Read Everything That Dunks Must Converge

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Recently Read: Vandermeer, Nusbaum, Robbins, Rushdie

November 7, 2014

Some science fiction, a short story, some poetry, some fantasy:


Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer (2014)

Part Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" and part creepy music from Lost, the first volume of Vandermeer's Southern Reach trilogy is an intriguing bit of science fiction along with some strange relationship counseling. I read much of it under a night light, with my wife in the bed next to me already asleep. Perhaps this was the only way to read it, for much of Area X's alluring mystery is that it forces individuals into moments of simultaneous intimacy and suspense; of seeing a particular object as a tunnel or a tower; a time to read the inscriptions of others or to be seen as a guiding light. The juxtapositions within Vandermeer's text are uniquely archetypal and personal. They appear familiar and strange. You keep reading because there is something recognizable in the Crawler, and for anyone who does read, the light of the stuff--these letters--is both profound and indescribable. This is the affect of Vandermeer's strange tale. And the story therefore is both external and internal.


As the characters are explored, you as a reader cannot help but to also feel exposed. In all, while I may not be closer to really knowing Area X, just as Lost's best seasons left the island undefined, it is the feeling that a profound discovery is indeed imminent that keeps the reader thinking: Very cool.

"Crossing the Delaware" by Eric Nusbaum

Nusbaum recently garnered some attention for a Deadspin article he wrote about ping pong. It's good. You should read it. But, then again, I'm not mentioning Nusbaum here because of his sports writing. After all, from his work at Pitchers & Poets and The Classical, it's well knogoo
wn he can write about sports. However, his story in the Spring 2014 volume of bluestem reveals he's also a pretty solid writer of fiction.

The story is told in first person by a campaign worker and explores the political war over a New York neighborhood's ethnic identity. He depicts this shifting terrain through the narrator's actions with Mr. Coriou, an Italian-American, and in a rather beautiful description of Shea Stadium:

                                 When I got to Queens a few weeks earlier, Shea Stadium still had
                                 seats in it. It still looked like a stadium, too, tall and round, wrapping
                                 around the batter's box like the arms of a protective mother. In the
                                 meantime, its edges had receded chunk by chunk. Its body had been
                                 torn away. Now, from Mr. Coriou's window, all you could see was an
                                 ancient ruin, a moon disappearing into narrower and narrower phase.
                                 Next to it, the new park, Citi Field, was coming into clearer sparkling
                                 focus every moment. I took two pieces of cheese and two crackers and
                                 made a sandwich. (13)

I found the story subtle in its critique of local politics and the complexity with which its narrator appears to be disappointed in the candidate he works for, but also cannot help going to war for him.


So, in short, nice job, Eric, and we should all read more literary magazines.

Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins (2012)

Like a lot of readers familiar with Robbins' poetry, I first encountered his work in The New Yorker, specifically his poem, "Alien vs. Predator", drew my attention, with lines like:

                                 I translate the Bible into velociraptor.

                                 In front of Best Buy, the Tibetans are released,
                                 but where's the whale on stilts that we were promised?
                                 I fight the comets, lick the moon,
                                 pave its lonely streets.
                                 The sandhill cranes make brains look easy. (3)

I read the poem and the next day printed it off for my Creative Writing students, and for the most part, they responded with, "What the hell does this mean? There's no way this means anything." They may have been wrong. They may have been right. It doesn't really matter; these poems are awesome. The last twenty pages of the collection are a blur of internet jumbled wisdom. When a student this year saw the book on my desk, he said, "Cool. Did you see the movie?" His question, if Robbins' poetry means anything, proves that Robbins is right about everything:

                                 I got a tattoo of God. You can't see it
                                 but it's everywhere.

Luka & the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie (2010)

I just started this and am only a quarter of the way through, but the experience of reading it is similar to when I read Michael Chabon's Summerland. I'm fascinated by writers who can write well in multiple genres and through multiple mediums (See Eric Nusbaum), and Rushdie, like Chabon, here takes a break from his modernist (or postmodernist) complexity to render a fantasy ripe for bedtime. So far, it's a fun read, and I'm not sure I've ever said that about Rushdie.

Read anything good lately, feel free to drop some suggestions below. Enjoy the weekend.


Bryan Harvey can be followed on Twitter @LawnChairBoys.

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