Books set in location offer great holiday reads. They help us get under the skin of a place in a way that is impossible to do with a travel guide.
TripFiction tweeted at me because I’m on the hunt for contemporary novels set in Oklahoma (I’m really tired of seeing The Grapes of Wrath at the top of these lists) and now I’m obsessed with their site.
“No one ever talks about how identifying with something you read might not always be a good thing. Saying “that’s like me” is not always an affirmation — it can be terrifying and make you feel “more fucked-up and Unknown.” Critics and fans alike rhapsodize about identifying with David Foster Wallace’s writing as though it can only be consoling and empowering, and I used to think so too, until I got too close and discovered what may be the most important truth about literature, the true “aesthetic benefit of close reading,” though I doubt the Mellon Foundation would be all that interested in hearing about my discovery, as it is beneficial only in the most cautionary of senses: there is such a thing as reading too closely.”—The Smart Set: Reading Wallace Reading - August 18, 2014
There’s documentation for this. The Andrew Mellon Foundation granted me a fellowship (and a private office) for a proposal entitled “Reading Wallace Reading: David Foster Wallace’s Glosses and the Aesthetic Benefits of Close Reading.” While this may threaten to sound impressive, both the proposal’s title and its contents are in reality complete and utter bullshit. There is nothing academic about my reasons for being here; I am in Austin always and only as a fan. Mere fandom, however, is not enough to convince your wife to allow you to leave her and your two toddlers behind in the mild climes of Los Angeles so that you can jaunt to the burning pit of Hell that is Austin during the drought of 2011 just to pore over the marginalia of a major American writer you’re obsessed with. Phrasing it like that makes you sound irresponsible and selfish, but when you call yourself a Ransom Center Fellow and you flash some Mellon Foundation coin, you’ve got academic immunity and are more or less free from all other obligations.
If all this sounds a bit strange, let me try to contextualize this: apart from one of his sweat-soaked bandanas or used chewing tobacco, David Foster Wallace’s annotations are probably about as sacred to his fans as a piece of the True Cross is to Christians. No Wallace fan could resist an opportunity, especially a subsidized opportunity, to touch the literary equivalent of a medieval holy relic.
“It’d be easy to dismiss this as a company line if it wasn’t supported by the numbers. According to the MLS, the average MLS attendance is 18,958. Sporting KC, per the blog MLSattendance, has an average of 20,160, and sports the league’s third-highest percentage of listed capacity at 109 percent. They’ve sold out over 40 straight games and have a 1,000-person waiting list for season tickets. One staffer told me that their season-ticket renewal rate is at a record high.”—
“Some said that he must immediately be released from jail. Stealing cheese and bacon are not serious crimes. The man was apparently never violent. He didn’t carry a weapon. He’s an introvert, not a criminal. He clearly has no desire to be a part of our world. Let’s open a Kickstarter, get him enough cash for a few years’ worth of groceries, and allow him to go back to the woods. Some people were willing to let him live on their land, rent-free. Others countered that it wasn’t the physical items he robbed that made his crimes so disturbing—he stole hundreds of people’s peace of mind. Their sense of security. How were they supposed to know Knight wasn’t armed and dangerous? Even a single break-in can be punishable by a ten-year sentence. If Knight really wanted to live in the woods, he should’ve done so on public lands, hunting and fishing for food. He’s nothing but a lazy man and a thief times a thousand. Lock him up in the state penitentiary.”—The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit
Red or Dead is a novel. Red or Dead is a novel about Bill Shankly. Bill Shankly of Liverpool Football Club. Bill Shankly the manager of Liverpool Football Club. The manager of Liverpool Football Club in the 1960s and 1970s.
Red or Dead has an unusual style. A style based on repetition. Repetition of simple phrases. Simple phrases that advance the plot. Simple phrases that advance the story of Bill Shankly. Bill Shankly of Liverpool Football. Bill Shankly the manager of Liverpool Football Club. Simple phrases that tell the story of Bill Shankly the manager of Liverpool Football Club. The repetition of simple phrases tell the story of Bill Shankly. The repetition of simple phrases that mirror the training methods of Bill Shankly. Bill Shankly the manager of Liverpool Football Club. Training based on the repetition of simple routines.
You get the idea. I think this approach works for this story, but you do have to attack passages at speed. You need to get a rhythm. For the first third a knowledge of football, especially English football of that era, is an advantage.
The heart of the novel is the final third, where a post retirement Shankly looks for a role. What comes out is that this is essentially a love story of the Shankly’s love of the city of Liverpool and it’s love of him. It’s clear Peace admires Shankly, and frankly Shankly is a man of such dedication, and good will that he deserves this admiration.
Red or Dead is a good novel. A good novel about a great man.
“Philadelphia Eagles: Last season, Chip Kelly disproved the myth that he needs a mobile quarterback to run his offense. Once Michael Vick inevitably went down with injury, Nick Foles was far more efficient, and he even had 17 zone-read runs for 82 yards. (Vick had nine runs for 126 yards). He’s not overly mobile, but he’s not a statue either. An argument could be made that a mobile quarterback would make the offense better, but passing is still the first priority. Foles used the success of the zone read to his advantage with packaged plays involving the play-action passing game. That delayed reaction from the defense watching the mesh point led to numerous big plays for this offense, especially when Foles was healthy in the second half of the season. The Eagles went from using play action on 24 percent of their passes in their first eight games to 39 percent in the final eight games, a period in which Foles averaged 10.2 yards per attempt and threw 12 touchdowns on play-action passes. Only Peyton Manning finished the season with more touchdown passes off play action (17) than Foles’ 15. Defenses may not respect Foles as a runner, but they can’t just crash the mesh point for fear of the play being a pass. (Scott Kacsmar)”—32 Paragraphs About 32 Teams: A Thinking Fan’s Guide To The NFL Season
“Creative writing should be taught as an art, and as a business. A creative writing program that only includes the former can unwittingly reinforce romantic stereotypes of writing. A young student might major in creative writing. She could become a wonderful poet, and a well-read critic. But she needs to know that poetry doesn’t pay the bills. This is the inside joke of creative writing programs in America. We know creative writing doesn’t make money, and yet we continue to graduate talented writers with no business acumen. At best, it is misguided. At worst, it is fraudulent.”—Practical Art: On Teaching the Business of Creative Writing
“For a club that hasn’t enjoyed much on-field success, the goal is to get smarter, become a consistent contender, and to achieve excellence in all areas by taking advantage of the club’s biggest assets — its gem of a 25,000-seat stadium, the best building in MLS; a year-old, all-world training facility in Hanover, N.J., that houses one of the league’s strongest academy programs; and its almost two-decade head start in the New York-New Jersey area.”—Red Bulls not for sale but change philosophy - ESPN FC
“The book publishing business is essentially full of people who think it’s their social responsibility to worry about culture and to not actually sell books. Which is why they’re going out of business.”—
When I started reading Tucker Max on his blog just before the books, I cared about partying/girls/drinking/being funny - exactly what his books are about. Now many years later, happily married and 30, I’m care about what he’s talking about now - book marketing. Glad we’ve been able to grow up together this way.