I have of late become a remarkably slow reader of books. I blame this on any number of things—the constant state of distraction with which we all now contend, an increasing lack of interest in devoting the disturbingly brief amount of time I have remaining on this earth to the act of consuming anything that requires sustained concentration, all the fucking periodicals that are piling up and mocking me from the magazine rack (Cabinet specializes in urbane yet cutting remarks about my intellectual vigor, the New Yorker raises a smug eyebrow while questioning my compassion for the poor people of Syria and the New York Review of Books berates my indolence by showing an unexpected facility with Uruguayan racial taunts. Vanity Fair alone displays a sense of compassion and understanding. "Take your time," it says soothingly. "I'm mostly ads anyway."). In any event, when I actually do force myself to confront anything that has an actual binding it generally becomes some sort of endurance test wherein I try my best to slog through something that the rest of the world was done with at least three years ago. But I am happy to report that I recently completed Terry Castle's The Professor and Other Writings, which happens to be available at a reduced price on the bookselling website that makes well-meaning people who fear for the state of the publishing industry issue monologues whose sincerity cannot be doubted but about which my level of compassion is generally on par with the rest of my depleted emotional capacity, which is to say that yes, I wish we did live in a much better world where everything was fair but I'm going to die soon anyway so second-day delivery at a steep discount is both the easier and, from a strictly actuarial standpoint, most sensible option. Anyway, The Professor: if the book carried the title composition alone it would be well worth paying the full freight, but you also get a group of other excellent essays, including "My Heroin Christmas," an essay mostly about Art Pepper that is so amazing I can still remember reading it for the first time nearly a decade ago and thinking, "Oh my God, this is brilliant, more please." Castle is one of those writers who is so physically present in her pieces that you feel as if she is there telling you the story in person, touching your hand at the appropriate moments and acknowledging how mortifying some of her revelations can be because we've all been there too. You hear her laughing at herself and bringing you into her circle while simultaneously nodding at your shame-filled recognition of the similar behaviors you have exhibited in your own life. Of course, this may just be me—I'm a bad person and maybe not a reliable recommender of things, but like I said, the book's a bargain. If you're looking for something with which to fill the time, you could probably do a lot worse.
Friday, February 22nd, 2013