The Alternative Reading List

your supplement for a steralized history
Recently, I was packing for a trip and I was trying to decide what book  to take with me for the airport/plane ride.  After giving it waaaay too  much thought, I settled on Consider the Lobster  by David Foster Wallace.  Later, while I was desperately trying to sink into my book so that I could mentally escape LAX, it occurred to me that I’ve read these essays a lot.  Like, a lot a lot.  Then I really thought about it and I realized something.  I’ve brought a book by DFW with me on nearly every trip I’ve taken since I was in high school!
The first time (I must have been a sophomore or junior) was on a family road trip to Wisconsin.  I was always reading in the car on these road trips and I’d always finish whatever book I was reading and then have to wait until we stopped for gas to fish another book out of my luggage (sharing the backseat with 2 siblings meant there was very little space to keep things with you during the ride).  As a practical matter, I just looked for the biggest book I could find, you guessed it, Infinite Jest.
From then on I just always seemed to grab one of his books or pick one up if I find myself stuck at the airport.  I’ve probably logged the most miles with Consider the Lobster though.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in one of these essays and forget that you’re actually surrounded by pushy, agitated travelers.  Wallace was a fantastic writer and, in a way, he’s become my travel partner.
So what about you, do you have any of your own literary traditions?

Recently, I was packing for a trip and I was trying to decide what book to take with me for the airport/plane ride.  After giving it waaaay too much thought, I settled on Consider the Lobster  by David Foster Wallace.  Later, while I was desperately trying to sink into my book so that I could mentally escape LAX, it occurred to me that I’ve read these essays a lot.  Like, a lot a lot.  Then I really thought about it and I realized something.  I’ve brought a book by DFW with me on nearly every trip I’ve taken since I was in high school!

The first time (I must have been a sophomore or junior) was on a family road trip to Wisconsin.  I was always reading in the car on these road trips and I’d always finish whatever book I was reading and then have to wait until we stopped for gas to fish another book out of my luggage (sharing the backseat with 2 siblings meant there was very little space to keep things with you during the ride).  As a practical matter, I just looked for the biggest book I could find, you guessed it, Infinite Jest.

From then on I just always seemed to grab one of his books or pick one up if I find myself stuck at the airport.  I’ve probably logged the most miles with Consider the Lobster though.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in one of these essays and forget that you’re actually surrounded by pushy, agitated travelers.  Wallace was a fantastic writer and, in a way, he’s become my travel partner.

So what about you, do you have any of your own literary traditions?

just finished swamplandia

it was…good.  i think it’s hard to read very stylized writing when you’re in grad school being trained to read things ‘efficiently.’  i’d recommend this book to someone with a little more time on her hands so that she can really lose herself in Russell’s prose—rather than someone who can only catch up on her reading between classes.  also, it’s not a great idea to be extremely caffeinated when reading this book.  :( maybe i’ll pick it up again this summer.

so have you finished any books recently?

What are you reading, Responses

@NovelWorld: I love love LOVE 1984, I had such a crush on Winston when I first read the book (I didn’t care how they described him, I pictured him as a ruggedly handsome anti-hero, and at least 1 jacket designer must have agreed with me.) I’ve never readCukoo’s Nest.  It wasn’t assigned to me in high school and I’ve never taken the opportunity to read it (though I thoroughly enjoyedFuturama’s take on it) but I’ve only ever heard good things about it.

@Page537: I haven’t heard of George RR Martin but I will check him out!

Thank you both for responding & please feel free to come back and let us all know what you thought of the books!

We the Animalsby Justin Torres
We the Animalsstarts off with a gimmick: it’s written in the 3rd person plural & you know how I generally feel about gimmicky books (I don’t like them), but fortunately Torres avoids the pitfalls that seemed to plague the rash of 3rd person plural novels that came out a few years ago. Instead of a nameless, faceless group blob of a protagonist, we get three young brothers.  Because they are not quite white and not quite Puerto Rican, they bond fiercely to one another and the 3rd person plural becomes a symbol for the peculiar—and sometimes destructive—way in which siblings grow up and grow apart. 
The book is very short, though the language is rich and you might find yourself re-reading passages or even whole chapters as you go along.  Unfortunately, the ending seems a little rushed and I think there could have been a better transition between the time jump, or it could have been left out all together.  Overall, it’s a good book and definitely worth checking out. 
Age: Adult
(As a side note, you know by know that I always include a picture of the book’s cover in these little reviews.  While I was looking for a pic for this review, I came across a photo of Justin Torres and, well, is it inappropriate to say: ‘daaaaaaaaaaaammmmmm!’  What, that is inappropriate?  Well, I’ll just have to be inappropriate because daaaaaaammmm!)

We the Animalsby Justin Torres

We the Animalsstarts off with a gimmick: it’s written in the 3rd person plural & you know how I generally feel about gimmicky books (I don’t like them), but fortunately Torres avoids the pitfalls that seemed to plague the rash of 3rd person plural novels that came out a few years ago. Instead of a nameless, faceless group blob of a protagonist, we get three young brothers.  Because they are not quite white and not quite Puerto Rican, they bond fiercely to one another and the 3rd person plural becomes a symbol for the peculiar—and sometimes destructive—way in which siblings grow up and grow apart. 

The book is very short, though the language is rich and you might find yourself re-reading passages or even whole chapters as you go along.  Unfortunately, the ending seems a little rushed and I think there could have been a better transition between the time jump, or it could have been left out all together.  Overall, it’s a good book and definitely worth checking out. 

Age: Adult

(As a side note, you know by know that I always include a picture of the book’s cover in these little reviews.  While I was looking for a pic for this review, I came across a photo of Justin Torres and, well, is it inappropriate to say: ‘daaaaaaaaaaaammmmmm!’  What, that is inappropriate?  Well, I’ll just have to be inappropriate because daaaaaaammmm!)

what are you reading?

Bibliophiles everywhere greet each other with the following line: ‘what are you reading?’ It’s the way they identify their own.  It’s the “aloha” of bookworms.  So I’m asking you, dear reader, what books are you into right now?  What books have you recently finished?  What books do you plan to read next? 

I just finished:

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt which isn’t the greatest book ever written, but it’s a quick read and holds your interest (though the ending is anti-climatic). 

And I just started:

Swanplandia! by Karen Russel which is actually pretty good so far.  I’m usually a little wary of any book that becomes a critical “darling,” but Swamplandia! has been living up to the hype so far. 

So what about you, what are you reading?

Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons
This is another book that’s a little different than the others on this list for two reasons; first, it’s British (see my previous note on the geographical boundaries of this blog), and second, it is not about the experience of marginalized people per se. I think this book fits nicely with the others on this list because it’s about questioning authority.  It’s about what can happen when we become so enamored with our own mythos that we forget that the people we consider heroes (whether they be Ozymandias or Thomas Jefferson) are capable of error. 
Besides all of that, this is just one of the best comic books out there.  It really shows off what only a book, not a movie or a TV show, can do.  (I’m thinking of Rorschach’s chapter layout in particular.) 
Yes there’s a movie, but you know what, fuck that movie. It didn’t have a giant exploding space squid.  And yes I know that they’re coming out with prequels to the books—but doesn’t your inner hipster want gloat about how you read this book before Watchmen Babies came out?

Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons

This is another book that’s a little different than the others on this list for two reasons; first, it’s British (see my previous note on the geographical boundaries of this blog), and second, it is not about the experience of marginalized people per se. I think this book fits nicely with the others on this list because it’s about questioning authority.  It’s about what can happen when we become so enamored with our own mythos that we forget that the people we consider heroes (whether they be Ozymandias or Thomas Jefferson) are capable of error. 

Besides all of that, this is just one of the best comic books out there.  It really shows off what only a book, not a movie or a TV show, can do.  (I’m thinking of Rorschach’s chapter layout in particular.) 

Yes there’s a movie, but you know what, fuck that movie. It didn’t have a giant exploding space squid.  And yes I know that they’re coming out with prequels to the books—but doesn’t your inner hipster want gloat about how you read this book before Watchmen Babies came out?