Posts tagged pulphead
A very small part of this blog is devoted to the things that I read. So I thought I’d do a quick run down of what I’ve been reading lately:
Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith
I’ve not read anything by Zadie Smith prior to this collection. Aside from wanting to finally have an opinion on a writer I’ve long been interested in, I’ve also noticed that my taste in non-fiction the past few years has shifted away from biography and gravitated towards the essay form.
I am a third of the way through this collection which is cleverly divided into five parts: Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling, & Remembering. I’ve only just finished the Reading section in which Ms. Smith lovingly defends writers that I would normally discount: E.M. Forrester & George Eliot. Her writing is precise and sharp. She balances the observational with the academic without being pretentious or tedious in her subject matter. She does not shy away from citing other academic authorities that she is familiar with and yet she does not flaunt her education or reading experience in the reader’s face either. Instead she takes on the role of a literary museum tour guide offering witty asides and commentary that a reader would otherwise be unfamiliar with. A gifted writer and a collection that thus far has stood up remarkably well.
In His Majesty’s Service: Three Novels of Temeraire (His Majesty’s Service, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War) by Naomi Novik
We’re now in a genre that I have a firm grasp of: fantasy. The beauty of Novik’s Temeraire series is the way she combines two genre: history with fantasy. Think of this as an alternate history. Some things are familiar and then some are very much not. The Napoleonic Wars is still an epic war of naval conquest. There’s just one small tweak: Dragons. The various countries of Europe and Asia possess massive dragons upon which battles are waged. Think of C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series —only with dragons.
Captain Will Laurence services with honour and pride on a British Naval ship when he engages a French frigate with some rather unusual cargo: a dragon egg. The egg hatches upon the open sea and quickly bonds with the young Captain. Soon Laurence finds himself leaving the high seas naval life in favour of the Air Corps. Battling giant dragons high above the earth, the Napoleonic wars plays out. Aside from being an entertaining read, the series is also highly informative with respect to this particular time in history. I find myself googling and wiki-searching historic naval battles and noted heroes of the Napoleonic age.
Some criticism has been levelled at Novik, Jane Austen style writing that comes across as a bit stilted. But, I disagree and find that she finds the perfect balance when it comes to writing style. The history is there but it does not overwhelm the reader with dry facts. Rather she simply enhances an already exciting moment in history with dragons. I mean come on: fucking dragons!!! How can that not be anything but awesome.
I blogged back in December about JJS’s wonderful essay collection, Pulphead. His recent article in the New York Times is a wonderful look at a modern Ireland that seems to consistently butt heads with its older self. If you’re looking for a pleasant Sunday afternoon read, grab a Guiness and click on the link above. You’ll thank me later.
John Jeremiah Sullivan is the working writer most frequently compared to David Foster Wallace (he’s also sometimes compared to a young Tom Wolfe). He has a new essay collection out, Pulphead and many of its pieces are available online:
The Paris Review
“Mister Lytle” award winning essay
“Unnamed Caves”,on American cave art
“Too Much Information”,on David Foster Wallace
“The Last Wailer”, on Bunny Wailer
“Back in the Day”, on Michael Jackson
“The Final Comeback of Axl Rose”, on Axl Rose
“Upon This Rock”, on a visit to a Christian rock festival
“Good-Bye to All That”, on a visit to the Gulf Coast, post-Hurricane Katrina
“He Shall Be Levi”, on a visit to Alaska, to meet Levi Johnston
“American Grotesque”. on the Tea Party movement
“Violence of the Lambs”. on the coming war between animals and humans
New York Magazine
“Art-Shaped Box”, on Nirvana
“Dear Heather’, on Leonard Cohen
“My Front Pages”, on Bob Dylan
“Horseman, Pass By: Glory, grief, and the race for the Triple Crown”
“A Rawness of Seeing: Denis Johnson writes the big novel”
“Unknown Bards: The blues becomes transparent about itself
“Feet in Smoke”, about the death of his brother, who was electrocuted on stage performing at a concert.
“Peyton’s Place”, about renting out his house to a popular television show.
Getting Down to What is Really Real (on the Real World and its micro-economy)
La•Hwi•Ne•Ski: Career of an Eccentric Naturalist (on Constantine Samuel Rafinesque)
You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey! (on a stoned trip to Disney World)
Take the time to bookmark these essays. You will not be disappointed. He’s a wonderful writer and touches on a number of subjects. Well worth your time. I’m half-way through his essay collection Pulphead and it’s hard to put down. I find myself rationing out the remaining essays because I know that they’ll be gone all too soon.
Now that I look at it. I’ve pretty much linked to the entire essay collection. It’s worth buying but it’s also all on-line. Enjoy it however you like, but enjoy it.