Who gives a shit what one white kid thinks?
Yes. Everything. Yes.
We usually associate digital technology with nonlinearity, the forking paths that Web surfers beat through the Internet’s underbrush as they click from link to link. But e-books and nonlinearity don’t turn out to be very compatible. Trying to jump from place to place in a long document like a novel is painfully awkward on an e-reader, like trying to play the piano with numb fingers. You either creep through the book incrementally, page by page, or leap wildly from point to point and search term to search term. It’s no wonder that the rise of e-reading has revived two words for classical-era reading technologies: scroll and tablet. That’s the kind of reading you do in an e-book.
The codex is built for nonlinear reading — not the way a Web surfer does it, aimlessly questing from document to document, but the way a deep reader does it, navigating the network of internal connections that exists within a single rich document like a novel. Indeed, the codex isn’t just another format, it’s the one for which the novel is optimized. The contemporary novel’s dense, layered language took root and grew in the codex, and it demands the kind of navigation that only the codex provides.
The reason books are sometimes called volumes is that the root of “volume” is volvere, to roll: to read a scroll, you revolved it.
(Via Austin Kleon.)
I find this list a bit embareassing because a lot of it is stuff I read in my teen years, and it shows. But what influences you more than the things you read at that time of life? Still, a grown man ought to have moved a little beyond that stuff. I have, but the reading I do now, along with the rest of life, is much less intense than it was then (for which I’m very grateful).Like all my top-whatever lists, it is in no particular order.
Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan. His insights turned inside-out the way I look at culture and history.
Mockingbird Wish Me Luck by Chas. Bukowski. The author is an asshole and is (unfortunately) celebrated by even bigger assholes. He was immoral, he was full of shit, he mythologized himself in his writing. But he had no illusions about any of that, and, unlike some of his fans, he had no illusions about his being (as he described himself) a “bad writer.” (He’s a good bad writer though, and I’m sure he knew it.) My wife and I watchd the movie Born Into This together, and what she saw was a monster. She asked me later why I liked him. I had to think about it. I said, though I can’t defend him on a personal level, Bukowski is important to me because his writing told me that you don’t have to be like evrybody else. There are other ways to live besides the way they tell you to live, and those other ways are just as good. Or even if they’re not… And he told me what it is to be a writer: to write. To be “crazy enough in the head to sit down to a typer and let the words bang out.” And to make a sincere and dogged attempt to put those words into the eyes of the public—to “send your shit out.” For some years that is what I did. I typed stuff and I sent it to the magazines, who quite sensibly ignored it. And then I started making my own magazines, and then I…stopped. And then I started living like evrybody else.
Book 4 by Aleister Crowley. Speaking of self-mythologizing, here’s a man who at times presented himself as nearly omnipotent. Aside from that silliness, this book describes very clearly what magic and mysticism are. Although I only ever attained the most basic of headcracking mystical states and although such things are irrelevant to me now (see below), it is important to get an inkling of the potential of human consciousness, and it’s useful to have an elementary understanding of how the magical universe is organized.Crowley’s Eight Lectures on Yoga was also a big influence.
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. The part about the painting. You know when someone perfectly articulates something you already knew but couldnt quite put your finger on? The part about the painting.
The Path Is the Goal by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Another guy I can’t defend on a personal. He has been accused of serious crimes. This is even more difficult to reconcile oneself with when the man in question is a religious leader, and one who has possibly used his position to exploit people. I don’t know if the allegations are true, but it seems at the very least he was a mean drunk. (The same could be said of at least one of the authors above: at the very least, he was a mean drunk.) It’s troublesome, but nonetheless I wouldnt give up the books of Chögyam Trungpa any more than I would give up the poems of Percy Shelly or the records of Ike Turner (or Jerry Lee Lewis) because those guys were total shits (at least according to their wives). I’ve never had a problem separating a work from the life of its creator. (As I said, it’s more difficult in a case like this because looking at him as an example ought to be part of the deal.) Everything has a context, granted, but I deliberately judge a book on its merits alone. What the book does is more important to me than who created it. What this book did for me mainly is encourage me to commit to a spiritual practice—that of simply Sitting—with no dogma, no woo-woo shit, no expectation of achievement…in short, none of the stuff Crowley had saddled me with.
As I Lay Dying by Wm. Faulkner. Gobsmacked. I didnt know what literature could do.
Black Spring by Henry Miller. See above.
The very act of flipping through the book on various “turn to page X” directions causes you to, unavoidably, see little snatches of text from other possible branches, and also glances at illustrations of things that may-or-may-not happen. [ … ] It’s almost like having vague shamanic visions of alternate timelines.
Good old Barnes & Nobel bargain rack.
I love these books. Watterson was a control freek, and in the later years of the strip he had the pull to get things done his way. These books were printed at the extravagant size of 12x9, with 2 daily strips per page, making them a joy to read, on an easy chair, near the heater, on a day free of responsibilities.
The Tenth Anniversary Book is a vanity thing, a C&H retrospective accompanied by the author’s commentary, inspired no doubt by Ten Ever-lovin’ Blue-eyed Years with Pogo. Unfortunately Watterson has none of Kelly’s wit, in prose at least, and he is inclined toward bitter polemics about the current sad state of the funnies.
(The Pogo book, by the way, is essential—a treasure trove full of Kelly’s best material. It is one of only a couple Pogo books that managed to stay in print for years. I bought it new when I was ten or eleven, at the late Kroch’s and Brentano’s in downtown Chicago I think. I have since destroyed that copy and bought another one in good condition used. It, the big Krazy Kat book edited by Patrick McDonnell (and others), the Smithsonian book, and the Complete Peanuts would form the core of a pretty good comic strip library. All of those can still be had at reasonable prices, and you can get the books pictured above for a few bux a piece on Amazon, if they’re not still on the BN bargain rack.)
I just finished reading Julia (Fart Party) Wertz’s comic-book memoir Drinking At The Movies (Three Rivers 2010). It was a quick and enjoyable read. Mine is a signed (and doodled!) copy that came with a mix ceedee and a 4-page mini previewing a future book. This package is
avail no longer available on her website. The disc is mostly mopey geetar-strummin boys, and a few melencholy geetar-strummin girls, many of whom I imagine have bushy beards (th boys mainly) in the style of today’s indierawker, topped off by ( spoiler! ) Cat Power’s version of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, Madeleine Peyroux’s version of Eddy Arnold’s “Lonesome Road”, and Joan Baez’s “Here’s To You” ( / ). Th disc duznt come with a label so if you don’t know you have to guess, or use the internet like I did.
Fart Party began as a semiäutobiographical gag strip colleted on the webonet and in a series of minis. Gradually it became more personal. Drinking At The Movies is her first full-length book that contains a single, tho episodic, narritive; and it’s her first book of work that never appeared anywhere else, aside from a few previews on her website.
Wertz has developed a simple, iconic way of drawing herself; and before I had seen any photos of her I figured she, like some other autobio cartoonists (Al Burian, Eddie Campbell), looked uncannily like her drawings. At first glance the real Julia Wertz doesnt look much like the cartoon version, but you look a little closer you see the similarities. (For some reason I feel the need to mention that she appears to be very attractive in real life, and she draws herself pretty cute too.) The cartoon Julia’s face is dominated by large eyes, capable of conveying any expression they need to—
—and a whimsical, asymetrical pair of eyebrows. Julia’s mother and brother are drawn with the same eyes and eyebrows. Most other people have smaller eyes and less expressive faces generally. The other characters are background anyway. This story is about her.
I thought this book was going to be about her quitting drinking; instead it’s about a young woman striking out on her own in an brand new place. In a somewhat self-disparaging interview she described it as a trite subject. I suppose a “how I quit drinking” memoir would have been even more so. Julia doesnt quit drinking til the end, and we don’t hear about how. It is only mentioned at the end, in a sort of epilog. We hear plenty about her addiction to alcohol tho, and she illustrated it in a novel way. Her brain jumps out of her head and runs off to have adventures on its own. Eventually she catches it and hangs it on the clothesline to dry, and then the cycle starts over. Smack in the middle of the book she winds up at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting but she flees, overwhelmed.
It looks like Wertz’s next book will be about her childhood, a time which was a bit tough on her it seems. It was alluded to a time or 2 in this book; I look forward to seeing her early years get more fleshed out in the next one.
lê is highly sensitive to details pictorial and sensational. Her book is vivid. The characters, their bodies, their emotions, and the landscapes—neighborhoods, memories, dreams—in which they move, are all so easy to see.
The story is structured associatively, told in fragments. Adair Lara says it “unfolds haphazardly,” but I find it very deliberate. lê waits before revealing key events—or doesnt reveal them at all—intensifying their significance by keeping them hidden in the shadows, mimicking the slippery nature of mind, and memory and time.
Here’s another (very) short essay of hers, from Granta.…
Huh. This explains why Phillip K. Dick’s novels & stories have those wacky, lyrical titles. It makes perfect sense: not only are the titles not in his style, but they often are only sort-of related to the actual contents of the books.