READIN started out as a place for me
to keep track of what I am reading, and to learn (slowly, slowly)
how to design a web site.
There has been some mission drift
here and there, but in general that's still what it is. Some of
the main things I write about here are
listening to (and playing) music, and
watching the movies. Also I write about the
work I do with my hands and with my head; and of course about bringing up Sylvia.
The site is a bit of a work in progress. New features will come on-line now and then; and you will occasionally get error messages in place of the blog, for the forseeable future. Cut me some slack, I'm just doing it for fun! And if you see an error message you think I should know about, please drop me a line. READIN source code is PHP and CSS, and available on request, in case you want to see how it works.
Wow, it seems like all of my favorite young novelists are releasing new books all of a sudden! Today I come to find out (via NPR's The Takeaway) that Gary Shteyngart has a new book coming out, set in a near-future dystopia in NYC. Here is his interview from this morning:
On Friday, Shteyngart's release party is happening at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene. I am trying to figure out if I can make it over there...
I went to Brooklyn yesterday evening to hear Gary Shteyngart reading from Super Sad True Love Story (about which more later -- it looks from the first pages and from the portion he read like it is going to be a magnificent book) at Greenlight Books, which turns out to be a lovely independent book shop in Fort Greene... I got there early enough to take the train to Grand Army Plaza and walk through Prospect Heights, and by serendipity discovered a second bookshop that I'm adding to my list of destinations, which is Unnameable Books.
The reading was packed -- easily 75 people were there, filling up the seating area, spilling onto the floor and into the aisles of the shop. One of the most fun readings I can remember. I met up with Dave and Greg, and went out for dinner with them afterwards. Got my book inscribed. (And by a funny coincidence, I bought an inscribed book at Unnameable Books, a little booklet of poetry by José Pubén -- it is signed "with brotherly amity" to Adela Muñoz.)
I'm eating up Super Sad True Love Story.... A couple of reactions to it, but first a brief passage that I think illustrates what a great rush reading this book is. (i.e. if you don't like this, don't bother with the book, and vice versa.)
My äppärät pinged.
CrisisNet: DOLLAR LOSES OVER 3% IN LONDON TRADING TO FINISH AT HISTORIC LOW OF 1€ = $8.64 IN ADVANCE OF CHINESE CENTRAL BANKER ARRIVAL U.S.; LIBOR RATE FALLS 57 BASIS POINTS; DOLLAR LOWER BY 2.3% AGAINST YUAN AT 1¥* = $4.90
I really needed to figure out what this LIBOR thing was and why it was falling by fifty-seven basis points. But, honestly, how little I cared about all these difficult economic details! How desperately I wanted to forsake these facts, to open a smelly book or to go down on a pretty young girl instead. Why couldn't I have been born to a better world?
I can honestly see how I could go either way about this -- it could seem self-indulgent and silly; but instead I'm feeling for Lenny, caring about his histrionic soliloquies. Rayyan Al-Shawaf at The Millionscomplains that Shteyngart's broad satire produces one-dimensional, artificial characters -- but to be honest that's sort of what I'm expecting from Shteyngart based on Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook -- it's a feature, not a bug.
Possibly of interest in this connection, I'm seeing some points of connection between this book and A Visit From the Goon Squad -- a hugely different book, and one comparatively much more concerned with drawing characters than with biting social satire. It's possible I'm making this up -- but there seems to be a common theme between the two of them. In both books authentic communication is dying, its place being taken over by superficial, thoughtlessly immediate texting.
* (No explanation at this point in the text, why ¥ is being used as a symbol for Yuan instead of 元. Perhaps just sloppy copy-editing...)
Reading Super Sad True Love Story is a bit like going to the sauna -- the steamy immediacy of Lenny's diary entries alternating with the icy removal of Eunice's GlobalTeens account. I had been thinking the diary entries were not believable as diary entries and the GlobalTeens not believable as chat/e-mail messages; but halfway through I'm re-thinking this. I realized today that I don't have any clear idea what the method for entering text into one's äppärät is; the verbosity and the correct spelling of the GlobalTeens messages becomes much more believable when I take into account that Eunice and her friends are not using keyboards, that some kind of word recognition is happening inside the computer. I'm curious now about what it might be -- I'm pretty sure they are not composing the messages by speaking to their äppäräts.
Today, I finished reading Super Sad True Love Story. Today, Michael Woods reviewsSuper Sad True Love Story for the Times Book Review (inspiring Molly Fischer to wish for "someone to love me as the Times loves Gary Shteyngart"). It's a good, insightful review of a good, insightful book. (I wish the review did a little less summarizing of the story-line though.)
When I opened the book and read the first pages, I was thinking this was going to be a magnificent book. It started feeling overly scripted, a little plodding, somewhere in the first third of the book... but by the last hundred or so utterly gripping pages, it had won me back completely. I find the Times' love for Shteyngart well directed.