What is A/S Reading? – No. 15

How is it February? No. Really. How? We’ve been so busy reading we didn’t even KNOW. Anyway, this is: What is A/S Reading?

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Fiction Editor John M. Cusick is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is neither wondrous nor brief (har har I can’t be the first person to make that joke). I’m only fifty pages in and already I want to spank this book. The narration is determined to be quirky and colorful but is so forced and awkward it’s the narrator and not the eponymous Oscar who seems Too Dorky to Live. The prose will go on for pages being relatively straight-forward and palatable, and then the author remembers his is a narrator with CHARACTER (who will likely turn out to be a CHARACTER in the world of the story, god help us) and will suddenly throw in a Spanish phrase or clunky bit of slang that’s as jarring as a sharp rock under a Slip ‘n Slide.

The reader is reminded roughly a billion times that Oscar is a horny nerd, in case we’ve somehow forgotten between all the hammy descriptions of his Planet of the Apes lunch box and D&D games. And Oscar’s dorkiness doesn’t feel authentic. Speaking as an actual dork, it feels as if the author just Wikipedia’d “Stuff Nerds Like” and stuffed it all in there with one or two obscure references just to prove his geeky street cred. I probably wouldn’t be so harsh if this book hadn’t won the Pulitzer, but Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, which wasn’t Pulitzer material itself, portrayed nerds in a way that made me believe their creator actually was a nerd himself, rather than a wannabe trying on lensless Buddy Holly glasses and an ironic Star Wars t-shirt.

Also, there are footnotes.

Publicist Vicki Lame has been a delinquent reader of late, which never happens, and she is about to go insane from lack of “fun” reading. That being said, she is greatly looking forward to reading The Tender Hour of Twilight by Richard Seaver.

As a book editor, I often find myself seeking a little inspiration, the stories of great editors past. The Tender Hour of Twilight is the memoir of late book editor Richard Seaver, the man who–with the help of Barney Rosset–introduced American readers to books and authors like Henry Miller, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, William S. Burroughs, and many more. Young editors have a tendency to feel they should have been part of a different era in publishing, myself included (my affection for A. Scott Berg’s Max Perkins: Editor of Genius is paramount, I mean, Max Perkins edited Fitzgerald and Hemingway for crying out loud!), but I think reading memoirs and biographies of past editors inspire us to find our own greatness… and now I’m about to start getting all schmaltzy so I’ll stop and go read the freaking book already.

Managing Editor Laura McMillan is still reading Let the Great World Spin and it is still breaking her goddamn heart. She also read the first 89 pages of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods yesterday and was late to a meeting this morning because she was reading it over breakfast.

Question: What happens to the gods and folktales that immigrants bring with them?

Answer: They sit around in their American apartments, forgotten and decrepit and cantankerous, reading what Neil Gaiman says about them. And sometimes they get in bar fights.

Managing Editor Adam Read-Brown is reading Generation Kill by journalist Evan Wright.

Wright writes (hah!) about his experience embedded with the U.S. Marines as they spearhead the Iraq invasion in March of 2003. Read it. The stories are incredible. Regardless of the politics of the invasion, I read in slack-jawed awe of the men and women who put their lives on the line for this country. It’s an incredible piece of journalism that keeps making my stomach turn. It really makes me rethink all of the stuff I have ever heard in the news about so-called “precision guided this or that” or “surgical strikes.” Hardly. (I also find myself periodically thinking, wait, he’s just a journalist and has no weapon and is just getting SHOT AT ALL THE TIME. It’s crazy.)

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