Posts tagged with longreads
The Last Book I Loved: Joan Didion’s ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’
The Last Book I Loved is an ongoing series from The Rumpus to highlight emerging Tumblr writers (and the books they love). This is the final installment of Tumblr Storyboard’s version, but you can still submit to The Rumpus for publication! Thanks for reading.
I came across a Facebook post recently in which someone offered W.B. Yeats’ poem “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” as encouragement for a peer going through a quarter-life crisis. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold,” Yeats writes. It’s a feeling everyone has at some point, but for a twentysomething in the midst of an identity crisis, it sounded especially appropriate.
Joan Didion must have felt the same way when she chose the poem as an epigraph for her essay collection of the same name.
The Last Book I Loved: ‘The Unnamed’
When you go to the website for Joshua Ferris’s 2010 novel, The Unnamed, your screen fills with static for a second. Then it resolves into a grainy gray video of the main hall of Grand Central Terminal, like security camera footage, commuters walking to and from their trains. And then fuzzy blue circles appear over a handful of heads. When you click on one, the video pauses, and a small text bubble comes up. One says, “I look around, I wonder if I’m just sick.” Another quotes a poem by Percy Shelley. “Art thou pale for weariness / Of climbing heaven and gazing on earth/Wandering companionless / Among the stars that have a different birth.” They feel like a little of what each person has inside them, a bit of story or sorrow they keep inside themselves.
This is what Joshua Ferris’s work is — a song of this secret world. He writes about the isolation of modern life, our disconnect from the world at large and from the people around us. And he writes of the small, beautiful hopes of connection — through love, through hope, through body-breaking exertions.
The Last Book I Loved: House of Leaves
The first thing that you notice about the full-color second edition of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves is the cover. It’s not an ornate design, although the compass needle and outwardly spreading nautilus, and glossy lines of rooms in a house against matte-black paper are all lovely touches. What you notice is its size — which foreshadows the primary moving force in the novel. It is roughly a half an inch shorter than the book itself.
The Last Book I Loved: History of the Peloponnesian War
This is not an easy book to love. As an object, it is one of those books all of an age: squat, with yellowing, pulpy pages, the kind whose corners you can’t turn down because the paper creases so hard it that it might as well be perforated. Dog-ear it in the opposite direction and the corner comes off entirely. The print is small and dense; and it is a 2,400 year old account of a war that gets no press. It’s not sexy like the Fall of Troy, not Homerically epic. The gods don’t factor in. The content is almost as hard to love as the way I remember myself when the book first came to me.
The Last Book I Loved: Brown Girl, Brownstones
My dreams, for so long unrestrained by land, air, or even death — and frequently including scenes of me tumbling through the air on glossy black feathered wings or jumping into an abyss with a smile on my face — now generally take place in a building with four walls and a roof. I dream of houses. I dream of owning a home, post-Great Recession, and despite the weight of federal student loans on my back. I am frequently visited by visions of curtains that open up to reveal a cold sunlight in the morning, of a cubbyhole library, perhaps in the attic, and of backyards that lend themselves to Slip ‘n Slides and crisp autumnal leaf piles. I would dream of brownstones, except I’m in the wrong tax bracket. Crippling pragmatism happens sometimes.
The Last Book I Loved: Skagboys
Being a lover of charity shops, bargain basements, scruffy, slightly dusty secondhand bookshops, and long-forgotten boxes in attics, it’s a rare occurrence for me to buy a brand new, hot-off-the-press, full-price book. Frankly the idea gives me mild heart palpitations, perpetual tightwad that I am. But I’ve been one of the many who fall somewhere between an admirer and full-on obsessive about Irvine Welsh for a very long time, and when Skagboys was released in the summer of 2012, it was all I could do not to camp outside Waterstones the night before it went on sale — not hardly because of its strangely enticing advertising campaign.
Even those who wouldn’t count themselves among Welsh’s enthusiasts have come to know his signature mix of gritty realism with charming and yet wholly terrible characters through film adaptations of his work that have been made over the years. Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Mark “Rent Boy” Renton won over those who couldn’t be bothered to decipher Welsh’s lavish use of Scottish slang, and a worldwide brand based on Renton’s “Choose Life” speech was born. Porno,the sequel, was very good (in my opinion arguably better than its predecessor) but failed to enter the public consciousness quite so effortlessly. And although I had high hopes, I could never have predicted how much I would enjoy the prequel to the Heroin Chic trilogy: Skagboys.