Somehow, during this summer I've lost the urge to write here--or anywhere. The only cure for dry spells is reading, so here is a list of books to read when you're wallowing in fear and self-loathing.
1. Tender at the Bone. Ruth Reichl's memoir about growing up with food against the backdrop of growing up with a crazy mother. I read Garlic & Sapphires first, which is much lighter, a fun account of being the NYT food writer. This one is better, a bit darker, as it must be and readable in one sitting. Plus, there are recipes. What strikes me about Reichl is her ability to be so generous toward the people in her past. I've now read all of her books this summer and may make a class prompt based on her work.
2. The Horned Man, by James Lasdun. He has a new book of short stories out (It's Beginning to Hurt) that I'll be reading this fall. It's selling really well in hardback, which is all you need to know about his popularity. In this bizarre and dark novel, Lasdun takes his unreliable narrator all the way to the edge and then pushes him over. The high point of the book comes about 130 pages in when the narrator describes an anecdote about spending time with his step-sister at an exclusive club to which he doesn't belong. He thinks he's getting along beautifully with her and her tony friends, and he's not. It's so beautifully told, with so much restraint, and it's so haunting (and creepy and sad).
3. The Time of Your Life. Okay, it's a play by William Saroyan, and not a book. But it's a lot of fun. Written in that little slice of time between the great depression and WWII, it is a play about a group of regulars at a bar, and the main character, Joe, is trying to help everybody with his money and this kind of New Agey optimism, and all the while despair keeps creeping in. The Broadway Theater Archive has a version of this with a very young Kevin Kline as the longshoreman, available on Netflix.
4. Twin Study. These stories by Stacey Richter have been a kind of lifeline during the past month. They are surreal and funny and cool, and I love almost all of them, which I can't normally say about a story collection. They have served as great inspiration.