Tired of reading the same recommended books from the usual sources? Just think of our weekly What We’re Reading column as your non-committal book club with The FADER and some of your favorite bands. For this installment, Claire Lobenfeld, blogger extraordinaire, gives us her top picks.
Little White Lies #37: The Drive Issue & #39: The Shame Issue: Little White Lies is a UK-based magazine that anchors its feature well on a theme or specific film and can function as a viewer's companion piece, like reading an annotated version of Ulysses. The content is pedantic—Q&As with and features about the people responsible for the film's moving parts—but what I find most remarkable are the accompanying essays and artwork. I read a lot about Drive before its release, so much so that I feel like I could recount the story of Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn's bizarre first meeting as if I had been there myself. What I found compelling about LWL’s Drive Issue was the interview with Cliff Martinez about composing the film's polarizing soundtrack, the new poems from John Sallis who wrote the novella from which the film was adapted and Dean Rogers' photo essay, "Dead Drive." Rogers shot the sites of various iconic, fatal car crashes (like Jackson Pollock's, Jayne Mansfield's and James Dean's) at the exact time of day of the initial impact. The barren portraits are chilling effigies, particularly when you imagine the scenes as the last thing you see before your own life ends. Shame was one of my other favorite movies of 2011, and I am just digging into the issue now, but if LWL gave it the same treatment it gave Drive, its exploration of censorship, taboo, as well as director Steve McQueen's aggressive vision should be equally captivating.
Everything Chris Ryan has ever written: It's a lofty plan, but I've set myself to the task of reading things I've never read and re-reading things I've loved (Gabe Said "We're Into Movements"!) by Chris Ryan. Last week, we unearthed his piece from FADER #35, "New York Rap: State of the Empire," from print exile and filed it into the online archives. It's an early, good place to start, but his writing about the NBA at Grantlandis the real inspiration for this daunting task. He has a tight grasp on both subjects—which are also two of my favorite things—so his seemingly off-the-cuff observations that make you want to kick yourself for not thinking them yourself are an inspiration. I'll probably never work under Ryan's tutelage, so reading all his work like a nerdy completist is a fine concession. If part of how we improve our craft is through reading great work, I am hoping I'll absorb a modicum of his creativity through some kind of eyeball-to-brain-to-paper/screen osmosis.
The Pure and the Impure by Colette: I've been reading this book almost once a year since it was given to me as a Valentine's Day gift about eight years ago. Colette called it one the best books she's ever written and admitted that it teeters on autobiography. The man that gave me the book knew that I'd sympathize with its narrative. It's all kinds of gross and sad to think that someone you're in a relationship with would think that you'd love a book about the dialectics of romance—how its meatiness is based on emotional exchanges and hearty self-denial—but when you're just barely 19 and a literary theory major, it's also sort of perfect. My relationship with the book changes every time I read it, originally allowing me to wallow in my own melancholy (youth!), and then, later, becoming a marker for how far away those early feelings felt. Now, it's just one of my favorite prose pieces, the kind of thing where the beauty of her word choices never fails to make me gasp, as if I'd never read it before.