Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Three New Men in My Life

Uh, so, in case you didn't know, I'm a total book dork. Yeah, yeah, I got a couple of lit degrees, but that doesn't even matter. Books have been my thing since I can remember. My Uncle Tobin used to get me a book for every birthday. I though it was SO lame. That is, until one year he got me a sweater and I was like, "Um, where's my book?"
And now I'm a book dork. Deal with it.

So, in true book dork fashion, here are the new libros I'm super excited about:

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
Murakami is such a find. He's Japanese but he super loves American culture. That's probably why he translates so well, but has an air of mystery that reels in the readers. Actually, that's downplaying his talent. The guy just has a way with words -- that timbre and rhythm that's nearly impossible to achieve unless you're Nabokov or Capote. But get this: Murakami books are page turners -- so much so that I almost feel guilty reading them. In a cage match with the ever-popular Twilight, I'm standing in my boy Haruki's corner.

The cool thing about this book (I think -- I haven't read it yet other than an excerpt in the New Yorker) is that it's both a memoir (what is Murakami really like?? Devoted readers all want to know) and it's about running, which I'm sort of obsessed with (or was when I had time to run distance races, at least). I can't wait to find out if Murakami has the same mystique as his characters. From what I've read so far, he does -- and maybe more.

[Dude, check him out! Wouldn't you want to hang out with him?]

Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Up
I just finished Foer's first book, Everything is Illuminated. I didn't want to read that book when it came out, simply because I was jealous. Why can't I be a 23 year old prodigy novelist? And plus, EVERYONE loved this book, which already made it annoying. Blah blah blah, Jonathan Safran Foer, yeah yeah, whatever. But, on a serious recommendation from a friend with very good taste, I finally tried it out and...

[Awesomeness in paperback.]

IT WAS FREAKING AWESOME. Seriously, it's so good. The stuff he thinks of seems so random but is so well planned -- and so heartbreakingly brilliant. Case in point -- take the following gorgeous passage about two lovers, one a Jew, one a gypsy, in 1941:

"They exchanged notes, like children. My grandfather made his out of news clippings and dropped them in her woven baskets, into which he knew only she would dare stick a hand. Meet me under the bridge and I will show you things you've never seen. The "M" was taken from the army that would take his mother's life: GERMAN FRONT ADVANCES ON SOVIET BORDER; the "eet" from their approaching warships: NAZI FLEET DEFEATS FRENCH AT LESACS; the "me" from the peninsula they were blue-eyeing: GERMANS SURROUND CRIMEA; the "and" from too little, too late: AMERICAN WAR FUNDS REACH ENGLAND; the "er" from the dog of dogs: HITLER RENDERS NONAGGRESSION PACT INOPERATIVE...and so on, and so on, each note a collage of love that could never be, and war that could."

I may be a book dork but I don't gush easily. Even so, there were lines in that book that were so beautiful they honestly made me tear up...and then run out and buy his next book. I hope I'm not disappointed.

[I'm ready to get all dorkygushball again.]

[Jonathan Safran Foer -- so cute, so brilliant, but not smart enough to get new glasses]

And finally, an author who comes highly recommended by several of my reader buddies:

Denis Johnson, Jesus' Son
I have a feeling Johnson may be my new Murakami. Or my new Foer. I'm giving his short fiction a whirl because I hear it's great. I'm a little cautious of reading short fiction as my entree, but it worked for George Saunders (who I LOVE). I highly doubt I'll be disappointed.

It's been hard for me to get back into reading but I'm PUMPED to be back. When you read and write for your job sadly the last thing you want to do is read and write when you get home. But when you've found a great book or a great way to ramble (ahem, BLOG!) it's such a welcome relief. I think it's how my Dad must feel -- he's a chef and doesn't want to bring work home. But when he's cooking for his family it makes him happy. I guess it's similar -- when I find something I truly love, like the brilliance of Foer or a place to write whatever I want, it's satisfying in a way that certainly doesn't feel like work.


  1. I've really got to read more. Oh, wait. Advanced General Psych counts, right? I need to come raid your bookshelves when classes are done - that passage from Everything is Illuminated is awesome!

  2. Okay, I have been meaning to read Murakami for, like, EVER. And I love, love, love Jonathan Safran Foer. I think I recommend him to everyone I know.

    Have you read "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss? She is Foer's wife and they have somewhat similar styles. I remembered reading a short story by her in The New Yorker that I loved and then lo and behold, "The History of Love" was a novelization of the story. Don't be scared off by the cheesy title, it is SO good.

  3. Two points...

    First: Really? Murakami compared to Nabokov? Really? I mean, I like Murakami. I really do. But Nabokov is like eating a stick of butter. It feels wrong, but it's so fucking smooth. DON'T DENY THIS!!!! Murakami and Capote...I'll give you that. I still read "The Elephant Vanishes" (even though fiction is so, you know, passe) because it fucking kicks my ass. It's all the things I am not.

    Jesus' Son,'s good. It reminds me of how awesome drugs can be. I loved it like a motherfucker for a while (for the record, I'm so much cooler than you because I've owned this shit for like 16 years). Now I sorta think it's a bit I was when I loved it. I suppose I'm not as "postmodern" as I used to be.

    And, I guess, a third. Jonathan Safran Foer, get some new fucking glasses!