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
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.
Reading Taliban Love Poems in an Afghan Prison
We twisted up into the sky beneath a blur of rotors—mum in the numb motor din. The shadow of our helicopter flit below, yawing in the undulations of the sorrel earth, hurtling peaks, and hurling into dark valleys.
My military escort Lieutenant Cartagena and I took off from Mazar-i-Sharif, a city built 900 years ago in desolation—the site revealed in a prophetic dream. From the scattered earthen villages that passed beneath our craft to the army outpost we sought, every settlement seemed tinged with that same fantastic quality—accidents of life in a dead land.
We reunited with our shadow on the airstrip of a base in Baghlan province that I am not permitted to name. I jumped onto the tarmac, squinting through the heat blast. We had come to witness the successful passage of a NATO prison and military base into Afghan hands.
The American soldiers of Blackfoot Troop bounded out to meet us. They were tall and strong, engendering visions of Thanksgiving dinners in places like Battle Creek, Michigan, and Louisville, Kentucky. There was Lieutenant King, Sergeant Morgan, and their corpsman Specialist Singer. They welcomed us by asking our blood types—something practical and still somehow strangely intimate. They hustled us away, out of sight of the mountains, through the gauntlet of concrete T-walls and gravel-filled HESCO barriers that formed the outpost.
The VICE Reader: Aiding & Abetting, by Hilary Leichter
All images by Olivia Hinds
Hilary Leichter’s work has appeared in n+1, Tin House, the Kenyon Review, the Indiana Review, and many other publications. She is a recipient of a 2013 fellowship from the Edward F. Albee Foundation and lives in Brooklyn.
I show the fugitive some hospitality. That’s just the way it is with empty-nesters. We give strangers too much credit, or sometimes, not enough.
“You’re a big-hearted one, aren’t you.” says the fugitive, toneless.
“Sure, if you’d like.”
What the fugitive doesn’t know is that my heart is small and scared, governed by a deep fear of getting things wrong. I bring her some green tea. Did I bring her the right kind of leaf?
See, this is what I mean.
“No. Thanks.” she says, hovering over her mug, not thrilled.
“Whatever appeals.” I pull the mug away. “You’re the guest!”
“I think you might be a poor judge of character,” she says, smiling now. She closes her eyes, same as when I found her crouching behind the hedge. There, she just looked at me and closed her eyes and smiled, like I was a joke and I had come to collect some laughter from the bushes.
She wears sunglasses when she sits on the couch by the window. She says she wants to go shopping for fancy shoes at the mall, a strange choice for a woman on the run. “Haha!” I say. She is not cool with my limited imagination.
“Sometimes, a wanted woman wants to look her best,” she says. “Don’t you ever want to look your best?” she asks me, and I imagine dipping my toes into a red wedge.
RIP Elmore Leonard
We had a long conversation with the legendary crime novelist in 2009. You can read it here.
Three Poems from Rachel Glaser’s Moods
"God is popular"
god is popular with athletes
they think about him while they practice
but rarely will he watch with one of his eyes
he has countless eyes
a hundred eyes, more
he is all eyes, but they hurt
and he can never sleep
the ocean is okay
but boats crowd it with their wakes
god can’t help but look at every bubble
it puts a strain on his eyes to watch small things and fast things
cities, streets, fingernails
dots on a die
he prefers to watch other planets
Saturn and those ones
those are graceful
more one color
watching Rushmore be built
the Great Wall
something lengthy and accumulative
he hates fireworks
but the worst is to see a needle being strung
the little end of the string struggling to fit
his eye feels like it’s been injected with iodine
he cannot rub it
he is invisible
no one can help him
Two more poems
Over the next two months, in celebration of the forthcoming release of Tao Lin’s latest novel, Taipei, we will be featuring a weekly selection of photos taken by the author during his recent trip to Taipei, Taiwan. While there, he took thousands of pictures with his iPhone, pictures which he has divided into albums titled things like “Taipei funny,” “Taipei food,” Taipei babies,” and “Taipei animals,” among others. The images were taken between January and February 2013 during one of his semi-yearly visits to the Taiwanese capital, where his parents live. This first selection is titled “Taipei babies.” All photos and captions by Tao Lin.
Taipei, will be released on June 4 from Vintage and is available for pre-order now. To read an early excerpt from the novel that we published in 2011 titled “Relationship Story,” click here.
Anne Carson vs. George Saunders
The first quarter of 2013 sees new works by two of the most highly regarded North American authors. George Saunders’s Tenth of December, a collection of stories published over the last five years, and Anne Carson’s forthcoming Red Doc>, a conceptual sequel to perhaps her most popular work, Autobiography of Red.
It has been seven years since Saunders’s previous collection, In Persuasion Nation. While that book enjoyed a relatively positive reception, it was still a far cry from the reaction to his second book, Pastoralia, which for the most part established Saunders as the kind of guy who is regularly referred to as things like “one of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation.”
And for good reason. The stories in his first two books were funny and surprising both in voice and image. You never knew what would happen next, and no matter what did, the way the story was told carried you through. Great humor and light could be found in stories that might take place in a strip club or an insanely premised theme-park and still meet the criteria of “feeling human.”
I think most people’s first reaction upon hearing that Anne Carson, who identifies as a poet, had decided to write a sequel to a novel in verse about a quasi-mythical coming-of-age erotic meta-epic was somewhere amidst surprise, excitement, slight confusion, and expectation: a good mixture of whys.
But I couldn’t curb my curiosity toward seeing what Saunders had done now. Like many of my generation, Saunders was exciting to me early on, and I’d already seen no less than three people call this book, released on the 8th day of the year, “The Best Book of The Year For Sure.” That immediate and fawning praise might have had something to do with the sudden foreboding sense of unreasonable dread the idea of actually reading the book, putting a face to what it is, elicited in me.
And yet I went in ready for the world. I always want things that have an expectation of greatness to actually be colossal, particularly in the hands of those I’ve loved before. I never give up expecting another burst like the ones I felt as a young reader finding work that changed the way I thought.
I read the first story in Tenth of December waiting for that punch. It clearly had all the mechanisms of Saunders’s best abilities: amazing timing; surprising tic-like outbursts; post-corporate entities pressed upon the human to what end; light jabs of funny sexuality; a melding of charming observation and personal slang eliciting a quick familiarity with the narrator; a sense of contemporary-condition understanding faced with moral gray area allowing vague emotional pull without forcing the issue, and so on.
When I finished the story I was left with the sense that we could go anywhere from here. It felt like an opening pending on the worlds I’d been through in his work before in a way that almost seemed ready to go past them, to build off of what had been long ago begun.
The book, for me, never transcended that beginning. It worked the territory that it knew, if always in the grand style to be expected of George Saunders, but only as far as before, and in less robust versions of what it modeled. It felt to me in the same terrain and manner of his previous ideas, working the same strings in a new way after a few relatively failed attempts in previous books at shaking a new leg. That opening story’s title, “Victory Lap,” suddenly seemed a bit too telling.
Since Saunders’s first book, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline in 1996, his style has become in many ways a high-water model for a certain kind of story, one where the narrative provides a frame for the voice to propel itself toward an understanding. One finishes a Saunders story with the feeling of having been through something with someone, tasted their mind, and experienced a catalyst of change that many narrative writers would call essential.
Saunders is often able to do this without the active elements seeming as directed as others working in such form. He charms you into his world, incorporates you alongside the vision. He makes you laugh and sounds like George Saunders. It weighs more than a pound. The temporary feeling is kind of nice, if only in the way we knew it would be.
I want more.