Archive

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

author: Sarah Manguso

name: Steev

average rating: 3.96

book published: 2015

rating: 5

read at: 2015/05/22

date added: 2015/05/22

shelves: memoir, spirit-self, own-it

review:

The Baffler No. 26

The Baffler No. 26

author: John Summers

name: Steev

average rating: 4.22

book published: 2014

rating: 5

read at: 2014/12/15

date added: 2014/12/31

shelves: own-it, politics

review:
Excellent, as usual. the "Dads of Tech" and piece by Astra Taylor is a highlight, as well as the one about disability.

American Psycho

American Psycho

author: Bret Easton Ellis

name: Steev

average rating: 3.82

book published: 1991

rating: 4

read at: 2014/11/16

date added: 2014/11/18

shelves: novels, own-it, fun

review:
This is an odd novel. It's a light-hearted, absurdist satire about rich people and New York and trendiness and fashion. But it's also a violent, misogynist horror story full of ultra-graphic, impossibly extreme gore and brutality. Oh and super graphic, porn-style sex scenes.

It's one of those books where I wondered often why I was still reading, and yet couldn't put it down.

Some things I really enjoyed about it:
1. One running gag is that the narrator is always mistaking people for other people, and in turn he's always being mistaken for others. Co-workers or acquaintances come up and greet him by other names, etc. It happens so often as to be this hilarious and biting commentary on modern alienation.

2. The anachronism of the time the book is set in. It's so clearly late-80s, it almost hurts, to read about the cordless phones, video rentals, answering machines and INXS playing at the clubs.

3. The porn-style sex scenes. Really just because they, along with the killing scenes, are such a stark contrast with the rest of the book, which is mostly vapid recountings of evenings spent dining at trendy eateries and the designer brands everyone is wearing.

Anyway. I hate to admit I've never read any other Bret Easton Ellis, but this makes me want to.

I, Slutbot

I, Slutbot

author: Mykle Hansen

name: Steev

average rating: 3.92

book published: 2014

rating: 5

read at: 2015/06/08

date added: 2015/06/08

shelves: novels, after-the-fall, fun, own-it

review:
Full disclosure: Mykle's a friend. Despite that, believe me when I say this is a great book. His best yet. Mykle Hansen's work almost always contains elements of the "silly" and over-the-top wackiness. But don't let that fool you. There's downright fine writing in there. Really. And this book's a page-turner too. I made myself late to things because I didn't want to stop reading this book.

The story is many things: a nuclear armageddon sci-fi space opera, a parody of space operas, a satire on the porn industry, a meditation on artificial intelligence, a feminist allegory, and more. The commentary is spot-on, the humor kills, and language is artful, the messages profound.

The Art Fair

The Art Fair

author: David Lipsky

name: Steev

average rating: 3.06

book published: 1996

rating: 5

read at: 2015/09/28

date added: 2015/09/29

shelves: art, fun, novels, own-it, spirit-self

review:
A really nice memoir-like novel about growing up, divorce, being a parent to your parent, and the art world. On the last topic the book is really quite funny, and is at a level of clever snarkiness that borders on mean-spirited. The portrayal of the the cutthroat social struggle of aspiring art stars and dealers is one of the most biting and frank that I've ever read, with an undercurrent of bitterness and rage that makes me certain Lipsky's own childhood was seriously scarred by that scene.

The book does in a way what all of the best fiction can do - inspire empathy and understanding, perhaps as far as identification, even in readers whose own experience is far removed from what's depicted. In this case, my own relationship with my mother couldn't be farther from the narrator's with his mother, and in fact the idea of standing up my girlfriend on her birthday because I'm waiting for a call from my mother is just about the most foreign idea that I can think of (in fact I'd readily do the opposite, in a heartbeat, to be honest). Yet somehow by the second half the story has swept me along into a mental state where it all makes sense.

If I could give fractional stars, I'd have to say this is a 4.5, because it's really a quite simple and uncomplicated novel, formally, but it expertly accomplishes its relatively unambitious goals, so I've rounded up.

The Baffler No. 29

The Baffler No. 29

author: John Summers

name: Steev

average rating: 4.14

book published:

rating: 5

read at:

date added: 2016/04/18

shelves: politics, own-it

review:

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

author: Scott Stossel

name: Steev

average rating: 3.82

book published: 2013

rating: 5

read at: 2016/03/11

date added: 2016/03/11

shelves: memoir, own-it, spirit-self

review:
Very thought provoking. Resonates with my experience. And well written!

A Big Enough Lie: A Novel

A Big Enough Lie: A Novel

author: Eric Bennett

name: Steev

average rating: 3.52

book published: 2015

rating: 5

read at: 2015/09/15

date added: 2015/12/20

shelves: novels, art, fun, memoir, own-it, politics

review:
One of the best new novels I've read in a long time. Of course this is due to my interests, one of which is art that blends, or is about the blending of, truth and fiction. This is a novel about a writer who writes a fake memoir as a desperate attempt to have his writing get at something truly real. The book alternates chapters between the fake memoir and the "real" story of how the writer gets from being a shy sheltered kid in rural Florida to appearing on an Oprah Winfrey-like TV show with his best-selling "fraudulent" book. On the way, Bennett explores and expounds on many important themes, like the nature of modern warfare, the fraudulent and media-driven Iraq War in particular, the pretensions and hubris of creative writing MFA programs, the pain heartbreak and obsessive, unrequited love... the list goes on. In a way I think this book is our era's version of Heller's Catch-22. Satirical, funny, dark, smart and complicated but full of compelling story lines that pull you along.

I wonder what David Shields, author of "Reality Hunger," would think of this book? At first I thought it was the perfect realization of some of his ideas. But then I realized maybe not as much so, because it is in the end fiction, perhaps even wholly fiction (although I do wonder how much of John Townley is Eric Bennett). Shields would probably love it if someone really DID do what is depicted in "A Big Enough Lie," wrote and sold a memoir that's really novel. Like "A Million Little Pieces" if James Frey had intentionally written it as memoir (a lot of people don't know it was his publisher that had the idea of marketing it as non-fiction).

In the end though, a great and perfectly apt novel for our age.

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety

author: Daniel B. Smith

name: Steev

average rating: 3.22

book published: 2012

rating: 4

read at: 2015/11/21

date added: 2015/11/21

shelves: spirit-self, own-it, memoir

review:

[SIC]

[SIC]

author: Davis Schneiderman

name: Steev

average rating: 3.83

book published: 2013

rating: 5

read at: 2013/12/20

date added: 2015/12/20

shelves: art, fun, novels

review:
My high rating for this book is for its high concept, and I'm biased since it's a concept (appropriation, plagiarism, recycled culture, there are many terms one could use) that I've been involved with, both in my own artistic practice and as a subject of study and documentation.
[full disclosure: Another source of bias is that a review copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher]

With this slim volume, Schneiderman pushes at an envelope of that concept of artistic appropriation. In it, he reprints excerpts from across the history of literature and philosophy, making the book feel a bit like a freshman Western Civ course or somesuch. However, his twist, his "value add" as they say, is that for each pre-existing work, he changes the byline to his own. It's an open act of "piracy" or, if you're more generous, "creative borrowing," but also an exercise in artistic curation.

The author of the forward mentions that Schneiderman told him that it's not necessary to actually read the book, because of its conceptual nature, and this is true. There's literally nothing new. It's enough to be paging through it and pondering why he may have chosen each selection, enjoying the cognitive buzz of seeing a different author name slapped onto each masterpiece. It's an avant-garde work in the truest sense, because this book is about showing other artists where the extremes are, not actually providing a cultural product for "civilians" to consume. That will come later, when someone else synthesizes Schneiderman's one-liner, perhaps with some related ideas from David Shields' "Reality Hunger" and some hard-won storytelling skills, to write a novel or memoir that is a tapestry of source material but that still somehow entertains and inspires, in a deeper, more personal and more complicated way than this art world gesture. Until then, we have this stepping stone to admire.