February 2009 – Drop City

Once again thanks to everyone who at least attempted to take on the behemoth that is House of Leaves and subsequently came out to talk about it last night. We could’ve never predicted that Danielewski would draw an unprecendented 23 genre Xers – and on a snowy night too! Clearly everyone has something to say about postmodernism (and it isn’t always pretty)!

Since many of you referred to the act of reading House of Leaves as work, February’s selection should come as refreshing change. Drop City by T.C. Boyle serves up an entertaining look into a hippie commune. Here is the Amazon.com review:

With Drop City, T. Coraghessan Boyle offers proof that he has become one of America’s most prolific, gifted storytellers. Set in the 1970s, Boyle entertains readers with the denizens of “Drop City,” a counterculture California commune that welcomes anyone wanting to live off the grid, use drugs, and practice free love. Boyle sublimely captures the sociology of its rebellious members, who doubt the sincerity or beliefs of newcomers, express some insecurity about nonconformity, and chastise outsiders while remaining oblivious to their own hypocrisy. Marco, Pan, Star, and other “cats” and “chicks” live hassle-free until dissention and cries of racism mount amid increasing run-ins with the local government (a young girl is raped, installation of a sewage system is mandated, a mother lets her toddlers drink LSD-laced juice). Seeking refuge, the citizens move north, to Alaska, to reinvent their utopia, but soon learn the natural environment is more unforgiving of a lackadaisical lifestyle.

Drop City is funny, evocative, and well-paced, shifting between the hippies and the Alaskan locals–primarily Sess and his new bride Pamela (a city dweller who arranged stays with several trappers over a few weeks to determine whom she would marry)–until the two cultures collide. Balanced between plot and character, Boyle excels at describing the physical world and his characters’ interaction with it, whether portraying the harshness (or sheer beauty) of the Alaskan wilderness, the simple survival routines of its grizzled inhabitants, or the sounds wafting through Drop City: “the goats bleating to be milked or fed, the single sharp ringing note of a dog surprised by its own hunger, the regular slap of the screen door at the back of the house–and underneath it all, like the soundtrack to a movie, the dull hum of rock and roll leaking out the kitchen windows.” Truly American in spirit, Drop City is a strong novel of freedom and those in pursuit of lives of liberty. –Michael Ferch

I hope we see just as many of you at our next discussion on Tuesday, February 24 at 8pm at Molly Malone’s (The Snug) in Forest Park! Remember, if you haven’t picked up your copy yet, stop by the Oak Park Public Library’s Main Library second floor Adult and Teen Services desk with your OPPL library card to grab one.

Reading Resolutions

photo courtesy of spotrick

Although it is the third week of January, it still isn’t too late to set some reading resolutions for 2009. Inspired by a variety of similar lists on other blogs, the genre X crew came up with their top 3-5 reading resolutions for 2009. If you have set any reading related goals for yourself this year, please share them with us!

Mandy’s Resolutions:

  • Read at least 5 books from my “To Read” list.
  • Read at least 5 books from one of my bookshelves at home.
  • Read a true cult classic.
  • Learn a new skill from a book(s) (this excludes anything involving crafting or cooking).
  • Pick up a book that I have attempted to read in the past and failed.

Monica’s Resolutions:

  • Read 100 books (including graphic novels and YA) in 2009
  • Read at least 18 books from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list
  • Read my husband’s favorite book of 2007 (and 2009)
  • Let nothing sit on my GoodReads ‘To Read’ list for longer than one year (read or weed)

Jennifer’s Resolutions:

  • Begin using GoodReads to organize my reading life & log in weekly to update.
  • Read at least 10 non-fiction books, excluding craft and home decor.
  • Read at least 10 books from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.
  • Read 10 books published in 2009.

Building the House

The background and stories surrounding the makings and marketing of Mark Danielewski’s unique first novel are as wondrously convoluted as the book itself. If you haven’t already looked into the history of the house, here are some links detailing how this cult classic was built.

Instead of printing out the tome and sending it off to potentially uninterested publishers, Danielewski offered the entire book online and directed friends and publishers to the URL. After Pantheon picked up House of Leaves, they were smart to build off of Danielewski’s growing internet fan base by launching an extensive online marketing campaign. And it paid off big time – turning a title originally intended for a small 8,000 copy print release into something that has reached its 20th edition and recently made it onto the list of 1,001 books to read before you die, which was compiled by over 100 literary critics worldwide.

Not only did Danielewski generate interest through the internet, he also inevitably gathered readers by coupling with his sister, famous rock musician Poe, on an album entitled Haunted. The songs on Haunted are intricately tied to the book and Poe goes so far as to direct listeners to certain pages of House of Leaves when listening to various tracks. (Audio and video taken from the collaboration can be found at Danielewski’s web site under Gallery.) The two toured the country together cross promoting their works, which was another wildly successful endeavor.

If you’d like to read more on how the house was built straight from the architect’s mouth, check out this extensive Flak interview with Danielewski. Those of you who still cannot get enough info on this enigmatic book, check out Exploration Z and this index to the threads that can be found on the constantly evolving House of Leaves web site.

V.C. Andrews is back in 2009

While we at genre X try to bring you the best literature for our discussions, there’s something to be said for reading a little trash every once in a while. To, you know, cleanse the palate. And what could be trashier than reading Ms. V.C. Andrews herself? Blogger Reviewer X has set up a year long Andrews read-a-thon encouraging readers to discuss and read from the blushy books.

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with V.C. Andrews, she writes mostly gothic horror about family secrets and often involve themes of forbidden “love”. Eek. They were also hidden under the beds of many a teenage girl in the 80s and 90s.  Pulp classics like these have inspired young readers to to take on reading as a hobby for decades. In fact there are a ton of bloggers and websites devoted to the paperbacks of days past that are worth taking a look at if you’re looking for a nostalgia fix.

For more VC Andrews check out the Complete VCA Page and Jezebel’s hilarious reviews of Flowers in the Attic and My Sweet Audrina as part of their Fine Lines series of their thoughts of children’s and YA books from the 1980s and beyond.

If your 80s tastes run more to Sweet Valley, check out The Dairi Burger, written by a Bay area blogger trying to read and review every Sweet Valley High title and vicariously relive her tween years. Her Blogroll is also a treasure trove of blogs recapping everything from Sleepover Friends to The Babysitters Club.

How about you? Any guilty reading pleasures in your closet? And do the Gossip Girl books count?