in which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs, by William “Upski” Wimsatt.
In 1994, Billy Wimsatt (graffiti handle “Upski”) wrote a book called Bomb the Suburbs which meant, in graffiti parlance, “tag the suburbs” or, for the uninitiated, “write graffiti in the suburbs,” but also had a double meaning, i.e. “destroy the suburbs” or, more specifically, “destroy the suburban mindset.” In this new book, Upski has evidently reconsidered his position in some clever way that probably also involves some double- or triple-meaning(s), but I’m not sure what the deal is because you can’t preview his book on Amazon. This makes me sad because, though I lived in the suburbs in 1994 and believed they should be bombed (metaphorically and physically), Amazon—-a faceless multinational corporation loved by suburbanites—-is now my window on the world, which means I haven’t succeeded in bombing the suburbs (metaphorically or physically) and that, even if I had, Upski has now reversed himself somehow and is saying I should never have wanted to bomb the suburbs at all, which basically makes the last decade-and-a-half of my life a total washout.
2. The Ten Commandments: How Our Most Ancient Moral Text Can Renew Modern Life, by David Hazony.
A reed-voiced critic on NPR the other day called that scene where Charlton Heston parts the Red Sea in “The Ten Commandments” something like “the greatest special effect in motion-picture history.” Little did this reed-voiced critic know that, while he was admiring said effect during said film’s annual network TV airing sometime between Passover and Easter, the cool kids were stealing the Cadbury eggs out of his Easter basket and/or the charoset from his seder plate.
3. Self Portraits: Fictions, by Frederic Tuten.
I thought these postmodern-seeming short stories were written by an austere German, possibly one who’d survived the Holocaust and/or been a member of the Hitler Youth. Now, it turns out that the author isn’t German, but Italian, and isn’t just Italian, but Sicilian, so all the German jokes I’d planned won’t pan out, and the Italian jokes aren’t much good either. Sicily is a very specific place to try to make fun of, especially if you’re trying to get past the typical Godfather/La Costra Nostra/Tony Soprano material.
4. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson.
What if African-Americans’ flight from the south post-Reconstruction was, sociologically and anthropologically, thought of as emigration? It just might blow Newt Gingrich’s nuts off.
5. Half a Life, by Darin Strauss.
The author of this memoir killed a girl in a car accident he was responsible for, Laura Bush-style. I’m not sure if he was drunk, or if the girl was in another car, or if she was in the passenger seat and an airbag incorrectly deployed but, anyway you slice it, car-death is a bummer, unless it provides insight into oneself and the human condition and can be rehashed in memoir form.