Quadrangulation

Like almost every reader I know, I’m always reading four or five different books at a time. A lot of this, I think, is due to the lingering effects of spending way too much time in school: taking multiple classes, reading multiple texts, writing multiple essays, etc. Over the past year I’ve had sub-zero time to spend reading out of my own interests; with the constant wash of student essays to grade and classes to prep, there simply hasn’t been time.

Now that I’ve finally passed through the proverbial wringers of adjunctia and have a bit of slacktime before my full load of classes kicks in later this month, I’ve been spending larger chunks of my afternoons and evenings with books (rather than students). I’ve been wary of these “what I’m reading” lists random nobodies like myself will post on their personal random-nobody-blog; it always seems a bit smarmy and precocious. But then again, I like to use the words “smary” and “precocious” any way I can.

Last week I finally polished off Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. I had started reading it at the end of spring quarter to prep for the Illuminated Manuscripts class, but when the summer slate of classes kicked into high gear (summer quarter for me featured four classes in one eight week, time-intensive block) I fell off the wagon. When we went to Las Vegas a few weeks ago I jammed the book in my bag and ended up reading big stretches of it in the airport and on the plane, where I couldn’t help but notice an affinity between Ware’s flow-chartish visual aesthetic and the airline safety card tucked neatly in front of my seat.

At the same time I was finishing Ware, I cracked open Hannah Tinti’s Animal Crackers. Tinti currently edits One Story, a monthly, subscription-only literary journal whose individual issues are comprised of only one short story. Tinti will be visiting and presenting at Clackamas CC at some point during the 2004-2005 school year. Her stories are loaded with pinpoint descriptions and peculiar flights into animal logic. Fairly conventional yet charming narratives with muted depictions of sex and violence. If Poe had attended an MFA program (and studied with A.M. Homes to boot…), he probably would have written this. As I keep reading, I can’t help but think of American Beauty for some reason. There is a precision and danger here most arresting.

I’ve been flirting with Andy Mingo’s East of Elko, too. I posted a bit about it a few weeks ago, and when it eventually showed up on my doorstep I spent a full half-hour wading around the first chapter (which runs, like a grand total of 10 pages). Mingo’s prose is high concept, high tech: the novel is set in a near-distant future where the entire planet’s security has been sold to corporate sponsorship (namely, the wool industry). The paragraphs are literally jam-packed with film-quality detail. The opening chapter depicts the torching of a metro bus thusly:

…The bus’s paint curls. Plastic fumes vent through the windshield, and the driver’s on the street grabbing at the air from behind blistering eyes, a fiery Flamenco, muffled screams sounding very much like Bellabellabellabellabella, till his face swells up big and red. He drops to the ground, his gleaming head, wet like bacon snapping in a pan. Some last instincts twitch through his legs and his teeth clinch shut. (10)

Yesterday two more books dogpiled onto me: my review copy of Davis Schneiderman and Philip Walsh’s Retaking the Universe: William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization (aforementioned in a post here last week) and, surprise of all surprises, Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star. I’ll be posting a longer review of the Burroughs collection on the Acker website within the next month or so (I’ll also cross-post it here).

As to the Jameson autobiography, four asides: 1) it’s truly amazing what cable television has done to legitimize the porn industry over the past 15 years. Eric Schlosser writes extensively about this in his eye-opening Reefer Madness. (I have a longer post concerning this in the archives from last year); 2) Jameson’s book was ghostwritten by Neil Strauss, who gave up his plush music critic gig at the New York Times to dedicate himself to the project. Needless to say, the book is spilling over with photographs and clippings of all sorts, among them illustrations by Batman artist Bernard Chang. A good interview with Strauss about the process can be found here; 3) Jameson, who grew up in Las Vegas, still lives there, and was scheduled to do a book signing at Caesar’s Virgin Megastore no less than 18 hours after our plane took off (did I mention we stayed at Caesar’s?); 4) this is no joke: I discovered the book on the couch downstairs yesterday morning, sans dustcover (it’s a big thick hardcover–think of the Lacanian implications of that description…), sans receipt, sans wrinkled plastic chain bookstore bag. Let me repeat: I discovered the book. As in *I* didn’t bring it into the house…

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