A couple weeks off has meant time for indulgent reading. Usually I have a pile of scripts, galleys and newspapers that reaches the ceiling but what, I ask, is more luxurious than REreading? And so here I've been, pouring through Mary Gaitskill's Bad Behavior. Not only are these twisted jewels as relevant as they were the first time I devoured them, they're also as relevant to the life of an NYC writer as they were when they were published in 1988-- jealousy, narcissism, sexual longing and the dark ways we satiate it. Mary G gets it all, and makes us guffaw with recognition in the process.
I'm a big fan of literary memoirs about difficult childhoods (see also: Mary Karr's The Liar's Club; Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), and Chris Offutt's My Father the Pornographer is a searing entry in the field. Offutt's father, Andrew, wrote hundreds of pornographic novels over several decades. Andrew was an alcoholic, who isolated his wife and four children in rural Kentucky while maintaining complete, authoritarian dominion over their rambling house. Offutt the oldest son, admired, loved and feared his dad—the book is brimming with compassion, but Offutt doesn't gloss over any of the awful things his dad did. He talks about the terrible repercussions of his father's treatment in a way that is clear and lyrical without being melodramatic. It's definitely not a light read, but it's an important one.
Over the past few years, my poetry intake has been low. It's not something that I'm proud of, but it's part of who I am (at least for now, I guess). After months of reading novels back to back, I'm finally warming up to poetry again thanks to Ben Fama. While rereading his latest collection Fantasy, I got into a nearly compulsive habit of returning to its pages on a weekly basis. There's something really provocative about the way that he grapples with pop culture, post-modernity, and the complexities of navigating intimacy in an age where identity is defined as much by the Internet as it is by IRL. Fantasy, like Fama, is undeniably cool and sincere. His stanzas are essential. Consume them and rejoice.