I was ecstatic to walk in the front door last Monday afternoon and see a package from Amazon sitting in my chair. My much-anticipated belated birthday present had arrived… and a day early to top it off.
I started reading it that night and probably would be on my second time through the book by now if it weren’t for those stacks of essays that stare at me with puppy dog eyes begging to be graded. So the reading has been going slower than I would have hoped.
But after that first night’s reading of the first twenty pages or so, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum: How am I going to write about this book?
Most of my Letters thus far have focused on some theme or character that I found particularly interesting in each of the short stories and essays I have read. But this book is different. Lipsky and Wallace meander from topic to topic as they travel, eat, and smoke together. There are not chapter breaks, and sometimes no more than a period or semicolon as they move on to a new topic of discussion. It quickly became clear that my normal M.O. was not going to work for this one.
I recently subscribed to a DFW listserv, which has been all abuzz since AOCYEUBY came out last week. Several people suggested doing a Group Read of the book, but as those discussion progressed, many came to the same conclusion: this book really doesn’t lend itself to an analytical or literary discussion. I think one person put it well when they suggested a “group hug” rather than a group read. In other words, let’s just share and comment on our favorite lines and passages and simply enjoy this very personal glimpse into this amazing writer’s life.
So I have decided to take a similar approach. As I’ve been reading, I have been highlighting the insightful and entertaining lines, sentences, and paragraphs in yellow crayon (I like highlighting in crayon because it doesn’t bleed through the page). After I finish the book, I will go back through a copy some of my favorite lines here in my Letters (I want to be able to digest each quote within the context of the whole book, rather than just in its immediate context of the page). I will comment on those that invite comment, and I will leave alone those that speak for themselves.
So that’s the plan. I hope to have the book finished in a week or so. As I continue to read, if I get the compulsion to write, I may hunt down a short story or essay of his online (suggestions are welcomed) to read and write about.
So far I am loving every bit of the book. I look forward to sharing my thoughts here soon.