What I’ve Been Reading – May 2008

You’ll have to forgive my bi-polar rambling this month.

Books Acquired:

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #27 – Dave Eggers (editor)

Books Read:

Purple Cow – Seth Godin

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #26 – Dave Eggers (editor) (not finished)

1 Dead in Attic – Chris Rose

I’m going through two extremes when it comes to reading, it seems. I’ve split time this month reading a book that was either utterly commercial and work-related or filled with heartbreaking cries for a restore to order. The superficial and the worthwhile, the work life and real life, something spectacular and something horrific.

What’s strange is that both extremes are non-fiction. I mean, I’m actually considering reading some political books (Obama’s The Audacity of Hope and Paul Wellstone’s The Conscience of a Liberal both spring to mind).

Someone stop this madness!

However, the fiction drought may end soon. I found myself a little disconnected from the usual McSweeney’s short fiction, I’ll admit, and so I fell behind in my McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern reading. But with the arrival of the newest McSQC (Issue 27) I’m ready to take them on again. And with two books I’ve been waiting too long to read (Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Michael Savage’s Firmin) sitting in the wings, ready to spring out at a moment’s notice my interest in fiction has been piqued again.

That’s next month, though. For now, it’s all of this Real Life nonsense. Maybe it’s he upcoming election. Maybe it’s a need to ground my brain in reality. Maybe it’s just an easier way to get some reading done, especially with the NBA Finals approaching, the summer keeping me out later and a sick little girl keeping me up at night.

Purple cowSeth Godin is a brilliant marketer – one of those guys that points out the obvious daily, much to the chagrin of those who are thinking too hard about more complex techniques. Reading Godin is like listening to Nirvana or grilling a perfect salmon steak – you always find yourself drawn to something complex, but in reality it’s the most simple ideas that hold the most weight.

(Yes, I just compared Godin to Nirvana. But only in that sense. Nirvana was an amazing band that changed the landscape of modern music. Seth Godin is a marketer – he hasn’t changed the face of anything, yet, though he’s very knowledgeable. And, Nirvana rocked a lot harder than Godin ever will.)

Okay, that’s all I have to say about Godin. He’s nice, but I feel like I’m talking about work, here. Ugh. Whatever. Let’s move on to something a little more serious.


Oh, what?

Wait, where did you come from?

1 dead in atticI’ll admit. I have forgotten about New Orleans. At least, in the sense of the city as a ruin. I have moved on, as many of us have, preferring to think that New Orleans is recovering perfectly, that all we need to know of progress is the sudden success of the city’s sports teams and Bourbon Street parties.

1 Dead in Attic thinks otherwise. Written by New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose throughout the year and a half following Katrina, the book is really just a collection of Rose’s immediate thoughts on the city he grew to love. The city he could never think of leaving. The city that crumbled around him, still struggling to get to its feet after a prolonged ten-count.

Rose’s Time-Picayune columns are at times raw, unbridled rage. At times, sarcastic humor. At times, longing reverence for what life was like before The Thing. It looks at the city from a perspective most of us can’t claim – a perspective born from tradition, fueled by witness, hardened by a knowledge of what’s right and frustration in the fact that “what’s right” wasn’t happening.

We’ve seen the footage. We’ve heard the stories. But we really haven’t gained insight into what was really happening down there, at least not unless we were present, helping people cope or cleaning up the mess. 1 Dead in Attic helps us bridge our thoughts, between what we remember and what we missed.

Like Spike Lee’s When The Levee’s Broke, 1 Dead in Attic shows us what happened after Katrina was the news of the day. Each column seems to be a retrospective – about what should have happened, what really happened and how it relates to the way things used to be.

It’s not a sappy call for remembrance. It’s hardly a eulogy. It’s a spark, a look at what New Orleans had become in the year after Katrina and a promise – one of hope, of a fire deep inside – written by one of New Orleans’s own.

Most of all, it’s a primer on how to be a resident of New Orleans. Live life. Buck tradition. Forge ahead. Most importantly, rebuild the dream.

Thanks, Chris. For being there, and for reminding us of what we keep forgetting.

Now where’s that McSweeney’s collection? There’s got to be something a little lighter around here somewhere.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 3rd, 2008