A roundup of things consumed by our contributors.
On Friday, I made my way to Red Bank, New Jersey for the Two River Theater Company’s production of Alan Ayckbourn’s My Wonderful Day. It’s a well-played farce: there are misunderstandings, rapid-fire French dialogue, class conflict, and someone finds themselves sans clothing at a crucial point in the play. I really need to make my way down to the theater in question more frequently — though given that their next season will involve work from August Wilson, Susan-Lori Parks, and some guy named William Shakespeare, I suspect that won’t be a hard trip to make.
On to reading: Georges Simenon’s The Widow is a fine slice of noir, bringing together an alienated woman in rural France with a haunted ex-convict. There is brooding and tension of all kinds, and slowly, awful things happen. It’s a grim, terrific read. Also read this week, for forthcoming pieces here and elsewhere, are forthcoming novels from Joe Meno & Nathan Larson; more on both in the coming weeks.
The weekend’s reading will include Jonathan Lethem’s Talking Heads’ Fear of Music and Caroline Blackwood’s Great Granny Webster, both for book groups over at WORD. I’ve been listening to terrific new albums from Maritime and Like Pioneers (essentially, catching up with Flameshovel Records alumni), and enjoying Jason’s Nudie Cohn piece.
My freakish experiment to read stuff on my bookshelf alphabetically by last name brings me to Michelangelo Antonioni’s That Bowling Alley on the Tiber. Cracking the jacket cover reminded me that I paid $20 for a used (but pristine!) copy of this in 2007 from an old book store called The Old Book Store in Northampton, MA. Sure had a lot of disposable income fresh out of college. Yup.
The book is a bizarre, sometimes frustrating but altogether worthwhile diary of short stories (some but a few sentences long) that at their best replicate the films of Antonioni in their admiration for architecture and our big uptight modern anxieties. Many of them even are sketches for films, or at least composites for scenes that he went on to film in Beyond the Clouds and other subsequent works.
For jammies: I’ve been listening to Action Bronson’s free mixtape Blue Chips for months on end and have never talked about it here. A ridiculously fun and spontaneous record, with just an incredible array of references throughout, tons of gaga stuff that no rapper in their right mind trying to sell records would talk about: the Nagano Olympics, Steve Wynn, Sandusky and Paterno, Vietnamese red snapper, hibiscus, “fully blown” Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. And it goes on like this. To say nothing of it being the most pro wrestling knowledgable music I’ve ever heard, or at least since Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II. I eagerly await any and all NY tour dates.
I also rewatched Louis C.K.’s special Chewed Up for the first time since they came out, in some vague yearning to hear his voice. It’s not surprising that he is so decidedly in his own wheel house right now when reminded of how equal parts shocking and relatable all of this material is. The poetry of obscenity notwithstanding, it’s incredible how Louis – the True Pride of Newton, MA – runs the gamut from the amusement he gets from muttering the filthiest words in the English language to the equal doses of joy and misery of raising young girls. Like his fellow poet supreme Nas, C.K. knows that as the daughters go, so goes America.
I spent that start of my week drunk in east Austin, finish Seth Greenland’s The Angry Buddhist on the porch at The Grackle. I realized a few things that have less to do with the actual novel (which I suggest reading), and more to do with reading at bars.
Austin does outdoor drinking better than anywhere else I can think of, because it’s a city made for drinking in the sun. There is really nothing quite like sitting outside, drinking your choice of whatever and reading a really good book, and I was lucky enough to have the eastern part of the city basically to myself since it was the holiday weekend. It got me to thinking that I’d like to find more New York bars that are friendly to outdoor readers, ones that are away from the crowds and noise that you become used to living here. Obviously that’s a lot to ask, but if you know any, I’d love to hear your tips.
I’ve had this week’s New Yorker just sitting on my desk with its Daniel Clowes cover begging me to read it. I believe that’s what this weekend will consist of. Also came home to my copy of Chain and the Gang’s In Cool Blood, which came with my Ian Svenonius Zine. I was hoping it would be filled with the writings of the once Sassiest Boy in America, but it was mostly just cut and paste art. Thankfully the record is another fine listen.
I’m in a hoarding mode right now, just gathering all of these books around me. I mentioned before that I have Chabon’s new one, but it’s taking me awhile to get into it. Others sit and stare–like William Gibson’s new essay collection, the new Ben Fountain, and more. Sometimes books seem like obligations, and when they do, naturally, I retreat. So in this state of reeling, I turned to my shelf and picked up The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace.
I have never read this and though I’ve always thought of myself of identifying with Wallace, but I guess I’ve never connected with him in fiction. His nonfiction pieces are the ones I remember and share. I had the obligatory shutdown in Infinite Jest, the feeling of boredom in The Pale King (I know that’s the point), and skimmed through Oblivion.
But The Broom of the System has been refreshing–specifically because of its datedness. Its use of landlines, its long dialogue, the lack of footnotes (imagine that…), its funny character interactions, the embrace of the slightly (but not exaggerated) absurd.
Amidst the clutter, I’ve found a novel that’s enjoyable. What an achievement.