clap clap blog: we have moved

Thursday, June 16, 2005
Oh...well, OK, I do have a free moment here.

Total number of books I own:
Actually, all the books I own (bar like 10) are currently in boxes, and I'm going to take them all out this weekend, so were I that sort of guy, I could count them. But I'm not, so I won't. I did just buy 3 bookcases, if that helps. I guess somewhere around 300? I have more CDs than I do books, but that is because a) people do not send me free books (sadly!), and b) CDs are much smaller. I have to actively restrain myself from buying books these days, just because I know I'll be moving, on average, once every two years until I'm in my 30s, and books are goddamned heavy. There are always libraries. One day I would like to have a permanent residence and nice bookshelves, but for now, I'll take what I can get.

Five books that had a big influence on me:

The Public Burning, Robert Coover. I'm hesitant to recommend this to people because it is very long and the real payoff isn't until the very end. But that ending, good lord, it's the single best ending of anything ever, and given how well this fits in with my general worldview and obsessions, it's hard to conceive of The Public Burning being bumped from the top of my favorite-books list anytime soon. For all the times that Coover doesn't work, goes too far, relies on his schtick, here it all comes together, and I can't help but think the reason is his subject: politics. Few things in our contemporary culture, including entertainment (which is too self-conscious), reflect the postmodern absurdist aesthetic better than politics, and when Coover fuses this broad view with the narrow personal vision of Nixon, who narrates half the book, it gets closer to what politics is all about than most public policy books ever will. He embraces historicism but is writing close enough to the events concerned to imbue the whole affair with the kind of fire you don't usually get from what's essentially historical fiction. Maybe the very nature of mass culture, of making the distant struggles of individuals into a story shared by all and experienced in something close to real time, allows us to write books about public events in the same way we would write about family struggles. Or maybe not. Maybe this is just an anomaly. But it's a great one, and it serves as a possibility, an example of what could be.

Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem. More for personal reasons than artistic ones, and there's a strong possibility I should replace this with something older and/or more embarassing--the Chronicles of Narnia, The Tao of Pooh, the Hitchhiker's "trilogy," something by Arendt or Rawls, etc.--but it makes the list anyway, even though I can't quite articulate why.

The Wheel of Love, Joyce Carol Oates. My introduction to the short story, it resonated especially well with the area where I grew up--I read "Four Summers" and I know exactly what parks, lakes, picnic tables, boats, and people she's talking about. This is arguably a negative influence, because I now do the kind of tragic, breath-held melodrama she specializes in best, to the detriment of other styles, but so it goes. Still a terrific collection from the literary world's Robert Pollard.

The Aesthetics of Rock, Richard Meltzer. Part 1 of why this blog exists. In fairness, it should be also noted that I read this after graduating from college, where one of my key classes in my last semester was a comedy class, and there are a bunch of things there that would make the list if they were books, and indeed, one day Rabelais and His World or that other Bakhtin book whose name escapes me might make this list instead. But for now, it's the Meltzer, because more than anyone else, he was able to write academically while not losing the tone of his subject, plus I was mature enough to recognize that aping his style was a dead end. It's got the denseness of a good pop song, has a sort of sensual pleasure componant when you're just reading-reading, and busts open possibilities that are still unexplored. I can understand why in the rock-crit canon Meltzer is "that guy who isn't Lester or Christgau, what'd he write again?" but maybe that's OK.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace. Part 2 of why this blog exists. I'm curious to see if this (our?) generation gets pegged as being Wallace's children, but it's clear his post-irony doctrine, his uneasy embrace of pop culture, and his quest for sincerity in the context of cool--all of which predates Eggers, by the by--are the watchwords of the ascendent crop of cultural commentators and artists. Certainly popism is just Wallacism that's acheived escape velocity and has finally managed to get past the self-consciousness, more or less. I feel this is the best of Dave's books, and yes, I know, Infinite Jest, but while it's certainly fantastic, it's sort of the Blueberry Boat to ASFTINDA's Gallowsbird's Bark, to get all blog-centric for a second. If it included "Tense Present" it would be completely perfect, but you can't have everything. I think my voice on this blog is, if anything, a little too Wallace-inflected, but I like that he's given me license to do that. He's just a fantastic writer, about almost anything, and his vastness of spirit is exhilerating. This comes through best in his non-fiction, and this is a great collection of it.

Last book I bought:
Somewhat embarassingly, David Kamp and Steven Daly's The Rock Snob*s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Rockological Knowledge, which is pretty good, but still.

Last book I read for the first time:
Even more embarassingly, Jeff Chang's Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, which I've discussed previously. But before that it was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I swear.

Five other bloggers to tag with this meme:
Uh, geez, I dunno. How about Chris, once he gets back from Cali, Joe, because I'd like to know (Ayn Rand, I hear?), Mwanji, to get him writing, Cyn, unless she's done it already, and Abby.

Wait, did I really say "a free moment"? Jeez...