The Two Best Books of The Year
Being a one-man outfit, I can hardly put together a list of the year’s hundred best books – or even ten, for that matter. So, in keeping with the prevailing spirit of the times, I’ve downsized to only two books, one each for fiction and non-fiction. Both lend themselves easily to being savored in small bits, in those preciously few moments we have each day to truly sit down and read.
Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer’s Life
Other Press, 217 pp.
In one of the small and wonderful essays that constitute this collection, Greenberg reveals that he has not traveled more than fifty miles outside of New York City for years. This is the kind of detail from which Woody Allen made an entire career, but Greenberg is far from another neurotic, self-involved Manhattanite. A sort of Montaigne of Morningside Heights, he alternatively finds humor, sadness and wisdom in life’s most mundane details: a rat-infested city street, a Craigslist posting gone awry, an encounter with a thieving barista. Throughout, the lovely – and lively – prose is animated by the insightful mind of a writer who seems almost instinctually drawn to the joys and indignities that mark our days. After spending two weeks with his four-year-old son while his wife is away, Greenberg thinks they’ve truly bonded. But when the boy runs to hug his mother at the airport, he whispers audibly: “I love you more than Daddy.”
Raymond Carver: Collected Stories
ed. William L. Stull and Maureen P. Carroll
The Library of America, 1040 pp.
This was a good year for short fiction, but its finest stories indisputably belong to Raymond Carver, whose best work came roughly three decades ago. Collected here in a mammoth, authoritative edition, the stories are a testament to the troubled genius whose sparse and muscular style is singularly American and remains deeply influential today. But this is more than just a retrospective: much credit belongs to Stull and Carroll for unearthing Carver’s original stories for the classic What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which had been called Beginners before his controversial (and legendary) editor Gordon Lish cut 55% of the text in order to accentuate its “peculiar bleakness.” In what amounts to literary detective work, Stull and Carroll examined the manuscript on which Lish made his changes and from it transcribed the original Carver stories. They also reproduce a desperate letter in which Carver pleads with Lish, “if I have any standing or reputation or credibility in this world, I owe it to you…But if you go ahead with this as it is, it will not be good for me.” If that wasn’t enough, included are several previously unpublished late stories and little-known essays, rounding out a career marked at once by tragedy and triumph.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 2 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 3 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 4 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 5 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 6 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 7 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 8 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 9 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Strartup
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook