Sundays In: Nobody Likes Clip Shows, Dave

by Dave Wheeler

photo by ST Katz
photo by ST Katz

Last year I started out on this venture. It seemed reasonable enough: Blog every two weeks about what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been thinking of while I’ve been reading. Nothing fancy, nothing particularly erudite or mind-blowing or life-changing, just a journal, from one reader to others.

Well, I’ve arrived at the year marker, and I have to say it’s a lot of fun! Most of the time I can recall only as much of what I read as what I eat, but it’s nice to be able to look back and see the kinds of things I read in the last twelve months. And what a year it’s been! Such highs, such lows: We celebrated the big four-oh. The Orphan Master’s Son won the Pulitzer (tragically, at the exact moment the world was learning of the Boston Marathon bombings). Hurricane Sandy hit our friends on the East CoastI met Chuck Palahniuk, and I fell in love with Alex Dimitrov. If you don’t keep a record of what you read, you might enjoy trying for a while; it’s amazing to look back on sometimes.

When I peer back on the beginning of this blog series, though, I’m reminded that one of my most cherished authors is at the center of that initial post: David Rakoff. He passed precisely one year ago from an ongoing and very public battle with cancer, taking whatever slot I’d reserved for Celebrity Death That Most Impacted My Life.

Love Dishonor Marry Die Cherish Perish, RakoffBut I’m happy to say that, just before entering that great, big public radio in the sky, Rakoff finished writing his final book. The improbably titled and thoroughly magnificent Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish is his sole book of fiction and a slender epic in verse. The whole story is written in iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets (because, what the hell, right?), paired with illustrations by Seth, all bound into a gorgeous artifact designed by Chip Kidd.

I love this book. It’s not only a stunning work of fiction, of poetry, of art, but it’s also one of so few books that I want to read aloud. Always. Like I never want to stop reading it aloud, so I can always feel the rhythm and rhymes and be swept away in the magic of it all. It’s like a Broadway musical for readers.

But the magic doesn’t end there, and you should listen close to this: I have one (1), beautifully illustrated, limited edition, 8.5 x 11”, letterpress broadside with an excerpt from Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish to give away (courtesy of Rakoff’s publisher) to whoever writes the best rhyming couplet about David Rakoff. (Iambic pentameter not necessary. “Best” is defined solely as “Dave’s favorite.”) Email your name and couplet to contest@elliottbaybook.com before 11pm (PST) on 8/24/13, for your chance to win. The winner will be announced on or around September 1.

In the meantime, we’ve got lots of Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish in stock. Happy reading!

Win this! (courtesy of Doubleday)
Win this! (courtesy of Doubleday)

UPDATE: We have a winner! Congratulations to Susan H., who sent in this supremely poignant couplet:

I miss David Rakoff, who left us to soon
His art and his writing were never jejune

Thanks, Susan. And enjoy your broadside!

Sundays In: A Sitting

Punk Is A Moving Target

by Dave Wheeler

Sometimes I’ll read a whole book in a sitting. Granted, many of these instances have occurred on transcontinental flights, but not always. If it’s gripping enough, or if it’s slim enough, I can devour something in mere hours.

Maybe it’s impressive. Probably it’s annoying, too, for me to make a claim like that. We don’t all have that kind of time or attention span. But like Justus says, it’s a bookseller’s superpower!

But it’s never really about getting through a book for me. I’m more concerned with what I’m getting out of the book, and sometimes you have to take it all at once for it to work right. Like half-shell oysters. Or tequila shots.

That’s my running theory, anyway.

But I’m sure you know what I mean. There’s sometimes that feeling that if you set the book down for even a moment, the spell will be broken and you’ll never return to it. Sometimes the enchantment is that fragile — not weak, not because the book is “bad” — it’s delicate. A lot of beautiful things I can think of are delicate: snowflakes, lace, stained glass. And there are books I could list among those. Saul Bellow’s The Actual, for one. Or John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat.

Other things are specifically designed to be read in a single sitting, too, though. Many of the zines we carry are exactly that! Guillotine Press has been issuing some of the most delightful works of cultural criticism, with stunningly laid-out little pamphlets like Troubleshooting Silence in Arizona (Bojan Louis) and most recently Punk (Mimi Thi Nguyen & Golnar Nikpour).

The press is run by Sarah McCarry, whom you may know better as The Rejectionist. Incisive and provocative, Guillotine, I’d say, is putting out some of the best zines on the market. Each packs a wallop — intricately constructed (frequently collaborative) essays on violence, women’s health, racial and other prejudices, and more! — while gracious enough to readers not to add physical heft to already heavy subjects.

I like reading a whole work at once every now and then. Segmented reading feels like living inside the author’s mind for a long period, but single-sitting reading feels more like viewing the subject from above. Appreciating the story entirely. Full-immersion, which I’ve heard is the best way to learn a new language; in fact, I’m not convinced the two are all that different.

So, I wonder, what have you enjoyed reading all at once, beginning to end?