"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Glory of the Essay

I love a long, involved novel as much as the next liberal arts major does (bring on post-colonialism!), and there's a place in my heart for an iPod as snug as the places in my wee little ears for those terrible earbuds, but today I hail the essay collection - specifically Half Empty, the latest from public radio dreamboat David Rakoff.

Thank you, www.prattlibrary.org, from which I grabbed the cover art.

What I mean is that being a connoisseur of LA public transportation (ahem, ahem) means I've found ways to kill - nay, enliven! - long stretches of time spent getting across town. As of yesterday Rakoff has sped to the top of the Time-Enliveners list. Odd, right? Half Empty enlivening? And from what I hear, I'll run into some especially sad patches near the end. But so far I've read about Rakoff making bad calls in music and in life, Rakoff being an inhibitedly short kid, and Rakoff asking what really is the deal with all those artless "artists" singing their hearts out in (but not paying the titular) RENT. This collection is as sensitive and relevant as Consider the Lobster and as punchy and personal as I Was Told There'd Be Cake.

I'm comparing contemporary American essays I like from NPR-ish types to contemporary American essays I like from NPR-ish types. So sue me. But when you're through with suing me, read this book! And if you're like me, it's segmented just right for public transportation trips.

Bet against me, and I will make you rich. I am the un-canary in the mine shaft. (Gas? I don't smell no gas!)
-from "The Bleak Shall Inherit"

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Gil J Wolman. I am immortal and alive" Notes by Bartomeu MarĂ­

Book Soup is currently carrying the catalog to the Gil J Wolman exhibit "I am Immortal and Alive." For the Guy Debord/Situationist fan as well as anyone interested in Contemporary European art - should pick up this book. The book won't last forever, and its a great catalog on what looks like a great and important show.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"The Gilt Kid" by James Curtis

If not only a remarkable noir (and it is) "The Gilt Kid" is an important document of a certain type of crime underground life in London 1930's.   London is almost a character in itself in this novel, along with our anti-hero The Gilt Kid, called that because he's blonde. 

A habit criminal who specializes in breaking into London flats and offices to steal, is sort of on an existential course between desire and living day-by-day.   He's lonely but can't articulate his world via language, but by action he sees each day as an adventure of sorts - but alas, a very limited adventure.  He basically can't see his future more than a few days at a time. 

There is a Marxist bent in the story, because The Gilt Kid struggles with reading "Capital" but with little understanding, but he sort of gets the drift of it.  The classic aspect of the book is the focus on the side characters that he meets up on the streets of Soho.  Hardcore slang, lots of smoking and drinking milkey tea - along with the occasional brandy and various beers.  Its a dead-end street, but a road that is still colorful and kind of beautiful in a depressing way