Last week I read Nicholson Baker’s new novel, The Anthologist, all in an evening sitting propped uncomfortably across the smaller of two sofas in my apartment. One thing about reading Nicholson Baker is in his exorbitantly minute and often startling descriptions (his first novel, The Mezzanine, is simply the thoughts of a guy during a ride up an escalator, which sounds boring but is incredible), you might think that it would then be easy to get caught up in the vibe, overthinking ideas and elements as you sit in the presence of a master doing the same. And yet, Baker is so good at catching all the spillage of thought you might have in listening to him speak, there is actually very little loosening of one’s own awareness while in the grip of even such an often everyday-aimed and frank voice as he wields. I hardly even recognized how uncomfortable I get usually while reading. It all went down, as have all of his books, leaving me hungry and excited, even in, again, a seemingly arbitrary subject matter: The Anthologist is about a guy, Paul Chowder, preparing to write the introduction to a poetry anthology. There is simply probably no one else alive who could pull this off, and Baker does, quite so.
To see this at a more reasonable size go here or just click the picture.
To learn more about the history of Cuil Theory.
Do you read on the toilet? If so, what kinds of books do you read on the toilet? Is there a set of criteria that you have in mind when selecting a book to read on the toilet? Do you sometimes stand at your bookshelf and stare at your books and struggle to select just the right book to read on the toilet? Does it take so much time that you sometimes risk having an accident right there in front of your bookshelf? Or do you keep a book next to the toilet to avoid such confusion? When on the toilet, do you read a new book or a book you’ve already read? If you do read on the toilet, what was the last book you read on the toilet? Or do you already have a list of books to read on the toilet? Do you ever read a book on the toilet and think ‘haha, I’m reading on the toilet’? Have you ever been reading a book on the toilet and not stood up from the toilet after you were finished because you got so into the book that you couldn’t stop reading on the toilet? Is it possible that there exists out there a perfect book to read on the toilet?
This weekend on a trip to the New College of Florida, the most excellent Alexis Orgera and I got into a mini-discussion of our love for a good well-written mystery novel, one that asks more questions than it answers, and that doesn’t necessarily open and shut doors as much as it does fund eerie intricate descriptions and aura with a subtle pull that keeps you running along inside it. It seemed hard to think of a lot of books that fall into this category, though I recommended two I’ve loved in the past few years, Freidrich Dürrenmatt’s The Assignment (which I copped from a recommended list by the also mystery-making master Brian Evenson), and Jose Saramago’s The Double.
The Assignment is particularly interesting for its form, in that it is a set of chapters that are all one sentence, written to correspond with the movements of a piece of music that he composed the book to, I believe in a very short time, and yet the intricate form and wonderful sentences never falter from being a page turner. Saramago’s work as a whole, even when not based on premises so mysterious as the one in The Double (a man becomes obsessed with a minor character in a series of films who looks exactly like him, who he then begins to trace).
There is also Robbe-Grillet, and some of Paul Auster (I particularly love the mapmaking and patterns in the New York Trilogy and Oracle Night) and Dennis Cooper’s books have a distinguished mysterious pull. I am trying to think of more, here without my books.
What are some great mystery-style novels, pulp or literary, or ones that use that constantly updating confusion/terror/detective narrative drive to fuel their heart?
Lee Klein’s Eyeshot’s REJECTION LETTERS FROM THE EYESHOT OUTBOX v.9, which for me have always been an instructive and hilarious example of internet tone, and ‘real talk.’ Hopefully it is not truly the last.
“1. There’s a reason that Eyeshot’s sub guidelines say no “write” or “writer” e-mail addresses unless you’re very young. It suggests an aesthetic, a “writer” type who owns a Moleskine journal, whose work mostly disrespects the maturity, patience, and literary knowledge/expectations of readers, and who refers to journals and sites as “markets.” These writers live for those glorious days when Duotrope posts “congratulations, writer name!” next to the silly name of some obscure lit site that’ll be abandoned by 2010. 2012 the latest. “
Via The Reading Experience, here’s Alan Kaufman’s harebrained essay on the death of the physical book.
Oh man, I’m going to miss bookstores too, but this guy is just a nut. He says, “The book is fast becoming the despised Jew of our culture. Der Jude is now Der Book.”
I used to think snowboarding wasn’t going to last but it’s like 15 years later and people are still doing it and everyone is about the same amount of happiness.