by Angeliska on July 19, 2011
As you might imagine, our summer here in Austin has been ferociously, brutally hot. The kind of fierce, dry heat that sucks all the
air out of your lungs as soon as you step out your door. The kind of heat that inhibits outdoor activity, productivity and even the
thought of doing anything terribly strenuous. So, basically the perfect weather (and excuse) for languishing with a tall stack of
reading material and an icy beverage and allowing yourself to get lost in other worlds, other times. I’ve always been an avid bookworm.
I learned to read when I was 4 or so, frustrated by the inattention of my parents after dinner, both their heads buried in books.
I remember vividly tugging at the book on my father’s lap, struggling to make sense of the squiggly black shapes on the page.
How magic that moment when I suddenly understood their meaning. HOP ON POP! Eureka! My dad reading to me every single
night and teaching me through the magic of Dr. Seuss opened up a door in my reality that made it possible for a lonely, sad and
strange kid to survive childhood. Not to mention adolescence, and oh yes – adulthood! Fiction is my drug of choice, the escape I
can always turn to when my own world is just too much. Libraries have always been my haven, and I was never restricted on what
I was allowed to read, or how many books I could check out at a time. My dad and I would always leave the library staggering
and barely able to see over the tops of our respective towering stacks. So it was kind of embarrassing that I allowed myself to have
a lapse away from the beloved embrace of the public library. It was a sordid tale involving overdue fines on some DVDs that somehow
skyrocketed to an amount that surely would’ve allowed me to have just purchased the movies outright. Ah, procrastination. I let my
account go, and took up a torrid affair with a dangerous hussy named Half.com (do not click on that link unless you have lots of room
on your bookshelves and money to burn!) Oh yes, those 3am sprees! Buying used paperbacks for 75 cents (plus 4 dollars shipping)
doesn’t seem so bad if it’s just every once in awhile, but I got a little out of hand with it. I bought a lot of books that I just don’t need
to own, as well as plenty that I’m thrilled to keep forever – but really, it got a little crazy. See, I also really, really love getting parcels
in the mail – and since I’ve become a shitty correspondent and hardly ever actually send all the letters and packages I intend to, it means
that my mailbox often only holds Netflix envelopes and stupid old bills. Also, the bulk of my books are still packed away in boxes, so that
means that I’ve had to construct a whole new library to tide me over until the day when our house actually has real walls, with bookshelves.
I’m only half kidding. For the most part, all of these books next to my side of the bed are recent-ish acquisitions. I had to bring in another
shelf for them. Before that, it was just a series of waist-high piles. Please don’t judge my organizing by color – it just kind of happened:
“The shelf was filled with books that were hard to read, that could devastate
and remake one’s soul, and that, when they were finished, had a kick like a mule.”
— Mark Helprin (Winter’s Tale)
Yeah, so… I had to break up with Half.com at last. It wasn’t easy, and we still find ourselves tangled in illicit late-night booty calls every
once in awhile when I can’t seem to find that ONE book that I really want to re-read or reference. The library and I, however, have
rekindled our relationship and are totally in love again. Interlibrary loan, man. I can get ANY book! It’s not instantly gratifying, but
at least there’s a branch about 10 blocks from my house, and you know what? It’s freezing in there. Serious air conditioning, and
a librarian with a penchant for graphic novels and comics, so there’s heaps of all my favorites. Reunited – and it feels so good.
So here’s some of the books I’ve read this summer:
✸ Cults, Conspiracies and Secret Societies by Arthur Goldwag – This is an excellent compendium written very humorously and objectively and recommended for both wingnuts and skeptics alike. Totally fascinating, and somewhat horrifying.
“An indispensable guide, Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies connects the dots and sets the record straight on a host of greedy gurus and murderous messiahs, crepuscular cabals and suspicious coincidences. Some topics are familiar—the Kennedy assassinations, the Bilderberg Group, the Illuminati, the People’s Temple and Heaven’s Gate—and some surprising, like Oulipo, a select group of intellectuals who created wild formulas for creating literary masterpieces, and the Chauffeurs, an eighteenth-century society of French home invaders, who set fire to their victims’ feet.”
“Epic in scale and scope but intimately disturbing, CARRION COMFORT spans the ages to rewrite history and tug at the very fabric of reality. A nightmarish chronicle of predator and prey that will shatter your world view forever. A true classic.” – Guillermo del Toro
With blurbs like that, from those guys, I really couldn’t not give this one a try. Turns out they were right. Mind vampires, man!
✸ The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror edited by Paula Guran
Chock full of darkness! Good for devouring on the brightest days.
✸ Locas II : Maggie, Hopey & Ray by Jaime Hernandez – I’ve been obsessed with Love + Rockets since I was a teen. This brilliant comics series has a lot to do with my penchant for punk-rock latina lesbians. That, and Vasquez in Aliens. SIGH!
✸ The Monsters of Templeton and Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff
These books both totally massacred my heart. Drowned it in the lake. Backed over it again and again until it was mashed into the dirt.
This woman’s writing is just superb. I cannot wait for her latest, Arcadia, to come out! The cover is so juicy, and I know it’ll be crazy good.
Also, here’s a list of some of the songs Groff listened to whilst working on The Monsters of Templeton
(this is just the sort of writerly errata that I find totally fascinating, plus she has good taste in music!)
✸ Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente – Fucking brilliant, and a tale so close to my heart. I can’t wait to read it again,
as well as all her other books. Baba Yaga, Marya Morevna, and Koschei the Deathless? Yes, and yes, and yes please. More, please.
✸ Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugresic
This is what moved me most from this book:
“‘And so. Tomorrow our story ends,’ she said, with a touch of irony.
The ‘our story’ rang like a shattered glass. She had used the Bulgarian phrase nashiyat s te roman. Russians say the same.
The word roman can mean two things: the novel as a literary form, or a romantic liaison, an affair.
The phrase to have a story with someone means to be in love.”
“We’d meet down at the station in the evening, after all the trains had passed… I remembered that phrase – in the evening, after all the trains had passed – because she must have repeated it. Having adopted the phrase, I further embroidered it with my own colours. Dusk, fireflies, a quiet train station, the warm tracks gleaming in the dark, roaching frogs, a moon in the sky – and my mother’s young, eager heart pounding with excitement.”
✸ The Heretic’s Daughter and The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent
These were both recommended by Maria Dahvana Headley, and they were fantastic.
Beautifully evocative, well told, and so crushingly sad and strong.
My blanket at Barton Springs, strewn with an array of delicious magazines. This is how I wish I could spend every single day.
✸ The best holiday reads from The Guardian – Writers recall their most memorable holiday reads – what are yours?
This article is wonderful, and inspired me to add many books to my list, but my favorite bit is from William Gibson:
“If that’s holiday as in “utterly removed from any sense of immediate surroundings”, my most memorable holiday reading is Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, which I started in the cab on the way to Vancouver airport, headed for a first trip to Berlin where I was doing something, I wasn’t sure what, with Samuel Delany and Wim Wenders at the Kunsthalle. I am uncertain as to the year, likely it was 1991, before the publication of All the Pretty Horses. I had recently read McCarthy’s astonishing The Orchard Keeper, and on the urging of the friend who had recommended that, I began Blood Meridian. I remember nothing else, door to door, between my home in Vancouver and the hotel room in which I finished the book in Berlin. I awoke from it as from some terribly potent dream, and found myself, quite unexpectedly, in a strange city. Being Berlin, and particularly then, it was a very strange city. A few nights later, over in the east, I continued to experience intense overlays of Blood Meridian. Indeed, I think those overlays helped me better comprehend what I was seeing, and not to panic. The Judge, I knew, would understand all of this.”
I have my own story about traveling and reading Blood Meridian.
I had been trying to dig into it for a few days, prior to a road trip up to a friend’s ranch in Colorado, but my brain just wasn’t having it.
I couldn’t latch in, for some reason. Something about racing through vast expanses of West Texas brought it home for me, though – and I was
hooked. I read it compulsively, even though reading in the car makes me horribly nauseous. My job was navigator, and I pored over a map,
finding all the tiny towns McCarthy described, passing through them in a blur of brown and bone. The landscape I passed through matched
what I was reading, and it made the book come vibrantly alive for me. It was the first Cormac McCarthy book I’d read, and it marked me indelibly.
“They were watching, out there past men’s knowing, where stars are drowning
and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.”
— Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West)
✸ Rainer Maria Rilke: Trust In What Is Difficult – by Jocelyn K. Glei
This, this, this:
“What is necessary, after all, is only this:
solitude, vast inner solitude.
To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours —
that is what you must be able to attain.”
✸ Fifty-two Stories is awesome
✸ A fresh look at Flannery O’Connor
You may know her prose, but have you seen her cartoons?
“Here too. Here as at the other
Edge of the hemisphere, an endless plain
Where a man’s cry dies a lonely death.
Here too the Indian, the lasso, the wild horse.
Here too the bird that never shows itself,
That sings for the memory of one evening
Over the rumblings of history
Here too the mystic alphabet of stars
Leading my pen over the page to names
Not swept aside in the continual
Labyrinth of Days: San Jacinto
And that other Thermopylae, the Alamo.
Here too, the never understood
Anxious, and brief affair that is life.”
✸ Becoming Mary Poppins
P. L. Travers, Walt Disney, and the making of a myth.
✸ The Strange Case of Edward Gorey by Alexander Theroux
This was not the only case of Gorey entertaining his fans at home. He was even listed in the phone book. “He was a very poor hermit,” says Theroux. “Goth people would flock over there — and he would say, ‘We’ve got customers.’ They’d say, ‘I love your work!’ and start gushing, and he’d say, ‘Thank you … now what?’ But he was always very accessible, and people would always stop over to see him.
So! What are you reading right now? What are you loving, and what do you think I might love?