A Very Long Post about Books

I’m reading a lot these days (9,747 pages since July 1!).  I thought it would get in the way of living just a little bit, but it really hasn’t.  I’m at least as social as I was before.  I’m actually really overwhelmed by how much I’m not reading.  It’s kind of like a “the-more-you-know-the-more-you-realize-you-don’t-know” sort of thing, but I need to let it go.  If half the books I read this year are worthwhile, that’s 26.  If 1/4 are, that’s still a respectable 13.  Anyway, I realize I haven’t been writing a lot about this project, and I’d like to change that (inspired by this one!).  So here we go…


Today I finished Octavia E. Butler’s Imago, a science fiction novel, last of a trilogy recommended by Barrett.  I have to say science fiction has never really been my thing, but this was really interesting — Butler has a great perspective on humans and their problems and how they could be improved.  And you end up (fairly quickly) admiring the aliens and “constructs” (alien-human offspring) more than the stubborn, cancer-susceptible humans.  I really admire people who write this stuff — I think it would be hard enough to construct a fictional story set in a world and society you’re familiar with, let alone invent new worlds and societies.  Fascinating.  Somehow in doing this, Butler sees humanity more acutely.


And yesterday I finished Brian Eno’s A Year with Swollen Appendices (I had been reading both books in tandem).  Lovely, lovely.  You would think that someone’s diary would be fairly mundane, and in most cases you’re probably right.  But when said person spends weeks in Ireland working and playing with U2, gets invited to Julian Schnabel’s kids’ birthday party, runs into Bjork and Elvis Costello at the health club, and toils over whether or not to give a speech at the ceremony for the controversial Turner Prize, it makes things a little more digestible.  While all of that was interesting, however, it was really the day-to-day stuff that made the book interesting.  I love how much he loves his daughters!  And his slight (but by no means indecent) obsession with women’s big “bottoms” — to the point that his first experiments with Photoshop involve making their bottoms bigger.  Here is a man with huge creative output, but he’s always feeling like it’s never enough.  There’s just something nice about witnessing someone else’s existential dilemmas.  And seeing his ideas develop…  I have many tiny post-its in this book — the things I especially loved marked, but I have to return the book to the library.  Here are a few:

  • 7 January: “‘What the fuck am I here for?’ is a very modern question, only available at a certain level of luxury and self-importance. Most people, most of the time, are just where they end up. (Rober Wyatt: ‘You end up committing yourself to what you’re left with.’)”
  • 28 February: “Do very hard things, just for the sake of it.” With this footnote: “A way of doing something original is by trying something so painstaking that nobody else has ever bothered with it. Sixteen-foot-square black paintings made entirely with a very fine (6H) pencil would qualify (recently Jan Fabre has been covering castles and art galleries with Biro). Walking the Great Wall of China (Marina Abramovic) isn’t a bad try, either.  Then the question arises in the mind” Why are they going to all this trouble?” I like this question. I like any question that makes you start thinking about the “outside” of the experience — because it makes the experience bigger.” [I totally love these impossible projects — the guy who walked from L.A. to New York, for example]
  • 23 March: “Saying that cultural objects have value is like saying that telephones have conversations.” [he has a lot to say about art and what makes it valuable — very good argument on this…]
  • 20 November: “My first Photoshop dream. I dreamed I was erasing my past in Photoshop, but it turned out that I was using the “clone tool” — so instead of erasing I was just copying chunks of the past into he future.”
  • 7 December: “Rationality is what we do to organize the world, to make it possible to predict. Art is the rehearsal for the inapplicability and failure of that process.”

Anyway, next on the horizon: a book by this woman who will be a visiting lecturer in February, and with whom I’ll be having dinner.  Something about Roman art, and whether it’s valuable in and of itself, or only as copies of Greek art.  I’m incredibly anxious about the dinner — not that she won’t be interesting, but because I’ll undoubtedly feel awkward in the company of a bunch of PhDs.  So I’m reading her book.  And planning to listen well and emulate Terry Gross to the best of my ability.  Also, Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me by Javier Marias.  I spent some time this weekend exploring the MCA’s library with Barrett — they basically ask artists who exhibit there to populate a shelf with works that influence them, and then periodically have a “book club” discussion about one of the books with one of the artists.


1 Comment

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One response to “A Very Long Post about Books

  1. melissa

    wow, i can totally identify with eno’s photoshop dream, though the metaphorical implications of the clone tool as applied to his life is almost too clever to believe. also, i love that you plan on channeling terry gross.

    congrats on nearly 10,000 pages!

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