Not all of these books were published in 2013, but most were. I haven’t been great about tracking all the books I’ve read, but these were the most memorable.
1. S. by Doug Dorst (with J.J. Abrams)
I’m a sucker for books about books, and books about fictional reclusive authors, and I’m also a sucker for books with printed ephemera inserted throughout, and books with marginalia all over them and books about the sea. So, this book pushed a lot of buttons for me. If you haven’t read Dorst’s previous books, I highly recommend those as well. “Ship of Theseus”, the Straka novel at the center of S., is a masterpiece in its own right. I look forward to re-reading this book. (And even though Abrams’ name is on the cover of the book, make no mistake, this is a Doug Dorst book.)
2. Traveling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker
Not even going to apologize for my love of all things Nick Baker. I credit him with getting me seriously interested in literature. This one continues the story of Paul Chowder and Baker feels so human to me here because he embraces a contemporary world that looks a lot like my own (i.e. the ubiquity and necessity of iPhones, going to the gym, listening to pop music, etc.).
3. Anti Lebanon by Carl Shuker
If you aren’t familiar with Carl Shuker’s writing, you need to go out and buy The Method Actors. If you are familiar with Shuker, you probably greet a new book from him the way some people treat the release of a new Jay Z album (or equivalent). When this book came out in early 2013, it was a big deal to me. It’s a geographical (and thematic) departure for Shuker, which is exciting, but his mastery of dialogue and sense of a character’s internal philosophy shines throughout. Check out biblioklept’s review of the book as well.
4. The High Life by Jean-Pierre Martinet
This short novella is about a misanthropic narrator in Paris. I was drawn to it because it is so short and looked experimental, and I’d never heard of Martinet. The Introduction in the book explains a lot about his life and career as a writer, which was mostly a failure. None of this sounds like a ringing endorsement, but to me, the book had a purity to it that made Martinet’s alter ego somewhat endearing. It felt like reading a black and white French film.
5. May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
This novel was a return-to-form for Homes. It reminded me a lot of Music for Torching, but felt more developed or mature beyond that. I’ll read anything by Homes, but I like her best when she inhabits characters like these and tells a straightforward story.
6. The Afterlife by Donald Antrim
When Antrim was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship this year, I was inspired to go back and read the one book of his I hadn’t yet picked up—his memoir. It’s a dark story about his mother and alcoholism, but there are a lot of layers to the story and I found humor there, too (especially in his quest to find the perfect bed). It’s a brave book.
I picked this up at Comic-con in San Diego and it was the best reading material I had all summer. It’s a dense book full of stories, panels, interviews, and behind-the-scenes stuff that it gave me an entirely new perspective on Clowes.
8. Happy Talk by Richard Melo
One of the gifts of literature is that you get to experience thoughts, ideas, and places in a voice you would not imagine on your own. Richard Melo’s novel Happy Talk continually surprised me because common clichés were absent or interrupted and clear care was taken with each line of dialogue and prose. The end result is not just surprise but delight. Happy Talk is the story of a group of American nurses stationed in Haiti during World War II. But it’s also one of those novels where telling someone what it’s “about” conveys very little of what the experience of reading it is like. Melo is, in part, a painter of images. A few lasting ones: the picture of the nurse rippling a bedsheet over her head and watching it descend slowly, the parachutist dangling from a tree, and the Nation of Islam building a UFO.
9. Mumbai New York Scranton by Tamara Shopsin
This is a memoir by the daughter of famous NY restaurateur Kenny Shopsin. Right away, this sold me on the book because I love Shopsins restaurant (the old location in the Village) and the documentary about Shopsins (I Like Killing Flies). However, Tamara Shopsin proves herself to be a talented writer and artist in her own right. It reminded me of a couple of my favorite recent memoirs: Patti Smith’s Just Kids and Joshua Cody’s [sic].
What the fuck’s happening?
I just accidentally shot Google Reader in the face.
Why the fuck did you do that?
I don’t think I meant to do it. I said it was an accident.
I’ve seen a lot of crazy-ass shit in my time –
– chill out, man, it was an accident, okay? The web hit a monetization bump or somethin’ and the kill switch went off.
The web didn’t hit no motherfuckin’ monetization bump!
Look! I didn’t mean to kill the whole RSS thing, the kill switch just looks at monetization, don’t ask me how!
Look at this mess! We’re surfin’ around on six hundred bookmarks in broad daylight –
– I know, I know, I wasn’t thinkin’ about the aftermath.
Well you better be thinkin’ about it now, motherfucker! We gotta export my content and get set up on some other knockoff site now. Users tend to notice shit like you can’t read posts anymore.
Can’t you just take your data to a friendly place?
This is the wild web, GOOGLE. I don’t got no friendly places in the wild web.
Well, don’t look at me, this is your Data.
[I google a list of Reader replacements.]
Who ya searchin’ for?
A site I heard about on Twitter.
On the useful side of Silicon Valley. If Feedly’s ass ain’t workin’, I don’t know what the fuck we’re gonna do. I ain’t got any other partners in the RSS world.
[creates account on Feedly]
Feedly! How you doin’ man, it’s ME.
Listen up man, me an’ my homeboy Google are in some serious shit. We got 600 RSS feeds we gotta get off Reader, pronto! I need to use your storage for a while.
INT. FEEDLY – MORNING
Both ME and GOOGLE are inside the new interface cleaning up. GOOGLE is in the front seat importing data, while I’m in the backseat, organizing little blog feeds that haven’t been updated in years
I will never forgive your ass for this shit. This is some fucked-up repugnant shit!
Did you ever hear the philosophy that once a man admits he’s wrong, he’s immediately forgiven for all wrong-doings?
Man, get outta my face with that shit! The motherfucker who said that never had The Old Reader shut down in his face after reorganizing all his feeds on account of your dumb ass.
I got a threshold. I got a threshold for the abuse I’ll take. And you’re crossin’ it. I’m a race car and you got me in the red. I’m not evil! Just know, it’s fuckin’ dangerous to be drivin’ a race car when it’s in the red. It could blow.
You’re gettin’ ready to blow? I’m a mushroom-cloud-layin’ motherfucker, motherfucker! Every time my fingers type “Feedly” I’m “SUPERFLY T.N.T,” I’m the “GUNS OF NAVARONE.” I’m what Jimmie Walker used to talk about. In fact, what the fuck am I doin’ in the back organizing feeds? You’re the motherfucker should be on “organizing the world’s information” detail. We’re tradin’. I’m auto-importing and you’re putting everything back in folders.