Essential Reading: September 2015

Well, there goes August. I’m not sure about the exact statistics and I’m too lazy to check but I think I might have read more books this month than any other month this year. Granted, all of the 7 books that I have read this month were short, none of them exceeding the 300 pages. Still, it was nice to read books from a different authors who have their own sense of style ranging from the modernist prose of Djuna Barnes to the postmodernist shenanigans of Gilbert Adair. Here are the books that I’ve read last month

  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick (4/5)
  • Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra (4/5)
  • The Alienist by Machado de Assis (3/5)
  • Spillway and Other Stories by Djuna Barnes (3/5)
  • Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (5/5)
  • Conversations with Beethoven by Sanford Friedman (4/5)
  • The Death of the Author by Gilbert Adair (No Rating)

I thought that I’d be more enamored with Ubik especially since the beginning was so promising yet I feel like it didn’t perfectly execute the end despite a very good beginning and middle. Ways of Going Home cements Zambra’s place in my personal canon of Latin America yet I haven’t read a book of his that would merit a place at the very top of the list. I want to give de Assis another chance since The Alienist disappointed me with its lack of finesse and technique that I often attribute to Latin American writers. Spillway and Other Stories is another in this month’s list of disappointments which does nothing to my hopes that Barnes’ novel, Nightwood, would get a more positive reaction from me. Between The World and Me, a magnificently written and hugely important book, gave me more of Coates’ incisive and illuminating writing that I first glimpsed when I read his piece, ‘The Case for Reparations’. I admire Friedman’s technique in Conversations of Beethoven, a book that reminded me of Vladimir Sorokin’s The Queue, but I found it to be lacking a certain element that could’ve elevated the book to greater heights. Finally, don’t get me started on Adair’s The Death of the Author because either I’m ambivalent towards it or I love it and consider it to be one of the best works of postmodern fiction that I have ever read.

As for the books that I’ll be reading this September, here they are:

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  • No One Left To Lie To by Christopher Hitchens – The 2016 US Presidential elections is just around the corner and one of the biggest talking points for this cycle is the prospect of another Clinton Presidency (not to mention the prospect of a 3rd Bush presidency but that’s a topic for another time). Which makes it kind of the perfect moment to read Hitchen’s evisceration of Bill Clinton and his political career particularly his presidency.
  • Pitch Dark by Renata Adler – I have been totally enamored by Adler’s writing ever since reading Speedboat and meeting her in person and hearing her talk about her process. Reading her second novel, Pitch Dark, is not only a logical choice but almost an imperative one. Not to mention the fact that Adler herself prefers this over Speedboat and that makes me curious as to why.
  • The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams – It’s been a long time since I read my last play. If I’m correct in my recollections, the last play that I read was the play Frost/Nixon written by Peter Morgan which is a play that I enjoyed reading. In fact, the very few plays that I’ve read are ones that I’ve enjoyed like Yasmina Reza’s The God of Carnage and Margaret Edson’s Wit so I am excite to read another one especially from someone who is considered to be one of the greatest playwrights to ever walk the earth.
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith – I honestly don’t know what to expect from this book but I decided to go for it since people of my generation seems to love it which means that I’m giving in to the hype albeit quite a belated one. However, I’m still wary because, the last time that I gave in to the hype, I read the worst book that I have ever read (I’m looking at you, Lang Leav) but this seems to be a better choice than Love & Misadventure because it has been a critical darling and has even received the National Book Award for Nonfiction.
  • The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion – Since reading Didion’s Play It as It Lays, arguably her masterpiece among her novels, I’ve been interested in reading one of her lesser works which The Last Thing He Wanted seems to be.  I’ve started reading it and I have to say that I am hooked since, by some stroke of genius, Didion has managed to adapt her fragmented and dreamlike style to a political thriller.

That’s it for this month.

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