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Asymptote: "It’s a juicy novel, it’s a novel to make you stay up too late, it’s a complex novel, and it isn’t easy to read—though it certainly is readable."

Date: Jul 6 2015

I let myself go a little in the summer. I’m currently abroad, not-at-home, and when I’m not working on Serious Literary Things I’ve decided to read whatever pleasurable books I please—no “shoulds,” no “rectifying-the-fact-that-you-haven’t-read-X.” So the books I’m into right now are sprints, giddy-up reads, and were I not landlocked I would happily deem them “beach reads.”

Excuse me for being embarrassingly late to the party, but I just read Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend (I know, I know—I report on her buzz practically every week in the Roundup, and really should have read it earlier). I don’t know why I waited so long—typically with books that achieve so much buzz, I feel like I will either a) be disappointed, or b) the buzz itself will have precluded my gaining anything from the actual book (this is a disgustingly snobby presumption, but I have to be honest). Neither thing occurred: My Brilliant Friend simply blew me away. It’s a juicy novel, it’s a novel to make you stay up too late, it’s a complex novel, and it isn’t easy to read—though it certainly is readable. Reading it felt like picking a scab, and I mean that positively: I couldn’t help but pick at it. Though I knew it wasn’t necessarily good for me, it felt good.

Also! I was inspired by Megan McDowell—who was formerly part of Asymptote’s team, hi Megan!—to reading My Documents by Alejandro Zambra (Megan’s the book’s translator!). I actually hope to get a full review on the blog pretty soon, it’s that impressive—just like with Ferrante, I let the literary buzz buzz-and-buzz until I could take no longer, and then got sucked into the mess. Let it be said that this is another book full of stories that are juicy, smart, and slightly annoying.

I lied a bit about the unfettered-fun-reading I took on this summer: I’m also reading Moby Dick (and I’m about halfway through). Hopefully, I will have finished it in time for What We’re Reading in August, so I can (perhaps) deploy a fuller review—not that you need it—but for now I’ll just say it: I kind of get it. It’s a slog, it’s a meditation, but I get it, dude poets, English-language readers everywhere, I get it.