The worst thing that being an artist could do to you would be that it would make you slightly unhappy constantly.
J.D. Salinger (Nine Stories)
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (Dover, $3.50). This is Dickens at his funniest and most soulful, and the genius of the minor characters (Micawber, Uriah Heep, Peggoty, Betsey Trotwood) is both a dazzling pleasure and completely intimidating, if you’ve ever had any desire to write fiction.
- Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris (Penguin, $17). Harris’ brilliantly researched study of the five films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1968, following a pivotal year in Hollywood history, is my favorite book about cinema. It’s enormous fun to read but also extremely accomplished: Harris understands the collaborative and random nature of the business better than anyone else I’ve come across.
- Father and Son by Edmund Gosse (Oxford, $15). A misery memoir, perhaps the first, about the author’s coming-of-age in a strict evangelical Victorian household. Father and Son is perceptive, wise, occasionally comic, and heartbreaking — even if Gosse is now believed by biographers to have stretched the truth a bit.
- What Good Are the Arts? by John Carey (Oxford, $18). A brilliant and important little book — by an Oxford English professor, no less — about taste, high culture, objective artistic worth, and the absurd arguments made to prop the whole teetering edifice up. Carey has an extraordinary mind, and a wicked wit, and it’s hard to read this book and end up feeling the same about what you value and why.
- Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (Scribner, $17). Random Family follows two young Bronx, N.Y., women as they struggle over a decade with men, kids, drugs, poverty, and, very occasionally, money. It’s an astonishing, and astonishingly patient, piece of reportage; it’s also an important book about contemporary America, and it grips like a thriller.
- Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (Ecco, $26). Fountain’s achingly sympathetic, funny, and imaginative novel is a book about Iraq and the soldiers fighting there, and it’s set almost entirely within a Texas football stadium. It’s the best novel I’ve read this year.
This is a perfect short story.
One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo’s fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl….
The idea of evil as “that guy, over there, who takes over my body sometimes against my will” is too simple, and dissociative, and irresponsible. It’s the mistake Jekyll himself makes. Hyde is not someone else who commits Jekyll’s sins for him. Hyde does not exist. Jekyll commits all of his sins on his own.
And you know, this thought crossed my mind at the time: maybe chance is a pretty common thing after all. Those kinds of coincidences are happening all around us, all the time, but most of them don’t attract our attention and we just let them go by. It’s like fireworks in the daytime. You might hear a faint sound, but even if you look up at the sky you can’t see a thing. But if we’re really hoping something may come true it may become visible, like a message rising to the surface. Then we’re able to make it out clearly, decipher what it means. And seeing it before us we’re surprised and wonder at how strange things like this can happen. Even though there’s nothing strange about it. …
Time only moves in one direction. Remember that. Things always change.
Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Life… is like a grapefruit. It’s orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast.
Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards.