I’ve spent more time outside of New York this year than any other year since I moved here a decade ago, so I’ve been thinking less about what I’m reading, and more about where I’m reading things. I wonder if the constant change in location adds to why, when I look through the things I’ve read this year, I notice that the books I read for pleasure — not for work or research — are more varied than usual.
Susan Steinberg’s collection Spectacle arrived as a galley before 2013 started, though I only opened it after the new year. It was an excellent way to start off a year that promised more than a few wonderful short story collections, including Spectacle, Adrian Van Young’s The Man Who Noticed Everything, and especially Laura van den Berg’s superb The Isle of Youth.
I picked up Max Beerbohm’s Selected Prose in a Provincetown used bookshop, and started reading it that night. After reading two great books this year on Dandyism — one put out by Yale Press and another co-authored by a dear friend of mine, I Am Dandy — my interest in Beerbohm’s work was piqued, and although I’ve been told that reading his novel, Zuleika Dobson, should be very high up on my list, I couldn’t help but be delighted by his stories and essays that called to mind S.J. Perelman, P.G. Wodehouse, and even Fran Lebowitz at some points.
Both James Wood and Wayne Koestenbaum continue to be in leagues of their own, something that was hammered home while reading Koestenbaum’s My 1980s & Other Essays, as well as Wood’s The Fun Stuff. I was chomping at the bit to read James Wolcott’s Critical Mass, and probably won’t stop talking about Michelle Orange’s This is Running for Your Life. I’d just like to put it out there that somebody should give Orange a whole bunch of money to just sit around and write essays. I’d appreciate that very much.
I read Sean Doyle’s zine The Day Walt Disney Died on an airplane, totally ignoring the weird looks the passenger to my right kept shooting at me for whatever reason. Sooner or later somebody is going to tell Doyle to write an entire book, and that person will be doing a big mitzvah for all of us. I also wasn’t shocked to find that the Gigantic crew put out another great issue this year. The fifth issue, read on a train bound for Connecticut, upon my return, had me combing through my personal archives for stellar old issues. The editors (who are friends of mine) have consistently had their fingers planted squarely on the pulse of what’s good in literature and design.
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