I'm getting a wicked slow start on my 75 books.
Book #2: Big Lonesome by Jim Ruland.
The only way I got through the brutality and sadness of the first story was to think of all the CDs I've heard that put their most challenging track first. If you can take that, they seem to say, then you deserve the rest. Jim's book of short stories treads between realities often overlooked and imaginary worlds that always have an element of danger. Maybe it's a surprise that stories like this can be full of heart, but they are. It didn't surprise me, since I've met him. Did I mention they're also funny? Yes, brutal, fantastical and funny.
Book #3: Cosmopolis by Don Delillo
I love Don Delillo, but if I'd started with this book I wouldn't. It's completely cold. I suppose I should be thinking it's Allegory with a Capital A, a post-Sept-11 book about the end of American/New Yorker arrogance, about the drive for self-extermination being inseparable from our drive for the acquisition of wealth and power, but I couldn't stop thinking I was reading Delillo doing Bonfire of the Vanities (a parallel John Updike caught, too). Was I just full of youthful exuberance when I read Ratner's Star all those times, or was it actually funny and a good story and thought-provoking and allegorical all at once? I guess I've got 72 more books to go; I could always re-read it and check.
So when I went to see Paul Auster the other night I was in the middle of Cosmopolis, which is dedicated to him. I bought a copy of Brooklyn Follies and was getting it signed. "I just happen to be reading this," I said, flashing Cosmopolis' cover. He looked at me and said nothing. I can translate, tho: he was saying SO? And I said, idiotically, but trying to spur a response, "It's dedicated to you." "Yes, we're friends," he said, and I moved dutifully on. But, um, Mr. Auster? We've all got lots of friends, but they don't all dedicate books just to us. There's got to be more of a story behind it. Did you read a draft for him? Did the two of you share a joke that he was writing in your style? Did you dedicate a book to him in trade? All that talk about storytelling and "Yes, we're friends," is all you've got? Thanks, I treasure the insight. Really.