If This Ain’t Unliterate, I Don’t What Is

I was showing my bookshelf to some friends this past weekend and the question as to how I organize my books came up. My answer was by color. I referred to it as the “Martha Stewart” method (but I actually think the wife got the idea from Real Simple). I don’t mind it so much. It does, in the words of the venerable El Duderino, “tie the room together.” The trick is to recall the color each of my books. For example:

“All the Pretty Horses” by Cormac McCarthy = WHITE

“The Curious Incedent of the Dog in the Night Time” by Mark Haddon = RED

“Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rusdie = PALE GREEN

And so on. It’s usually doesn’t take that much longer to find the book. Anything to stave off Alzheimer’s. The bookshelf is a bit disorganized right now, but I’ll take a picture tonight to see how it compares to the abomination above (link from Apartment Therapy).

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The 25ish Funniest People in America

My first (and better) instinct is to just let this go, but I can’t, and it’s raining outside, and I don’t feel like writing a book review right now, so fuck it, here goes:

EW.com posted a photo gallery listing “The 25 Funniest People in America.” I won’t dive too deeply into how random the list they’ve managed to cobble together is, but Chris Rock? Ellen? Conan? We’re talking about the 25 funniest people in America this decade right? Diablo Cody might make my list if we’re talking about the 25 funniest ex-strippers who’ve won an Oscar. Demetri Martin might possibly make for an entertaining pre-school teacher one day. Ricky Gervais is British. Does someone fill his seat when he’s not visiting the States? Besides, his friend Karl is much funnier, but I doubt he’s ever been to America. But I digress…

Look. I’m not going to deride Entertainment Weekly too much. It serves a purpose. It’s essentially a clearinghouse of celebrity puff and spoon-fed industry PR. That’s fine. I’m a consumer. I don’t mind the occasional spoon-feeding. When I’m at my friend’s house, I reach for her EW and contentedly flip through it for ten minutes or so. This list is exactly the type of list one would expect from EW.

Here’s my problem:

#16 – Amy Sedaris / David Sedaris

#8 – Amy Poehler / Will Arnett

#7 – Matt Stone / Trey Parker

#4 – The Daily Show Team (6 people)

#2 – Stephen Colbert and his team

#1 – The Judd Apatow POSSE (That would have to be a least 10, right?)

A conservative estimate actually puts their list at 43 people (I gave EW the benefit of the doubt and counted Colbert as a one-man team). At least we have some people to fill Gervais’ seat when he’s home in England.

This is a list that apparently took 18 people to make. I’d love to observe them try to square up a lunch tab.

Try harder, EW. At the very least, rewrite the headline.

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Your Designated Reader

I am going to try a little experiment in the coming days, something that, if it works, may closer match the spirit of The Unliterate Review.

I first thought of the idea for the Unliterate Review when I read an article in the New York Times, in which Steve Jobs basically said that Amazon’s Kindle was a pointless concept because people no longer read books. The idea was to write a blog about books for people who don’t read. My original intent was to write snarky semi-sarcastic posts about literary topics that my intended audience would most likely not give a damn about in the first place. But I don’t do snark all that well. Also, I find the whole snarky, mocking, everything is *fail* vein of the blogosphere somewhat tiresome. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to put myself above the fray. I’ve defended those types of blogs. I read them. I love With Leather and FireJoeMorgan. They do snark very well. But there is a legion of imitators who do not. I don’t want to be one of them.

More importantly, I love books. Those who know me would agree that I like books more than I like most people. It would be impossible for me to write about books in anything other than an earnest manner.

So onward to this experiment, which I am calling, “Your Designated Reader.” I will choose a novel that I have not read, by an author with whom I am not very familiar, and chronicle my experience reading it. Basically, I will sit down and read a portion of the book and then write a post about it before my next sitting. In each post I will give a brief synopsis of what’s going on in the novel, introduce any new characters or plot developments, etc. I will also write about my impressions thus far, any new words I discover, a certain passage that reminded me of something else, or anything I feel like talking about that day.

For this experiment, I’ve selected “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” the debut novel by Junot Diaz, which just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Diaz is the brightest new star in the literary world. I’ve only read one of his short stories from “Drown.” I don’t really have a strong impression of his writing, so I’m looking forward to diving in. Please join me.

For those who don’t read or have no intentions of reading the novel, you can view it as a highly personal and subjective Cliffs Notes version of the book. I have no qualms about you outsourcing your literacy to me. Consider me your reader-monkey.

For those who want to read along-GREAT! I welcome your comments. It could be our little reading group; or, most likely, one man’s conversation with himself.

For those of you who’ve already read the novel and think I’m a pretentious asshole-EVEN BETTER! I welcome your comments as well. You can come off as pretentious assholes with me. It’ll be fun.

It could be a recipe for disaster, but maybe it could turn out to be, in the words of Norman Mailer, a “special and peculiar” experience.

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Enabling Unliteracy Throughout the World

One could argue that beer has enabled quite few the greatest works of literature. But I’d imagine that it’s had a much greater hand in enabling unliteracy throughout the world. It’s pretty hard to read when your book is soaked in ale. And the Kindle would fare much worse.

Here’s a list of the 125 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die from All About Beer Magazine:

I’ve been to a whopping ONE of the places listed. Time to close the books and get to L-I-V-I-N. (Thanks, Tim!)

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Norman Mailer on Fresh Air

I ran across this 1991 interview of Norman Mailer on Fresh Air. Very quickly into the interview, Mailer touches briefly upon the phenomenon of the unliterate when he imagines the future of the novel in America. In 50 years, he figures, people may read one book a year and regard it as a “special and peculiar” activity. Seventeen years later, we might not be too far away from Mailer’s vision.

Terry Gross then throws Mailer an alley-oop by asking where he thinks he stands among the great American writers of his time. Mailer answers matter-of-factly, “I’m not going to name anyone but there are maybe 3-4 of us who may last and I’m probably one of them.” Ha. Classic Mailer bravado. Yet, again, he may be right.

Returning to the idea of the unliterate, I’ve been struggling to solidify a clear purpose for this blog, which may be a good thing. Given that this endeavor is still in its infancy, I would hope that I’d feel the urge to revise the “About” page continually with each new post.

Here’s a notion. If people really did only read one book a year, shouldn’t that book, at the very least, provide a “special and peculiar” experience, and not just something that everyone else reading?

(picture from AFP/Getty Images)