from her larger works, but also how reflective and human it was. I’ve talked a lot about being human here. It’s one of the few things I’ve tried to remember this year. That everyone you interact with, they’re all people (besides the animals). People with memories and families and rich, chaotic internal lives. Nobody is a symbol or a movement. Nobody is a politic. 2016 was awful, but, again, it wasn’t the worst year. Every year is the worst year. Everyday is the same, which is fine.