Books I read April 19th, 2016

Right. So the last two weeks Spring kind of finally came to the city, which actually didn't do much for my reading habit, because it became more fun to wander through distant corners of New York than it was to force myself to do much reading. I make myself write, that's just part of the gig, part and parcel, indivisible, that holy grind, that screeching monkey, God bless him, I'd be mad on my own. But yeah, apart from wandering around the city and putting some finishing touches on The City Dreaming, which is my soon to come work of profound genius, I read the following books.

The Emigrants by W.G. Sebold – I was walking home late one night from the harbor, and the gray fog rolled off the water, obscuring all the light of the city and leaving nothing but a great dim blankness in its place. Past the project houses on Atlantic that looked like nothing so much as as a vast corpse, further reminder of the dim futility of all of mankind's works, grandly conceived, laboriously acted upon, ultimately trivial against the endless yawning chasm of nothingness which rests, ever present, beneath us. I heard the sad, subdued laugh of a child, and I thought then of my old friend Alastair Cornwall, who had been my neighbor in a small, dilapidated hotel in the southwest of England, many years ago, after I had left the asylum but before I had entered the sanitarium. Alastair was a very talented musician, and in time he would grow to great fame for the curious pieces of music he created, which were written entirely for violins the strings of which have broken and for clarinets which had left to rust in an October rain storm. Of course Alastair did not live to learn of his own fame, taking his life one evening with an antique blunderbuss while the autumn boughs had turned bright red and gold, and leaving me with his sheets of music, all uncatalogued, as well as a photo album which contained many pictures of him, in some of which he was smiling, though it was only in film that I ever saw him do so...

Actually I liked this book, but, you know, Sebold kind of only has the one note.

Fair Play by Tove Jansson – Oh, I loved, loved, loved this book. A short hundred pages and I finished it one afternoon in the park, and I carried it around that evening waving it in front of me and hoping someone would ask about it so I could talk about how much I liked it, but no one did, so I'll have to tell you. A series of vignettes about (basically) Tove and her long-time lover, each small chapter is a small episode in the life of two people who have worn a groove in each other's lives after long decades of love. Of the things they take for granted about one another, of the small ways they hurt and help each other, of the kindnesses and misunderstandings. In short, it's about true, lasting long term love/. Every bit seems so real and lived in and true, and also Jansson is really a marvelously understated story-teller, allowing each point to hit with subtle clarity. It's gorgeous, it's a minor masterpiece, it's one of the best things I've read in a very long time. Loved it. Touched.

The Eve of St. Venus by Anthony Burgess – Funny! Slight, but funny. About a man who accidentally marries foam-born Aphrodite on the night before his wedding. It's small but it makes you laugh on near every page. Burgess is a talented comic writer. I often wonder why the mid-century Brits were so much better at this than everyone else, but never really came to a conclusion.