Discover more from READING SUCKS with mlo
Well well well wot the hell did i read at the end of this shite little year mate bruv
Terminal Boredom, Surge, I'm Fine But You Appear to Be Sinking, Christopher Gonzalez
-Good news, can’t share it yet.
-My room was too messy because of mento ewness.
-Puloma had been telling me to watch Brand New Cherry Flavor for a few months and then I finally did & I’m consumed by that crazy sex magic hedonist show. Three words: RIB CAGE VAGINA.
-Went to Karaoke a few times, felt like I was in a movie, ripped my tights, danced with one beer in my hand all night, sang Jessie’s Girl, danced with Dijon, didn’t notice it was him until he left.
-Sent a tit pic from the Hong Kong in Harvard Square while Puloma was in the background with her thumbs up.
-Read everything I could about the omicron variant and feel OK about it but maybe also just Used to This.
-Got my booster shot and thought about that scene in Station Eleven where that illustrator drags herself to the beach to watch the sunset as she dies.
-Asked my friend who is a furry if “I think dogs should vote” is the furry community’s “I am a friend of Dorothy” : reader, it is not.
-I told Don about the premise of a novel I’m going to be writing, how it’s about a grandmother at the end of the world and he said, “Do you think that you’re the grandmother?” And I was like, no, she’s kind of like, based on my grandmother. And then this motherfucker said some freaky profound shit and goes, “Well yeah, but see, your grandmother won’t see the end of the world, but you might.”
-Jamie texts me gossip.
-Arti & I went to a bar after a busted night and ended up crashing a holiday party that was actually a wedding. We laughed at balding men thrashing to “Damnit” by Blink 182. It would be less sad and kind of punk if the men were extremely old, like if they were wrinkly sagging dudes screaming, “DID YOU HEAR? HE FUCKED HER!!!” but instead they were 10 years older than me & I could see enough of their youth and enough of the destination of their death to feel extremely depressed while they screamed, “WELL I GUESS THIS IS GROWING UP!!”
DISTRACTIONS AS CHRISTOPHER GONZALEZ
Christopher Gonzalez is a queer Puerto Rican writer living in New York. He is the author of the short story collection I’m Not Hungry but I Could Eat, which follows the lives of messy and hunger-fueled bisexual Puerto Rican men who strive to satisfy their cravings of the stomach, heart, and soul in a conflicted unpredictable world. He is a 2021 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Fiction for the New York Foundation of the Arts. His writing appears in the Nation, Catapult, the Millions, Little Fiction, the Forge, Lunch Ticket, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. A graduate of Vassar College, he was the recipient of the 2015 Ann E. Imbrie Prize for Excellence in Fiction Writing. His flash fiction was chosen for the 2019 Best Small Fictions anthology and named one of Wigleaf‘s Top 50 for 2020. He currently serves as a fiction editor at Barrelhouse and spends his waking hours tweeting about Oscar Isaac, book publishing, trash television, and the Popeyes spicy chicken sandwich. You can find him on the internet at @livesinpages.
What was your relationship to books like when you were a kid?
I wonder if my eyesight wouldn't be this shit had I not spent so much of my childhood folded up on the bed or couch reading a book so closely my nose was one with the page. I read through increasingly terrible headaches and learned how to do so through carsickness. If I was invested in a book, nothing else mattered, and I kind of long for that level of focus now. What's funny is, long before I even knew what the term headcanon meant, I was always imagining myself as the main character of whatever book I was reading, description be damned! It meant I got to use magic or kiss the girl or drive a flying car or slip into another dimension. It meant I could be more confident and didn't have to worry about finances or listening to my dad yell, or any other real life stressors. Also, I was much more open to reading ANYTHING when I was a kid. I really loved absurdity and hijinks, starting with Amelia Bedelia and Louis Sachar's Wayside School books, which I read until the paperbacks fell apart. But I would bounce between Lemony Snicket and the odd, deep-cut standalone novel from James Patterson, back to Z Brewer's vampire novels and Sharon M. Draper's Hazelwood High Trilogy. It was a blessing to lack defined taste—I've since lost some of that fluidity, I fear.
What are books that feel like Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, respectively?
I'm going to admit this question sent me into an absolute spiral. Like trying to pick what I want off Seamless while hungry and just endlessly scrolling before closing the app and settling on peanut butter and jelly. I arrived at more literal examples but think these also work based on vibes!
Breakfast: ZZ Packer's Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Lunch: Jean Kyoung Frazier's Pizza Girl
Dinner: Herman Koch's The Dinner
What’s a book that you lent somebody that you never got back or vice versa?
In 9th grade, I lent my crush my copy of The Freedom Writers (I know, I know...), then she transferred before she could ever return it. It was like two heartbreaks in one. More recently, I left my copy of Dantiel W. Moniz's Milk Blood Heat at the apartment of a guy I was seeing for a bit. I wanted him to keep it, though, so I just bought myself another copy.
What’s a book that is particularly bisexual without explicitly being so?
It's not an original thought, but I stand by it: The Great Gatsby. Nick Carraway is a bicon. You could say his obsession with Gatsby is not sexual, and I would say it's not just sexual. To debate whether Nick wants to be Gatsby and have what he has OR be inside Gatsby is, in and of itself, emblatic of the great bisexual struggle.
What book adaptation should Oscar Isaac star in next?
I have endured ENOUGH action/scifi movies for this man, please put him in a cozy, domestic thriller! I mean, I'll watch anything he's in and though I have a tough time stomaching gore, I kept my eyes wide open while he explored another man's guts in Annihilation. But if Scenes from a Marriage taught me anything, it's that Oscar deserves to sit around in good lighting, wearing a chunky sweater. So put him in another Liane Moriarty adaptation. Put him in a third season of Big Little Lies! Let him sip wine as the camera sweeps past his soft, angelic face. Also, the professorial vibe is a mood, so adapt Don Delilo's White Noise and cast him as Jack Gladney. That might actually be my real, problematic answer.
When does reading Suck and when does reading Rule?
Reading really sucks when you feel this pressure to keep up with all the latest Big Books. They just keep coming and my attention is so shitty lately, and what is time? Deadlines for reading anything sucks, because then my brain goes into procrastination mode and I want to do literally anything else but read. Conversely, it really fucking sucks when you'd rather be reading but the inbox is exploding or that spreadsheet for work needs making. Physically: reading sucks when the font is too small or the margins too tight. My hands get tired and achy from holding a book that's too heavy, so that really sucks. But when I'm reading a book and it calms my racing anxieties? That's the good stuff. When it lowers my heart rate. A good book will feel like slurping hot, savory broth. It's healing. It rules when my imagination is stimulated and somehow that story idea I was stuck on cracks open and I can see the solutions to all my plot issues in 4k. When I read a best friend's writing and feel even more connected to them? I want to bottle that feeling. And it rules that even now, reading can still offer an escape hatch to my own cozy, private retreat in the midst of whatever chaos abounds.
WHAT I READ TOWARDS THE END OF THIS FREAKY LITTLE YEAR
The hook of this book of sci-fi short stories written in the 80s is that the author killed herself after writing the title story, so obviously I picked it up. Reading this book feels like holding a digital ghost, and maybe it’s only because of the aforementioned information. Suzuki was doing the Black Mirror thing before Black Mirror, and to be honest, she does it better, because each story has a leftist, feminist perspective on it that leaves you feeling vindicated but also slightly haunted. The first story, Women and Men, is about a world where every man who is born goes to this prison, so there are no men at all in society at all. They are rarely born, and when they are they get like, arrested. But then one day, this girl sees a boy outside of her window, and she’s like, that’s impossible! She starts talking to this boy, and thinking that maybe society was weird and wrong for excommunicating all of the men, because where there is power, there is corruption, and maybe it isn’t so simple, that all men are bad. But then the boy, in a very Spring Awakening Way, has sex with her without telling her what sex is and she’s left pregnant and heartbroken. What I love so much about this story is that it’s a classic tale of a girl thinking somebody is different and then being fooled, then learning a lesson. Leaving the story, I still don’t think men are bad! I instead think the constraints of that society bred the only boy in the world to assault somebody, which is not unlike what happens in our society right now. Some Black Mirror-esque stories include “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” which is about a man visited by an old old woman only to realize it’s his ex girlfriend, “At the Seaside Club,” a story reminicent of San Junipero, where people’ consciencesness are uploaded to a fake planet so that they can figure out their lives, and Terminal Boredom, where teens can only feel alive through violence, and the one girl who is trying her hardest to not give into it, because she still cries at movies. The last line of this book is “The boredom is done.” That really fucking got to me because I really believe this author had hope for the world, but couldn’t have it for herself.
I’m Fine But You Appear to Be Sinking by Leyna Krakow
My hot friend told me to read this and I looked for it everywhere but it was out of print everywhere so I ordered it directly from the publisher. These stories reminded me of Ted Chiangs This is the Story of Your Life, kinda like focused on realistic science and realistic situations that are still very much fantasy. The language was really stoic and I feel like if I ever talked to the author I would feel like she was making fun of me, does that make sense? One of the best stories is about this woman who is talking to her son and her husband in the future, where she is dead, and the world is ending, while she is in a coffee shop, about to meet her husband. The writer pulls this off by using footnotes. The main story is in the future, and the footnotes are in the present. It’s a heartbreaking story that ends with the world ending and the woman’s husband getting up out of his chair to talk to her for the first time. This is a special book that only somebody you know who is hot could recommend you or a bookseller (who is maybe also hot)
Oh, Etel! Could have read this beautiful book in one sitting but I spaced it out over a few days. More books should just be author’s intellectual, beautiful thoughts about life, love, time, and death capped at a simple 50 pages. I loved writing down her words in a notebook one word at a time, so I could feel her with me in my pen and in my room. Some gems from her:
“It’s terrifying to feel that all the places I long for will remain forbidden, remain virtual, and still will haunt me.”
“We pretend to imagine a galaxy, we’re crazy, after all. The cosmos wants to retire, why not? Hale and thunder are it’s voice on this side of it’s beauty. We hold noto anything that comes by: a twig, a sound.”
“Love is the result of a throw of dice, Mallarme’s historic throw. Sometimes it surges with the evidence of a theorem in geometry, cleans out everything on it’s way, lands us on a remote planet, yet, it can sink in a gutter, kicking fallen leaves down the side of a dirt road.”
“Then let everything go to hell! The profilerations of circles of anxiety slows down the imagination. (But don’t worry, you can still not care.)”
i knew that we could never come back to that long weekend at our friend’s house facing the graveyard, where we scooped preserved kidneys out for the cat & talked about feral children in the kitchen & screamed in a car next to strangers as a movie blasted in front of us. i knew the plastic drum beat i heard was not about the hand crawling out of the skull in the shower but about the exact heat from my ear.
i knew the photo i took didn’t do a face like yours justice, that that there should’ve been a tapestry about you scooping the maggots out of the trash bin. i knew i just couldn’t but i’m glad you could with ease, without thinking (something you would tell me later) shove all of those wriggly beige bodies raining into the trash with a paper towel.
& i knew i’d never show you that mug that looked electric from goodwill, that i’d never tell you that it looked like someone’s aunt donated it (but i guess i am someone’s aunt) & i knew that the place it spelled out, with blue computer waves and purple cursive, was a place we’d never go
At the End of Office Christmas Party
as the tinsel hits the cubicles like dandruff and our coworkers are beet-faced in santa hats underneath the dollar store lights, I ask you about us one last time. you look down at your holiday punch & say something about human resources, about your career, about dentists appointments & student loans & I say how about faxing our boss a photo of our asses, how about lets get out of here, lets run out of this building with no shoes on & get frostbit in the snow, how about a 4 day trip to paris actually, you have your ID don’t you? we could realize we hate each other while being bloated from cheese underneath the eiffel tower (what are other places in france?) we could hop on the back of a garbage truck & end up in a conspiracy theory that goes all the way to the top, we could stay here & unplug all the lights & hit the fire alarm, we could hear everybody screaming & still find each other’s bodies in the dark as the noise blasts our ear drums & emergency water hits us like rain; because one day these office days will be over & you will wish you kissed me by the community fridge. but you tell me it’s been a long night, in fact, it’s been a long year & when it comes down to it, you just don’t want to & isn’t it great that we can just be adults? so I put my beer down next to a grey keyboard & hope it doesn’t spill & you peel your joke name tag off your holiday sweater & roll it up like an identity taco, flick the linty corpse into a trash bin & when i see a piece of golden tinsel in your hair i just leave it & watch it blink at me as you walk away, pushing the doors open instead of pulling them & then the music stops & somewhere Patricia from Finance has had too much eggnog & i slip my heels back on & walk to the water fountain because it is 1 AM & I am still young & beautiful & i notice that the jug is nearly empty, that tomorrow it will need to be refilled, that it was me who was left with the last of it.
What a year of reading that has mostly not sucked. Thanks for being here, everyone! This has been weirdly great for my mental health and also extremely fun. At the end of the day, I love to read & I love my distractions & I love you. Until next year! xoxo