No one creates art in a vacuum.
Except for Jeff Koons.
Funny enough, I went to the Whitney in New York during the Jeff Koons exhibit a few years ago.
And even funnier (is it funny?) I used part of that experience in my new novel, PLS Advise.
So guess what? I didn’t create art in a vacuum either. Did I create it while looking at vacuums?
I did read a lot of other stuff while I wrote PLS Advise and these are some of the books that influenced that story.
The novel is about a narrator named “Josh Spilker” was rolling in my head from around 2015 on. Yeah it’s about a writer and yeah it’s about New York and yeah I did some stuff with some friends, but not the friends that are in the book, because those friends don’t exist; I made them up. I mean they exist for some people, I guess, but not for me. Or not exactly.
When I was writing the book I was reading a lot of other things, too and these are the books that really influenced the novel. So it’s the PLS Advise reading list.
One of my favorites from the last five years, and there are so many odd coincidences with this book that did influence this story directly and indirectly. I loved the structure, the careful plot balance, all of it.
A friend of mine read this a few months ago and then we talked about it and everything came rushing back, in a new way. It’s great.
You know what, I never finished this book. But the first 50 or so pages stick with me. And I’ve read some of his magazine essays. His prose and perspective has deeply influenced the last 10 years of memoir and fiction (yes, both) and I can’t help but think some of that has bled into my work and consciousness. Of course it has.
I took this with me to a trip to Michigan in 2015.
Honestly, I didn’t know the book itself was about Michigan or a murder in the late 60s in Ann Arbor.
That was a freaky coincidence.
Combine that with Maggie’s tendency to meditate on every detail, write carefully and thoughtfully and to blend those ruminations with a real-life tragedy unfolding in front of her, and it becomes a fascinating story.
Quite honestly, I don’t remember much about this book except for being very interested in the form, concept and questions. Like I was more concerned with the atmosphere of the book rather than what it was saying.
And here in Tennessee, we have to get our cars inspected at these government car inspection stations and I read it while waiting to get my car inspected.
5. I Think You’re Totally Wrong by David Shields
I remember reading this while getting the tires on my car. It was a place in walking distance from where I used to work, and the same place where I would get new tires only to have them shred apart the very next day.
Was I reading this book when they were putting on these doomed tires? Quite possibly.
Vehicles are a large part of my reading experience, apparently.
This, though, is an argument between two friends over art and its place in the world.
I like David Shields stuff for the most part: he talks fast, thinks a lot and then puts out books that always have an intriguing format. This is an argument with a friend in a cabin while they’re vacationing together on a fishing trip (I think).
It’s nice to see friends disagreeing nicely.
6. The Original Face by Guillaume Morissette
Full disclosure: Guillaume was nice enough to blurb PLS ADVISE which he didn’t have to do. In case you don’t know him, he’s an amazing Canadian author. He writes with such precision and simplicity, it drives me crazy. He has a real knack for uncovering everyday existential dread. His novel is great.
7. Supremacist by David Shapiro
I liked Supremacist more so than David’s first novel. You’d be hard pressed to call either of them “novels” really. I appreciate the quest narrative of Supremacist, in which David recounts visiting each of the Supreme stores across the world, and the relationship fallout that accompanies that. This is the type of book I love to read, one that is culturally relevant, in that it doesn’t only relate to culture but confronts you with how culture is force feeding you a point of view.
8. The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits
A weird little book of vignettes of modern life. Julavits bounces from New York to Maine, and this book screams “NEW YORK WRITER” and how the setting was so different from mine own, but yet the emotions were still undeniably relatable. I bought this at a bookstore in Decatur, Georgia and thought my wife would like it. She never read it, but I liked it.
9. Selected Tweets by Mira Gonzalez and Tao Lin
I haven’t opened this book in a year or two, and nothing exceptional stands out to me about it now. Except for chronicling how odd it is that Twitter chronicles everything. It’s a marker in time, from how this type of broad communication like Twitter went from a novelty to a normal occurrence. Both Mira and Tao are (were?) good at Twitter; you can feel them talking at one another and those like them.
This book is full of subtweets about you.
10. I Hate The Internet by Jarret Kobek
Set in 2013, this is one of the first novels to really tackle the desperate underbelly of tech’s modern boom. Yep, it talks about gentrification, injustice and a lot more in a compelling, odd tone. I didn’t like his second book quite as much, but this one is great.
Yeah, I think that’s it. If I was going to teach a class on contemporary literature, most of these would have to be on it (minus mine). So definitely check them out or find them on Goodreads or whatever, and let me know what you think.
Maybe you’ll get sucked in too? (INSERT BAD VACUUM JOKE HERE).
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