books Uncategorized

Weekend Reads, First Week of April Edition.

So the thing about these “Weekend Reads” — and mind you, I read through a lot of stuff all through the week, and these are already the gems — is that being able to read them wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t done two things: a) go on a strict social media diet, and b) uninstall all my games from my phone. At some point last year I finally figured out that writing time was a precious, precious commodity, and that I would sneak it in any chance I could.

Easier said than done, of course. But waking up way earlier, choosing a commute that actually optimizes writing time (the bus takes longer, but it’s more convenient,  I have a seat, which lets me type), etc. has worked well. It also lets me read. Distilling my personal leisure time — in contrast to leisure time with family and friends, that is — to the binary options of reading and writing feels satisfyingly primal. I’m cool with that right now.

I found it terribly easy, actually, to limit logging on to Facebook to once on the weekends, and just enough for a couple of vertical swipes, maybe three. (Twitter I abandoned long ago.) It’s a huge contrast to the former way I would refresh my News Feed hourly. You might say it was an addiction. I would see the same Buzzfeed links posted over and over, the endless photos of food, and so on, and somehow they never registered as noise. That recalibration of my priorities exposed them for what they were.

That said, I do miss that plunge into the quotidian, that quick peek at what my friends are up to, to see photos of my nephew and nieces. That out there births and deaths and celebrations and complaints and dinners and oversharing are happening, an endless scrolling flow of events and non-events — but there’s nothing wrong with finding out about them only once a week.

  • Games, on the other hand, are another story, and one I’ll leave for another post. But here are a couple of smart pieces on games: Byron Alexander Campbell, “The Allure of Allegory; or, a Case for Cardboard.” (Entropy)
  • And an appreciation of Will Wright’s SimCity, by Ian Bogost, “Video Games Are Better Without Characters.” (The Atlantic)
  • I love this story, and even though during my first read I wasn’t quite sure if the lab monkey aspect really worked, I began to appreciate how the constantly interrupting voice of the writing teacher functioned as the voice of the State, and God, and the Parent all at once, and what I thought was merely a clever but weak metaphor (the lab monkey) was now burnished with sadness. Angela Woodward, “Clarity.” (The Collagist)
  • “It is all dirt; it is a useless exercise!” Jim Melrose, “Mister Lucas’ Punishment” (Solstice)
  • “In this moment, the confusion of my whole life has receded. No one will ask me if I am white or Asian. No one will ask me if I am a man or a woman. No one will ask me why I love men.” Alexander Chee, “Girl” (Guernica)
  • Not a read, exactly: Kindle Cover Disasters
  • I’m linking to this piece with some amusement because I don’t necessarily sympathize with these poor, poor folks stuck at home. (Though I should add that my snark is tempered by the fact that it’s great that companies offer telecommute privileges, and so these folks may actually love being at home, as I would too because it frees up my weekend to do something other than the laundry, but one may also argue that temporary contractors aren’t even given office space and are expected to get their work done at some cafe with wifi, which stinks, etc.) But I do wish the article could have dug a little deeper about the lives of the delivery and cleaning people.  Lauren Smiley, “The Shut-In Economy” (Matter)
  • Here’s an excerpt from a forthcoming novel by Hari Kunzru and it looks pretty darn great; it reminds me of Ian MacDonald’s fantastic novel River of Gods. “Drone” (Granta)



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