The Long Form Lives!
As This Land editors, Michael Mason and Mark Brown are (literally) professional readers. Here, they have combed through the best reading of 2012 and recommend their four favorite books and one long must-read.
EVERY LOVE STORY IS A GHOST STORY: A LIFE OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE
D.T. Max (Viking Adult)
New Yorker staff writer Max does a lucid job juggling all of Wallace’s obsessions—the addictions, mangled romances, snail-mail correspondences, and chivalric bouts with the English language. Makes you realize that a work such as Infinite Jest might require a touch beyond human, and exact an equal toll.
“THE YANKEE COMANDANTE”
David Grann (The New Yorker)
Each year, New Yorker staff writer David Grann writes one article. He isn’t a stylist, nor is his writing dilapidated by irony or self-consciousness. Rather, when you sit down to read one of his pieces, you’re hardly aware that Grann is welcoming you to rest your head into a vice that slowly twists over the course of thousands of words, until you practically explode from tension and bewilderment near the end of his stories. While he’s written about squid hunters and conmen, he’s most famous for a book about an Amazon explorer called The Lost City of Z. Grann’s most recent article, “The Yankee Comandante,” is about an American named William Alexander Morgan who fought alongside Castro during the Cuban Revolution; it’s also an indictment of the revolution itself (sorry, but George Clooney already bought the movie rights). Do yourself a favor and set aside a few hours to read this piece, then do yourself a bigger favor by following Grann’s own adventurous career.
Chris Ware (Pantheon)
Chris Ware is an alien. He’s the most celebrated American contemporary illustrator, and at the same time he’s a gifted chronicler of American ennui and misery. Ware’s latest novel, Building Stories, comes in a large cardboard box, like a board game. Inside you’ll find about a dozen different printings: hardcover books, pamphlets, broadsheets, and a few other surprises. Pick up any item and start reading, and soon you’ll start putting together narratives that connect through the central character of a building. Beautifully rendered, painstakingly detailed, and bizarrely magical, Building Stories is a book into which one should not gently wonder into—but once you do be prepared for an otherworldly experience.
KILLER ON THE ROAD: VIOLENCE AND THE AMERICAN INTERSTATE
Ginger Strand (University of Texas Press)
Yes, she’s a frequent contributor to This Land. But she’s also one of the gutsiest narrative journalists working today. The beauty of this collection of horror stories is that they’ve been sitting there all along, beneath our collective tread. It took a writer of Strand’s prowess, though, to splice them together like a set of new Michelins.
PEOPLE WHO EAT DARKNESS
Richard Lloyd Parry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
In England, it was subtitled The Fate of Lucie Blackman, for her destiny had become ubiquitous and sensational in both the tabloids and broadsheets. Her story, as it unfolded, dealt readers alternating blows of insight and horror. For the American edition, the subtitle became The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo—and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up. So we’d have an idea of this Lucie. So we’d know. Said This Land fiction editor Jeff Martin: “To relegate this book to the genre of true crime is akin to calling Infinite Jest a book about tennis. Lucie Blackman disappeared in July 2000. Plan on doing the same for the duration of this stunning read.”