Books read (all or part of) this week:
The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck
This reading week – also a holiday – flew by without much actual reading going on. We drove up to Santa Cruz to visit family and, due to an enthusiastic young nephew, I read about 20 pages in 4 days. Not such a bad thing, really.
I did finish Denis Johnson’s next book – The Laughing Monsters (out November 2014) – which was like Hunter S. Thompson visiting the darkest heart of Africa. (Without the ether and the poppers.) It’s complete madness contained within a 200-page novel – double-crosses, double-double-crosses, lying, cheating, trickery, craziness, boozing, spying, and mayhem. Maybe Roland Nair is a NATO operative keeping tabs on one Michael Adriko in Sierra Leone. Or maybe he’s actually Michael’s friend and they’re working on the score of a lifetime? Or perhaps Nair is a Danish operative? Wait, maybe he’s an American… And is Adriko a Green Beret? Or Ghanaian? Or just a drug smuggler? Or is is enriched uranium? You know what, I think everyone is lying to me, actually. It’s bad craziness and… I kind of loved it. I felt like I was dropped into the middle of a 25-year long conversation, had almost no idea what was happening around me for 200-pages worth before I was sucked back out to my own life. Which now feels emptier somehow.
Johnson has now written – among other things – a seminal Vietnam War novel, a series of short stories about alcoholic losers, an atmospheric meditation on an early-20th century everyman, and this – a crazy, whirlwind spy-novel-ish adventure through West Africa. Amazing.
I’m also part of this selection committee for Indies Introduce – an American Booksellers Association (ABA) program that twice a year selects debut authors for independent bookstores around the country to champion. The panel (all booksellers) reads through the submissions from publishers and picks the cream of the crop – so extra books have been showing up at my front door for the last week or so. Guaranteed to keep me busy – but I’m super psyched to be a part of it. More on that as I move along, I’m sure.
And just a reminder: