2019 – Reading

Jesus’ Son – Denis Johnson (1992) Ummm, perhaps shouldn’t have started a new year with a collection of short stories this disquieting. Innermost feelings of the dregs of society and all that, but oh my goodness, what luscious prose.

Saint Melissa the Mottled – Edward Gorey (2012) Well, yes, that Edward Gorey, of whom i’ve been reading for many years, but whose work i’d never read. I have now, and it’s a little jewel, a melange of the macabre and the surreal. Quite enjoyable. And still, a morsel. I must look at more of his little books.

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden – Denis Johnson (2018) Another story collection 25 years after Jesus’ Son. The characters are still mostly low lifes, but there is more humor in this later batch.

Into the Ruins – ed. Joel Caris. Fall 2018, Issue 11. Another collection dystopian short stories, but inferior to previous issues. Don’t bother.

The Mezzanine – Nicholson Baker (1986). I’d read with great pleasure Baker’s essays, but this was the first of his novels i’ve read, and oh my, did i ever love it. For some, it might be too much navel gazing since the entire 135 page work takes place on an escalator ride from the ground floor to the mezzanine, but oh what a journey it is, during which he examines in great detail a host of everyday objects in exquisite and inventive prose. I was enraptured, and tying my shoes will never be the same again. Read him.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari (2018) I was so captivated by his previous two books that i snapped this one up. Oh wow. And oh dear. He holds out some promise, but it’s likely to be a very bleak future unless we change our course very soon. Still, he’s eminently readable and i recommend your working through all three of his books in order: Sapiens, Homo Deus, and this one.

Double Fold:  Libraries and the Assault on Paper – Nicholson Baker (2001) I grabbed this book in the expectation that it would include Baker’s breathtaking account of the skulduggery behind San Francisco’s new library. Alas, it didn’t, but no problem, as it was highly readable and very informative account of the replacement of printed material in our libraries with first microfilm and later digital versions using the excuse that the paper version were about to crumble to dust, which they weren’t. However, a lot of people made a lot of money pushing the transition even though the non-paper versions were often illegible.


A Terrible Country – Keith Gessen (2018) This one literally fell into my lap. My friend Nina had some kind of brain hemorrhage, but it yielded to surgery and left her unimpaired except for one problem: she could no longer read. And of course she’d been a voracious reader. So i offered to read to her and she accepted the offer by handing me a book sitting on her table. Turns out, i’d read reviews and thought i’d enjoy it, so here was my chance to read it and do something nice simultaneously. The author is the younger brother of Masha Gessen, whose essays i’ve loved for years. Turns out he’s also a good writer.

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