What Are You Reading?

What Are You Reading
We'll return to our regularly scheduled Seen & Heard programming next week, but today I'd really like to know what you're reading. Have you been hearing a lot of buzz about any one must-read book? Maybe you're reading a new selection from an old favorite -- or trying something completely new. Share your latest reads, how you picked them (or how they picked you) and what you think of them so far.
This article is part of the series What Are You Reading?. The next post in the series is What Are You Reading?. The previous post in the series is What Are You Reading?.
45 Responses to "What Are You Reading?"

by brooklyn on

Positively Fifth StreetI'm just about done with Positively Fifth Street by James McManus -- a gonzoesque book about the World Series of Poker, and about as amusing a poker book as I've read (I've read a few). The author enters the World Series tournament and makes it to the final table while covering the event, which is a pretty amazing feat. He also spends many pages talking about his wife, his problems, etc. Hunter S. Thompson would have approved.

by Billectric on

Got 2 books going simultaneouslyKerouac's Visions of Cody. I love this book. I figured out something, too. Some time ago we were discussing ideas for how to make On The Road a movie. They should borrow from this book on the origins of Cody/Dean/Neal. And probably borrow from a couple of other books as well. Kerouac himself said that most of his novels are really big chapters in one long book. And they need to use that high speed film like was used in Saving Private Ryan. The other book is Stetson Kennedy's After Appomattox, a shameful true account of bad politicians and bigots who sold out minorities in this country for many years.I just saw Stetson again this past weekend and, man, he is cool!

by Billectric on

You gotta know when to hold'em . . .

by elz on

What I Loved by Siri HustvedtYou know those books that fall into your lap at precisely the right moment, hit you hard, and stay with you forever? This was that for me.One compelling point for me is that Ms. Hustvedt writes in the voice of a man-- daunting task to write as the other sex, if you ask me.This point became minor, though, as I got lost in the text. She writes about painting like a painter, writing like a writer and fatherhood like a father (granted, from my perspective as a childless woman but..I challenge you to read and argue with me...) The last third of the book becomes a sort of mystery-- doused with everything I hate about art, teens and (what I like to call) The New Meanness. Which may be like The Old Meanness (but that's another story for another time).The characters are wrought finely, richly and I'm pretty convinced I could sculpt them if I only had the wax, studio, access to a foundry...and a winning lotto ticket.What I Loved was first published in 2003, so maybe this is old stuff for many of you. If not? Pick it up.Still alive and kicking,Elz

by Dr. Sax on

Visions of Cody. I think it's Kerouac's 'Ulysses.' Have you seen 'Motocycle Diaries' ? I liked how that movie turned out. Even though it takes place on an entirely different continent and language as 'Road,' it's remarkable how on the road-like Che's travels were. And they were practically going on at the same time--because Kerouac obviously travelled for the greater part of his life.Anyway, as the huge Mr. K fan that I am, and usually make it on to the site when someone somewhere is discussing him, I remember struggling the book the first time I read it my senior year in high school. One year older, and, and nine more Kerouac books on my shelf having been read in the Legend of Duluoz canon, and I can now read it a lot better. I think this is possible since a teacher of mine burned me copies of his readings on cd. Now I understand his great sense rhythm.But there's this sense of unfettered chaos in the book. It's very hopeful, and very youthful. I especially love the little introduction before the book starts where he talks about America's High Civilaztion period where no one will get sentimental about dew on the railroad tracks in Missouri anymore. I wonder how accurate that prediction is to these times. Anyway, it's something that I've always wondered about on a macrocosmic level.I'll quit here. This man is no god, no person to deify. I hope any other nineteen-year-old like myself picking him up for the first time understands all of the biography, cultural contexts, and homage's to influential writer's exist in his writing. I wouldn't have got anywhere in that book if I didn't read James Joyce's "Ulysses," who was very influential to Jack. I wouldn't have realized he was combining his spontaneous prose technique with mental (Tristan Tzara) cut-ups along with W.C. Field's humor, and this home brewed Kerouac blend of Joycean stream-of-consciousness babble with Okie and Wino slang.That's all I've got.

by Dr. Sax on

Light in AugustThis is the second book by Faulkner I've stuck my nose in. The first, my introduction to his novels was "As I Lay Dying," which is one of the greatest books ever written, to say the least.I have a giant sweet tooth for either spontaneous writing, or stream-of-consciuoness writing. Okay, I'll admit it, I love prose stylists! God love Rimbaud's synesthesia, and Celine's nihilist ellipses!I hear that this book is not up there in his pantheon of "The Best of William Faulkner," but it seems great so far! Faulkner, as usual, is playing mind games with the reader. I love how he does that. I like how the details slowly seep and form the story. It shows a depth and complexity that couldn't be tapped into so perfectly in any other writing form.

by warrenweappa on

Rushdie's Fury, Reed's EcstacyI identify with the guy's anger. I never read any Rushdie before.I don't know if I could say I'm reading a CD but Lou Reed's 2000 Ecstacy has ballad after ballad with language that transcends first rate.I'm also reading The Corrections.

by mindbum on

blood, sphinxes & lines in the skyI'm usually reading several things. Including something I've read before. Not too long ago I picked up 'Mason & Dixon' by Tom Pynchon. Set in the 18th century and nearly 200 pages in (of a likely 700) they've just discussed the prospect of going to America and Mason says 'I don't think so'. Another Pynchon masterpiece I'd say this far in. Easy to keep up with as the title mentions the two main characters who are astronomers who get turned into surveyors to put a line between maryland and pennsylvania. Having witnessed the transit of Venus in Dutch South Africa and a trip to St. Helena if you can imagine that desolate windblown island where Napoleon wouldn't be exiled for another many years. There's even a singing dog with a cockney accent. Other book: 'The Bloody Chamber' short stories by Angela Carter. She is easily one of my favorite writers recently discovered. I read 'The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman' last summer and it changed my life. Erotic, gory, intensely emotional shorts. Aaand: 'Bed of Sphinxes' selected poems of Philip Lamantia. I saw him read a few years back at St. Mark's church and it was terrific. I marked his recent passing with a re-read of this book. His surrealism turns corners that comfort me.

by James David King on

Fortress of SolitudeJust finished it last night. Incredible. I feel like the club chess player being schooled by a grandmaster.

by Billectric on

I've noticed that, to me, almost every one of Jack's books start out slow, almost to the point that, if I didn't know anything about Kerouac, I might not even finish the book. But they always get better & better and I feel very rewarded that I kept reading. I don't know if anyone else has that experience.I like the way you described Kerouac's writing, "...combining his spontaneous prose technique with mental (Tristan Tzara) cut-ups along with W.C. Field's humor, and this home brewed Kerouac blend of Joycean stream-of-consciousness babble with Okie and Wino slang."When I was a teenager, W.C. Fields were kind of cult classics that many of us appreciated. I don't know if many teenagers today know who he is.

by jim vinny on

You Know What 'Cool' Is?'Cool' is opening up a box left over from your last move and finding books and CDs you thought you'd lost (or had completely forgotten about). Well ma'am, that happened to me last night. I rediscovered my "White Album" (which immediately went on the spinner), as well as "Swordfishtrombones" and a Mogwai album I'd been looking all over for. The greatest find, however, were the books. Kip Thorne's "Black Holes and Time Warps" went directly to my backpack, and up next are a large number of reference books (everything from astrophysics to World War 2), as well as some William Gibson (Neuromancer), a book of Auden's poetry and a collection of Poe's work. I love springtime.

by Dr. Sax on

I have a feeling that many don't know who he is. Heck, I have people tell me that "everything you like is dead," because I read books by authors who've passed on, as well as listen to rock-and-roll (preferably) from '66-'69, and enjoy classic movies, like Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window.' I have had teachers in the past who've had to describe to a class what vinyl records are. "Nobody listens to them anymore," one would say. I'd butt in, "I do," and the class would turn and give me wierd looks like I was some kind of freak. There are people that know so much my age (19), but they don't represent the societal paradigm of knowlegde, because they are little pockets of dreamers, and seekers. There are other people. Plenty more. But, if you put them in certain social situations, they will act "cool" to maintain peer acceptance and avoid speaking their mind.Hey, that description came out spontaneous for the most part. I've pre-meditated what I've thought of that book before. That's about it, though. Thank you.

by singlemalt on

A good friend of mine who is a pilot (he claims to specialize in the transportation of pressurized aluminum tubing) plays cards with a buch of guys and McManus is one the guys who plays.He says McManus a decent enough guy.

by singlemalt on

Syrupby Max Barry. I'm digging it. About a guy who wants it all and what he does to get it.He figures out a new drink to market to Coke. His idea? New product. Black can. Called Fukk.Fun stuff my brothers and sisters. Fun stuff.

by minfin on

A Different BurroughsI have seen his books and have given them a cursory look in Borders while grazing but my personal experiences of the last couple years with dependency and relationships finally made Dry by Augusten Burroughs the perfect book to read on the flight to Orlando, on the first business trip where a new associate (me reinvented so to speak), was to interact with others who knew me to be hard working and basically competent, but also the first one to the bar afterward and known to be donning my dark sun glasses to block the harsh fluorescents of "last call"(two more pitchers please and whatever any one else is drinking). So then at the end of the obligatory dinner with associates, owners, and new business prospects, when the question of what bar or club we were going to frequent, I excused myself under the pretence of "I have some work to catch up on." And went to the room where I cranked the air on high, grabbed a diet nothing, and crawled into bed to read Augusten Burroughs "Dry".My first response to the cover blurbs and some reviews I had heard was "David Sedaris"This guy is doing David Sedaris and while I enjoy listening to a Doors CD I am not interested in going down to Hammerheads Bar to see "The Crystal Ship" or whatever a Doors tribute band might be named. But this time when I was looking for a book for the flight, the back cover made me snatch this up, the buy two get one free also came into play, but once I was into the first ten pages on the flight down I was hooked. In comparison Augustens humor is a bit more real. The situation he was in and the life he was dealing with, like many of our lives, was indeed snowballing out of control, his take was one of an almost surreal or outside of one self point of view ..."And now I'm twenty-four years old, and I try not to think about my past. It seems important to think only of my job and my future. Especially since advertising dictates you're only as good as your last ad. This theme of forward momentum runs through many ad campaigns."A body in motion tends to stay in motion" (Reebok,Chiat/Day)"Just do it" (Nike, Wieden and Kennedy)"Damn it something isn't right. (Me, to my bathroom mirror at four -thirty in the morning when I'm really plastered.)"It's not a glib as Sedaris, kind of more like Spalding Grey. I will say that I have been reading more current, best seller type, books than I have read in the past and am becoming some what enamored with a lot of writers whose works are based in a new coming of age. A generation that has an open and self-evaluating style, some how more honest and in that way a refreshing and entertaining alternative to a diet of "heavy literature. "I will have to say that thanks to my relationships with those half my age, children and co-workers I have been turned on to a lot of music, books and films, both popular and alternative that make this a most interesting time to be following the arts.There are a lot of interesting writers and artist across the board,and it will be interesting as to what will be percieved as representive of our times in the future.Augusten Burroughs might be there among them. As you may surmise, I recommend this book.

by brooklyn on

Singlemalt, can you ask him if a guy from NY can get in the game? I would love to play no-limit with McManus. I'd even fly to Chicago (where I think he lives).

by firecracker on

Nice -- a present from yourself. Are these books you've read before? And what collection of Poe? I'm on a Poe kick and need to know.

by firecracker on

Heh -- sounds like a great plan. Does this author remind you of anyone else you like? Just curious of the style. Also good to see you, glad to hear you weren't the prison escapee poet I keep reading about.

by kilgore on

Side Effects by Woody AllenThis is a hilarious book. There's one story called the Klugesman Episode, in which the main character, fed up with his shrew wife and dry professorship, goes to see a magician who has a magic box. When he climbs inside, the magician can throw in any book, and Klugesman is transported in the book to romance literature's greatest women. He falls in love with Madame Bovary. Meanwhile, college students across the country are wondering who is this short, balding jewish guy who ends up on page 57 to make it with Bovary. One of his collegues at the university starts to suspect that it's him, and threatens to tell his wife. It's hilarious.In another story, an parady of the Stranger, the main character ends up on death row for shooting a fascist informant. Even though he's an existentialist, he asks the priest if it's too late to make a conversion. The priest says: "are you kiding? This is the high season. All the major religons are booked. The best I can do on such short notice is perhaps get you in something Hindu. But I'll need a passport sized photo."

by warrenweappa on

The rock 'n roll '66-'69 is still being remade today in whatever incarnation punk is now.Your correspondent was just a kid but heard all the Top 40 when that was the prime. Music then was almost a religious experience and it is so sad that the same is not true today.Pop culture has lost its authenticity for whatever sells but not to disparage commercial success because it is often the only way to do what one wants to do, but, however as with Stone's Alexander, you'll be given enough carte blanche to hang yourself.Cheers.

by singlemalt on

His style is kind of quirky, breezy and amusing. Kind of like Carl Hiassan (sp?) who I read a while back. It started out great and has slowed down a little.How about that poet?! What a nut. No it wasn't me. I've been too busy keeping all the plates spinning, making sure none of them fall down and crash.

by firecracker on

Sounds intriguing, Elz -- thanks for the tip!

by firecracker on

Hey, Bill -- it's cool that you're reading that with some additional background interest -- are you reading "Visions" for the first time or re-reading to compare with what you've learned since the first read? (if that makes sense, you get extra points)I also wanted to ask you, how many books does your friend Stetson have out? Is he actively writing others?

by firecracker on

Nice review, Mike -- I have a A. Burroughs book on my shelf, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet (Running with Scissors), mostly because I'm lazy. I've heard good things about "Dry" too. I think your comparison to Sedaris is very interesting and helpful, thanks.

by firecracker on

"Incredible" -- I think that's a great endorsement for any book. What's next on your list?

by jim vinny on

Sorry Sistah Souljah - I am not currently in possession of that knowledge. It's just one of those Penguin paperbacks with a bunch of his stories and poems and whatnot.But yeah - a present to myself - I like that. I also found an old Swiss Army knife (a present for being an usher at a good friends wedding), a tube of polysporin, and bunch of other CD's (including a Sunny Day Real Estate album with a great song caled "The Sharks Own Private Fuck" which is, as a certain Vancouver-dwelling freakazoid used to put it, "delicious and life-sustaining").Rock on!

by Billectric on

Sax, 'Rear Window' is my favorite Hitchcock film. Well, that and Psycho. I remember when I was 19, not only did I like rock music, I also like the big band era, like Tommy Dorsey and Bennie Goodman, and all kinds of jazz. I don't remember anyone else my age who liked that stuff. By the way, I haven't seen 'Motorcycle Diaries' but I've heard it was good. Warrenweappa, I'm tempted to agree with you about how music used to be almost a religious experience, but it may still be to kids, I can't tell. My son listens to mostly what is called "alternative" and sometimes he will remark about a song, "Man, that's deep..." (and he's usually right).FC, no this is the first time I've read Visions of Cody. It always slipped past me somehow. Glad I'm reading it now, though. You asked about Stetson Kennedy. He has five or six books out, mostly dealing with the civil rights of minorities and exposing racism. He is currently working on his autobiography. I asked him if I could help him in any way and he said, "Well, I need some weeds cut and some brush cleared out by the lake." I'll be in Tallahassee on April 6 to see Stetson inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. It's by invitation only so I feel honored that he asked me to be there. Here's a picture of Stetson and me:Beluthahatchee

by brooklyn on

Hey Mindbum -- I was at that same St. Mark's reading. It has to be the same one, because he didn't show his face around NY too often. I don't have any of his books around but I'd like to re-open one of them now too.Pynchon, you got me there -- I have never had any luck reading his stuff.

by melford12 on

road tripssimultaneously:The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara, but that's taking a little bit to get into.Killing the Buddha: The heretics' bible, by a couple of guys whose names i can't remember. the book is a'ight so far, the meditations are a bit better than the road trip psalms, or maybe it's just because the authors' trip is pissing me off. for a book called "killing the buddha" they didn't seem sympathetic to the buddhist temple they visited, and they seem overly sympathetic with the xtian wackjobs in bumfuck middle-of-nowhere.also Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, but that's a reread, and who counts plays anyway? just finished Equus by one of the Shaffers.

by kkizer on

Mid of two/leafing through a third"The Ticket That Exploded" by Burroughs...just about finished with this the final book in Burrough's grand cut-up trilog"Departed Angels: The Lost Paintings" by Kerouac...pleasantly surprised with all the information on Kerouac's painter/artist sideAlso leafing through "Great Short Works of Herman Melville"...just finished "The Encantadas," a wonderful story about the Galapagos Islands

by minfin on

Anyhow after twelve hours of hellish work (and I was late for work because of this site, sitting around typing reading and bam! late for work) . . . what I forgot to say is that Augesten writes very well. His description of the seductiveness and love/hate relationship of addiction, its alluring yet weird funhouse mirror reflection of your life is surprisingly accurate. The way his addiction colors his life, his relationships and his aspirations is described in a very revealing way. Maybe that's why it was a best seller. All these dependent and down and out people could relate . . . we all can relate. It is a part of being human and our shortcomings in any form are ours to deal with. I mean really, what do you do with all the empties, with all the ashes, all the needles, and all the butts? And whom do we attract? It's not opposites, but dependents, someone to fill the empty part of us.That's what a good book does for me, it brings me insight into the everyday, the stuff we take for granted, the things that maybe you feel are yours alone . . . but no, we are all human, we share that experience.

by minfin on

I need to read Lamantia. Thanks for the inspiration.As for Pynchon, I haven't read Mason & Dixon but I have plowed through Gravity's Rainbow only to be snowbound and going back and starting again . . .and again. Vineland on the other hand is where I suggest the new reader can get a handle on him. His prose is like cinema. Every scene is visible.

by minfin on

That whole second scene with Neal and the pool hall and the desriptive rhytmn that Kerouac delivers, complete with stops and starts and restarts . . . very much like a movie. Yes and of course the tape. I always felt this book was like the notes or the backround of the characters and OTR was like this is the story of what happened. Kerouac has a tremendous power of description. These are like the sketches for some of what followed. Yes indeed a great book.

by gypsylud on

The Stones of SummerI am currently in the midst of an American epic hardly anyone has heard of called Stones Of Summer, by one Dow Mossman. My local librarian recommended a documentary called Stone Reader, which is about this guy who reads a New York Book Review of this book "Stones of Summer" in the 70's. He buys the book but doesn't read it until the 90's. He's completely blown away by the book, and the film documents him trying to find this guy, Dow Mossman, who only wrote that one book, and ended up being a welder and a truck driver rather than a writer. The movie was okay, I told her so, and she took the liberty of ordering me the book. Bless her ye literary gods and goddesses! I'm loving this book. It is a coming of age story, or so it seems, told through the eyes of this genius poetic kid/adolescent (kind of like Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man actually, but American, Post Modern Orgasmic, Sublime.) It's so damn funny and realistic (I never thought I'd say that about a book,) it's full of brilliance in all manners from the characters and dialogue to the prose itself. Here's a taste of the prose, the first two sentences of the book in fact:"When August came, thick as a dream of falling timber, Dawes Williams and his mother would pick Simpson up at his office, and then they would all drive west, all evening, the sun before them dying like the insides of a stone melon, split and watery, halving with blood. August was always an endless day, he felt, white as wood, slow as light."Starts out okay but then we're gone inside a sun/stone/melon "split and watery," And "slow as light?" where did this guy take physics? I was dubious but I continued reading. And it's been worth it. I like to see what the "critics" say on Amazon sometimes and people there at least are split. They either like it or hate it. Most of the people who hate it say, "I can't understand it...maybe if I took some drugs..." This tells me at that their imaginative faculties have been swallowed whole and chewed to mush...but maybe not. Anyway that's one of the books I am reading.

by judih. on

Sounds like a good book for a trip.thanks, kilgore

by Billectric on

minfin, I really like the poetry you have on your user profile.

by Billectric on

gypsylud, that is a good review about what seems to be a good book. Isn't it strange how certain books come to us unexpectedly sometimes?

by mindbum on

As far as Pynchon is concerned I'd agree with minfin that 'vineland' is a 'readable' introduction to a longwinded sumbitch. Also 'the crying of lot 49' is short and terrific.Gravity's Rainbow took me several approaches and over a year. I loved it. Still it's one of my favorites. Hoping mason and dixon won't take so long.

by gypsylud on

Billectric, it is strange how this stuff comes to us. I was a lost teen in a mad/crack house in Arizona when I found "America" the poem by Allen Ginsberg in some torn up anthology of modern American poets. That poem changed my life. It spoke so clearly to my angst, and frustration. My poverty and plight. I didn't have "two dollars and Twenty-seven cents," I had less...Sometimes this stuff come at the right time, and I don't know why. It just seems to all work out when you look back on it. All I know is that the next book I checked out of the library was Dharma Lion, the Bio of Ginzy. I devoured. I still do, though now I am older and have grown beyond him in certain ways; he was my introduction to poetry outside of say English/American Lit they teach us in high school. Thus began my study of the Beats, and then those that influenced them all the way back...to that very stuff I shunned in Highschool, and then forward from them to now. Like falling dominos. It's wierd.

by um on

Hold em has taken the country by storm both my wife and i are addicted...... hard to find any time for litkicks or there.com or any real life activities......I'm all in

by denis on

A little disperse ....I'm reading some tales of Edgar Allan Poe still but, by now, strictly in Spanish. The lst story of Poe that I read in English was "Diddling considered as one of the exact sciences" and I enjoyed it a lot but, at the moment, I find myself too lazy to manage a foreign language. I'm reading that tale of the "golden beetle" -I don't know how it's named in English- but surely, you know what I mean! I'm re- reading it but it's an extremely amusing story. I'm reading also a beautiful little book on philosophy that lend me a friend of mine. I dig it too, and I'm learning a lot! Perhaps I'm a little monotonous when I talk about books, but surely I'm a little more funny when I talk about music! Lately, I was hearing a kind of very careful with the voices group called Steeye Span -not Polythenne Pam! I borrowed it too and, have you heard about Julieta Venegas? she's a little ugly girl, she sings little songs and her voice is a little one too. It sounds marvellous in a close space, but still have problems with great stadiums. As an artist, she is constantly growing, but still, she have a lot of learn of the Beatles for instance. They sang in big stadiums, they didn't hear themselves singing a single note but they sounded great still! Perhaps I lost my straight view of the point, but I have already warned you in the title!

by denis on

A little distracted ...I've forgotten to say I'm reading a fantasy tales anthology called "El `p

by Airy on

Under the Banner of HeavenApparently this Jon Krakauer book is pretty well-known, but I hadn't heard of it until a week ago when my sister recommended it to me.I was looking for a good Americana book, and having trouble finding one that suited my interest, but this book has turned out fantastic. I generally avoid non-fiction, but Krakauer fuses together personal accounts of Mormons with the history of Mormondom in such a way that you almost feel as if you're reading fiction, and opens your eyes up to the American west in a way few books do. My normal experience of the West in literature comes from people like Kerouac going out to discover himself, or Annie Dillard philosophizing by mountain streams. Krakauer gives what seems like an authentic view from the inside of an America East Coasters tend to forget.Anyhow, I'd recommend it. Very journalistic but an easy read.

by Steve Plonk on

Recent ReadsI just got through reading THE GREAT INFLUENZA (2004) by John M. Barry, about the great flu plague of 1918 during World War One and the Aftermath. It is also a great history of the public health system in the USA. In addition, the book told of the upgrading of the medical profession in the USA until it was on par with and surpassed the Europeans during the turn of the last century. It was unbelievable how primitive the medical profession was in this country prior to the 1870s! I got the word from Mr. Barry.Next, I finally finished HEY RUBE... (2004) by Hunter Thompson. I read portions of it in the bookstore before he shot himself. I bit the bullet and checked it out of the library as I did the Barry book. There are some inklings in the book as to why he may have shot himself such as "gambling debts and grief"...such a waste to have ended his life that way...Lastly, I am finishing up CHRONICLES (2004) by Bob Dylan, which I am savoring. Dylan is my main inspiration in my musical life, such as it is. I listen to anything from Mozart to "Run DMC", however, I have a special place in my musical heart for Bob Dylan.

by Rubiao on

It is amazing what a book about poker can contain. I recall him squeezing in a chapter or two on Sylvia Plath along with references to nearly every classic author from Dostoevsky to Doyle Brunson (Does he count as a classic yet?) And I think the part in between taking the assignment and the start of the tournament would make for a hilarious training montage: computer poker, reading poker books, shuffling chips and cards. With some really intense music (ode to joy or any sweet 80s jam will do) it would be great!