A Year in Reading: Choire Sicha

December 2, 2013 | 5 books mentioned 2 2 min read

Unfortunately for me, I spent more time this year writing and editing than I did reading. But I did have two rewarding reading-related projects.

First, I wanted to indulge in the stakes-free popular literature. So I read all the George R.R. Martin books. Mmm hmm. They are honestly pretty great, like chocolate milkshakes, although I started Kindle-highlighting references to rape at a certain point around book three — I think that one’s the rapiest? — and it really gets ya down. What is the deal? He thinks about rape more than Andrea Dworkin! I really didn’t agree, in the end, with Daniel Mendelsohn’s fascinating essay on the topic of Game of Thrones. I mean, open that link up, and apple-F “Brienne,” and apple-F “rape,” and… nothing??? You can’t get to “remarkable feminist epic” without passing those stations of the sexist cross.

There’s also a question about the series overall that’s the “show your work” problem, as in, I don’t really care about the efforts of the math problem you had to do, I mostly want to see the solution to the math problem. In this case that means: Are we still reading prologue? Have we just read several thousand pages that actually don’t matter? Maaaybe.

covercoverIn this vein I also read the James Franco book Actors Anonymous and the very silly Dave Eggers book, The Circle. That would make a really good cartoon television show maybe. With a laughtrack. What a silly book! I read it so fast, I basically couldn’t stop. Milkshake!

My other project was… Catching Up With The Kids. This is a thing you have to do consciously as you start to get older, particularly if you don’t teach. So, I read a Tao Lin book! (Taipei, obviously.) I read/engaged with the works of Amanda Hugginkiss Steve Roggenbuck and “Marie Calloway.” I am currently reading the manuscript of the forthcoming book by the proprietor of Pitchfork Reviews Reviews, who is or is not named David Shapiro, and it is pretty terrific so far. I like this vein of writing, though not as much as the other young people do. I have already read the New Narrative writers and Dennis Cooper and all that flat affectless 90s jazz and though all the youngs are certainly bringing something new to the table, I don’t think it’s particularly innovative to go all in for this mode. Also, narcissism as an art form is eminently boring. I am ready for something more than people writing I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I.

coverAnyway I am starting to re-read Rebecca Brown’s The Terrible Girls, which has just been reissued! It’s already the best book I’ve read all year. Every emo youngster should read this, it is where their contemporary literature came from! Every time someone clicks on Thought Catalog, a Rebecca Brown reader should auto-download!

More from A Year in Reading 2013

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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  1. Unless you think Martin’s handling of the scenes is somehow advocating the act of rape, I’m not sure how his inclusion of so many rapes — and, indeed, there are a lot — is sexist. Throughout all of the books, lots of vile things are done to lots of different characters, some of whom are good but most of whom are not. Martin is writing about human beings and it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise that in Westeros, like on Earth, when there is little fear of retribution, psychopaths will act in all sorts of unseemly ways, rape being a favorite. The books would ring a lot less true if everyone betrayed and backstabbed and bludgeoned each other but then treated all women with perfect respect, tiptoeing around our progressive sensibilities.

    It’s telling that Sicha compares such unflinchingly violent books to chocolate milkshakes but then suddenly get squeamish because there are a lot of rape scenes. This, to me, is like complaining about the inclusion of Judge Holden’s pedophilia in Blood Meridian. Bloodletting and human atrocity is fine, just so long as it doesn’t take on any sexual element.

    Mendelsohn’s essay is the more clear sighted. Not surprisingly, as Daniel is almost always aces.

  2. 100% yes on Rebecca Brown. She’s wonderful. More people should read her – I’m glad you suggested it to a larger audience here.

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