Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Book Space

I’m usually more partial to long, drawn out novels than “quick reads.” I like reading the same novel for weeks at a time; the longer, the better. But seeing as I am now getting most of my reading done in my commutes to and from work, it is not that practical to carry around a book that could easily double as a doorstop.

The most obvious solution, to reading on the train, is to neatly fold a magazine under my arm. But I don’t like 90% of magazine writing so I’ve been reading quickie works of literature lately. There are two in particular that I found to be perfectly suited for the fragmented bus and subway trips of my mornings and evenings.

The first one is Orphans, Essays, by Charles D’ Ambrosio. I picked up this densely packed book in Seattle, about a year and a half ago, after seeing D’Ambrosio do a reading. For some reason, I didn’t get around to it until last month. Now I’m wondering what I’ve been wasting my time on for the past year and a half, because I think this guy is hands down one of the best contemporary writers we have going for us today.

The second, Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino, I was able to finish in one day, between two 30 minute commutes. And I read it again, the next day, which I so rarely do. Calvino, a very prolific writer, was recommended to me by my friend Charles. I panicked at the bookstore, not knowing which Calvino to start with, so I chose Invisible Cities only because it has the coolest name. But I now plan to read everything he has ever written, which my friend, Charles, does not recommend.

These two writers have close to nothing in common: they are from different generations, yet of the same century, and two totally different regions (Calvino, born in Cuba, raised in Italy, D’ Ambrosio, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest). Yet they both display flawlessly the skill of saying a lot with as little language as possible: Calvino, with his poetic prose and D’Ambrosio, with his poetic journalism.

Although I must confess, when my eye catches a headline like, HOW BRONZER CHANGED MY LIFE, I do tilt my head in curiosity as I look over the shoulder of the passenger next to me, breaking from literature to magazine fluff.


Blogger adamghory said...

I've read "If On a Winter's Night a Traveler" by Calvino. It was pretty good, if you're into him. I agree, they need to figure out a way to make huge long books more portable.

3:08 PM  
Blogger ultrafknbd said...

"Hello, I'm the guy who sits next to you and reads the newspaper over your shoulder.

Wait! Don't turn the page, I'm not finished.

Life is so uncertain."

~Lyle Lovett, Here I Am


Makes me think of long commutes, bus rides, and time spent in waiting rooms.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

At least Calvino is prolific. I hate it when I read a book which is completely amazing, and I go to the bookstore to find out that it's their only novel. And then, when the author finally comes out with a second, it's totally lacking in inspiration, and not even worth the waiting around I did.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Kat said...

i agree, read "if on a winter's night a traveller"

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can get me a signed copy of Emma Forrest's novel, "Cherries in the Snow," I'd appreciate it a lot.

- jimbo

12:50 PM  
Blogger Adam Frucci said...

"Invisible Cities" is so good. And I agree about the long books, I'm reading a 600+ pager right now and it's really slow going, as I only have time to read on the train. Have you read "Jesus' Son" by Denis Johnson? It's a great quick book of short stories, you'd like it.

2:43 PM  

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