Arts Desk

Five Books I’d Read

in which the author discusses five books he'd read, if time permitted.

1. Pym, by Mat Johnson.
F*ck your novel about post-collegiate angst: This book is about a band of African-American adventures who sail to Antarctica in search of an all-black island discussed in Edgar Allan Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which turns out to be true. Tiny Furniture it ain't.

2. Branch Rickey, by Jimmy Breslin.
I've never read Jimmy Breslin, but he always seemed like one of those authors that might accidentally kill you with a sausage-and-pepper sandwich.

3. Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, by Sammy Hagar.
I read an interview with Sammy Hagar when I was a teenager. I think it was in Rolling Stone. In the interview, Sammy Hagar said something like, "You never know when inspiration will strike. It might strike when you're on the toilet taking a sh*t. If that's where it strikes, you still can't ignore it. You gotta stop what you're doing and get up and channel it." I'm sure I could find the actual article in which a quote like this appeared with a little Googling, but I prefer my memory of the article more than I think I would enjoy the article itself.

4. Started Early, Took My Dog, by Kate Atkinson.
Whenever I'm at a dinner party with above-average hors d'œuvres—fresh Kalamata olives from the Whole Foods olive bar instead of Utz chips and Safeway salsa—there seems to be a Kate Atkinson book on the bookshelf, which commends her writing, or at least the appetizer preferences of those who read her.

5. Property is Theft! A Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Reader, by Pierre Joseph Proudhon, edited by Iain McKay.
Sometimes, I park my car in what I'll call a "no-holds barred"-style underground parking garage. The attendants there speak English, but, instead of speaking with traditional nouns and verbs, mutter and groan unintelligibly when you ask something like, "Where should I park my car?" or "Should I pay now?" or "Should I leave my keys in my car?" or "Really? You want me to leave my keys in my car all day with the windows rolled down?" Because of all the muttering and the groaning, there's no real communication about where vehicles should go or when and how they can be picked up and, often as not, there is no attendant around at all. And, if there's no attendant, and one's car is parked behind five other cars and one has to get home to walk the dog and feed the baby, one has no choice but to get behind the wheel of five other people's cars and move them around the parking lot in a complicated Tetris formation oneself until there is enough room to manuever one's own car out to the surface of the world. When this happens—when I'm behind the wheel of someone else's Lexis or someone else's Ford F150—I often think, "If we just drove one another's cars all of the time, we could probably save the environment and save on insurance and maintenance costs." Then, I think, "You know, Proudhon was right. Property is theft." And then, I think, "Is what I'm doing right now legal?" And then I think, "Why do I even park in this garage? It makes for good stories, but it's not cheaper than other, normal garages." And then I think, "F*ck. This other person's Toyota Camry is stick shift, and I can't drive stick." Then I think, "Well, normally I can't drive stick, but I can today" and see what happens.

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