It’s the summer time–the weather is fine, and you could reach right up and touch the sky–or you could simply reach for a good book and hit the park. Last weekend we canvassed McGolrick Park and McCarren Park, approaching total strangers and interrupting their afternoons to ask them questions about their reading material. Join us now as we discover what the young and the restless and the literary of Greenpoint are burying their noses in this July.
Book: White Noise by Don DeLillo
So what’s this novel about?
I think it’s about how so much of American anxiety is created by pop culture.
Wow, that was good. You really cut to the heart of that, a lot of people just recite plot points.
[Mike’s Girlfriend: That was a great summary, babe.]
Agreed. Who recommended this to you?
I borrowed it from a friend at a party. I was complaining that I couldn’t even finish another of his novels, The Names. Just didn’t enjoy it. So he insisted I read this one.
I’m not too far in, but like it much, much better, actually. So far.
What kind of stuff do you usually read?
I like George Saunders, Haruki Murakami, Tom Robbins…I like writers that are willing to break out of the ordinary, and challenge your perception of reality. Stuff that toes the line between reality and fantasy, and has a nice…psychedelic quality.
You’re all right, Mike.
Book: Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan
So, tell us about this book.
It’s a memoir. It’s about when he first came to NYC, his time spent in Greenwich Village, and all the musicians he got to know.
Favorite Dylan album?
That’s hard. I don’t know if I can pick one…I’ll go with Blood on the Tracks, right now.
Solid choice. Was this a gift?
I actually bought it as a gift for my mother, many years ago. Then I was visiting home not long ago, and I saw it and decided to borrow it and read it myself. So far it’s great. You can really hear him–I mean, his voice comes through so clearly.
So, not like his songs, then.
Book: My Struggle: Book I by Karl Ove Knausgaard
So what are you reading today?
It’s called My Struggle. It’s actually the same title as–
Hitler’s autobiography, yes, I noticed. Interesting choice of title. Why do you think Knausgaard did that?
Probably he was just being contrary.
Okay. So what’s this about? Assuming it’s not a screed against Jews.
It’s about nothing. Really, he writes about nothing. It’s just sort of about the minutiae of everyday life.
That sounds sort of brutal.
He goes back and forth between his teen years and the time he’s spending actually writing the book in the present. It’s sort of meta-fictional and autobiographical.
His name sounds very Nordic.
He’s Swedish, and he’s become quite famous. He actually wrote six of these, all about nothing. But he’s got such an expert grasp of narrative and storytelling, it doesn’t really matter that it’s about nothing. His writing sort of challenges the idea of genre.
That sounded super MFA-programmy.
It did, didn’t it? Well, I do write fiction. So what’s this for?
Greenpointers.com, it’s a neighborhood blog.
And have you lived here long?
Well, I used to live here, for about 5 years. I moved to Bed-Stuy recently.
So, you don’t actually live in Greenpoint?
No, not right now.
But…you’re still writing about Greenpoint? (*frowns with disapproval*)
|Yes, and sometimes I write about the Bowery, or the Middle East, or Hyrule, but I’ve never lived in any of those places, either. Nonetheless, I think I’m still qualified to interview bougie pretentious wanks reading drivel in the park. Who are you, the address police? Maybe you should check and make sure all these people enjoying the park have a Greenpoint address, and make sure no GDI’s can come to your sorority party. Also, Knausgaard is totally from Norway, not Sweden.
Hey, thanks for playing, have a great day!
Book: East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Wasn’t this the Steinbeck book that Oprah picked to be in her book club?
I’m not sure.
Yeah, it definitely was. What’s this one about?
I just started, and I’ve only met a few characters. It’s hard to say at this point. But it’s beautifully written.
What made you pick it up?
My friend bought it for me. I’ve been trying to read more classics, lately.
So usually you read more contemporary stuff?
Yeah, lately I’ve been reading a lot of Gillian Flynn. And not just Gone Girl, I love all of her books.
What do you like about Flynn?
I admire her ability to make really twisted characters seem sympathetic.
Book: Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships by Cacilda Jetha and Christopher Ryan
Have you read this one?
That’s the one about how we should all be sleeping around more, right?
I’m only a third of the way in, but I love it. It’s got a lot of in-depth research, and it’s sort of challenging the standard narrative on monogamy–whether it’s marriage, or simply sexually monogamous relationships. It’s kind of making the case for how sexual relationships were different and healthier in hunter-gatherer societies. Sexual, ah, resources were…shared, back then.
Be honest, Antonia. Isn’t this book simply a justification for people to have as much hot, promiscuous sex with as many anonymous partners as they want, guilt-free?
That’s kind of what it feels like! It’s certainly very convincing, though.
Do you want to grab a drink later? Where’d you pick this one up?
I just came across it down the street, at Spoonbill and Sugartown. I was an anthropology major, so that aspect of it interested me.
What else do you like to read?
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of David Sedaris. He’s sort of a new favorite. I tend to read a lot of nonfiction.
Who should read this book?
I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in anthropology. Or sex.
Book: God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
*DISCLAIMER* This interview was not conducted in a park, but at The Meatball Shop several blocks south of McCarren Park, after several rounds with the photographer.
So, your name is Toni, and you’re reading a book by Toni Morrison.
Okay. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Well, this is her latest novel. It’s set in the present. The protagonist is called Bride, and she’s a successful young woman who works in the cosmetics industry. Really, it’s about how people treat children…her mother never really showed her affection. She’s about to confront someone who molested her as a child.
How’d you hear about this one?
I follow Book Riot on Instagram, and I saw something about it there. I picked it up at Barnes and Noble.
What’s the last good book you read?
Prince Lestat, by Anne Rice. It was good, but it’s from the vampire’s perspective, and he’s a bit misogynistic and sadistic. It was hard to be sympathetic.
That’s understandable. But say what you will about Lestat, he’s a legit, old school vampire, not some glittery, tree-climbing ponce, amirite?
Are you drunk?
Thanks for playing, Toni.