With the exception of the collected works of Philip Larkin and a couple of things by Ogden Nash I am not a real big fan of poetry, so the fact that I am called upon to set and style a new poem once a week is either some kind of karmic lesson or yet another example of how everything in my life is so terrible and oppressive and how can I even put up with it all etc. In any event, Awl poetry editor Mark Bibbins may be the closest thing we have to a secret weapon: His selections are always the kind of thing I am interested in seeing whether I wind up liking them or not. I try not to call out specific poems since I don’t want to give the impression that some are better than others (because, again, I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about when it comes to poetry and, unlike every other subject where that is the case, I do let that keep me from making pronouncements about it), but this week’s work is pretty remarkable. I cannot promise you that you will like it, but I would urge you to give it a shot; it is the kind of performance that, when you get to the end, makes you give out a little gasp. And if you’re not into it, perhaps you can find something else here that suits you better.
I took a taxi last night and instead of turning off the tiny TV I hit the mute button by accident and figured, oh, what the hell, I’m gonna be back here a bit, I might as well watch the weather. Well I sat through a bunch of crap and then got distracted by whatever was happening outside the windows and when I turned back to the screen I just caught the last couple seconds of (I think? I can’t keep track of them anymore.) Lee Goldberg pointing at numbers and little cloud logos, but you know how each day in the weather report has a brief written description with it, like “Nice and bright” or “Brrr” or whatever? The last day on the 5-day was this coming Tuesday, which was billed as “Quiet Anniversary.” So at first I was like, fuck, is it September already, which is disturbing for any number of reasons not least of which being that it pretty clearly just WAS September and apparently my mind is no longer storing anything that happened subsequent to 2009. But then I was like, Don’t be an idiot, obviously it is past September, you are shivering because of your idiot refusal to wear a coat until it gets into the 40s, which means it is at least October, and plus you cannot go one goddamn block in this town without seeing at least three pop-up Halloween stores, which means it must not be October 31st yet. (You didn’t think you were going to get a tour of my process of deduction and yet HERE WE ARE. You’re welcome.) Anyway, I finally figured it out and now I’ve got that stupid “stronger than the storm” jingle running through my head and really, are we gonna make this a THING from now on or is it just a one-off? Because I will give you September 11 or Sandy, but not both. There’s such a tiny range of room remaining in my brain for things to remember, I don’t want to waste an inch on another annual commemoration of a bad day. So pick one and get back to me, I’ll put it on my calendar.
I did something to my fucking computer where the cursor for no reason goes back to the middle of whatever line I’m typing and now I will just have to live with it until I somehow undo it again, whenever that is. That is both a metaphor for my life and the actuality of it at present. Feel better about yourself now? Because you should.
I personally have no hunger for posthumous recognition—I would, quite frankly, prefer not to be considered even at the present moment—but should you be disposed to desire that your name live on long after you have vanished from the earth you could attempt to create a great work of art that inspires generations not yet born and resonates so directly with the human soul that thousands of years after your passing people will still speak in stunned tones of your timelessness. Or you could try to invent something so vital and revolutionary that the humans of the future will mark time through a categorization that divides the era that preceded your creation and everything that came after it. But both of those seem like longshots even for the most intelligent and resourceful of the species, and, let’s be honest, that’s not you. You’re reading this on Tumblr, right now. You don’t frankly have a lot going on. But fear not. All you have to do is, right at the moment before you expire, look at the people around you and say, “I wish I spent more time at the office.” The wiseasses and know-it-alls of the future will guarantee your immortality.
Okay, I am obviously biased here, but I have to insist that you buy Choire Sicha’s Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City. Yes, he’s my business partner, yes, we’ve known each other for over a decade now, sure, at this point we’ve spent so much time together either “supervising” the other or working as a “team” that we pretty easily anticipate moods and reactions and opinions before they occur, but even if I had never met the man I would tell you that this is an incredible book and if you’re going to buy any book this year, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be Very Recent History.
Why? Well, it’s an amazing story that gives an unusual but remarkably incisive perspective on the Way We Live Now and the changes that our New Economy have made in the lives of so many young people. What Corey does really well is stick with a group of kids who wander around New York (I guess this is kind of a spoiler: although the city is never named, I can tell you from my inside information gleaned spending time in business meetings when we were supposed to be talking about work but he was all, “Blah blah blah my book my precious book,” the city is New York. Also, the character of “the mayor” is based on Mike Bloomberg. You heard it here first.) and try to negotiate the minefields of youth, romance and penury in an age when the old certainties have been blown away. There is also an alien invasion at the end (which really helps, because the third act is SUPER drag-assy, so when the flying saucers show up you are all, FUCK YEAH BITCHES THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT) to keep things extra real.
But, most importantly, you should buy this book for the innovative narrative style Sithlord chooses to tell his tale with. The man is well-respected, and deservedly so, around the web for his keen voice, but no matter how much of his work you’ve read (and trust me, even his bitchy emails are in the same whiny, declarative-laden voice, so much so that you have weird dreams about hurting a person with actual punctuation, to the extent that you have priced out what making a very sharp exclamation point to stab someone with would cost; it is surprisingly expensive) you will not expect the masterful way in which Kourtney handles the challenge of relating an entire story from the perspective of rescue cats. I’d say “there’s a reason no one has done that before,” but it would be wrong, since clearly it was just waiting for the right person to come along and do it, because, man, those cats sing. Like, they are literally singing cats. It’s astounding.
Anyway, enough of my gushing. I don’t want to embarrass him any further by talking about how great the whole book is (and breezy; I read it in three minutes, cover to cover, and two of those minutes were spent trying to decode people’s placement in the acknowledgment pages, which, you know, go fuck yourself), so just let me say it: Cherry Soda’s Very Recent History: A Bunch Of Stuff That Happened To Some Guys A Couple Years Back is the book of the summer and probably the book of the year.
And, in all seriousness, you should buy it. It’s pretty goddamn great.
10. John Grisham, class hack
9. Norm MacDonald, newsman
8. Matthew Perry, actor/inflector
7. Elizabeth Wurtzel, straight white girl
6. Hugh Grant/Elizabeth Hurley, Labradorman/assassin
5. David Carson, grunge artist
4. Ted Kaczynski, bomber/sartorialist
3. Claudia Schiffer, bb
2. Courtney Love, widow
1. David LaChappelle, maximalist
So I have developed some weird kind of dyslexia where I misread words and rearrange them etc., which manifested itself in my initially reading this title as Most Evil 90s People. I guess what is most disturbing in this scenario is that I took issue with the placement, not the selection, of the people on this list.