Things to Read - Winter Reads

How Should A Person Be? - I practically inhaled this odd, quirky "novel" by Sheila Heti. In order to write this book, Heti taped conversations with her real-life best friend attempting to answer the questions that plague us in daily life, mainly what is bad art? how is a person supposed to act? how to approach sex with jerks? Sometimes the book is so self-indulgent and overly personal that I cringed (literally), but I really admired Heti's attempt to cut human relationships down to some sort of core, to figure out why we appreciate the things we appreciate. And the writing is good, really good, though perhaps a little too flippant at times.

Lives of the Artists - This book consists of ten interviews with some of the most critically acclaimed modern artists of the last twenty or so years***, whose work sells for millions of dollars. If you've ever entered a museum and asked yourself "why is this on the wall?" then here is your answer. The writing is great, but the most interesting thing about the book resides in the discrepancies between the artists themselves - a few seem to float through their careers on clouds of charisma and conceit, while others, particularly James Turrell, seem almost clinically obsessed with elements of their art (since 1974 Turrell's life has centered on turning an extinct volcano in northern Arizona into a light-centered viewing space). Even if you're not "into" modern art, this books makes a great read, both as a profile of how people see the world and of how people become famous.

*** The artists profiled - Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Julian Schnabel, Richard Serra, James Turrell, Matthew Barney, Maurizio Cattelan, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, & John Currin.

Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story
- The Paris Review asked twenty of the "top" modern day authors to pick twenty short stories that somehow influenced them. The resulting collection is pretty impressive. Some stories, such as James Salter's Bangkok and Mary-Beth Hughes' Pelican Song are so hauntingly perfect that I read them over and over. Whereas others, such as Jorge Luis Borges' Funes, the Memorious, I I would have overlooked without the well-written introduction by Aleksandar Hemon. Either way, I was sad when the stories came to an end.

Wild - I almost quit reading this book after the first few chapters, as the author spends a lot of pages lamenting the fall of her marriage, even though she committed multiple acts of infidelity and chose to divorce her husband. Not that anything is wrong with needing to find one's self, but I'm becoming a little sick of the Eat, Pray, Love style of ditching one's mate in search of some sort of higher truth. (Plus I can't help but wonder if the public would embrace such memoirs if males were writing them). But then Strayed (the author's chosen name) starts talking about her life hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and I began to thoroughly enjoy her story. Long ago, back when I lived in Denver and had no children, I used to backpack with my girlfriends on weekends, this memoir brought back the sense of accomplishment that comes with carrying all you need on your own back. It also made me realize how much I miss that feeling. All in all, a well-written book about life on the trail.

1 comment:

  1. Yay! I love your book reviews. I've been going back and forth about whether to read Wild (I feel the same about the whole Eat Pray Love formula...found the book so annoying I couldn't finish it), but with your recommendation I'm putting it on my list. :)



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