I’m barely a month into this new year, and I’ve already broken a resolution. I vowed to read 60+ books in 2022. It was soon after I made this vow that I watched a video-essay that talked about reading for quality not quantity. I realized: What’s the point of reading if you’re going to treat it like a hotdog eating contest? Instead, I plan to savor each bite. If I read 60 books, then I read 60 books, but that won’t be my focus.
In A Moveable Feast, Sylvia Beach admonishes Hemingway: “Don’t read too fast!” And I won’t. Still, I may read more next month. As I said, in my writing update, January was not a good month for me.
The Run Fantastic by Luke Kondor
After dying in his sleep, Ampersand Jones goes for a run, hoping that if he can run a marathon, he might be able to return to life. Luke was kind enough to send me a copy of his new novella. And wow! What a book! I felt that I was running alongside Ampersand, encountering the many bizarre characters in his path. The cover includes a blurb from Carlton Mellick III: “Luke Kondor is the future of bizarro fiction.” I wholeheartedly agree. This smart, funny, and well-written novella breathes new life into the genre.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
To start off the year, I decided to re-read Hemingway’s famous memoir of his Paris years. I gleaned so much more this time. Hemingway writes in such a style that he can be read fast, but the experience is much richer taking it slowly. It was ultimately a melancholic story as reminiscences of the past can be. He can be brutal in describing his fellow expatriates such as Gertrude Stein, the Fitzgeralds, and Ford Madox Ford. Still, it stands as my second favorite Hemingway book, with The Sun Also Rises firmly in first place.
Darling Acres: The Breakdown Poems by Amy M. Vaughn
I don’t read much poetry, but when my friend Amy sent me her new collection, I was eager to try it out. And let me just say she may have turned me into a poetry fan. Here’s the blurb I wrote for her:
In her collection Darling Acres, Amy M. Vaughn translates pain into poetry—both accessible and profound. With COVID, chronic pain, and mental illness closing in on all sides, she depicts her struggles with dark humor. Ultimately, I found it inspiring, a guidebook on coping and survival that I imagine will stick with me for quite some time.
Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami
This Japanese novel of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll was not my type of book, but after putting down several other books, I felt obligated to finish it. That said, the vomit-drenched narrative did have some powerful scenes. The language, though coarse at times, was beautiful in its own way, and I read the last ten pages with my jaw hanging open. I’m glad I didn’t put it down. Though hard to read at times, it provided me a prospective unknown to me in my sheltered existence.
The Burning by Bentley Little
I don’t know if Bentley Little is my favorite mainstream horror author, but he’s certainly in the top three. That said, this wasn’t my favorite Little novel. I bought it with the promise of a haunted train, but it was so much more. The book takes a hard look at racism, especially what the early Chinese-American immigrants faced. Little has an incredible gift to take seemingly unrelated story lines and tie them together beautifully. The Burning was no different.
You may have noticed there aren’t any ratings accompanying the above books. I recently read a newsletter from Max Booth III that said:
“Art isn’t designed to be graded on a one-out-of-five-star system.”
And I couldn’t agree with this more.