Reading update in which I did not do much reading

All three of you who read this blog regularly are probably wondering whether I have fallen into some alternate dimension or been abducted by alien entities. Fear not, I have simply been crushed by this pile of ARCs acquired this week (that biography of Stalin on the bottom could have done this all on its own, really):

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Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. I worked somewhat insane hours, though some of them were for fun things like breathing the same air as David Mitchell while he signed books. I also saw a couple of plays (also fun, but resulted in late evenings and difficult mornings). The one thing I didn’t really do was read, but I managed to finish two books:

1) John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van. Darnielle is probably best known for his band The Mountain Goats, but he also writes novels. I’m still trying to figure out what I thought about this particular one. It’s strange, and I think it is strange mostly because of the narration style. It is a story told essentially backwards, with more and more details uncovered as you read. It reminded me of All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld.

2) Caitlin Doughty, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes And Other Lessons From The Crematory. It’s not a big surprise that I like morbid things. When I was 14, I dragged my mother to Kunstkamera in St. Petersburg to look at preserved body parts and two-headed babies. Therefore, this book went straight to the top of my to-read pile. It’s a memoir, but it’s also a hard look at how we treat our dead and deal with death in general. Doughty is not kind to the American funeral industry, and she presents a compelling argument for greater acceptance of death and our own mortality.

We have put the dead beneath. Not just underground, but under the tops of fake hospital stretchers, within the bellies of our aircraft, and in the recesses of our consciousness.

Those of you who like both morbid and linguistic things will learn the word ‘desquamation’. It is perhaps best if you don’t look it up in Google images.

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8 comments

      1. Oh god. I wonder what percentage of all those people who bought it even opened it. It’s like Mark Twain’s autobiography.

  1. That is a terrifyingly large ARC pile for just one week.

    I am pretty obsessed with The Mountain Goats, so I was quite intrigued to hear you mention this book. I suppose any book he would write would have to be odd in some way.

  2. As you can see from the comments, there are more than three of us!

    How’s the Stalin biography? I used to read a lot of books on Russian history… 😛

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