The Week asks Ed Park to pick his "best books" and he offers up six "of the more obscure titles among his all-time favorite novels", of which I've read exactly none:
- Strange Life of Ivan Osokin by P.D. Ouspensky - "Oupsensky's short, strange fable has the most potent use of repetition I've ever encountered in a work of fiction."
- Thieves' Nights by Harry Stephen Keeler - "Talk to me for more than five minutes and I start raving about Keeler, America's great unsung experimental writer, who masqueraded as a mystery novelist."
- The Scorpions by Robert Kelly - "The narrator is so effortlessly sinister, one nearly forgives Kelly for never again writing another novel, as if for fear of the voice getting lodged in his head."
- Afternoon Men by Anthony Powell - "...a British comic novel par excellence that seems to have Hemingway in its DNA."
- Speedboat by Renata Adler - "Along with Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine and Julian Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, this is a book I've bought repeatedly and given away, in the hopes of expanding the cult."
- Amazons by Cleo Birdwell - "Don DeLillo's reputation as a novelist of ideas overshadows his comic gifts. In 1980, DeLillo and Sue Buck collaborated under the Birdwell pseudonym, and their raunchy, relentlessly silly fabrication..."
I've added these to my ever-growing list (several are out of print however, so you'll have to start trolling eBay or alert the fine folks at Alibris) of books that I must read.
And speaking of books that you must read (a nice transition, no?), do check out Ed Park's novel Personal Days, which I recently finished and which flummoxed me a bit for its similarities (at first, but then later, no) to Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. I loved TWCTTE and only pages into Personal Days, I began to worry that something had gone terribly awry in a universe that would let two excellent writers, working separately and unawares, begin a novel of office intrigue in the first person-plural.
I then worried that I could find no review - no person, no less - to discuss said conundrum with me. No review mentioned it. And when I finally discussed it with bookish friends, several mentioned that it wouldn't make sense to mention TWCTTE in the same review as Personal Days because, well, they are two different books. Which they are, they are. I've been confused and perplexed about both books for weeks now and bless Bookforum (for so many things, really) for perfectly setting my concerns to rest and saying exactly what I could not articulate on my own:
"Then We Came to the End was among the best American novels of last year, so it's a considerable compliment to Park to say that Personal Days suffers not at all from this association."
"...despite all the comparisons it invites, Personal Days proves by its end to be wholly and strikingly its own."
I have much more to say about the latest Bookforum (which is excellent) but I'd love for you all to go out and read Personal Days and let me know what you think. I want to talk about this with you. I want to discuss. I want to roundtable. I want to point out all my favorite funny parts and learn which ones are yours.