#FridayReads for 8/30/13

There’s still time for one last book over the long weekend. Here’s what our staff recommends:

Jaclyn Vorenkamp (Associate Editor) is reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion.

I personally didn’t get to the Haight until after it was long over, but my friend was there in the late ‘60s when it was happening. She was one of those people Didion writes  about, one of those lost souls from someplace else.  She was together enough to waitress, though, and she got the fabled million dollar tip and her trip (ha!) out of there in the form of a wealthy boyfriend. They were both stoned when by chance he sat down at her table, ordered a cup of coffee, and fell in love.  So what is that? That is California dreaming, where to find your self when you’ve mislaid it, the place to come home to when you have no home. Slouching Towards Bethlehem chronicles with exquisite accuracy the search for community by the very young at the height of the Haight-Ashbury scene and Didion’s deeply felt need to understand her own origins through the filter of the siren call of the West Coast.

Daniel Poirier (Creative Director) read Elect H. Mouse State Judge by Nelly Reifler.

If you’ve spent your summer reading serious novels of punishing density you owe it to yourself to spend an afternoon with H. Mouse and the entire cast of Reifler’s slim novel.  The most refreshing feature of this crazy romp is that it never gets bogged down explaining itself, so don’t question and just enjoy the vivid prose.  Reifler disregards any rules that would attempt to politely contain her vision and allows it to exist as it’s own singular experience.  Sweet, dark, and hysterical, you’ll be sad when it’s over, but satisfied all the same.  (Do yourself a favor and don’t read the copy on the back cover!  Let the opening pages take you away.)

Kevin Zambrano (Fiction Editor) is reading How the Dead Dream by Lydia Millet.

The book is about T., a real estate-developing wunderkind who begins a process of regeneration after he accidentally runs over a coyote on a nighttime desert highway. Among other things, the story explores the emptiness of profit-driven capitalism and highlights the necessity of connecting with others—be they people or animals.

Millet is a fine writer. Her novel’s language is lyrical and limpid. It is political, but also spiritual, and never didactic. It makes me laugh often while being constantly and profoundly sad, full of tragedy, greed and decay. It makes me love animals more. It touches something ineffable—a mystery that’s ever present in life, but remains obscure until death.