“What have you been reading, Jarvis?”

Since I teach English and I write stuff, people always ask me what I read.  I find that question amazingly invasive.  It is like asking me what I watch or what I listen to.  I spend so much time doing these things that I sometimes want to keep them personal, keep them to myself.  However, I completely understand why you are curious about me.  I know, I know.  I am awesome.  Here are the last three books I’ve read.

Blindness by Jose Saramago.  Erin recommended this book to me, and the next one on the list.  She hoped that by reading these books, it would help me finish my latest manuscript.  She was correct.  Both books helped me understand the problems of my book, and I edited my book to avoid some of the nonsense that Blindness tossed on me.  But I also used some energy from Blindness to help me write a scene in my book that I didn’t want to have in it.  Blindness is about people going, yes, blind, and the insanity that came from it.  There are a few images later in the book, a few scenes that I just could not get through, so this one is on my “Didn’t finish” list.  It is amazing, however.  Jose Saramago can describe the world unlike anyone else.  I’m thinking of picking up another novel by him, one that won’t sicken me as much.

Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien.  I was reading this at my favorite coffee joint and the waitress there said, “That’s one of my favorite books.”  I have no idea why.  Stop. Stop.  The book is brilliant, and as I was reading it, I was thinking that it was going to become a favorite.  But, with only twenty pages left, I completely lost interest.  I’m not sure if the story just dragged, or if I just stopped caring, or if the narrative suddenly created a villain where none needed to be.  I can’t call it.  Whatever it was, I completely lost interest in the book.  But I’ll recommended to you, because I am slowly finding out that I am “pickier” about everything while most people just eat the bean dip and go about their day.

Man in the Dark by Paul Auster.  Yep.  My favorite book.  No novel that I’ve ever read worked with the narrative structure, played with what a novel is supposed to do, and then completely trick you.  You think it is about an old man, a parallel universe, and the infliction of loss.  It turns out to be a novel just about loss, about regret, about fear, about love, about acceptance, about the good and bad of the world and how they mingle.  This book is sheer brilliance.  I was reading it thinking, yes, yes, this is why I became a writer, this is why I read, this is what I want to do. Paul Auster plays with you.  He makes fun of you.  And he gives you that emotional connection, that need to love, that reason to love.  Finishing this book was the best thing I’ve done in months and I would happily, happily let you borrow it.  Better. Ask me and I’ll buy it for you.  One of the best books I’ve ever read.


6 thoughts on ““What have you been reading, Jarvis?”

  1. “…amazingly invasive..” What an interesting response. We do have Paul Auster in common. “The Brooklyn Folllies” was a remarkable work. Notwithstanding my background as a reporter for a major national newspaper, I am no longer invasive. That noted, I’ll share with you that not a year goes by when I don’t re-read “Herzog,” and a couple of other Bellow novels.

    I thought I also tell you that while your posts are remarkably prolix, again, you have a wonderful style.


  2. Thanks, brother. I need to check out “Brooklyn Follies.” I’m hoping that Auster has triggered something inside me. I feel different after reading his work.

  3. Blindness was fascinating. It took me a while to understand how to read it. Also, never watch the movie. It was beyond terrible. If you’re going to shoot for another Saramago, then you should check out The Double.

  4. I’ve been getting The New Yorker for more than 40 years and regularly weeks of them pile up as I partially read them as they come in, then return. Last night I picked up a late November 2009 copy and there was a fine article on Paul Auster. If you’ve not read it, it’s quite good and worth a look.


  5. Gah! How could you not finish Going After Cacciato? How? I get it, with Blindness. Spend a couple years reading about Congo, and then read that book and you’ll be able to finish it. And you know who recommended it to me? Simona! Angelic, perfect Simona! Where she got her stomach of steel, I don’t know. Probably Communism.

    But the O’Brien book? Really? I would have placed money on your giving up kind of early on, but not toward the end. Oh well. What do I know. Well, that book has been gently bumped from my Most Favoritest spot, replaced by The Things They Carried (I know–I’m the only English major alive who didn’t read the whole thing as an undergrad. And I’m glad I didn’t. Because I wouldn’t have appreciated it.) I won’t recommend it to you because I don’t have a good track record. Also, my other Most Favoritest book is The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, which I will also not recommend, because you will probably hate it, even though it is sheer freaking brilliance. I’ll have to check out that Auster book.

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