Books …And Boy, Are My Arms Tired
posted by June 2 at 14:14 PMon
One of the best things about leaving BEA is that I have a ton of good books for the plane ride home. This is usually more meaningful when BEA is on the east coast and eight hours away, but the two-and-a-half-hour flight still makes for some good reading time. Rather than reading bestsellers, I can actually read some of the stuff that I’m most excited to read.
I stopped by the Continuum booth at the show, and one of their number shoved a book in my hand and completely sold it to me. It came out in November of last year and was completely off my radar. Like most of the 33 1/3 books published by Continuum, it’s about one record’s creation and impact. Unlike most of the series, this isn’t written by someone with a positive slant on the record: it’s by Carl Wilson and it’s called Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste. Wilson worked as a music critic for a very long time and in this book he studies exactly why he loathes Celine Dion. Apparently, later in the book, he gets into Marxism and the politics of personal taste. Wilson did a lot of research into Dion, tracing her history as a young music sensation and her history with the Quebec separatist movement. He marks a seminal moment at the Oscars when Elliott Smith and Dion were in direct competition—apparently, Dion was so sweet to Smith that he spent the rest of his life defending her in interviews. And it kind of chronologically studies the ascent of Dion-hate.
I was loving the book, but I had to get up at four this morning to take the subway to the airport, and so, sitting uncomfortably in my compact window seat, I had to close my eyes for a little nap. I woke up about five minutes later, when the book fell off my lap into the netherworld between plane seat and plane wall. I scratched at the space below my seat, but Celine Dion was lost to me for the duration of the flight.
Instead, I pulled out I am Death, by Gary Amdahl. It’s a new paperback original comprised of two novellas by the lovely little nonprofit Milkweek Press, which has been producing more and more interesting stuff lately. The title novella, subtitled “or Bartleby the Mobster,” was responsible for my atrocious, painful sunburn that I picked up by the pool yesterday. It was a collection of interviews and excerpts of pieces about a journalist who is interviewing an old mobster who wants to publish a memoir titled A Boy’s First Book of Mobsters. It was pretty great.
But the rest of my trip was spent reading the other novella, called Peasants, which is about the interoffice politics of a publisher of books about a publisher of guides for geographic information systems. It’s funny and embarrassing and painful and great. There’s a lot of wordplay and characters doing things that should seem completely out-of-character, yet they work in a really entertaining way. I was reminded of Stanley Elkin, who is one of the best authors in the world to be reminded of. If novellas are your thing, you should really check it out.
And the nice lady in the seat behind me returned the Celine Dion book to me when we were deplaning, so I’ll finish that one tonight.