Last weekend, I was in Minneapolis visiting friends there for the first time in far too long. I took in the State Fair, watched an NSC Minnesota Stars game, and had my first encounter with the incredibly tasty craft beer made by Surly Brewing. I also saw (and heard) Steve Brezenoff read at Magers & Quinn; the occasion was the release party for his novel Brooklyn, Burning. In other words, I traveled halfway across the country and saw a novel set in my own neighborhood. From the excerpts of the novel read by Brezenoff, the book follows a number of young musicians living in Greenpoint around the time of the Terminal fire a few years ago. I’m curious to read more (the bookstore had sold out of the book by the time the signing line got to me), and will hopefully do so later this month.
Also read while in transit (or since my return): Geoff Dyer’s Paris Trance, which was beautifully written and only stumbles with a few moments of awkward dialogue; Russell Banks’s Rule of the Bone, which quickly accumulated tragic momentum but suffered from a few unlikely coincidences; and Monique Roffey’s The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, in which an interestingly structural choice illuminates a novel on the history of modern Trinidad. Stacy Schiff’s Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) made me want to read everything from Nabokov that I haven’t already read (and revisit everything that I had.) It’s a amazingly comprehensive biography, full of interesting side notes and appearances from surprising figures. (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for one, who took one of Nabokov’s courses during his years of teaching.)
Now comes the holiday weekend, which will involve reading (at least) a pair of books from NYRB Classics: Dezso Kostolanyi’s Skylark, a novel set in Hungary around the turn of the last century; and Jan Morris’s Hav, a series of reports from a nonexistent country. Here’s hoping your weekend’s a good one as well.
To steal a quote from the Times review, Coco Chanel “was a wretched human being.” I know this, because I read Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War, and I’m not entirely sure why other than the book was readily available. But yes, I now know Coco Chanel was this twisted, almost Dickensian Jew hater, and I’m a better person for it. (I think…)
The latest issue of Annalemma came in the mail, and opens up with a Blake Butler essay that utilizes the word “shit” quite well. I loved the story (it’s the only thing I’ve read so far), but flipping through the pages, the entire book looks fantastic. Annalemma always does a great job of curating wonderful stories alongside great art. Hopefully I’ll finish it on my vacation this weekend. I also bought Tim Kinsella’s The Karaoke Singer’s Guide to Self-Defense to read for a future review.
I’ve been listening to Dion’s Wonder Where I’m Bound over and over the last week. It’s the 1969 folk pop masterpiece by the former teen idol, and the more I listen to it, the more I think it deserves to be placed alongside iconic albums of its sort by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Simon & Granfunkel. If you have Spotify, you should seek it immediately.