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in which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout, by Philip Connors.
Jack Kerouac was a wilderness lookout. So was…well, I can’t think of any other famous wilderness lookouts right now, but doesn’t it seem like a great vocation for a young bookish man of an existential bent who wants to sit high atop a mountain retreat on the hunt for fires with a copy of Herman Hesse’s Demain on his lap whilst stealing melancholic glances at the cold, indifferent moon? I know I wanted to become a wilderness lookout after reading The Dharma Bums. But, then again, I wanted to become a cop after I saw Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment.
2. Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews, by Geoff Dyer.
While you’re drinking a margarita in the pool at the MGM Grand showing off your hairless chest while Lady Gaga pumps over an P.A. bigger than some four-bedroom family homes, I’ll be curled up on a chaise longue poolside wearing a black turtleneck sweater in 110-degree Las Vegas heat paging through this book and glaring.
3. Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag, by Sigrid Nunez.
A memoir from Susan Sontag’s son’s former girlfriend, now a novelist and New York Times contributor. If I took on a similar project and wrote memoirs about my former high school girlfriends’ mothers, we’d all know a lot more about a certain Mrs. Rosenfeld who lived on Union Ave. in Elkins Park, Pa.
4. The Union War, by Gary W. Gallagher.
It’s the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and even those of us who try to avoid cluttering our brains with Gettysburg/Sumter/Appomattox strategery are being asked to reflect on this ancient conflict’s meaning and legacy, which would be fine if we weren’t also simultaneously fighting three foreign wars of more recent design that don’t involve cannons and bayonets but planes that fly themselves. Maybe if Lincoln had had predator drones, there wouldn’t be dudes with “The South Will Rise Again” bumperstickers on their Ford Festivas listening to Skrewdriver in a Manassas 7-11 parking lot.
5. The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry: An Anthology, by Ilan Stavans.
I probably won’t read this from cover to cover, but if I ever need to refer to Octavio Paz’s “San Ildefonso Nocturne” in Spanish or English, there the f$ck it is on page 348.