Our editors weekly roundup of what they’re consuming.
And so: headed to Asbury Park this past weekend for the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. Had a fine time; saw amazing sets from Factory Floor and Swans and Portishead and Public Enemy; saw Jeff Mangum plan a stellar Daniel Johnston cover and Matt Sweeney join Bonnie “Prince” Billy on stage for a stunning version of “Beast for Thee.”
I also did some reading.
Specifically: some collections. I’d been meaning to read Edmund Wilson’s Memoirs of Hecate County for a while, and finally did so. It’s a massive and surreal work, and while it could be described as a novella and stories, it also works neatly in chronicling its narrator’s progression from earnest intellectual into something more embittered and cynical. It alternates between stark realism and the hallucinatory underbelly of the surreal, and it has a strange momentum that’s hard to resist.
Also in the category of collections I’d intended to read for ages, I picked up Seth Fried’s The Great Frustration, which I found to be terrific. Fried can expertly pull off the first person plural, and while a few stories stray close to George Saunders territory, Fried seems more comfortable in the more ambiguous realm near where Steven Millhauser dwells. I also delved into Shelley Jackson’s The Melancholy of Anatomy, which was just as weird, transgressive, and unsettling as I’d hoped.
As of this writing, I’m midway through Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, which I’m finding impressive as well: a subdued chamber drama in which significant themes are discussed. We’ll see what its second half brings…
This was a week of traveling for me. I have a hard time concentrating when I’m on a plane, and for some reason I have an easier time reading magazines than I do books, unless the books are short stories, collected essays, or something along those lines. Since my week has already included four plane rides, I figured I’d give the condensed version without much commentary.
- Re-read Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. It’s quite easy to do this.
- “The Shame of College Sports” by Taylor Branch in this month’s Atlantic.
- “Pennies From Heaven: How Mormon Economics Shape the G.O.P. by Chris Lehmann, in this month’s Harper’s.
- The Sasha Frere Jones piece on Liturgy and Wolves in the Throne Room in this week’s New Yorker, and the long essay on John Maynard Keynes in the same issue.
- Jonathan Wilson’s An Ambulance is on the Way: Stories of Men in Trouble