Spring Reading

Post­card from westofherethebook.com

It’s sel­dom I read but one book from start to fin­ish with­out delv­ing into the pages of another. Situation/circumstance is key. On aver­age I spend an hour and a half a work­day on the bus. Per­haps not an ideal set­ting for read­ing. But with ear­buds in, cut off from the inani­ties of pub­lic trans­port, I find the bus an excel­lent venue for nonfiction.

Fic­tion, on the other hand, tends to be read in bed. Before sleep replaces the might of con­scious­ness with some­thing akin to the bliss of unawares. Or in the hours between, say, work and a night hack­ing away at the key­board; between a few hours amid the cool shad­ows of tree-dominated land­scapes and the darker adven­tures wait­ing in utterly urban enclaves.…

Here’s a glance at a few of the latest.

The non­fic­tion:

  • Simon Fair­lie, Meat: A Benign Extrav­a­gance. A bit of a rol­lick­ing inves­ti­ga­tion into the highly con­tentious forum of human car­nivory and related issues of land-use and feed­ing the world. While much of the prose is devoted to research­ing avail­able evi­dence (and dis­en­tan­gling bias from data), the book is laden with delight­ful pas­sages (Wel­com­ing pigs back into the com­mu­nity may sound dotty because it seems so at odds with the san­i­tized sub­ur­bia pro­mul­gated by the nanny state.) and ulti­mately advo­cates a com­mon sense approach to meat: eat less of it (and if your stance on all things pro­tein is envi­ron­men­tally or polit­i­cally moti­vated, dig a lit­tle deeper). Here’s a review by George Mon­biot and a Google­Books pre­view.

The fic­tion:

  • Gor­don Lish, Col­lected Fic­tions. Per­haps best known, if infa­mously so, as Ray­mond Carver’s edi­tor, Lish deserves his own atten­tion and, from what I’ve read thus­far, thrives in the short form. Inven­tive and play­ful, these col­lected fic­tions are just that—less sto­ries than exper­i­ments, lit­tle styl­ish jaunts (and to some degree, jests). With each entry I almost hear an impos­ing laugh­ter ema­nat­ing from the white space between title and first line, a laugh­ter that hints, “Let’s see what you make of this one.” While there’s cer­tainly the influ­ence of a num­ber of writ­ers within the spaces of these fic­tions, I’d say the best com­par­i­son I can draw is to Ezra Pound—not for style or com­men­tary, but for the appar­ent delight in sheer ver­sa­til­ity. Look what I can do! Google­Books pre­view.
  • Jonathan Evi­son, West of Here. A book I’ve man­aged to remain more­or­less faith­ful to since crack­ing its spine, which from a stand­point of rec­om­mend­ing is as close to an A-list sug­ges­tion as it gets. Evi­son crafts an intrigu­ing tale around the rise and fall of a fic­tional town in the Pacific North­west. Wel­come to Port Bonita, USA. Once a place of promise worth explor­ing (circa 1890), now lit­tle more than a has-been dump eas­ily looked past (2006). Timely fic­tion, to be sure. But to my mind what really makes the novel worth read­ing is the odd­ball cast. Got about 20 pages left to read. Which I think I’ll kip up and do right now. Check West of Here’s accom­pa­ny­ing web­site for more info.

Some­what related, the film adap­ta­tion of Barney’s Ver­sion is stun­ningly good. A poignant dis­til­la­tion of Richler’s swan­song novel. Not too proud to admit I almost cried.

Read on.