The Book Report, by Leigh Stein
Image art by Alex Cook
The Book Report is a series that promises to deliver exactly what it promises: reports on books by the people who’ve read them. Catch evenings of live, in-person Book Reports that will remind you of the third grade in the best possible way with hosts Leigh Stein and Sasha Fletcher every month at The Gallery at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street in New York. The next one is December 10, and you should go.
Very premium literary masterwork Super Sad True Love Story begins in Italy, a beautiful place I have never seen, which is good way to start novel because it says, Reader, I have seen beautiful things and now I will tell you about them.
I learned a lot about Italian romance in this story. For example, in Italy, a woman with name of Eunice can be object of sexual desire. Also, in Italy, eating rabbit is prelude to semiconsensual oral sex. Most important thing I learn is this: I never knew what super sad, true love was until I meet Mr. Gary Shteyngart himself.
“I hear New York writer interviewed on NPR,” Mother told me, when I was home in Chicago. “He is Jewish and teaches at Columbia University?”
“Mr. Gary Shteyngart?” I inquired, hopefully.
“Very funny man. Have you met him?”
“No,” I said, thinking how ridiculous it would be to become proximal with famous writer.
"I got a feeling you two are together and you’re keepin’ it a secret”
New fiction by Alejandro Zambra
"Thank You" – New Fiction by Alejandro Zambra
Alejandro Zambra is one of our favorite living writers. His first book, Bonsai, won the Chilean Critics’ Award for Best Novel of the Year in 2006. We first read his work when Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Ways of Going Home in 2013. What distinguishes Alejandro from his contemporaries is the sweetness and intimacy of his writing, and his confidence in letting himself be as he is. As you read his work, there’s never the impression that he is second-guessing himself, thinking, “So-and-so would do it this way,” or “Such-and-such editor would say that.” He exhibits this remarkable confidence on the page, one that allows him to be himself and to speak, a special kind of generosity. It feels like knowing and speaking to a sweetheart—it never feels like he’s an author who pretends, or tries to teach, or falls into egotistical traps. Flaws in writing often come from flaws in character. Alejandro doesn’t seem to have any of those. He’s just a lovely, special, strange person who seems to look at his actual world and describe it in his actual, natural voice, and he leaves it at that. He has the authority that J. M. Coetzee, V. S. Naipaul, and Bret Easton Ellis have all identified as the writer’s bedrock.
“I got a feeling you two are together and you’re keepin’ it a secret”—“No we’re not,” they answer in unison, and it’s the truth: for a little over a month now they’ve been sleeping together, they eat, read, and work together, so that someone with a tendency to exaggerate, someone who watched them and carefully parsed the words they say to each other, the way their bodies move closer to each other and entwine—a brash person, someone who still believed in these sorts of things, would say they really loved each other, or that at least they shared a dangerous and generous passion; and yet they are not together, if there is one thing they are very clear about it is precisely this, that they are not together. She is Argentine and he’s Chilean, and it’s much better to refer to them like that, the Argentine woman, the Chilean man.
They’d planned on walking, they’d talked about how nice it is to go long distances on foot, and they even reached the point where they were dividing people into two groups: those who never walk long distances and those who do, and who they believe are, because of that, better. They’d planned on walking, but on a whim they hailed a taxi, and they had known for months, even before they’d arrived in Mexico City, when they’d received a set of instructions that was full of warnings, that they should never hail a taxi in the street, and up till then it had never occurred to them to hail a taxi in the street, but this time, on a whim, they did it, and soon she thought the driver was going the wrong way and she said as much to the Chilean in a whispered voice, and he reassured her out loud, but his words didn’t even get to take effect because right away the taxi stopped and two men got in and the Chilean reacted valiantly, recklessly, confusedly, childishly, stupidly: he punched one of the bandits in the nose, and he went on struggling for long seconds while she shouted, Stop it, stop it, stop it. The Chilean stopped, and the bandits let him have it, they showed him no mercy, they may have even broken something, but this all happened long ago, a good ten minutes ago. By now they’ve already given up their money and their credit cards and they’ve already recited their ATM PIN numbers and there’s only a little time left that to them seems like an eternity, during which they ride with their eyes squeezed shut, “Shut your eyes, pinches cabrones,” the two men tell them.
How to Structure Your Life: A Review of Corey Feldman’s Biography, ‘Coreyography’
I think I can learn a lot from Corey Feldman’s autobiography, Coreyography. He was a child star in the 80s who was pushed into acting by his parents. His mother was a former Playboy bunny at one of the clubs, and his father was a struggling musician. Once Corey started booking commercials at age three, he became the family’s breadwinner; with that came a host of unfair responsibilities for the young Corey, which seems to have warped his perspective on his place in the world and his relationship to filmmaking; it must be hard to shake that feeling importance. He was, like all child actors, working in a professional environment filled with and designed for adults—having to play child characters but performing a job that required the stamina and perspective of the adults who worked alongside him.
Because he was the major earner for his family, the pressure for him to continue working was extraordinarly—abusively—high: he was beaten with belts and wooden dowels if he didn’t perform well in school (bad grades would prevent him from getting a work permit), if he ate too much (his mom had an obsession with his weight), or if he didn’t book jobs or had problems on the set. As a child, Corey was in some of the most important movies of the 80s, Stand by Me,The Goonies, The Lost Boys (the first of the contemporary teenage vampire projects—decades before Twilight). And he was part of the pop phenomenon “the Two Coreys,” alongside Corey Haim, and was a close friend to Michael Jackson; Corey was at the center of most of the popular youth projects and events of the era. By tracking his story, one gets to a peak behind the scenes of many of the projects that shaped the culture of my generation.
Book Report: ‘Frankenstein’
Last fall, as I prepared for my first semester of full-time adjuncting in New York, I thought it would be a good idea to teach texts that I’d always meant to read but never had. Maybe Heart of Darkness or Great Expectations. (The Old Man and the Sea or Wurthering Heights?) And I could read along with my students. It was not a very good idea. I still have not read 100 percent ofHamlet, even though I taught it and graded papers on it—but I did manage to keep up withFrankenstein by Mary Shelley.
I chose this book for both a freshman-composition class for international students and, at another school, an introduction-to-literature class. It seemed like a great choice: canonized young woman novelist, probably a straightforward ethical message, weird gender inversions with male birth narrative.
Prior to teaching Frankenstein, my knowledge of the plot was cobbled together from loosely interpreting Tim Burton films, the moment from the 1931 film adaptation when Dr. Frankenstein screams, “It’s alive! It’s alive!,” and a 1998 Twix commercial.
'Macbeth' – The Book Report
The Book Report is a series that promises to deliver exactly what it promises: reports on books by the people who’ve read them. Catch evenings of live, in-person Book Reports that will remind you of the third grade in the best possible way with hosts Leigh Stein and Sasha Fletcher every month at The Gallery at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street in New York. The next one is November 12.
OK right so first off there are these ladies hanging out in the woods over a trash-can fire with a cauldron and they are stirring it with probably brooms. Basically this is where the sign drops down saying “WITCHES” as a sort of stage direction to our lives. OK so there is this guy named DUNCAN and he is king of all the Scots. And OK so MACBETH is the main guy here because he gets first billing. And so the thing about MACBETH is that he killed some guys in a war and so that was good, and then he and his best buddy BANQUO get shit-housed and wander around the woods all shit-housed like a bunch of loud-ass drunk white dudes in positions of middle management obsessed and incensed with their own perceived lack of value, and they stumble across THESE THREE LADIES  and the THREE LADIES are all like, “O, yo, MACBETH we were just talkin about U,” and Macbeth is all, “Who me?” and the witches say, “Yes, U. U R gonna be king.” And Banquo is all, “What about me?” and they’re all, “U R gonna father a bunch of kings, but U ain’t gonna be one.” And the aformentioned dudes are all, “Whoa, this is so weird!” And the witches are all, “Poof, we vanished” because that is exactly what happened.
Rob Delaney, he of the funny tweets and sometime writer of VICE articles, is releasing his first book tomorrow from Spiegel & Grau. The book is called Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. and it is one of the most hilarious bundles of words we have ever read. It’s a collection of essays, some of which appeared in one form or another on this very website in Rob’s column, Take a Stroll… with Rob Delaney. In celebration of the book’s release, today we are publishing one of its essays, “La Sexualité.” To preorder the book and gaze into Rob’s hazelnut eyes, click here.
It’s easy to get fat. In fact, it’s beyond easy. It’s fun to do, too. When someone says something is easy as pie, I think, “What aspect of a pie? Cooking it? That’s not easy, and I know how to cook lots of things. No, Rob, they mean eating it.” It is easy to jam a tasty pie, or even a shitty pie that you bought at a gas station, right the fuck into your fattening faceblob. It’s also been said that the first bite tastes the best, but the rest of them taste pretty good too.
When I was a kid, my family and I would eat every Friday night at Pizzeria Regina in Salem, Massachusetts, just one town over from Marblehead. Every other family dinner was eaten at home, so Friday was a big deal. We’d eat a pie of pizza while “Rock You Like a Hurricane” or “Eye of the Tiger” played on the jukebox (because I’d picked it), then we’d walk by a small park with a massive sculpture of Nathaniel Hawthorne seated on a throne, and go to Alden Merrell Cheesecakes, and we’d eat a pie of that, too. And indeed, it was easy.
Them Sounds Is Furious
I Am Not from This Planet is a column where we give James Franco’s Florida-bred, gun-toting, big-bootie-loving pal Alien the floor to sound off on whatever he likes. For this inaugural edition, Alien breaks us off some knowledge with a review of William Faulkner’s literary classic, The Sound and the Fury.
William Faulkner one bad motherfucker when it come to putting them words on paper. Of all them books that boy put out, Sound and the Fury holds a special spot in my heart—kinda like my first piece of ass. I was just a little boy, like 16 or something when I first read it and it stuck with me to this day.
The Sound and the Fury was William’s fourth book, and it has a stream of consciousness flow that be like one of my fly-ass freestyles. It reads like the boy just wrote that shit straight off the top of the head. The vibe has a lot to do with the South, which I can relate to since I come straight outta country-ass motherfucking St. Petersburg, Florida. This book airs out the dirty drawers of the South by following the breakdown of the Compsons, a family of rich-ass crackers, after the Civil War. The Compsons do all types of shady shit and end up losing all their power and their paper.
JD Salinger’s War, by James Franco
Along with Shane Salerno’s new documentary about J. D. Salinger, he has co-written a book about the enigmatic author with my friend and teacher, David Shields. The book is called Salinger, just like the film, but it is filled with ten times more material than the documentary and is ten times better. The book reads like an oral biography, but is much more like a documentary on paper. Like a collage, David and Shane artfully pasted together interviews, letters, and material from J. D.’s books and stories. The result is an insightful and spooky portrait of a recluse who didn’t necessarily desire a total eclipse from the limelight. J. D. renounced publishing because it didn’t fit with his religious beliefs and, possibly, because his work became less admired as his beliefs made their way into his writing.
J. D. Salinger was the son of a butcher, but he learned early on that carving up meat wasn’t the life for him. He fell into writing and drama in high school (later he would think of himself as the only one who could play Holden Caulfield, even after he was well past his teens). After high school, he attended two of my alma maters: NYU in the late 1930s (he dropped out) and Columbia where he worked with Whit Burnett. His early prewar writing had a style indebted to F. Scott Fitzgerald, with debutantes and aimless young characters. When he went to war, however, everything changed.
Archipelago Books needs your support to publish a hardcover edition of MY STRUGGLE: BOOK ONE by Karl Ove Knausgaard!
Help our friends at Archipelago Books raise funds so they can publish Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book One. Not only do we think publishing fine international works in English translation is a worthy cause, but even a small donation will get you the book!
VICE Tumblr Team is on the record as being anti-crowdsourcing but this book is really good, so