Books read (all or part of) this week:
Mount Terminus by David Grand
Inappropriate Behavior by Murray Farish
Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West by Bryce Andrews
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Since I also wrote Week 4’s post this week, I haven’t read all that much since last we spoke. I’ve been pretty much swamped with work since returning on Monday – leaving the store for a week in the middle of Spring/Summer buying season means that all my rep appointments are smooshed together at the ends & I have to scramble a bit. So there are a lot of meetings and appointments eating up my days where I SHOULD be reading books. God!
Since this is a post about anything book-related going on in my orbit, here’s a cheap plug: events have been something of a rarity at the UCSD Bookstore, but this week we’re involved in two great ones – one in-house, one elsewhere on campus. Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son (this isn’t a bookstore event, but we’re selling the books for the department that’s hosting him) is on campus Thursday and Greg Sestero, author of The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made will be here in the store on Friday. Sestero played “Mark” in Tommy Wiseau’s epically horrible cult classic film, The Room. If you haven’t seen this movie – called “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” – don’t feel bad, I just watched it myself for the first time this week. Although, it seems every 19-year old kid on campus has not only heard of it, but they’re dedicated, lunatic fans. (Check out theroomsoundboard.com for some examples of the dialogue from the film. Brace yourself.) Sestero is going to screen his documentary film about the making of The Room and lead a live script reading afterwards. Should be insane. (Friday evening at 5:00, Perks Cafe, UCSD Bookstore, if you can handle it.)
As for the rest of the books… I’ve been sort of mired down in David Grand’s new novel Mount Terminus for the last several weeks and I can’t decide if I like it at all, even 130 pages in. The fact that I started reading it almost 2 weeks ago and have only read 134 pages is kind of a red flag for me, actually – even with the 4 day dead zone of reading surrounding Winter Institute (see Week Four.) I might have just convinced myself to give it up. It’s a novel about the dawn of the early 20th-century Hollywood machine, but all I’ve gotten to so far is a big – albeit beautiful – establishing shot of the desert hills above what will become Los Angeles. I might try again this weekend, but the stacks I came home from Seattle with are screaming my name.
Inappropriate Behavior is a collection of short stories by Murray Farish published by the fantastic folks at Milkweed Editions (Things That Are.) I’ve read all but the final story since last weekend, but the strange thing is I’m still not all that sure about it. I keep reading the next story just to see if they get any better, I think. It’s not that they’re bad – really, they’re not – but I keep thinking that the author is just on the brink of something great, but I’ve yet to read a story that just knocks the whole thing out of the park. Think about it – usually in a great story collection, there’s one early stand-out that blows you away and sets the pace. Not so with this one. The opener – The Passage – has been the strongest to me: where a young man encounters a defecting Lee Harvey Oswald on a steamer ship bound for France in 1959. Imbued with the misguided anger and confusion of that crossroads in history, it’s solid throughout and seems to be setting the bar for the rest of the collection… But the rest are all a little flat to me. They feel halfway gritty and weird, but not quite gritty or weird enough to carry the load. Wells Tower Lite. Then again, it feels like a collection that might seem brilliant to me at a different point in my life. Who knows?
And after meeting Bryce Andrews in Seattle, I’ve just started dipping into his rather eloquent memoir about working on a ranch in Montana, Badluck Way. He has some really beautiful turns of phrase that have stopped me dead in my tracks. Very nice. I also started The Sisters Brothers last night – a book I’ve been meaning to read for years – after finally picking up a copy at Powell’s in Portland. So far so good.