Things We Like | Vol. 1
Starting this week, the fields staff will be sharing some of the music, reads, artwork, and other cool stuff we’ve been digging lately. You can check back on Mondays for new ideas and perspectives from our different editors. This week, editor in chief Sean Redmond shares some of the books he’s been leafing through as of late.
It’s tough to find time to finish reading these days–I’ve got a big stack of books sitting on my dresser, all in various states of progress, bookmarks and pieces of paper jutting out at random intervals. Christmas books, birthday books, books that I’ve picked up because I can’t visit Farewell or Book People without purchasing something. Critical theory, fiction, poetry, journals. I keep promising myself that I’ll finish them, and I’m sure I will, but I keep adding to the list much quicker than I take books off of it. A small sampling of what I’m currently tackling:
This is actually the first DeLillo novel I’ve taken up, which is strange, considering his stature. I read some negative criticism about his work once–the heavy-handed way he lambastes consumer society, the lack of respect he shows for his characters–and it turned me off. But others’ opinions should never be taken as substitutes for diving in and experiencing something first hand, and so I’ve finally taken the plunge and picked one up for myself. The reading is surprisingly easygoing for a postmodern giant–he’s no Pynchon–and the story has its draws. Yes, it feels something like a Wes Anderson film at times: a lot of quirky characters defined by unrealistic habits and enough witty dialog to fill a good 90 minutes, but it’s hard to criticize, now, 29 years after its initial publication.
If nothing else, the story, which deals with the aftermath of a toxic event, is as relevant as ever. In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor melted down following the Tohoku earthquake in Japan. I was living in that country at the time, and reading about the ordeal that these characters have to go through brings harrowing memories back to the surface: obsessively checking news reports, watching for changes in wind patterns, a packed bag sitting at the foot of my bed, ready to fly back to the U.S. on a moment’s notice. The fact that this novel came out a year before Chernobyl is eerily prescient, although it was released after the Three Mile Island incident in Pennsylvania, in 1979. It just goes to show how prevalent these sorts of disasters are–West Virginia residents are still questioning the safety of their water following a Jan. 9 chemical spill–although why I need snippets of inane commercials to help me realize how badly we’re messing up the environment is beyond me. I’m only halfway through the story, though, so maybe it’ll all make sense come finish.
This was an impulse buy from Farewell that I’ve also managed to get about halfway through, mostly because I have to be in a very specific mood to delve into it. Baudrillard is always good at taking traditional perspectives and turning them inside out, and this book is no different, although his insights into the way cultural consumption signifies and enforces class structure are a little less revelatory than might be hoped for. Still, I can’t argue with him, either figuratively or literally.
Really enjoying The Austin Review! Needless to say, the lit scene here in Austin is in a groove, and we met these guys back when we were nothing but a piece of paper at a lit fair, and they didn’t even have a table. So far we’ve come in such short time! There’s a great essay from fields contributor Sheila Heti in here, along with works of fiction and nonfiction. The new jubilat starts out with some poems from UT professor Dean Young and includes an interview with poet Maggie Nelson, and the latest Harvard Review… I don’t know. I haven’t gotten to it yet!