Best books … chosen by Deb Olin Unferth
Deb Olin Unferth’s new novel, Vacation, and her short-story collection, Minor Robberies, are both published by McSweeney’s. Her fiction has appeared in Harper’s and the Pushcart Prize anthologies.
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein (Vintage, $14). The memoir of Gertrude’s lover as told by Gertrude in a hilarious, strong, lyrical, Toklas/Stein-combo voice. The chapter called “The War” is especially good and contains the brightest, craziest, silliest depiction of World War I you’ll find anywhere. The Battle of the Marne presented as the Day One Couldn’t Find a Taxi in Paris, that sort of thing.
Quimby the Mouse by Chris Ware (Fantagraphics Books, $15). The early Ware. The angry Ware. The Austin art-student Ware. The kind of Ware that makes you awestruck and afraid.
My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $20). A dream journal in the form of a graphic novel. Doucet dreams she has a penis. Doucet dreams all her teeth are falling out. A day in the life of Doucet. Aggressive, brave, oddly tender. Not for the squeamish, the young, or pornography-shy.
Writers at Work, The Paris Review Interviews Series, edited by George Plimpton, et al. (Penguin). The Paris Review is republishing these in collected volumes, but I have the old out-of-print versions. Who didn’t these guys interview? Some of my favorite interviews are with E.L. Doctorow, Elie Wiesel, Cynthia Ozick, and Paul Bowles.
The Soccer War by Ryszard Kapuscinski (Knopf, $14). This Polish journalist covered some 30 wars around the world. These are personal narratives of Kapuscinski driving around looking for the wars, of him sitting around and waiting for the wars, of him being sick of the wars. Brilliant stuff in all ways: formally interesting, beautifully written, and great stories.
Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan (Houghton Mifflin, $15). A classic. Better than On the Road. Better than whatever’s better than On the Road. Did you know Brautigan was a gunshot suicide at 49? True story. Very sad.