reading-log

Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. To love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or to figure out how to tell their story. Which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography, and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller’s art, and then a way of traveling from here to there.
—  Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
  • Manga Artist 1:You know those side panels we leave open for ads? I think I'm going to introduce myself to my readers in the first collected volume.
  • Manga Artist 2:I'm going to put up character profiles!
  • Manga Artist 3:I was going to talk about what methods and supplies I use to draw my comic.
  • Kyoko Hikawa:OH MAN I SAW THIS FREAKY WORM THING WHEN I WAS A KID AND I NEVER FORGOT ABOUT IT WHAT THE FUCK WAS IT???
My Reading Year, 2010

Here are 10 good books I read this year. (See also: 2006-2009)

Joe Brainard, I Remember

I remember Saturday night baths and Sunday morning comics.

* * *

Patti Smith, Just Kids

One Indian summer day we dressed in our favorite things…and spent the afternoon in Washington Square…

We were walking toward the fountain, the epicenter of activity, when an older couple stopped and openly observed us. Robert enjoyed being noticed, and he affectionately squeezed my hand.

“Oh, take their picture,” said the woman to her bemused husband, “I think they’re artists.”

“Oh, go on,” he shrugged. “They’re just kids.”

* * *

Mary Karr, Lit

I get so lonely sometimes, I could put a box on my head and mail myself to a stranger.

* * *

Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist

If you ask yourself, ‘What’s the best thing that happened today?’ it actually forces a certain kind of cheerful retrospection that pulls up from the recent past things to write about that you wouldn’t otherwise think about. If you ask yourself, ‘What happened today?’ it’s very likely that you’re going to remember the worst thing, because you’ve had to deal with it—you’ve had to rush somewhere or somebody said something mean to you—that’s what you’re going to remember. But if you ask what the best thing is, it’s going to be some particular slant of light, or some wonderful expression somebody had, or some particularly delicious salad. I mean, you never know…

* * *

David Shields, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity and by delight, we all quote. It is as difficult to appropriate the thoughts of others as it is to invent.

Quote actually from Emerson.

* * *

Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim

Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.

* * *

Katherine Dunn, Geek Love

There are those whose own vulgar normality is so apparent and stultifying that they strive to escape it. They affect flamboyant behavior and claim originality according to the fashionable eccentricities of their time. They claim brains or talent or indifference to mores in desperate attempts to deny their own mediocrity. These are frequently artists and performers, adventurers and wide-life devotees.

Then there are those who feel their own strangeness and are terrified by it. They struggle toward normalcy. They suffer to exactly that degree that they are unable to appear normal to others, or to convince themselves that their aberration does not exist. These are true freaks, who appear, almost always, conventional and dull.

* * *

Maira Kalman, And The Pursuit of Happiness

Everything is invented. Language. Childhood. Careers. Relationships. Religion. Philosophy. The Future. They are not there for the plucking. They don’t exist in some natural state. They must be invented by people. And that, of course, is a great thing. Don’t mope in your room. Go invent something. That is the American message. Electricity. Flight. The telephone. Television. Computers. Walking on the moon. It never stops.

* * *

Lynda Barry, Picture This

Why do we stop drawing?

* * *

John Darnielle, Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality

When you listen to early Black Sabbath, you know the main difference between them & you is that somebody bought them guitars and microphones. They’re not smarter than you; they’re not deeper than you; they’re a fuck of a lot richer than you, but other than that, it’s like listening to the inside of your own mind. So when they write songs, they sing about wizards. And witches. And robots.

* * *

10 more good books I read:

I’m lying to myself, I thought. Had it really been so wonderful? I knew very well that at that time, too, there had been shame. And uneasiness, and humiliation, and disgust: accept, submit, force yourself. Is it possible that even happy moments of pleasure never stand up to a rigorous examination? Possible.
—  Elena Ferrante, The Story of a New Name

Lit by Mary Karr

First line: “Any way I tell this story is a lie…

Devoured this on my recent trip home to Ohio. I underlined a lot of sentences. Here are a few:

  • If I were a real poet, I’d be composing a sonnet about the fairy mist in yon oak.
  • My mother taught me to seek external agents of transformation–pick a new town or man or job.
  • …humming through me like a third rail was poetry, the myth that if I could shuffle the right words into the right order, I could get my story straight, write myself into an existence that included the company of sacred misfit poets whose pages had kept me company as a kid. Showing up at a normal job was too hard.
  • Count yourself lucky, she said. You’re still promising until your first book’s out.
  • Where I come from, house guests have to know you’ve sweated over a stove, for sweat is how care is shown.
  • I’d spent way more years worrying about how to look like a poet–buying black clothes, smearing on scarlet lipstick, languidly draping myself over thrift-store furniture–than I had learning how to assemble words in some discernible order.
  • The whole city is so profoundly Caucasian.
  • Every asshole I know has published a book.
  • …a woman whose third eye has begun to stare at some invisible baby is incapable of dropping the subject.
  • He tells me the story of a writer who–on finding his own first book remaindered in a used bookstore–opened to the flyleaf only to discover his own signature about the note To Mum and Dad…
  • I get so lonely sometimes, I could put a box on my head and mail myself to a stranger.
  • How much smaller the large places are once we’re grown up, when we have car keys and credit cards.

Recommended. Also of interest:

Karr’s Paris Review interview

Karr’s Twitter feed: @marykarrlit

2

EXQUISITE CORPSE, by Billy Martin (under the name ‘Poppy Z Brite’)

“Horror is the badge of humanity, worn proudly, self-righteously, and often falsely.”

This is another book for the instagram readathon reading challenge (”read a standalone”) and another re-read; it’s been about seven years since I first picked up Exquisite Corpse.

I read Exquisite Corpse back-to-back with another book I read for the readathon (which I will be posting about shortly) that, like Corpse, skirts the smuttier side of horror. When my partner asked me to describe what I was reading, I likened Billy Martin as an author “Like the Marquis de Sade, but if Sade had an aesthetic agenda rather than a political one.” (Martin definitely could be the acting apprentice to DeQuincey’s hypotheses of murder as a fine art) Like Sade, Martin is contemporary to the source and culturally relevant, fascinated by lurid sexuality and obsessively dedicated to his verisimilitude. Also like Sade’s catalog, Martin’s Corpse relies on the premise that “Suffering is the primary rule, as in these novels one must often decide between sympathizing with the torturer or the victim.”

Keep reading

“I am entirely selfish,” he said ruefully, “and always hoping that someone will tell me to behave, someone will make herself responsible for me and make me be grown-up.”

He is altogether selfish, she thought in some surprise, the only man I have ever sat and talked to alone, and I am impatient; he is simply not very interesting. “Why don’t you grow up by yourself?” she asked him, and wondered how many people—how many women—had already asked him that.

“You’re clever.” And how many times had he answered that way?

This conversation must be largely instinctive, she thought with amusement, and said gently, “You must be a very lonely person.” All I want is to be cherished, she thought, and here I am talking gibberish with a selfish man.
—  Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House. Eleanorrrrrrrrrr.

Starting to actually log what I’m reading. The small little notepad is what I right in first: in it I write down the date, pages read, words I don’t understand, and quick little summaries of important things I read. The big notebook is my actual reading log. In it I write the date, name of the book, the author, pages read, summary of what I read, thoughts on what I read, and then I define all the words I didn’t understand. I’m hoping that by doing this I’ll get more out of reading and also be inspired to read more as I have been in a bit of a reading slump.

Peter Pan Reading Log, Ch 11

Just a head’s up, I’ve made a post here about the possibility of a reading log for Peter Pan in Scarlet!!

  • How often does Wendy tell this story about her parents? And why does a Lost Boy know the story better than the Darling Children?
  • What is it with Nibs and white rats?
  • Wendy… you DO realize that you and your brothers flying back with fairy dust AS ADULTS is impossible, right? Plus why fly to the window when you can land in front of the door AND KNOCK????
  • “I thought like you that my mother would always keep the window open for me, so I stayed away for moons and moons and moons, and then flew back; but the window was barred, for mother had forgotten all about me, and there was another little boy sleeping in my bed.”
    IT’S CALLED KNOCKING, YOU PEA-BRAINED RADISH
  • The Lost Boys’ solution to Wendy leaving is to TAKE HER HOSTAGE. Sweet Cherry on top you guys, that’s no better than the pirates!
  • “Silly” Tootles is intent on defending the girl he literally shot down. #CharacterDevelopment
  • ‘He drew back his hanger; and for that instant his sun was at noon.’
    ………….. What the hell does that MEAN???
  • ‘…there is a saying in the Neverland that, every time you breathe, a grown-up dies; and Peter was killing them off vindictively as fast as possible.’
    ……. You TELL WENDY SHE CAN GO then try to kill her parents via superstition Peter? Talk about a vengeful ex-boyfriend move.
  • “Mother asks shitton of questions” cliche, led in by “boys can’t cry” cliche. Sheesh.
  • As for Peter, he seized his sword, the same he thought he had slain Barbecue with, and the lust of battle was in his eye.‘
    WHO THE FUCK IS BARBECUE!!!!?!?!?!??! WHY DO WE NEVER GET AN ANSWER!!?!?!?!?
Cracking the spine

I’m kicking this blog off with the most bare-bones explanation: I’m a Master of English, yet in the entire 8 year devotion to my field I’ve only just scraped the surface of all the world’s bounty of books, poems, novellas, hyper-text adventures, etc. etc. I’m devoting myself with new vigor to become even better-read than what I managed to be in the course of my intensive education.

My short-term goal is to read at least 100 books (new reads and long-ago re-reads) during the course of 2016. To kick things off and rev the momentum, I’m starting with the instagram #newyearsreadathon, which challenges any who take up the helm to:

As I complete these objectives, I’ll retreat back to this post to chart my progress; I’ll also log the remaining 95 books that I hope to read throughout the year (and beyond, should I happen to meet and exceed my goal.)

A few minutes after I gave this address, an audience member approached me privately and asked whether I was a Marxist. Surprised, I asked him why he thought I might be. He said it was because I had “reduced” the lofty subject of art to a mere question of labour. (Paraphrasing mine.)

To him I’d like to say, Mister, I am an artist who supports herself on the strength of her art and her ability to keep producing it. You’d be hard put to convince any artist that art isn’t work. And you can’t convince me that there’s no art to labour. You can’t convince me that art and the labour that creates it can be easily teased apart and considered as separate objects, and you sure as hell can’t convince me that the latter is somehow base and impoverished in comparison to the former.

—  Nalo Hopkinson, “Report from Planet Midnight”

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker

I loved this book. It has that perfect novel length–you can devour it in a weekend. I started it on Saturday morning, and finished at lunch Monday on my lunch break.

What’s it about? Poetry. It’s 250 pages of Nicholson Baker talking about poetry. (Disguised as a narrator named Paul Chowder.) If that sounds boring, it isn’t, trust me.

Links:

Filed under: My Reading Year, 2010

Peter Pan Reading Log, Ch 10
  • SO MUCH RACISM. I mean, sure Peter DID save Tiger Lily, but saying that there’s “nothing she and her braves would not do for him” is a LIIIIIIITTLE much.
  • So is calling Peter the “Great White Father“. I’M NOT LYING, THEY DO THAT.
  • “Non-European peoples have a hard time grasping the English language” cliche.
  • Is this one of those things where the kids think their last names are Darling cuz their parents say it that freaking much? What IS it with early 20th century Brits and saying “darling” and “dear” after everything?
  • Well would you look at that, even imaginary kids are annoying.
  • Peter, WHAT IS IT WITH YOU AND MOTHERS?! You HATE them yet think every woman wants to be your mom! Not only is that sexist, that’s fuckin WEIRD! Like it or hate it, MAKE UP YOUR MIND DAMMIT
  • Even STORYTELLING is strictly a Wendy thing? SHEESH. You guys’re creative, what’s so terrible about boys telling stories?