Summer Reading Wonderland

by angeliska on July 19, 2011

As you might imagine, our summer here in Austin has been ferociously, brutally hot. The kind of fierce, dry heat that sucks all the
air out of your lungs as soon as you step out your door. The kind of heat that inhibits outdoor activity, productivity and even the
thought of doing anything terribly strenuous. So, basically the perfect weather (and excuse) for languishing with a tall stack of
reading material and an icy beverage and allowing yourself to get lost in other worlds, other times. I’ve always been an avid bookworm.
I learned to read when I was 4 or so, frustrated by the inattention of my parents after dinner, both their heads buried in books.
I remember vividly tugging at the book on my father’s lap, struggling to make sense of the squiggly black shapes on the page.
How magic that moment when I suddenly understood their meaning. HOP ON POP! Eureka! My dad reading to me every single
night and teaching me through the magic of Dr. Seuss opened up a door in my reality that made it possible for a lonely, sad and
strange kid to survive childhood. Not to mention adolescence, and oh yes – adulthood! Fiction is my drug of choice, the escape I
can always turn to when my own world is just too much. Libraries have always been my haven, and I was never restricted on what
I was allowed to read, or how many books I could check out at a time. My dad and I would always leave the library staggering
and barely able to see over the tops of our respective towering stacks. So it was kind of embarrassing that I allowed myself to have
a lapse away from the beloved embrace of the public library. It was a sordid tale involving overdue fines on some DVDs that somehow
skyrocketed to an amount that surely would’ve allowed me to have just purchased the movies outright. Ah, procrastination. I let my
account go, and took up a torrid affair with a dangerous hussy named (do not click on that link unless you have lots of room
on your bookshelves and money to burn!) Oh yes, those 3am sprees! Buying used paperbacks for 75 cents (plus 4 dollars shipping)
doesn’t seem so bad if it’s just every once in awhile, but I got a little out of hand with it. I bought a lot of books that I just don’t need
to own, as well as plenty that I’m thrilled to keep forever – but really, it got a little crazy. See, I also really, really love getting parcels
in the mail – and since I’ve become a shitty correspondent and hardly ever actually send all the letters and packages I intend to, it means
that my mailbox often only holds Netflix envelopes and stupid old bills. Also, the bulk of my books are still packed away in boxes, so that
means that I’ve had to construct a whole new library to tide me over until the day when our house actually has real walls, with bookshelves.
I’m only half kidding. For the most part, all of these books next to my side of the bed are recent-ish acquisitions. I had to bring in another
shelf for them. Before that, it was just a series of waist-high piles. Please don’t judge my organizing by color – it just kind of happened:
“The shelf was filled with books that were hard to read, that could devastate
and remake one’s soul, and that, when they were finished, had a kick like a mule.”

Mark Helprin (Winter’s Tale)
Yeah, so… I had to break up with at last. It wasn’t easy, and we still find ourselves tangled in illicit late-night booty calls every
once in awhile when I can’t seem to find that ONE book that I really want to re-read or reference. The library and I, however, have
rekindled our relationship and are totally in love again. Interlibrary loan, man. I can get ANY book! It’s not instantly gratifying, but
at least there’s a branch about 10 blocks from my house, and you know what? It’s freezing in there. Serious air conditioning, and
a librarian with a penchant for graphic novels and comics, so there’s heaps of all my favorites. Reunited – and it feels so good.
So here’s some of the books I’ve read this summer:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – Read it, wept, and then watched the film and wept some more. So cold and beautiful.
Cults, Conspiracies and Secret Societies by Arthur Goldwag – This is an excellent compendium written very humorously and objectively and recommended for both wingnuts and skeptics alike. Totally fascinating, and somewhat horrifying.
“An indispensable guide, Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies connects the dots and sets the record straight on a host of greedy gurus and murderous messiahs, crepuscular cabals and suspicious coincidences. Some topics are familiar—the Kennedy assassinations, the Bilderberg Group, the Illuminati, the People’s Temple and Heaven’s Gate—and some surprising, like Oulipo, a select group of intellectuals who created wild formulas for creating literary masterpieces, and the Chauffeurs, an eighteenth-century society of French home invaders, who set fire to their victims’ feet.”
Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
“CARRION COMFORT is one of the three greatest horror novels of the 20th century. Simple as that.” — Stephen King
“Epic in scale and scope but intimately disturbing, CARRION COMFORT spans the ages to rewrite history and tug at the very fabric of reality. A nightmarish chronicle of predator and prey that will shatter your world view forever. A true classic.” — Guillermo del Toro
With blurbs like that, from those guys, I really couldn’t not give this one a try. Turns out they were right. Mind vampires, man!
The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror edited by Paula Guran
Chock full of darkness! Good for devouring on the brightest days.
Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack
A recommendation from William Gibson via New York Magazine. Slayed me.
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht – Reading it now. The excerpt in The New Yorker kept me sitting in my bath until my fingers were pruned, too captivated to pause.
Locas II : Maggie, Hopey & Ray by Jaime Hernandez – I’ve been obsessed with Love + Rockets since I was a teen. This brilliant comics series has a lot to do with my penchant for punk-rock latina lesbians. That, and Vasquez in Aliens. SIGH!
The Monsters of Templeton and Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff
These books both totally massacred my heart. Drowned it in the lake. Backed over it again and again until it was mashed into the dirt.
This woman’s writing is just superb. I cannot wait for her latest, Arcadia, to come out! The cover is so juicy, and I know it’ll be crazy good.
Also, here’s a list of some of the songs Groff listened to whilst working on The Monsters of Templeton
(this is just the sort of writerly errata that I find totally fascinating, plus she has good taste in music!)
Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente – Fucking brilliant, and a tale so close to my heart. I can’t wait to read it again,
as well as all her other books. Baba Yaga, Marya Morevna, and Koschei the Deathless? Yes, and yes, and yes please. More, please.
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugresic
This is what moved me most from this book:
“‘And so. Tomorrow our story ends,’ she said, with a touch of irony.
The ‘our story’ rang like a shattered glass. She had used the Bulgarian phrase nashiyat s te roman. Russians say the same.
The word roman can mean two things: the novel as a literary form, or a romantic liaison, an affair.
The phrase to have a story with someone means to be in love.”
and this:
We’d meet down at the station in the evening, after all the trains had passed… I remembered that phrase – in the evening, after all the trains had passed – because she must have repeated it. Having adopted the phrase, I further embroidered it with my own colours. Dusk, fireflies, a quiet train station, the warm tracks gleaming in the dark, roaching frogs, a moon in the sky – and my mother’s young, eager heart pounding with excitement.”
The Heretic’s Daughter and The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent
These were both recommended by Maria Dahvana Headley, and they were fantastic.
Beautifully evocative, well told, and so crushingly sad and strong.
summer reading
My blanket at Barton Springs, strewn with an array of delicious magazines. This is how I wish I could spend every single day.
The best holiday reads from The Guardian – Writers recall their most memorable holiday reads – what are yours?
This article is wonderful, and inspired me to add many books to my list, but my favorite bit is from William Gibson:
“If that’s holiday as in “utterly removed from any sense of immediate surroundings”, my most memorable holiday reading is Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, which I started in the cab on the way to Vancouver airport, headed for a first trip to Berlin where I was doing something, I wasn’t sure what, with Samuel Delany and Wim Wenders at the Kunsthalle. I am uncertain as to the year, likely it was 1991, before the publication of All the Pretty Horses. I had recently read McCarthy’s astonishing The Orchard Keeper, and on the urging of the friend who had recommended that, I began Blood Meridian. I remember nothing else, door to door, between my home in Vancouver and the hotel room in which I finished the book in Berlin. I awoke from it as from some terribly potent dream, and found myself, quite unexpectedly, in a strange city. Being Berlin, and particularly then, it was a very strange city. A few nights later, over in the east, I continued to experience intense overlays of Blood Meridian. Indeed, I think those overlays helped me better comprehend what I was seeing, and not to panic. The Judge, I knew, would understand all of this.”
I have my own story about traveling and reading Blood Meridian.
I had been trying to dig into it for a few days, prior to a road trip up to a friend’s ranch in Colorado, but my brain just wasn’t having it.
I couldn’t latch in, for some reason. Something about racing through vast expanses of West Texas brought it home for me, though – and I was
hooked. I read it compulsively, even though reading in the car makes me horribly nauseous. My job was navigator, and I pored over a map,
finding all the tiny towns McCarthy described, passing through them in a blur of brown and bone. The landscape I passed through matched
what I was reading, and it made the book come vibrantly alive for me. It was the first Cormac McCarthy book I’d read, and it marked me indelibly.
“They were watching, out there past men’s knowing, where stars are drowning
and whales ferry their vast souls through the black and seamless sea.”

— Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West)
✸ The aforementioned Maria Dahvana Headley will be here in Austin on the 19th at Bookpeople to read from (and sign copies of!) her new book, Queen of Kings, which I can’t wait to read.
✸ Rainer Maria Rilke: Trust In What Is Difficult – by Jocelyn K. Glei
This, this, this:
“What is necessary, after all, is only this:
solitude, vast inner solitude.
To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours —
that is what you must be able to attain.”

Fifty-two Stories is awesome
« In Which These Are The Hundred Greatest Novels
Cold Reading by Alan Moore
Why I Live at the P.O. – by Eudora Welty
A Wagner Matinée by Willa Cather
40 literary terms you should know from The Centered Librarian
A fresh look at Flannery O’Connor
You may know her prose, but have you seen her cartoons?
✸ 50 years ago, Borges fell in love with Texas…
A deeply fascinating article from Guernica by Eric Benson
“Here too. Here as at the other
Edge of the hemisphere, an endless plain
Where a man’s cry dies a lonely death.
Here too the Indian, the lasso, the wild horse.
Here too the bird that never shows itself,
That sings for the memory of one evening
Over the rumblings of history
Here too the mystic alphabet of stars
Leading my pen over the page to names
Not swept aside in the continual
Labyrinth of Days: San Jacinto
And that other Thermopylae, the Alamo.
Here too, the never understood
Anxious, and brief affair that is life.”

Becoming Mary Poppins
P. L. Travers, Walt Disney, and the making of a myth.
Lost Recipes Salvaged
Bookstore owner Michael Popek shares the handwritten recipes he finds tucked into books.
I love his collection of forgotten bookmarks, also. Sweet and poignant.
25 Things Every Writer Should Know from the awesome Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds
The Life Of Edward Gorey, Told By An Old Friend : NPR
The Strange Case of Edward Gorey by Alexander Theroux

This was not the only case of Gorey entertaining his fans at home. He was even listed in the phone book. “He was a very poor hermit,” says Theroux. “Goth people would flock over there — and he would say, ‘We’ve got customers.’ They’d say, ‘I love your work!’ and start gushing, and he’d say, ‘Thank you … now what?’ But he was always very accessible, and people would always stop over to see him.

Your Brain’s Black Box: 1979 Penthouse Interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky
So! What are you reading right now? What are you loving, and what do you think I might love?


I just started to read book one of A Song of Ice and Fire: Game of Thrones… I’m so hooked, not to mention the amazingness that HBO did with the book! I also want to read Swamplandia…
Love you and miss you my darling.

by Frangipani on July 19, 2011 at 3:59 am. Reply #

this looks to be a great list! ‘never let me go’ is one of my favorites…i’ve read ‘fingersmith’ by sarah waters, ‘moonchild’ by aleister crowley, and i’m currently reading ‘the mysteries of udolpho’ by ann radcliffe. oh, and ‘in the night garden’ by catherynne valente. ‘deathless’ is next on my list 🙂

by rachael on July 19, 2011 at 4:06 am. Reply #

My Blood Meridian Story:
I started reading Blood Meridian after having Thanksgiving dinner with my lover’s father, who was at the time portentiously sick with some stomach ailment, and whom I held hands with in a laissez-faire manner. We traveled home with me sick and reading in the car, feverish, vomiting, but unable to stop for the desire to be in my bed was amazing. I finally made it there and in one 24 hour period of sweating and tossing our dark-blue bedroom, I finished the book. I was strong enough barely to make it to the living room, where we watched the movie WALL-E- a dystopian fantasy involving trash and robots and a destroyed earth. The main part of my story is that the dreams I had that night as a feverish sick person, hot and cold and convulsing, were the most vivid and stark I have ever had. I trained myself out of being a lucid dreamer as a child (worst thing for a kid) and have been blessed with passive dreams since then. This night however, my body turned into a rusted hunk of metal, on an endless blasted desert plain…each turn was agony and the wind scoured the rust on my sides and slowly sloughed off my life. The potent combination of dystopian nightmares fueled my sick state and it was so horrible it became glorious. The End. Hooray! (I still love the book and make people read it)

by Kai Smart on July 19, 2011 at 4:29 am. Reply #

Great book ideas, just order the one about conspiracys and secret societys… Would read about Gorey… I admire him very much.

by Marie M Art on July 19, 2011 at 4:46 am. Reply #

I stopped reading books for about 10 years (internet) but I am finally back. My book club is reading Accelerando by Charles Stross, singularity style. I swear I’ll get to it after finishing Life, Inc by Douglas Rushkoff…and I hearrrrrt interlibrary loan. My favorite thing is to rent out really expensive books that way 🙂

by Alanna on July 19, 2011 at 5:05 am. Reply #

Oh, the Monsters of Templeton – I loved that story. I intensely disliked the main character for whatever reason though. It’s been a few years though, so I don’t remember why. I do remember that I found the monster itself though we didn’t see all that much of it (?) was the most wonderful character in the book.
I am reading China Miéville’s Kraken right now, it’s really a hoot. The last thing I read by him was Perdido Street Station and that was maybe ten years ago, so to see his wordyplay again is really a treat.
I used to tear through piles of books in the FL summers when I was growing up. Like you, I sought refuge from the heat in a darkened room next to a whirring fan with a glass of something well-iced. As I’ve gotten older I find I just don’t have the attention span that I used to, so when I find myself lost in a book nowadays – lost, as in the world falls away and nothing else exists – it is really something special. The last book of that caliber that I’ve read was Dune, earlier this year…it was mind-blowing!
I am also currently re-reading the Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton. Have you read The Lady Maid’s Bell? Jessica over at OntheBorderland shared that with me maybe two years ago; we couldn’t quite figure it out but it gave us a delightful shiver nonetheless!

by mlle ghoul on July 19, 2011 at 5:59 am. Reply #

I also read Random Acts of Senseless Violence and The Tiger’s Wife this year. Both were quite beautiful and wrenching.
I go through the bookstore these days and take pictures of books with my phone, then I go to my library website and reserve them. It has been an excellent system.
I miss you lady and I’m sorry your recent travel plans fell through. I do hope to visit with you soon.

by Cole on July 19, 2011 at 6:24 am. Reply #

I’m currently stuck in a YA hole, but since the novel is too large to stick in my purse (thankfully!), I bring The Thin Man with me for downtime. I just read Oryx and Crake, which is bizarre and beautiful. I have another in that series waiting for me on my bedroom floor, with about five or six or more other books for me to choose from.

by jenni on July 19, 2011 at 7:22 am. Reply #

I’ve been hooked on mysteries and detective novels for all 7 months of summer:
_Stieg Larson series The Girl with a dragon tattoo, great movies too and for once I will see the hollywood version, I just love them so much. so good! must read them. preferably back to back with let the right one in.
_The Dragon Man, a Melbourne classic cigarette smokin, crime story
_Sarah Dunant ..Birth Marks, really swell British who dun it, apparently a series, can’t wait
_ The Physick book of Deliverance Dane,young adult novel feel to it, but written by a New England History scholar who is herself a descendant of two of the Salem witches,Katherine Howe, a personal twist and I love stories for the young anyways
Duma Key, one of the best Stephen King tales in ages, oh but I can’t give it away, so we’ll just say the subject is painting and ghosts of a sort.
Khaled Hosseini’s the kite runner, sad, life long denouement
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski, mystery about dogs, n dog breeders, dogs even have a few think aloud chapters in here, a good coming of age story
So yeah, watching Twin Peaks again is just where I am at!

by Alisan on July 19, 2011 at 7:55 am. Reply #

I just know you’re going to love (and have you mind colonized by) The Filth, which I must reclaim in a goodly three weeks (when my comic book lender returns/the date of a necessary material return for the sake of re-upping). Bonus recommendation is Zorro by Allende but surely we’ve spoke of this already as it’s rather the perfect book.

by Scott Revo on July 19, 2011 at 9:08 am. Reply #

Never Let Me Go and Delicate Edible Birds are two books that I constantly buy just to have on hand to give away to friends who’ve not yet read them. I read Monsters of Templeton earlier this summer as well, loved it.
Lately I’m obsessing over three books, all three very different and completely wonderful:
Phillip Larkin — A Girl in Winter (totally fine to read in summer, in case you’re particular about season-appropriate books, like me)
Cory Doctorow — Little Brother
Donna Tartt — The Secret History
Also, I read Veronica earlier this year based on your recommendation, thanks for that!

by Jenny on July 19, 2011 at 10:46 am. Reply #

Ahhh, I just got Deathless for vacation reading. & yessssss to Lauren Groff, jesus christ is she amazing.

by verhext on July 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm. Reply #

yay! i love all of these suggestions. life has been so crazy + hectic i feel like i never get to read any more, except for comics here and there. must change this, post stat. i think your list of reccomendations will help with that. :>

by lau on July 19, 2011 at 3:54 pm. Reply #

Did you ever read Lovedeath by Dan Simmons? I read it as a 19-year old, and loved it, and then never read anything else by him again, because I got the sense that that was a one-off for him, and the rest of his writing was different…it had the same kind of terror/magical realism crossover as Stephen King in some of his novellas (like my favorite, Hearts of Atlantis).
Are you a Jennifer Egan fan at all? I feel like you would love her writing, if you haven’t read her yet…
I had a violently negative reaction to “The Road” and you are probably the only recommender who could cajole me into trying Cormac McCarthy again–I now want to give “Blood Meridian” a go, after your description.

by Nica on August 7, 2011 at 7:27 am. Reply #

I will return for inspirations from the many topics and feelings you have touched and expressed.
But at the end of some items, you say “This was written by…” and give your name. When that is TRUE, that’s fine, but carelessly crediting yourself via that habit for Charles Olsen’s “In Cold Hell” is a serious affront to him and other creative people and must take real balls to do. Or, you were in a stupor of some kind I don’t want to think about!

by Peter R. Cross on August 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm. Reply #

Hey there – I guess you’ve been digging around the archives? That entry was from 2003, way back before anyone ever even really read this, and it was mainly a repository for stashing interesting bits I came across, including that poem. I don’t think I even knew who wrote it at the time. Anyhow, (somehow in my stupor) I managed to go back and add the appropriate credit – thank you for taking the time to point that out! Here you go: /2003/05/in-cold-hell-in-thicket/

by Angeliska on August 25, 2011 at 12:39 am. Reply #

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