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.
- 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.
- 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.