What to Read, mid-December edition

Much good writing is out there online, just waiting for you to read it. The trouble? There’s no way any one of us can catch it all, but here’s a selection of what I’ve caught lately. With any luck, I’ll get a chance to post these more frequently. Mid-December Edition makes sense here, because I don’t know how soon the next will happen.

Our Year of Mourning Leonard” by Ariela Freedman

Canada’s Linda Leith Publishing offers Freedman’s piece on the year since Leonard Cohen passed. If ever you doubt the “our” in the title, the crowds at the Montreal Contemporary Museum of Art’s Cohen retrospective would cure you of the skepticism. Freedman is a novelist worth noting as well (Arabic for Beginners).

Beautiful Losses” by Tim Falconer

Hazlitt finds Falconer considering what it means that Cohen turned away from fiction, what that may have deprived us of as readers. I’m a great fan of his first novel, The Favorite Game, so Cohen’s question is one I’ve wrestled with myself in the past.

Tales of War and Redemption” by Phil Klay

At The American Scholar, Klay, a Marine vet of the Iraq war and National Book Award winner for fiction for his 2014 collection Redeployment, turns to the difficulty and significance of faith and our profound obligations to one another, and the ways in which a key to fulfilling those obligations is holding fast to a full range of emotional responses.

Lies” by JM Coetzee

Not much to go on as to the genre or genesis of “Lies,” but Coetzee is always essential reading, this time in the New York Review of Books. For more, there’s of course his most recent, The Schooldays of Jesus.

The Visionary Power of the Novelist Jon McGregor” by James Wood

Over at the New Yorker, Wood takes the measure of British novelist McGregor (Reservoir 13 is his newest, but I can vouch most fully for So Many Ways to Begin). McGregor is also editor of epistolary literary journal The Letters Page, which is free and worth a read.

Here I am”: Philip Roth reflects on his half-century career as a writer

Library of America interviews Philip Roth, on the occasion of their releasing Why Write? Collected Nonfiction 1960-2013.


Happy Enough by Life in a Blender

What would’ve happened if the late, great Vic Chesnutt had lived on fistfuls of Dexedrine and fringe theater? Maybe something like Life in a Blender’s Happy Enough. Frontman Don Rauf mines his literary loves and filters them through eclectic arrangements and varied tempos. He wrote a number of the album’s songs for the Bushwick Book Club. Another, “Let the Baby Cry,” adapts Emily Pérez’s poem of the same name. “Underneath the Banyan” has its roots in Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes. “Rocket in Love” and “Where did You Hide in the Potato Barn” nod to Kurt Vonnegut (Galapagos and Bluebeard, respectively). It is, in short, literate music for literate people (that’s you, literate people). You can still catch the band once before the year ends, December 16 at Little Skips, in Brooklyn.

Header image via http://music.lifeinablender.net/album/happy-enough

– John McIntyre

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