Tag Archives: roberto bolano

On Our Nightstand, August 24th-30th

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Alison
The Same River Twice
By Ted Mooney
I am absolutely taken by this moody, atmospheric novel set in contemporary Paris. There are artists, filmmakers, art dealers, and Russian mobsters all swirling around in this well-told tale. It is the kind of story that runs like a film in your head, but I have no idea where it’s going.

Anna in Brentwood
Our Tragic Universe
By Scarlett Thomas
As in her previous novel, The End of Mr. Y, Thomas is brilliant at getting inside the inquisitive, troubled minds of her young female protagonists as they ponder life’s big questions. Plus, every time I read a Thomas novel, I find myself getting recommendations for other books, as her characters are always reading. PopCo made me pick up Survive the Savage Sea, and this one already has me searching for my copy of Aristotle‘s Poetics.

Kim in Malibu
Little Black Book of Stories
By A.S. Byatt
A book of previously uncollected and intriguingly creepy short stories by Byatt that includes the fascinating “A Stone Woman” about a woman who literally morphs into rock. Freak of nature or metaphor? You decide!

Miles in Malibu
Consider the Lobster
By David Foster Wallace
Seeing America through the David Foster Wallace lens is like looking at your favorite food under a microscope. At first you may be unsettled by the inconvenient truths, but you will ultimately be rewarded for reading about the seedy underbelly of the world of dictionary editing, life on the 2000 McCain campaign trail, and the surreal hilarity of adult entertainment conventions. Eat up.

Thomas in Brentwood
The Insufferable Gaucho
By Roberto Bolano
More literary antics from Senor Bolano. An expectedly eclectic collection of incurably ill, insufferable, and ingenious characters. “Jim,” the three-page story that begins the collection, is an absolute knockout: a chili scalding the back of your mouth and a ghost haunting the corners of your memory.

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On Our Nightstand, August 10th-16th

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
Super Sad True Love Story
By Gary Shteyngart
I’m very picky about dystopian fiction: it’s incredibly hard to create a vision of our future world that feels vivid but still realistic. Shteyngart’s shallow, artless America feels all too probable, but its people also still seem like people, and you ache for them.

Geo in Brentwood
In Utopia
By J.C. Hallman
The “utopia” concept has always interested me, and apparently it has also interested Hallman because he wrote a great book about it. In Utopia covers anything utopian in both concept and execution, from the history of the word to real-life utopian communities to Pleistocene rewilding.

John Peck in Oakland
Mastering the Art of French Cooking
By Julia Child
After slogging through the weighty cultural history, movie tie-ins, and countless editions of this book, I’ve found that it is, at its core, a beautifully written and expansive cookbook. French cooking is both lavish and simple at the same time—a cuisine that rewards patience is always a worthwhile pursuit.

Thomas in Brentwood
The Skating Rink
By Roberto Bolano
Only three chapters in, Bolano’s characters propel and scatter like gravel thrown from the back tire of a rusted get-away truck.

Veronica in Malibu
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
By Raymond Carver
While not the most optimistic portrait of American life, this collection of short stories is absolutely captivating. Carver’s mastery of his craft is not only beautiful, but inspiring. If only I could make the banality of middle American suburbia sound half as enchanting…

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Doggone It

Rosecrans Baldwin, whose debut novel You Lost Me There comes out later this summer, has written a hilarious piece about the most commonplace cliché you never knew existed: “Novelists can’t resist including a dog barking in the distance.” And, Baldwin reveals, “Having heard the dog’s call, it seemed like I couldn’t find a book without one,” citing examples from works as diverse as William Faulkner‘s Light in August (“She did not answer for a time. The fireflies drifted; somewhere a dog barked, mellow sad, faraway”), Henning Mankell‘s The Eye of the Leopard (“She begins to tell him. The curtain in the kitchen window flutters gently, and a dog barks in the distance”), Harper Lee‘s To Kill a Mockingbird (“Ripe chinaberries drummed on the roof when the wind stirred, and the darkness was desolate with the barking of distant dogs”), Colum McCann‘s Let the Great World Spin (“The street throbbed around me. Nobody’s fault but my own. The bark of a dog flew by”), and Roberto Bolano‘s 2666 (“The window looked out over the garden, which was still lit. A scent of flowers and wet grass drifted into the room. In the distance he heard a dog bark”).

What is going on? Are writers everywhere suffering from some unknown canine obsession? And are we going to find dog-bark-hunting in our future reading simply too irresistible? You bet we are! We plan to keep track of any we uncover and may share them with you at a later date; we would love it if you did the same. Is this the best new party game or what?

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On Our Nightstand, July 6th-12th

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
The Hole We’re In
By Gabrielle Zevin
A fascinating and brutal look at the financial crisis through the story of one family. Zevin’s unflinching characterization and dark humor make this book hard to read—and at the same time, impossible to put down.

Elise in Oakland
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
By Haruki Murakami
My previous encounters with Murakami didn’t leave me a fan, so I was reluctant to read this. But it’s amazing—dreamy, but still rooted in reality. There are a lot of storylines but they’re not hard to follow because I’m interested in every single one of the characters.

Geo in Brentwood
God’s Lunatics
By Michael Largo
An A-Z reference guide about the funnier, stranger side of religion. Entertaining, eerie, and a tad bit disturbing!

John Peck in Oakland
The Return
By Roberto Bolano
After reading the 900+ page epic 2666, this book of Bolano’s short fiction is like dessert.

Kim in Malibu
The Laws of Simplicity
By John Maeda
The annoyingly multitalented John Maeda (MIT professor! RISD president! Graphic design superstar!) examines the idea that less can actually be more—or at least, more meaningful—in relation to design, technology, business, and life in general. Seeing as how Maeda’s ideas often blossom into iconic, why-didn’t-we-think-of-this-sooner epiphanies, I expect to learn a lot from this slim volume.

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On Our Nightstand, June 29th-July 5th

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
A Single Man
By Christopher Isherwood
I never got a chance to see the Oscar-nominated film adaptation, but reading the descriptive, dreamlike, emotionally-charged novel, I don’t see how the experience could be made any more visceral.

Colin in Oakland
Guards! Guards!
By Terry Pratchett
I normally don’t read sci-fi/fantasy, and I thought I was too cool for Terry Pratchett. But it turns out he’s smarter than I am! This book is funny and witty and just really, really good. Consider me converted.

Geo in Brentwood
Microscripts
By Robert Walser
These 25 short pieces are the first English translations, selected from Walser’s six-volume German original. Walser printed these stories on tiny strips of paper, legible only through a magnifying glass or microscope. Luckily for us, they’ll been enlarged for our reading pleasure. This edition, however, includes facsimilies of both the original microscripts and the German texts.

John Evans
Antwerp
By Roberto Bolano
In a beautiful edition from New Directions — small format black and gold covers, without jacket, red endpapers, creamy paper and black ink — Antwerp is a poetic distillation of Bolano’s sensibility. Reading it slowly.

Jon Stich in Oakland
Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It
By Geoff Dyer
False advertising alert: this book is not actually about yoga. Instead it’s a collection of travel essays. Very funny, in that distinctly British sort of way.

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On Our Nightstand

Taking a page from NPR, here’s the first in a series of (hopefully) weekly updates on what we’re currently reading here at Diesel.

Anna in Brentwood
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.

Cheryl in Brentwood
Extraordinary Knowing by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer
Extraordinary Knowing is an attempt to break through the silence imposed by fear and to explore what science has to say about various “inexplicable” phenomena. From Sigmund Freud’s writings on telepathy to secret CIA experiments on remote viewing, from leading-edge neuroscience to the strange world of quantum physics, Dr. Mayer reveals a wealth of credible and fascinating research into the realm where the mind seems to trump the laws of nature.

Geo in Brentwood
No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain
Based on Twain’s boyhood memories of the Mississippi River Valley and of the print shops of Hannibal, the story is set in medieval Austria at the dawn of the printing craft. It is a psychic adventure, full of phantasmagoric effects, in which a penniless printer’s apprentice—a youthful, mysterious stranger with the curious name 44—gradually reveals his otherworldly powers and the hidden possibilities of the mind.

John Evans
Rhythmanalysis by Henri Lefebvre
Rhythmanalysis displays all the characteristics which made Lefebvre one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the 20th century. In the analysis of rhythms–both biological and social–Lefebvre shows the interrelation of space and time in the understanding of everyday life. With dazzling skills, Lefebvre moves between discussions of music, the commodity, measurement, the media, and the city. In doing so he shows how a non-linear conception of time and history balanced his famous rethinking of the question of space.

John Peck in Oakland
You’re A Horrible Person, But I Like You: The Believer Book of Advice
A compendium of advice from the producers, writers, and actors of The Office, Saturday Night Live, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Knocked Up, Flight of the Conchords, The Daily Show, Arrested Development, Reno 911!, and The Hangover along with other people who should really never give advice.

Kim in Malibu
2666 by Roberto Bolano
The lives of a throng of unforgettable characters—including academics and convicts, an American sportswriter, an elusive German novelist, and a teenage student and her widowed, mentally unstable father—intersect in the urban sprawl of SantaTeresa—a fictional Juárez—on the U.S.-Mexico border, where hundreds of young factory workers, in the novel as in life, have disappeared.

Margaret in Oakland
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
Julie Orringer’s astonishing first novel, eagerly awaited since the publication of her heralded best-selling short-story collection, How to Breathe Underwater, is a grand love story set against the backdrop of Budapest and Paris, an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are ravaged by war, and the chronicle of one family’s struggle against the forces that threaten to annihilate it.

Thomas in Brentwood
The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich
The finest introduction to art ever written!

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Travel Far, Pay No Fare

This cool post about literature that inspires travel inspired us to think about some of our favorite armchair adventures!

I spent one summer, one very long summer, reading Marcel Proust‘s Swann’s Way, getting wrapped up in the reverie and romance of 20th-century Paris, wanting to walk alongside his characters (or maybe a little bit behind them) down the Champs Elysees. I read the book in my backyard, waiting for the day I’d see Paris. The time finally came, and Paris for the most part lived up to my high expectations. Except for the Champs Elysees. I don’t think Proust’s avenue was lined with shoe stores and posh boutiques, was it? — Geo

When I was in elementary school I read Marjorie Braymer’s The Walls of Windy Troy: A Biography of Heinrich Schliemann, about the archaeologist who unpredictably located the actual legendary city of Troy. It lit my imagination so brightly that for the next five years or so I wanted to be an archaeologist. I started reading mythology, histories of the ancient Mediterranean, and the novels of Mary Renault. All of this helped to create an imaginary Mediterranean world that I was certain I would one day visit. In college, I took a semester in Vienna and went to Greece on spring break, spending two weeks by train, boat, bus, and ferry traveling through nearly all the parts of the country I’d been vividly imagining since childhood. I was accompanied by my new favorite book on Greece, The Blue Guide, which opened up a world of travel guides to me. — John Evans

Joanna Kavenna‘s The Ice Museum, which tracks her present-day search for the land of Ultima Thule (the mythical Northern land first described by Pliny the Elder), is both a travelogue and a brooding tribute to the icy North. I’ve been to a few of the remote locales in this book (most notably Iceland), but it made me want to visit nearly all the others—Greenland, the northern coast of Norway, Svalbard, and particularly the Estonian island of Saaremaa, where Kavenna stands at the very spot that may have spawned the word “Thule.” It’s a fantastic read for anyone who, like me, has a bit of Tolkien-esque nostalgia for the mysterious lands of bygone eras. — John Peck

Paul Auster‘s books had been recommended to me before, but it wasn’t until City of Glass was heavily campaigned to me by the cute girl at the coffee shop two doors down that I decided to give Auster a shot. The story of a phone call to the wrong person set in New York City, this novel was so good I had to do two things upon finishing: 1) Buy everything Paul Auster has ever written and 2) Go to New York City. — Jon Stich

By Night in Chile, one of Roberto Bolano‘s shorter novels, flings you into a variety of new worlds. With great design, he sporadically jumps between the bucolic, metropolitan, and holy orders of Chilean cities and European countries. It’s always a god-awful hour as you’re murmuring and shouting among the political and literary circles of Chillán, Santiago, or La-bas. Dark evenings where night classes on communism are underway for men of the Chilean interior. Patios and endless paragraphs are overgrown with lush South American foliage. The Araucaria trees stand proudly. The bird life has not completely fled the industrial noise of humans and quick European trips across the old landscapes steer into cathedrals and monasteries protected by menacing falcons (not to mention the falconers themselves). A great trip through winding cities and the labyrinthine mind of Bolano. — Thomas

Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere is about an entirely fictional place: a mysterious, magical second London that exists beneath its streets and in its forgotten places, a London of everything—and everyone—that’s ever fallen through the cracks. London Below may not be real, but Gaiman’s descriptions of the (real enough) neighborhoods the characters visit are intensely vivid, to the point where even their names become imbued with special meaning: Blackfriars, Earl’s Court, Islington, Hammersmith, Knightsbridge. When I finally got to go to London—my white umbrella with a map of the Underground on it stuffed into my bag, of course—I found myself shivering pleasantly every time I passed a place-name I recognized, as if I’d brushed up against the uncanny. — Anna

Continue on your voyage with Cheryl in Brentwood’s recitation of Sylvia Plath‘s “Soliloquy of the Solipsist”:

Check out the full archive of poetry videos here!

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