75 Books, Books #33-42

Okay, a version of this post (going through Book #90) has been languishing in my drafts folder for many months. But since I did lay down the gauntlet early this year, it seems only fair to serve up my part of the bargain. I’m going to try and update the 75 Books series as time permits.

Unfortunately, due to accidentally knocking over my bookpiles, I have no idea what order I read Books #33-90 in (I have yet to log the books this year after Book #90; I only hope these “I have read” bookpiles will hold!). In addition, the “mystery” books for future Segundo podcasts remain very much a mystery to me, since my laptop (with the full books list) is currently packed away. But here goes:

Book #33 was A.M. Homes’ This Book Will Save Your Life. Where others found Homes’ unexpectedly positive tone to be something of a letdown, I enjoyed this book far more than I expected. The book often zeroes in on easy targets (yuppies, Hollywood), but in a contemporary literature environment that thumbs its nose at sincerity, I found Homes’ moody gamble a pleasant, if not perfect read. Of course, Homes didn’t abandon her hyperreal iconoclasm completely. The sinkhole that uproots Richard Novak’s home relays the hollow panacea of the doughnuts, as well as a certain anatomical reality that befalls middle-aged men. And I don’t entirely buy the resolution. But even so-so Homes is worth your time.

Book #34 was Sheila Heti’s Ticknor. With all due respect to Mr. Sarvas, I found this book to be a plodding introspective bore, a tome to be avoided at all costs. And rather than feed any ill will towards a pal of mine who did steer me well towards Scarlett Thomas’ The End of Mrs. Y, I’ll simply shut up and hope that all is forgiven. The less said about Ticknor, the better. We agree to disagree.

Book #35 was Jean-Phillippe Toussaint’s Television. I enjoyed the book’s tone, which is a bit like what would happen if Jacques Tati had turned his hands to books instead of film. The book features a distinct and quite funny approach to exposing the humdrum aspects of life, pointing out that even life with a purpose (or apparent purpose, such as penning a monograph) can be marred by seductive banalities.

Books #36, #37 and #38 pertain to a future Segundo interview.

Book #39 pertains to a future Segundo interview.

Book #40 was a reread of Alex Robinson’s Box Office Poison to prepare for my APE panel. Since I was interviewing the man in person, I did my best to play close attention to his paneling, in an effort to ask questions he hadn’t heard before. I even asked Mr. Robinson about two minor characters who he killed off with an uncanny glee. You’ll find the answer to this in Show #33 of The Bat Segundo Show. But if you haven’t read Robinson, I’d start with Box Office Poison so you can fully appreciate how his close behavioral observations blossomed into the ambitious Tricked.

Book #41 was a new read of Alex Robinson’s BOP! More Box Office Poison to prepare for my APE panel. This one’s for hard-core Robinson fans only, a collection of extras that can probably be skipped over. But as a missing link between Box Office Poison and Tricked, it’s fascinating to see how Robinson is contemplating his next bold move. It’s almost as if these particular strips

Book #42 was a reread of Dave King’s The Ha-Ha to prepare for a podcast interview. There are several reasons why I named this book as one of my favorite books of 2005. This time around, I paid close attention to King’s specific style, noting how the book’s minimalist observations often revealed larger truths about human beings: their selfishness, their compassion, and their love. This works exceedingly well when you also consider that King pulled this off while also making us believe in a character who suffers from a quite unusual affliction: a Vietnam veteran who cannot speak or write.

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