weekend reading


My Blissby Bonnie Jo Campbell, explores marriage. Or, marrying things and not marrying things. It is a short short story, and very strange. Here’s a line: “How foolish, my marrying the truck, the shovel, the hair, the hope, the broom, the mail—oh, waiting and waiting for the mail to come!” From Pank.

From LitHub, Eileen Myles in Conversation with Ben Lerner, is a discussion between two highly respected writers (Ben Lerner is the author of Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04Eileen Myles is the author of many books of poetry/fiction/nonfiction including: The Importance of Being Iceland, Cool for You, and Not Me ) on a wide-ranging variety of topics in a surprisingly brief space. They talk about vernacular and its place in literature/poetry, about the working-class, about the pressure to categorize poetic genre, about gender, avant-garde, and fame. Once again, Eileen Myles proves herself as an incredibly important, driving voice in contemporary poetry. Myles’s first many-decade-spanning collection of poetry, I Must Be Living Twiceand a re-issue of her first novel, Chelsea Girls, will be released Tuesday, September 29th. To read a little more about her and her forthcoming books, check out After 19 Books and a Presidential Bid, Eileen Myles Gets Her Due,  by Rachel Monroe in Vulture.

Last week, Mary Karr was at BookPeople to discuss her new book, The Art of Memoir. During her talk, my mind uncontrollably thought, “So, this is what it feels like to fall in love.” She is at once so academically and emotionally whip-smart, while also completely down-to-earth and unwilling to assimilate into academic pretension. The New York Times Mary Karr: By the Book is a perfect example. She says, “There’s a fashion now for fat, hyper-intellectual, cooler-than-thou novels that are loaded with lard and siphoned of believable feeling, and those bore the dog dookey outta me.” For further reading, consider this Interview with Amanda Fortini from The Paris Review. 

Earlier this week, Ryan Adam’s released his full album-length cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. In No Blank Space, Baby: Taylor Swift is The Soul of Ryan AdamsAnn Powers provides a convincing argument for the avenue of feminine expression in American pop music. Pop music has long existed as a female-dominated genre, lending authenticity and power to the female voice in American popular culture. Still, female artists function in a male dominated paradigm. They are often second-guessed, often considered second-teir musicians, with less important things to say. Powers says, “Women artists have, for much of the past decade, defined the face of pop, but they still aren’t trusted as custodians of its voice. Key figures like Swift, Beyoncé, Rihanna and Perry constantly face accusations of not truly governing their own creative processes – of only co-writing their songs, hiring others to determine their images and stage shows, and dwelling in the shallows of romance instead of addressing more serious subjects, the way blockbuster rock’s titans did. (In songs like “Dancing in the Dark” one supposes.) Within what’s left of Rock, women are gaining footing. Yet even greats-in-the-making, like Annie Clark of St. Vincent, remain caught within a defined margin: the one female performer on the festival main stage, representing a supposedly limited perspective. The idea that male experience and expression defines our norms, even at the level of basic communication, and the female always enters the conversation as an afterthought, in protest, or as exceptional, remains a buried reality in popular music.” Under these conditions, the decision of a male alt-country musician to cover a female pop vocalist must be handled with care, or else the product is perceived as ironic or mocking. Powers lauds Adams’s effort to maintain the legitimacy of Swift’s voice and songwriting, instead of relying on a simple reimagining from a male perspective. From NPR Music. 

Not even a day passed before the notoriously sardonic critic of American popular culture, Father John Misty, released 2 tracks covering Ryan Adams’s cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989, this time in the style of The Velvet Underground. The layers get tricky. He later deleted the tracks, stating that the ghost of Lou Reed appeared to him in a dream and demanded, “Delete those tracks, Don’t summon the dead, I am not your plaything. The collection of souls is an expensive pastime.” What’s the point? To expose the meta-post-postmodern framework of American popular culture? No one knows, but Amanda Wicks explores the notion in The Masterful Mockery of Father John Misty’s 1989 Jibes. From The Pitch. 

Also earlier this week, we transitioned into fall. Here in Austin, Texas, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. The sticky-heat will remain on our skin, interrupting every cool breeze, for at least the next month. But in other regions, I imagine fall to be a perceptible season. As a rule, people tend to love the transition of the seasons, fall in particular. But not everyone is pleased. For example. Jia Tolentino fervently argues that, in fact, Fall is the Worst Season. She states, “Fall is uncontroversially, celestially beautiful—the light trapping each afternoon in slow amber, the sensation of aerated translucence, the furious roosterish gradation of the leaves. Two years ago, I lived in a pale blue duplex in Michigan with a Japanese maple in the front lawn. Its plumage, always colored within the autumn schematic, would grow especially sharp, super-saturated, for a few weeks during fall. Blood-red, it would switch and shiver right outside my window in the wind, and I loved it, and I would go to sleep loving it, and then I’d wake up one morning with a debauched murder mattress of feather-leaves on my sidewalk and above it, a skeleton tree. The wages of fall is death.”

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