Arts Desk

Five Books I’d Read

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

1. My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy, by Albert "Prodigy" Johnson with Laura Checkoway.
"Who's that peepin' in my window/POW!/Nobody now." Was that Mobb Deep? Or was it Cee-Lo? Or—wait. Was Cee-Lo in Mobb Deep? Maybe it was Prodigy. Damn. Knowing a little about hip-hop—or, rather, a lot about hip-hop, but only about the period between 1986 and 1998—usually gets me into conversations that go well for like 90 seconds, but then end with 15 seconds of awkward silence, after which I say: "So, did you like the first Dave Matthews record?"

2. Big Sex Little Death, by Susie Bright.
This book seemed sexy until I realized it was, like, about gender—and then it seemed even sexier.

3. The Constitution of Liberty, by F. A. Hayek.
"Reading Hayek, eh?" "Yes, I stole The Constitution of Liberty from the mailroom." "Hmm. Are you really going to read it?" "I don't know. I mean, I've read Hayek before." "Yes. But probably not lately." "No, you're right. I haven't read Hayek lately." "Well—do you mind if I take this copy of Constitution of Liberty, then? I mean, if you're not going to read it? And since you stole it from the mailroom?" "I don't know. I mean, are you going to read it?" "Hmm. I don't know. I guess I might read it." "Well, if you're not sure you're going to read it, can I just hold on to it? At least until you're sure you are going to read it?" [Epilogue: The next day, another copy of Hayek's Constitution of Liberty showed up in the mailroom.]

4. The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace.
There's a good chance that this "unfinished novel" is boring, but maybe the larger point of the late great David Foster Wallace's revolutionary aesthetic is to numb us—that is, to pummel us with long, winding sentences that pile compound subject upon compound objects and subjunctive clause upon subjunctive clause, if it is appropriate, until, as readers, we surrender our expectations and patience and prejudices to an artist ready to transport us into heretofore unimagined realms of of literary bliss whilst we contemplate and confront the oh-so-relevant reality of his recent suicide. Or maybe it's just really long, like Florida's western panhandle, or your mom's d$ck.

5. The Dewey Decimal System, by Nathan Larson.
A post-apocalyptic novel about a guy who plans to re-organize the contents of the New York City Public Library in some attempt to reclaim civilization after it has been destroyed or something. Kind of like The Road, but with a reference desk instead of an creepy underground bunker where you lock up the people who you are eating arm by arm, leg by leg.

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