Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Year in Reading
Books I’ve read in sequence, and in brackets, how I’d rank them. Below that is a short spiel on each.
Hey Jack by Barry Hannah (20)
Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman (26)
Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer (1)
Norwood by Charles Portis (6)
Panama by Thomas McGuane (13)
Reinhardt in Love by Thomas Berger (2)
The Smoking Diaries by Simon Gray (26)
Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov (11)
The Loved One by Ev Waugh (29)
Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis (10)
Mao II by Don Delillo (28)
Couple of Comedians by Don Carpenter (14)
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail by Hunter S Thompson (16)
Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S Thompson (17)
Anagrams by Lorrie Moore (5)
Like Life by Lorrie Moore (18)
A Cool Million by Nathanael West (20)
CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller (22)
Ask the Dust by John Fante (12)
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (24)
Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (4)
Ninety in the Shade by Thomas McGuane (3)
Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants to do This by Bruce Beresford (25)
Gulcher by Richard Meltzer (15)
Professor of Desire by Philip Roth (30)
The Summer he Didn’t Die by Jim Harrison (7)
The Boat by Nam Le (27)
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff (8)
Keep the Change by Thomas McGuane (9)
Black Postcards by Dean Wareham (23)
A Good Day to Die by Jim Harrison (19)
Hey Jack by Barry Hannah
Very good novella about a doctor of questionable repute. Full of the trademark Hannah razzle-dazzle.
Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman
Didn’t finish it. Hell I lived it when I was 12.
Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer
Mailer, in incendiary 3rd person, takes in a Vietnam war demonstration. Causes a ruckus. Thrown in the slammer. Even more than Hunter S Thompson, Mailer dishes verbs like fists, and his furious prose cuts through diamonds. Exudes a heavyweight literary scholarship that doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
Norwood by Charles Portis
Angel of a book with a knucklehead charm.
Panama by Thomas McGuane
The crawling out of the ass of frozen elephants now behind him, ex punk star Chet Pomeroy retires to Key West with a coke-affected brain that forgets simple things like what his dog’s name is and whether or not his Daddy perished in a Michigan fire. Wasn’t as good the third time through; still a fav though.
Reinhardt in Love by Thomas Berger
Comic immortality, set in Cincinnati, among the bureaucrats, thieves, plagiarists and Black Panthers, a town Mark Twain said he’d like to be when the world ends because it’s twenty years behind. Standing heroically amongst it all: Carlo Reinhardt.
The Smoking Diaries by Simon Gray
Fascinating perspectives on life and art and getting old from the pen of the late playwright.
Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov
Slim and spellbinding. As I recall, the final scene in the dark is extraordinarily vivid and suspenseful.
The Loved One by Ev Waugh
Regrettable, as California must have been for Waugh.
Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis
Biblical in its delicious spearing of celebrity culture. Loved it.
Mao II by Don Delillo
Didn’t work for me at all.
Couple of Comedians by Don Carpenter
Funny borderline psychotic world of a platinum-selling comedy/singing duo. Narrator is the deadpan and his partner is the genius. Carraway to his Gatsby.
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’71 by Hunter S Thompson
Thompson’s last great book. Mighty.
Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S Thompson
Oral biography using Plimpton’s Paris Review technique (see also definitive books on Truman and Edie).
Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
Lorrie writes the best brainiest, wittiest single women around. This one shall we say has an active imagination. Tells a lot of elaborate jokes ad the strike rate is damn near 100 per cent. Has drawn comparisons to Sally Bowles and I can see that.
Like Life by Lorrie Moore
More stories about bracing wit as tonic for life’s eternal disappointments
A Cool Million by Nathanael West
Inventive whimsy of misfortune befalls main character in his quest for bourgeois respectability
CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller
A reader-friendly Gravity’s Rainbow
Ask the Dust by John Fante
Starving for literary prestige in Thirties L.A.
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
Starving for stardom in Sixties L.A.
Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Devil descends or rather ascends on Moscow in early Twentieth Century, terrorising literary mag editors, theatregoers, and accountants with elements of the dark supernatural. Accompanied by a seven foot jockey and an enormously fat cat with a cold black heart made of shit. On the ‘Amazing Race’ a few weeks ago contestants went to Bulgakov’s apartment as part of their scavenger hunt.
Ninety in the Shade by Thomas McGuane
A second read of this ensured its entry into the echelon of my favourite books. Never would I have thought a novel about fishing guides could be so essential.
Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants to do This by Bruce Beresford
Reading this, I recall being struck by its similarity in style and thought to the Simon Gray diaries, only to discover, in these pages, that Beresford read it and hated it! Curiously indirect bit of self-loathing perhaps? This book is a classic.
Gulcher by Richard Meltzer
Series of short, random essays from one of my writing heroes.
Professor of Desire by Philip Roth
I hated this book!
The Summer He Didn’t Die by Jim Harrison
I loved this book!
The Boat by Nam Le
Auspicious debut. First story is the piece de resistance, though I’ve yet to finish the rest.
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
Keep the Change by Thomas McGuane
Wonderful book. The scene where Joe shows up to meet the lawyer covered in cologne samples and the reaction he gets is so priceless it had me laughing out loud on the tram. You really can’t ask for more than that first thing in the morning.
Black Postcards by Dean Wareham.
Like I needed an excuse to pull out my Galaxie 500 and Luna albums. As good as the Steve Martin book (another honest book about the implications of being an urbane artist), or any of Dean’s musical achievements.
A Good Day to Die by Jim Harrison
Hillbilly rewrite of Jules & Jim. Narrated by cultured, reckless feller. Disturbing and heartbreaking.