BOOKS BY BOYS
I was at an artist’s residency and got called out super hard – I had brought over thirty books with me and not one was by a man. While not entirely true (I had Ashberry/O’Hara/Stevens) it's a valid point. I mostly read books by women. But I love men! I love books written by them! Here are some books by boys I recommend all the time.
- •Leaving the Atocha Station/10:04 – Ben LernerI bought 10:04 the day it came out and read it in one luxurious sitting that afternoon. A new Ben Lerner book is an event. No one writes better about thinking, breathing, personhood. I get in debates about which is better (all Lerner fans have an opinon) - I think 10:04 is a technically “better” book, but Atocha has my heart. I’m a sucker for an American-in-a-foreign-city-trying-to-connect stories (see Salter below).
- •Brief Interviews with Hideous Men – DFWOk. Recommending books to people is like recommending wine: you need to read your audience. Am I going to get this dude to read The Waves (Woolf)? No. I’m going to tell him to read Knausgaard, Bolano, Murakami, Cormac McCarthy, whatever, all the smart dude writers that write big fucking books. But there is only one of that crew that I actually cherish: David Foster Wallace. It's watching genius at work. I pick up Interviews when I’m stuck. He makes me think I can do anything.
- •A Sport and a Pastime - James SalterWant to learn how to write about sex? Want to read about sex? Want to read about lonely Americans abroad in France? (Duh, see above) Want to read sentences so good you have to put the book down? Want your heart to ache for your lost youth? Go to Salter. See also "Light Years," but that book is so intense, I can’t reread it.
- •A Place in the Country - WG SebaldI loved the Emigrants, but his book of essays, Jesus Christ. It takes about a day to accept his pacing, his language, how much smarter he is than you, but then you can feel your mind expanding. Yes, reading Sebald is like taking drugs. So is Proust, but this is more fun.
- •In Love - Alfred HayesA mini-masterpiece by a lesser-known writer, republished by NYRB. Maybe one of the best break-up books I’ve ever read. Its New York in the fifties with this grimy, noir-ish, darkness saturating the book. So much insight, such a incredible use of voice. His other book, "My Face for the World to See" is the like the LA version of this – both are short reads that you can't stop thinking about when you finish.
- •Jesus' Son - Denis JohnsonI wouldn’t have picked this up, but another writer pressed it on me. Read the first story, Car Crash While Hitchhiking, and see if you can put it down. Virtuoso. No words.
- •Lolita - NabakovReread the master. If you have not read this as an adult, do so now. Forget what you think you remember from high school. So much more disturbing and beautiful. This man’s brain must have been on fire to write this. I literally couldn’t breathe while I was finishing it, and the passages about the road trip through America is some of the greatest prose in English. Ever.