Recent Reviews
Monday
Feb182013

The Best of Youth by Michael Dahlie

Maybe it's not fair to review this as I live in Brooklyn and I know (and like) Michael Dahlie; but, I don't really care about fair. In fact, that's kind of what this book is about. There's no such thing as fair: we don't deserve certain things because of other things. Maybe we don't even cause or prevent things. We pretty much just live and experience; but that's difficult to come to terms with. Henry Lang has inherited 15-million dollars. He's an aspiring writer, a graduate of Harvard University, and newly living in Brooklyn. Things go wrong and right for Henry. We cringe and root for him because he's pathetic and awesome at once--like us! And even if you can't really relate to Henry's situation, you will relate to his emotions; we all crave the same things: to be received, to be accepted and understood and commended. Sometimes revenge. Shit happens, that's for sure. "There was simply nothing a person could do to anticipate what came next in life..." True. This book is really easy to read because it's in third person, but it's also packed with parenthetical comments that make you feel like you're Henry. I read this book in a few days on the subway to and from work in NYC. It was perfect. –Micah Ling 

Wednesday
Feb132013

The Rolling Stones 50 by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood

It's difficult to categorize this as a book, which isn't to down-talk books. Books are the coolest. But, this more than a book: it's something to own. It may well weigh 50 pounds: packed with over 1,000 photos--each of which will make you pause and just think, "fuck they're cool." Sure, the Rolling Stones redefined pop music and music in general, but I'd also say they redefined pop culture. Like this book being bigger than a book, their music was bigger than music. This thing is divided into five decades. Five decades. (God, they were so cute in 1963). The guys recall details of shows from the 60's and shows from just a few years ago, which is how memory works, of course. Just when they seem bigger than all things big and hip, you realize that they're most remarkable because they're so easy to relate to. The same reason that Charlie Is My Darling is so much fun to watch. But it hasn’t all been easy. Or, mostly it hasn’t been easy. Even though fame and attention seem otherworldly, sometimes that world is scary and weird and sad. Get your hands on this thing—both of them—it’s huge. –Micah Ling

Thursday
Jan312013

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Alright already! Everyone is talking about this book. Everyone. Colbert, The New York Times Magazine, even me! Saunders is a nerd: he's skinny, even slightly mousy, and with those definitive glasses. But also sexy in his way--I mean, what writing professor isn't? The thing you won't be able to get over in these stories, though, is his absolute endless knowledge. It's no mistake that this man won the MacArthur Genius Grant; and one wouldn't necessarily think that such a wealth of knowledge would translate into telling stories, but Saunders has somehow been blessed with the ability to use both sides of his brain. He read the opening story of the collection, "Victory Lap," several months ago at Butler University. The way he pulled off the point of view (from two children) made me a little obsessed with the story: I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I even shot Saunders an e-mail asking where I could find it. But all of the stories in this book are that way. So, it’s true: when you think that we're all telling the same basic stories over and over, Saunders blows you away with an entirely new way of even thinking about stories. -Micah Ling

Thursday
Jan242013

Saint X by Kirk Nesset

Saint X arrives in the night to fill the void—the liminal space between the sheets, between awake and asleep, dreams and nightmares, lightning and thunder. Nesset unravels lumpier corners of the universe and undresses them slowly, leaving the reader with a series of poems that are as cryptic as they are captivating. “We did and we did, blindly alive / in our dreaming, at war with the middle,” Nesset writes in the titular poem. Reading the words, you feel at war yourself—imbued by ripened, blind pineapples, imbibing each image as the scenes melt in your thoughts. At war with? Put your finger on it, I dare you. Saint X lurks behind each page, and, certain you will catch the genderless, faceless perpetrator, you finger over them as fast as your eyes will let you. But Saint X is always one step ahead; take your time. In strawberry light, in naked sanity, Saint X will appear not at once, but all together. From the song of Nesset’s poetry, you will feel a heavy presence long after the book returns—spine-out—to a shelf. Faint whispers at first, a low rumble growing: then it’s gone. -Eric Ellis

Thursday
Jan102013

Nine and a Half Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill

I don't know what the deal is with Fifty Shades of Grey, and I don't really care to find out, but let me suggest, instead, not just to women, but to everyone, this book. (And also James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime, and Silk by Alessandro Baricco). Read those three, and I'm pretty sure you won't need any grey at all. But read this especially. Read it because you saw the movie in 1986, (which was great) and the book is a hundred times better. Read it because of this article in the New Yorker. Read it because as much as it is explicitly and beautifully about sex, (and it is), it's also about letting go. When was the last time that you let go? When was the last time you trusted with your entire body and enjoyed the moment? We are remarkably attached to rules: we can't do this because this. Sure, we can't all be reckless all the time, but being an adult sometimes means choosing the moment over the possible consequence. Selfishness and selflessness. Have some fun. Own your body. Feel as much as humanly possible. Trust someone. Why not? –Micah Ling