Rejected books of the week

I finished fewer than normal books this week because I was bringing home armfuls of books that I just didn’t like. With such a huge quantity of rejects, I wanted to record my folly so I don’t repeat the mistake, like I frequently have in the past by picking up a previously rejected book to try to read.

#1 – Hillbilly Elegy. JD Vance’s memoir is the darling of the moment, pundits holding it aloft promising that it will unlock the secret of this year’s election. Balderdash. This is merely yet another book telling the tale of the plight of people in the Appalachians, and aren’t we so proud of JD for having escaped to go to Yale? Skip the hype, you will miss nothing.

#2 – The Chronology of Water. Add Yuknavitch’s book to the long list of failed book recommendations I’ve gotten from Lena Dunham’s somewhat useless newsletter, Lenny (or Lamey, as I used to call a misogynistic trust fund twit I shared an artist loft with years ago).

#3 & 4 – Pea Pickers (by Eve Langley) and her bio, The Importance of Being Eve Langley. Usually the Neglected Books site steers me well in choosing these obscure women authors, but nothing sat right with me about Eve and her conviction that she was Oscar Wilde reborn.

#5 – Book Thief. Sorry, Linnea, I couldn’t get past the first few pages and the stilted structure that tried its best to camouflage writing that clunked.

#6 – Buttered Side Down. I’m definitely over my Edna Ferber crush, I could barely eyeball her first book of short stories despite loving her later work.

#7 – These Low Grounds by Waters Turpin, who was the son of Ferber’s maid, Rebecca. There’s a reason that some books haven’t withstood history’s brutal forgetfulness.

#8 – Lesser Bourgeoisie, or the Middle Class by Balzac. Had a hard time finding a copy of this lesser known work which was rec’d via AndrĂ© Gide. My first exposure to Balzac, I’m hoping my ambivalence (I read 100 pages, then gave up) due more to the translation.



Art Povera & some rejected books

I’m at the library almost every day now for my infusion of books. Of the books I check out, I post maybe half of them here. Sometimes I struggle to get past the first sentence, sometimes the first fifty pages leaves me on the fence and I abandon it midway through. Never feel like you have to finish a book you’re not enjoying. Life is too short.

This post is an homage to the stack of books I just brought home. I read one (Art Povera), which I think was referenced by Harold Rosenberg, but it wasn’t on my spreadsheet used to track where I get recommendations/book ideas. The book itself is a great physical object– yellow hardcover with pink lines and black flourishes. It’s on loan from the Berkely Public Library through the Link+ system. Pub’d in 1969, it’s a collection of artists’ works and their thoughts, from Eva Hesse to Joseph Beuys and a dozen other men I’d never heard of. The best part of the book is the first page, “STATING THAT,” which outlines various things about the book “The book does not attempt to be objective since the awareness of objectivity is false consciousness” and “The book, when it reproduces the documentation of artistic work, refutes the linguistic mediation of photography,” etc.

Next, on the subject of Harold Rosenberg, I dug up a copy of his privately published poems, Trance Above The Streets. Only 50 copies were made, in 1942, and somehow I got my hands on the copy that the University of Nevada at Reno has. Poor Harold. To be honest, the poems stink. I admit I was kind of hoping for this, since his art criticism is so high and mighty, it’s nice to see how far they can fall when put upon to create in their own right. For a taste, I bring you his “Woman’s Song:”

It is his sound from afar
The music of the man
Bent over the trees
The violin of his name

Dew and rain
And the rhythm of snow
A blue thing of evening
Behind the towers comes

Joined to his sobbing
The wind of his rage
Oh where is the end of
The space of his will

Gross, huh? Other terrible lines like “in my head the/commonplace/disappears like porpoises/among the clouds,/between my lips/a cigar of oxygen.”

Three other books for the return pile:

  • Rebecca West’s Black Lamb & Grey Falcon. This is the second time I’ve checked it out thinking I needed to see what she was all about. Pass.
  • Queechy by Elizabeth Wetherell. Discovered via Louisa May Alcott, but definitely not in the mood. “Come, dear grandpa! –the old mare and the wagon are at the gate–all ready.” First line does not make me want more of this 19th century tale.
  • Ancilla’s Share: an indictment of sex antagonism. Despite the promising subject, the writing is just too dry dry dry.