Arts Desk

Five Books I’d Read

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

1. A Route 66 Companion, edited by David King Dunaway.
I imagine this book will generate more cash for the University of Texas Press than its usual offerings about French lit crit and gendering postmodern cinema, even if it is just a jumble of writing from the likes of Washington Irving, Joan Didion and other authors who have blazed pathways West. Still, it's hard to be cynical about the open road and still call yourself 1) a touring musician, 2) an American, and 3) a red-blooded man who, though middle-aged, still carries a torch for aimless travel, shares a birthday with Jack Kerouac, and saw the Vincent Gallo movie The Brown Bunny in the theater.

2. Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex—and How to Get It, by Marty Klein.
If this book doesn't help some distressed, undersexed couple over the hump, there's no such thing as Valentine's Day.

3. Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times, by Eyal Press.
It's easy to be a hater, but hard to do the right thing when it counts. For example, once upon a time in 1995, I was a sophomore in college. Every Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., I had a class called "Social Theory." This class wasn't as fun as some others—"Jazz Improvisation" or "Engendering Postmodernity," for example—but, as college classes went, it was pretty interesting and taught by an incredibly smart professor who, if I can say this without sounding like a total jackass, was very easy on the eyes even though he or she was well into his or her 40s. However, because of the class's length and late hour, many students dreaded it and generally bitched and moaned as they walked to the social sciences building to attend. So it came about that, at class one Wednesday night, during the regularly scheduled break (held weekly from 8:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.), a rakish wit snuck up to the front of the classroom while the professor was not looking, took the clock off of the wall, and turned it forward by twenty minutes. Thus, when the class adjourned at 10 p.m., the class adjourned early—it was, in reality, only 9:40 p.m. Yet, no one said anything—not me, not my fellow students, not the professor, and certainly not the rakish clock-advancerer. Why did no one speak? Perhaps everyone, including the professor, wanted to leave. Perhaps no one really cared that they had been robbed of 20 minutes of a university education equivalent to, judging by the already exorbitant tuition rates of the time, roughly a few hundred dollars. Perhaps no bystanders wanted to accuse the rake of malfeasance, or cause him to suffer for his crimes. Or perhaps people knew what they should do, but were too scared to do it. I know that I should have acted, but was afraid. I have always regretted this.

4. Hot Pink, by Adam Levin.
Adam Levin's last novel, The Instructions, was really long, like a chocolate eclair. This book of short stories seems more concise, like an Andes mint.

5. Girlchild, by Tupelo Hassman.
This novel's about a guerrilla Girl Scout. Not a Girl Scout who somehow is radicalized and engages in guerrilla warfare, but a girl who wants to become a Girl Scout, but doesn't have a troop, and invents her own. So that seems pretty interesting.

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