Tuesday, June 5, 2012

he never asks for a second cup at home

This morning I found out that Victor LaValle has a new novel out. I read Big Machine two years ago, I think, and it was weird and strange and interesting, so I'm probably going to read The Devil in Silver when it comes out in August.

Are there any other new/upcoming books I'm looking forward to? I'm not sure. Peter Carey has a new one out, and I like Peter Carey well enough though I haven't read his last two so I don't know about this one. We'll see what Mighty Reader says about it. I think The Chemistry of Tears features an android. Cybernetics are cool, apparently. But that's the end of my list. I can't think of anyone else's newest release I'm dying to read. Hmm.

I just read Michelle Davidson Argyle's The Breakaway, which pubbed not long ago. I'm about to read Davin Malasarn's The Pagani Project, which is so new that it doesn't have a publisher yet. I'm going to read a Colm Tobin novel soon, and a W.G. Sebald book, and a couple of John Hawkes novels, but none of that last group is a new novel. They're recent, or recent compared to Shakespeare or Tolstoy or Chekhov or Nabokov, I suppose. I think I have a healthy portion of 20th-century lit in my reading diet, don't I? But that's not really the question.

The question, at least a question I'm asking myself today, is if I read enough current literature. Do I read enough books that are being written today, by living authors? How much is enough? Isn't it incumbent on living writers to read other living writers? If so, why? I don't know. I will not fall into the trap of thinking that current writers are inferior to the greats of the past, but I'm not sure I recognize the greats of the present. I used to think I'd be one of the greats of the present, but I know better now.

Do I have expectations of the literature of Now? Do I want books written today to be a certain type of book? I don't think so. I want to be pleasantly surprised, that's all. I want to fall in love. Modern literature, at best, seems to offer an "irritated in a good way" sort of experience, but that's not enough.

Anyway, I like Victor LaValle, so I'll bet I will enjoy his new one this fall, and that'll be nice for me.


  1. I knew if I checked your blog enough times today a new post would grow. You're my magic unicorn, Mr. SGFB. Funnily enough I had this very same question in my head last night as I rubbed Peanut's belly and climbed into bed. I'm currently reading Madame Bovary and I was told to interrupt it with The Buddha in the Attic, which one the Pen/Faulkner award, and it put me to sleep---though I was tired to begin with for whatever reason. I read more of Buddha in the Attic on the bus today and found it more interesting. Interesting enough to talk about. But, back to last night, my conclusion to myself was that I needed to seek out the modern literature by the writers that I admire rather than the popular ones. That list is currently not very long ago, but I suspect it's out there.

  2. My reading is a mix, but I don't try to make it one. I just go after what I like, and I have very eclectic tastes.

  3. Davin, I'll have to think more before I answer you. But your final sentence is very important.

    Rick, I try to just pick up books that will entertain me, but I don't really know what I like. I go to a bookstore and it all looks suspicious to me; one by one I pick books up, read the cover copy, say, "Oh, I don't want to read that" and put the book back. If I make myself buy something new, there's a good chance I'll regret it. I have a long list of books that are more than 20 years old that I'm interested in. I'd like to have a long list of books that are less than 20 months old that I'm interested in. In order for me to build that list, I'm going to have to overcome my prejudice against certain common subjects people are writing about just now. I guess. I don't know. It seems I need to think more before I answer you, too. I need to think more in general.

    I know: a study of Books Bailey Has Not Purchased! Stay tuned. It'll be fun.

  4. I'm sorry my comment was full of typos. And, as soon as I published it, I realized that at least one thing that's happening is that I accidentally classify my favorite modern writers as classical writers, and I forget that they're writing now. There's Alice Munro and Haruki Murakami and Cormac McCarthy. There are the British writers like Ishiguro and even Ian McEwan (who I find intriguing, even if I don't always love his work). But I'm on the hunt for the hidden ones that are brilliant to me and invisible to me.

  5. What a perfect post for me to turn up out of the blue to comment on, she says, about to possibly overstep.

    I have finally convinced Davin to read Hillary Jordan's MUDBOUND. And he ordered it. So I think he means it.

    I recently posted my "multicultural summer reading list" and it turns out there are other people (who I have also bugged to read it) who are going to read this summer, and then we want to discuss it on the blog. Maybe in the beginning of August-ish.

    Would you consider joining us?

    This is the book I was mad at my friend for "letting" me read--because I didn't know how to live with what happens. But it's also interestingly structured and has an ending I think is fairly awe-inspiring.

    Will you think about it?

    I hope all is well. I miss The Literary Lab. Also, I am hoping that "What is Davin Eating" link is the blog he just dangled in front of me without telling me how to find it! :)

    Take good care!

  6. Mudbound is one of those books that's been on my radar, as the kids say, for a while. When is everyone reading it? "This summer" is too vague! But I'll see about picking up a copy and joining the fun. It's nice to be able to discuss books in common.

    Also, yes, the link to "What's Davin Eating" leads to his new blog. Go harrass him! He needs to be harrassed more often, really he does.

  7. "beginning of August" works for me, I think. I should be done with the first draft of my WIP and looking to bury myself in reading again.

    I miss the Lab, too. But we really had nothing new to say. Yep, we'd covered all possible topics. Every single one.

  8. People say that the universe is large, but actually it's very, very small.

  9. The universe is neither large nor small, but thinking makes it so.

    Or, "it's bigger on the inside."

  10. Yay, Scott! I'm really glad you are willing to participate.

    And I did go harrass Davin! And I probably will keep doing it until he lets me read his book!

    Did you talk about masala dosas on The Lit Lab? I know vegetable Wellington came up last summer. But I'm not sure about dosas.

    What is Davin eating?

  11. I don't know about masala dosas specifically, but I'm sure we talked about potatoes on several occasions.

    I'm going to read Davin's book next week!

    I just ate an organic banana for lunch.

  12. Eating is my platform, Bailey. Don't muscle in. I want to be known as the writer who eats.

  13. Then you'd better post every day. Or every meal. Or some other writer will be forced to fill that vacuum, Malasarn. Don't bite off more than you can chew with this "writer who eats" platform.

    Literary fiction is dog eat dog.