Rebecca from Connecticut likes the following books:
What books do Tommy Wieringa and I recommend for Rebecca? (You’ve probably got some great suggestions of your own; add them when you re-blog!)
Tommy Wieringa is the author of Little Caesar. His previous novel, Joe Speedboat, won the Bordewijk Prize in 2006 and was long-listed for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, as well as nominated for the AKO Literature Prize. He lives in Amsterdam.
(taped at WORD Brooklyn, Greenpoint)
I’m “Rebecca from Connecticut,” and I’m excited about these recommendations! I’ve been meaning to read both authors for a while now but haven’t done it yet. Now I will.
“I just called myself a connoisseur of novels, which stretches the definition a little: ‘An expert judge in matters of taste.’ I have a deep interest in my two inches of ivory, but it’s a rare connoisseur who does not seek to be an expert judge of more than one form. By their good taste are they known, and connoisseurs tend to like a wide area in which to exercise it. I have known many true connoisseurs, with excellent tastes that range across the humanities and the culinary arts — and they never fail to have a fatal effect on my self-esteem. When I find myself sitting at dinner next to someone who knows just as much about novels as I do but has somehow also found the mental space to adore and be knowledgeable about the opera, have strong opinions about the relative rankings of Renaissance painters, an encyclopedic knowledge of the English civil war, of French wines — I feel an anxiety that nudges beyond the envious into the existential. How did she find the time?”
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/12/17/121217fa_fact_smith (Full essay not available online)
“There are choices we can make as consumers and as members of a creative community. A lot of the stuff I’m about to mention might seem very obvious. It’s definitely stuff you’re already doing. Let’s resolve to do more.
1. Buy books. New and old books, print books and ebooks, hardcover and paperback books, used and brand-new books.
2. Buy books from all kinds of stores.
3. Borrow books from libraries.
4. Recommend books. Use social media to discuss your reading. Use book clubs to discuss your reading. Use conversations with friends to discuss your reading. If you think someone you know would particularly like a book, tell her. Give her the book as a present or take it out from the library and hand it to her.
5. Thank people who have recommended books to you.
6. Read and write about books.
7. When writing about books online, don’t default to linking to a particular book retailer when mentioning the book. A lot of literary sites always link to Amazon because by doing this they get some amount of money via the Amazon Affiliates program. I believe that these sites should reevaluate their business models.
My current default is to link to Goodreads, but it’s probably even better to mix it up.
8. Diversify your sources of book recommendations. Start reading a different magazine or blog of book reviews.
9. Start a book club. And join ours. :)”
“It’s easy to point to bad memoirs and use them to attack the entire form but the form is never the problem. When you attack personal writing you attack Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway, and Sylvia Plath. In truth most books are bad and most publishers are risk averse. Many bookstores are going out of business. The changing media landscape has made it harder for journalists to make a living. But that’s not a problem with memoir.”
“Magic Hours demonstrates clearly the bind of being a modern essayist: One must present oneself as an authority, but an authority who is also compelled to confess that to be human is necessarily to be weak, frightened, flawed. The position is somewhat irreconcilable, and the discomfort thereby engendered also speaks to something very deep, I suspect, in the kind of North American reader liable to have picked up the book in the first place. It’s a very familiar discomfort. Fans of this kind of writing might share the consciousness, with Bissell and his cohort, of being too lucky, too rich, too educated — privileged, powerful, but flawed, even undeserving. This disconnect winds up making the book really very good, which is to say, entirely true to the experience of its likely readership.”
“I was not raped or victimized. I am not 13, uneducated, or impoverished. I do not live in Kansas or Alabama or North Carolina or Arizona. I did have some excellent consensual sex without benefit of wedding ring or adequate health insurance. And then I got pregnant and the choices at my disposal threw me into a monthlong tailspin until, in a few painful hours, those choices vanished, through a very nonmagical physiological process.
No one has unlimited choices; that’s a fact. So what lingers after this long, hot, confusing summer is this: With so many forces legitimately outside our control – forces of biology, history, geography, age — why is every woman in the United States not running blue-faced onto the field to do battle with those who would take what choices she does have away?”
“What to make of this? There is a violence to reviews like this, to reading reviews such as this, that depresses the spirit, that makes me feel silenced, when all I wrote about, which is not even acknowledged in the review, is the theories and histories of women writers who have been silenced by the culture. I feel flayed alive. I feel humiliated and shamed. I feel like giving up. But that’s horrible too, all that power, when that is the opposite impulse of the book, which traces my coming to writing and other women’s coming to writing and tries to theorize what made them stop writing. What I hate is that so much of the work is aware of how women writers have been historically read and dismissed, and yet I still give that dismissal so much power. What I hate is that I muse about contemporary and future girls who want to be writers, and encourage them to be brave in drawing from their own lives for their literature, despite the taboo against memoir, despite how they will be dismissed, despite how girls have always been dismissed, told that they are silly and self-indulgent and shouldn’t have a voice anyway.”
“The serious critic can’t merely be an ecstatic initiate either, however—someone whose worship of Art and artistes can threaten to devolve into flaccid cheerleading. The negative review, after all, is also a form of enthusiasm; enthusiasm and passion for the genre which, in this particular instance, the reviewer feels has been let down by the work in question. The intelligent negative review, indeed, does its own kind of honor to artists: serious artists, in my experience, want only to be reviewed intelligently, rather than showered with vacuous raves—not least, because serious artists learn from serious reviews. (The best advice I ever got, right before the publication of my first book, was from a publishing mentor who told me, “The only thing worse than a stupid bad review is a stupid good review.” And he was right.) For this reason, any call to eliminate negative reviewing is to infringe catastrophically on the larger project of criticism: if a critic takes seriously his obligation to pass judgments—which, merely statistically, are likely to have to be negative as well as positive—his sense of responsibility to those judgments and their significance has to outweigh all other considerations. People who want to go to lots of parties without provoking awkward literary encounters should be caterers, not critics.”