If there’s one question I get asked more than any other in these here Twin Cities it’s some iteration of, “Where do you find the time for everything?” To that I usually respond with the number of hours I still find to play Call of Duty, or I quote speed-addicted Liv Tyler from Empire Records, noting that “there’s 24 usable hours in every day.” While I’m content to be perfectly flip about the irrational amount of time that I pour into my passions each week (and yes, Call of Duty falls under that umbrella), I find myself feeling a little sad about the amount of time I have left over for pleasure reading.
Of course, to many of my ilk in the literary realm, any and all reading is pleasurable—however, there is a lot to be said for having some choice in what exactly you end up reading. So, with that in mind, between e-mails, submissions, alumni magazine articles, and gobs of literary blogs trying to find interesting news to tweet about, I do my best to find time to read things I think I might enjoy personally. Here are my favorite things I’ve read (for pleasure) in the past six months.
1. Louise: Amended, a memoir by Louise Krug (Black Balloon Publishing)
Okay, so I haven’t made it all the way through this story of a beautiful, young, fashionable, superficial journalist whose burgeoning career is stopped dead in its tracks by a brain bleed that cripples her, but it’s written so clearly and beautifully that I can pretty much pick it up at any time and follow along with what’s happening. Krug writes about her disorienting experience from an understandable distance, alternating characters to follow, and uses precise language to tell an oblique story. Her style and tone allows the reader to experience both the natural voyeuristic curiosity about the gritty details and the empathy to feel Krug’s bewilderment and pain as the boyfriend she was so happy with before the incident waffles under the pressure of being a caretaker.
Originally, the book was sent to me with the option of reviewing it for Lit Lyfe if I had time, but I’ve really enjoyed visiting and revisiting it at regular intervals, like seeing a friend who’s in the hospital.
2. It Chooses You by Miranda July, with photographs by Brigitte Sire
As a rule, I really dislike Miranda July. I couldn’t even possibly tell you why, but you’d probably say “jealousy.” You might be (read: are definitely) correct. But, whatever. However, as a rule, I really adore my aunt Michelle who, along with my dad, purchased me a subscription to McSweeney’s book release club. As another rule, I really dislike Dave Eggers. [Insert first two sentences of paragraph here to repeat.] But I do love the books that McSweeney’s puts out. They are invariably beautiful. Always interesting. Plus, I really, really love getting mail.
This season, along with a bunch of other books that I haven’t had time to really read yet but have held in my hands countless times thinking about the wondrous wonders contained therein (and being insufferably jealous of the work that McSweeney’s is doing), Miranda July’s book was sent to my doorstep. I wanted to hate it but I couldn’t. Instead, I ended up loving it.
The premise is that Miranda July (above), while trying to finish her screenplay that would become The Future, decided that she would just start visiting people who had items for sale in the Penny Saver, ask them nosy questions about their lives, and take pictures of them. If I think about the premise for too long I get kind of irritated in a whole “these real people who have real quirks and troubles are not just fodder for your projects full of contrived quirk.” But, again, whatever. I’m nosy as the day is long, so this book really satisfied me with its awkward interactions and wigs for sale. Besides, the photos are beautiful, and again, this is a book I can just pick up at my leisure and then put down when something more important comes along.
3. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Since I have such little time for pleasure reading, and such a tight schedule of working and gaming, I decided that it would be best to plan out a year of books I want to read…or think that maybe I might want to read. As a project for life/Paper Darts I’ve begun a year of solely reading genre fiction. The thesis is that I’ve spent so much time thinking that genre cannot also be classified as literary, but I refuse to think that’s true—however I can’t prove it, because I’ve hardly read any. So, voila! Twelve months exploring twelve different genres was born. My second month was sci-fi (preceded by fantasy and romance, followed by urban fiction, western, and now erotica), for which I read The Forever War, and I still cannot stop thinking about it.
The Forever War is an allegory about the Vietnam War. Haldeman fought in the war and, after writing a book about it in the 70s, found that no one wanted to read a sci-fi novel about a horrible war that had just happened. After a number of years he found a publisher, and it has since gone on to be one of the most lauded and popular sci-fi books of all time.
Haldeman is brilliant in his treatment of space travel (and subsequently time travel), love, sex, war, death, dying, and cats in space. I read the book from beginning to end in a couple days. I found the time because I absolutely loved it.