I get questions all the time about what I’m reading, what a person should be reading, the books I couldn’t put down, the books I couldn’t live without – and the books I avoid like the plague [I’m looking at you, Victorian literature!]
And so a quick sampling of what I’m reading these days:
Conversational Capital: How to Create Stuff People Love to Talk About
“In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell presents an important idea without any ‘how to.’ Bertrand Cesvet provides the ‘how to’ you need to create ‘Tipping Points’ for your business and success. This book is a compelling presentation of a powerful idea. This is how the new world will do business. Like all great ideas, Conversational Capital is at its core simple: word-of-mouth momentum can be created, harnessed, and used to build consumer passion for a brand better and more cost-effectively than almost any other marketing medium. This book provides the complete prescription for getting consumers excited about your ideas. For all the books that speak of the value of consumer advocacy, few indicate how to create it to begin with. Armed with a compelling set of examples from their own work in fostering leading brands, the authors reveal the triggers of word-of-mouth and a process to embedding them in your own products, helping you create stuff people love to talk about.
David Foster Wallace made quite a splash in 1996 with his massive novel, Infinite Jest. Now he’s back with a collection of essays entitled A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. In addition to a razor-sharp writing style, Wallace has a mercurial mind that lights on many subjects. His seven essays travel from a state fair in Illinois to a cruise ship in the Caribbean, explore how television affects literature and what makes film auteur David Lynch tick, and deconstruct deconstructionism and find the intersection between tornadoes and tennis. These eclectic interests are enhanced by an eye (and nose) for detail: “I have seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flared lapels. I have smelled what suntan lotion smells like spread over 21,000 pounds of hot flesh . . .” It’s evident that Wallace revels in both the life of the mind and the peculiarities of his fellows; in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again he celebrates both.
The Paris Review, that mighty “little” literary magazine, is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with an anthology every bit as mammoth and marvelous as its endless title suggests. Founded by Peter Matthiessen, Harold L. Humes, Donald Hall, William Pene du Bois, and George Plimpton, who remains at the helm, the Paris Review has published an extraordinary group of seminal fiction writers, poets, and essayists and some of the best writer interviews extant, irresistible conversations (Truman Capote responds to a simple question thusly: “Good Lord! I’m afraid you’ve let yourself in for quite a saga. The answer is a snake’s nest of no’s and a few yesses”) excerpted throughout this dynamic compendium showcasing more than 100 writers past and present. A shattering short story by Lorrie Moore kicks off the “Heartbreak” section, while Zelda Fitzgerald is first up in the “Madness” category. Rick Moody offers a painfully graphic variation on “Sex,” and Jonathan Lethem writes of a Tourette’s sufferer in “Outsiders.” Elsewhere the entranced reader will find Faulkner, Auden, Elkin, Cheever, Komunyakaa, Boyle, Erdrich, Munro, and Clifton.
The war hangs over these wry stories of loss and occasionally unsuppressed rage. Salinger’s children are fragile, odd, hypersmart, whereas his grownups (even the materially content) seem beaten down by circumstances–some neurasthenic, others (often female) deeply unsympathetic. The greatest piece in this disturbing book may be “The Laughing Man,” which starts out as a man’s recollection of the pleasures of storytelling and ends with the intersection between adult need and childish innocence. The narrator remembers how, at nine, he and his fellow Comanches would be picked up each afternoon by the Chief–a Staten Island law student paid to keep them busy. At the end of each day, the Chief winds them down with the saga of a hideously deformed, gentle, world-class criminal. With his stalwart companions, which include “a glib timber wolf” and “a lovable dwarf,” the Laughing Man regularly crosses the Paris-China border in order to avoid capture by “the internationally famous detective” Marcel Dufarge and his daughter, “an exquisite girl, though something of a transvestite.” The masked hero’s luck comes to an end on the same day that things go awry between the Chief and his girlfriend, hardly a coincidence. “A few minutes later, when I stepped out of the Chief’s bus, the first thing I chanced to see was a piece of red tissue paper flapping in the wind against the base of a lamppost. It looked like someone’s poppy-petal mask. I arrived home with my teeth chattering uncontrollably and was told to go straight to bed.”
As for what I want to be reading…check out my Amazon wish list for books (and more) in my near future.