Some Readings

Course of Mirrors (Ashen Venema); Beer in the Snooker Club (Waguih Ghali); Southeaster (Haroldo Conti); Envoy and Ward’s Fool (Caleb Crain) I was cured a couple of years ago of making unsolicited reading recommendations. Having pushed a couple of suggestions into the hands of a suspecting neighbor, who initially faked appreciation but later made me…

p-1: The Evil Hill on Mariposa

If print does disappear, I will be only partially responsible. I’m doing my part to keep a few print publications healthy. But I can’t subscribe to everything. The question is always the same: what to read and how. A loyal subscriber to The Believer, alas, my subscription has lapsed, and just prior to the 2013…

Where we go from Greil Marcus to Humpty Dumpty

I bought two books at the Rose City Used Book Fair last Saturday, the Li Po of the previous post, and “Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘N’ Roll Music,” by Greil Marcus (1975). The Marcus is a first edition hardback in excellent condition, though it’s apparently not worth much to a book collector;…

The Art, Woe, Slop, and Toe of the Book Review

In an era of sinking readership, closing bookstores, the disappearance of newspapers, and Google making us stupid, who cares about book reviews? The book review is the grownup version of the book report, the nefarious writing assignment where students first learn to plagiarize. Publishing is in a hard market, as they say in the insurance…

Evergreen Review, Volume 1, Number 3, 1957

At a campus library book sale this week I bought for $1.00 a copy of Volume 1, Number 3, of the Evergreen Review. The price new was $1.00 in 1957. It’s a 5 and ¼ by 8 inch paperback, 160 pages. It’s in good condition. There are four black and white photographs, in the middle…

Montaigne: The First Blogger; or, Nick Hornby’s Surprise

When my monthly Believer finally arrives, one of the first pieces I read is Nick Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading.” Hornby’s polite sarcasm and gentle disdain of the academic suits the Believer’s editorial voice, a voice which, however, aging with success, must now search for ever new ways to seem avant-garde, if not anti-academic, such…

Drum, drum, drum

Essays on music, as Greil Marcus has tried, just might save the personal essay from oblivion. “There is that stick coming down hard on the drum and the foot hitting the kick drum at the same time…”: Marcus takes a book to explicate Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” which begins with the rim shot heard…

Our 2009 Believer Book Award Choices

For the third year in a row, we’ve submitted our Believer magazine postcard, casting our vote for the three “…most affecting and well-wrought, the bravest and the best written” works of fiction published in the US in the previous year. After last year’s faceless-woman postcard contest, suggested by readers’ spontaneous, unsolicited art work on previous…

Where jazz and literature get encaged

The 2009 Believer music issue (July/August 09) arrived yesterday, and there’s a perceptive interview with jazz guitarist Pat Martino: “BLVR: What do you think jazz’s place in American culture is today?” “PM: The only thing I can be definitive with is an example. Take the students of jazz in our conservatories and universities. They’re studying…

Our 2008 Believer Book Award Choices

The 2008 Believer Book Award Reader Survey postcard came this year in the Fifty-Eighth issue: “Aroma Prom,” an art issue (including a somewhat cantankerous interview with Frank Stella; an engaging interview with cartoonist Keith Knight; Weschler interesting on Hockney and Irwin; very much enjoyed the “This is Corporate America” article). Our postcard choices this year (following the postcard…

Reading at a masquerade ball

Reading, one sometimes feels like a wallflower at a masquerade ball. Who are all these characters wearing masks and costumes hiding their true identities? They introduce themselves with some action or voice and the reader wonders if their claims are credible and reliable. And perhaps the author, the inventor of these identities, has also assumed a…