I’ve got a new post….

… up on JenX67’s blog. This one is a sort of book review, although I think of my reviews as more like reactions than reviews.

The book is “Plan B” by Jonathan Tropper.

Check it.

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The Financial Lives of The Poets…

…is a title that I wished I’d thought of.

It’s a novel by Jess Walter, which I picked up based solely on the title. Not always the best way to select a book, but it worked out this time.

Story is about Matt Prior, a business reporter who ditches his job to start a web site devoted to poetry about finances — money-lit, as he calls it. Of course, the idea bombs. Matt runs back to his old job only to get laid off soon after with very little in way of severance. In addition, he’s got a massive balloon payment due very soon on his house and he suspects that his wife is cheating on him with an old boyfriend.

So what does Matt do?  He tries to become a drug dealer — just until he can back on track —  using his last 9 grand to buy pot. Yeah, sounds like a fool-proof plan, doesn’t it.

This book is at turns funny and gut-wrenching. I always cringe when I’m reading about a character who is fucking up but can’t seem to stop himself. I want to stop reading, look away, but I just can’t.

I like how Walter captures a sense of financial panic as Matt digs himself deeper and deeper into a whole.The crazy things people will do when it comes to money, eh.

I’m not often immediately intrigued by books about people’s money problems. I mean, who the hell wants to read about that. But something about this book was different. I wanted to read it. Maybe I’m just getting older and my concerns are different. Or maybe Walter is the kind of writer that writes in such a way that I’d follow him just about anywhere.

I plan to follow him into his other books, like The Zero, a National Book Award finalist, which I hope to read some time soon.

Because the main character, Matt, is age 46, I thought of this as GenX Lit, but there’s a cop who refers to Matt as a Boomer. I suppose the point is arguable, and ultimately beside the point.

Discovered: 2 new GenX authors

In the midsts of reading Douglas Coupland’s latest novel, Generation A, which I’d been struggling with for a time but closing in on the end it’s really coming together, I discovered two more GenX authors.

Well, I didn’t so  much discover them as stumble across them, which is one of the advantages of working in a library. You’re constantly surrounded by books, and even those that escape your notice when the first enter the collection can suddenly present themselves again. That’s what happened in the case of the first author.

Vanessa Jones (b. 1970), author of the slim novel, The Kindest Use a Knife, which I noticed only because I happened to be passing through that section and Thom Jones’ collection The Pugilist at Rest caugth my eyes. Pugilist is kind of special book for me; I was new to the MFA program at Western Michigan and Thom Jones was perhaps the first big author that I got the chance to meet. Anyway, V. Jones’ book was next to his on the shelf. I don’t know why I picked it up, perhaps because it was slim and black and the title was intriguing. In any case, a quick glance made me want to read it. And further investigation put this young Brit writer firmly with in Generation X. Of course, whether she considers herself a GenX writer or not is another story. But if she doesn’t like the label, she’s welcome to contact me with her displeasure. I like displeasure. It’s at least part pleasure, right. Knife is not Jones’ first book. Her first was entitled Twelve. Check the description posted on Amazon.com for it:

The dullness of repetition and nonimaginative yearnings define the complacency that permeates the lives of the aimless young Brits in Jones’ debut novel. Though seemingly well-employed and decently housed with a nice enough housemate, Lily, her protagonist, can’t seem to shake her restlessness long enough to decide on a general direction for her adulthood, let alone a specific one. She wonders when she started to identify with the company employing her so much that she thinks of herself and it as “we.” Passively, she goes though the surface motions of living as though rehearsing for the real thing, waiting for some recognizably decisive incident to give her past clarity and her future a roadmap providing the direction and purpose she lacks. This ennui verging on anomie is prevalent in a number of recent writings about bright, thirtyish Brits. Can this be the result of England’s post-Thatcher stable growth, where good jobs and comfortable lives are taken for granted? Where did the rebellion and passion go? Whatever happened to England’s beautiful Angry Young Men?

It just drips GenX. She’s the right age too. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, i.e. the reading, although some chocolate pudding would be nice right now…mmmmmmmmmm. Of course, I have to get a copy to read it; library doesn’t own it.

Knife is different, a darker tale about friendships and rivalry, but it still seems to fit the GenX ethos, at least that is my instinct. I have to read it still too.

The other author is Lydia Millet (b. 1968), who has many more titles to her credit. I’m particular interested in her recent short story collection — Love in Infant Monkeys. Dig it. What really drew me to this particular book was that the stories are, in part, about famous people. I’ve had a few story ideas that perhaps are similar. Again, I’ve yet to read it. But I’m confident that I’m not jumping the gun. And it isn’t just her age, which is pretty much the same as mine, which makes me feel…lacking to put it mildly, since Millet has a half a dozen book out there already, and I’ve yet to have one. More than her age, it is Millet’s unconventionality that makes her a GenX author of GenX Lit. She’s shelved in regular fiction and yet she was a short-listed for the Arhtur C. Clark Award. Reminds me of Jonathan Lethem, whose writing is bends from conventional human drama to sci fic to noir.

My hope is to quickly finish of Coupland’s latest effort and then dig into these two books, see if my intincts are correct.


King or Coupland?

Which do I read first?

Stephen King’s new novel, Under the Dome?

or

Douglas Coupland‘s new novel, Generation A?

How to choose? How to choose?

The King novel is over a 1,00o pages but I don’t really find that very daunting. In fact, I’m quiet undaunted by it, very much eager to read it. Perhaps because the plot is similar to The Simpon’s Movie — small town in Maine gets trapped under invisible forcefield dome and chaos and conflict ensue. Also reminds me a little of The Stand, my favorite King book. Perhaps because they are both, in their ways, about societal collapse, a theme that has intersted me, well, ever since I can remember really. I’ve always suspected that has, at least in part, something to do with growing up under the threat of nuclear annihilation via a conflict between Russia and the United States. That and seeing Night of the Living Dead when I was pretty young.

Of course, King is a Boomer but I think his work has been important to Generation X. It has been to me anyway. Maybe he’s of significant to Boomers, I don’t really know and don’t really care. It’s arguable whether his work is “serious” or can be labeled “Literature.” In fact there was a time when I refused to even consider the possibility that he was anything but a pulp horror writer, a good one to be sure but nothing more legit than that. But I’ve since fallen off that high horse. There’s stuff of King’s that I like and King stuff  that I don’t like. Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Stand, Misery — I like. Tommyknockers, Dolores Claiborne, Duma Key — not so much.

Still, my anticipation for the Coupland novel has been greater and existed longer. Not just because it is Coupland, although unlike with King I will read anything Coupland produces. Speaking of which, some of the reviews I’ve read about Generation A have been mixed at best, which is why I stopped reading them. In any case, I like the set up of Generation A, which is also in a way about societal collapse. All the bees have died, or so it seems.

I’ve begun Under the Dome so for now I will stick with it. But I’m willing to chuck it if it ceases to tickle my fancy. As I’ve gotten older (41 and counting) I’ve lost my patience for books that don’t “do it for me.” I’m not wasting the time.

Also, Coupland’s from Canada and I’m an American dammit. And there’s nothing more American than Stephen King-eque carange not to mention odd phrases like “happy crappy.”

new volumes for my GenX library

I’m always on the lookout for books about GenX and by GenXers. Thank  to JenX67 I’ve got two more to read, review and add my collection.

The first is a novel entitled “It Feels So Good When I Stop,” by Joe Pernice, who is also a musician, and apparently a big deal indie rocker song writer. Perhaps it is a GenX sin of sorts to not be up on my Indie rock, but I admit that I am not and never have been. In any case, based on this review in the LA Times I’m looking forward to reading this novel, and hopefully will find the time in my “busy” slackery schedule (that ass groove aint gonna make it self) to perhaps tap out a few mindless ramblings on it here because I know there are hordes of you out there that absolutely can’t proceed with your existence until you know what I think about whatever it is I happen to be blathering about at any given moment. We’ll see (the phrase I most utter to my daughter these days,  and to which she hs begun to roll her eyes — sarcasm at  almost 9, ugh!)

The second is a collection of poetry entitled, “Acutal Air,” by David Berman, another musician (Silver Jews; again I plead ignorance). Berman and his collection were referenced in the above mentioned/linked review of Pernice’s novel. Apparently the two got their MFA’s together. Anyway, I was pretty geeked to learn of this collection since I’m not really that hip to GenX poetry. I”ve got my own collection of poetry but not specifically GenX. Not saying it doesn’t exist. It no doubt does, in abundance for all I know. I’m just not that adept at sniffing it out.

PPF (Pointless Point of Fact): Both of these guys are 42, precisely my age, which is distressing in a way since my novel is still in progress and I fear will languish their until the end of days.

GenX Lit

JenX67’s Monday morning roundup of Generation X news included a link to a post about Generation X writer, Marisha Pessl, author of the novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

“generation-x authors are proving to be refreshingly impressive. it’s as if they have taken the norm of novel writing and reading to a whole new dimension. if Jonathan Safran Foer (b. 1977) made “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” into a multi-media read, Marisha Pessl, (b. 1977) has taken a more traditional path, but in an overdone and quirky style that it comes out a breakthrough.

the whole book is riddled with citation, reference, footnotes and nicely done hand illustrations that the novel seems to be a research paper cum diary.

Read full post here.

I recall this book was a pretty big hit when it debut, and a lot of the librarians at the library where I work read it, or so it seemed. I started it but didn’t get far before giving. Not exactly sure why. Seems like a book I should give a second chance to but not sure how I’m going to fit it in.

Pessl is a latter-age GenXer, born in 1977, same year as my wife. In what is an all too common GenX story line her parents divorced when she was young, and she moved with her mother and sister to North Carolina.

Irrelevant connection note: Pessl was born in Clarkston, Michigan, and I live in Michigan, though not Clarkston, but I have a cousin who lives there.