Monday, July 18, 2011

Rachel Shteir

Rachel Shteir is the author of three books: Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show (2004), Gypsy: the Art of the Tease (2009), and The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting (2011).

Not so long ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Reading? What writers have time to read? I want their names and telephone numbers. Telephone numbers. I date myself. I want their Twitter handles.

I have been mostly reading for work, i.e. background reading for pieces I'm working on, books I'm reviewing for various publications. Recently, I read Sigrid Nunez' excellent book about Susan Sontag, (and re-read a lot of books by the brilliant writer herself), a book about boredom by a scholar, Peter Toohey and a lot of David Mamet. Those were all for reviews, thankfully different reviews.

I can tell you what I would like to read: Gioia Diliberto's book about Hadley Hemingway, Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway's First Wife is not a new book per se, it was published, I believe, in 1992. But Harper Collins is re-releasing it as an e-book and a paperback. I heard Gioia talk at the Printer's Row Book Fair and the way she talked about the relationship between Hadley and Hemingway broke my heart. Hadley married Hemingway when they were young and he was an aspiring writer and they were devoted to each other. Then when he was becoming (or had become) famous, he wanted other things and she became too serious and Midwestern for him.

Gioia did original research to tell the story of Hadley, who was a complex figure and maybe the woman Hemingway loved the most. The reason I can't read it is I don't have an e-reader, so I have to wait until it is re-released as a paperback in September.

Oh, now that I think of it, there are several other new and (less new) books that I read recently by Chicago and New York writers. Ted Fishman's Shock of Grey, which is about the arriving crisis that we face as we age. By we I mean people in their 40s, 50s--Boomers. It's a tremendous and thoughtful book about the burden all of us Olds, as they say, are going to put on the rest of the world. Also I want to mention Jonathan Eig's book on Al Capone, Get Capone, which came out last year and made use of some new archival discoveries to tell Capone's story in a fresh way. It's a dramatic cat and mouse story. Maybe it will be made into a movie.

Oh, I also read two books by Katherine Russell Rich: The Red Devil: To Hell with Cancer and Back, about her struggle with cancer, which I had never read, had some incredibly funny lines and shrewd observations and is written in a breezy style. It was written I believe in the late 1980s or 1990s. I also read Rich's more recent book about India in which she talks about blowing up her life, a phrase I feel very close to, have an affinity for. She is an evocative describer of India, a place I have never been. Nothing much happens in the book, but it somehow carries you along. There is that mysterious sense that you so often have in traveling of doing things that you have no idea why and being in situations that you have no idea how you got there.

I also read Cheryl Lu-Tien Tan's A Tiger in the Kitchen, a fun and lively investigation into her own culinary past and the mysterious and complex, to use that word again, world of her ancestors. And I read Laura Kipnis' How to Become a Scandal, which is not exactly a guide to its title, but rather a highly erudite romp through how scandals are constructed now. I liked the sex bits a lot.

And I have read a book of short scary stories, LA Noire, which includes gruesome (in a good way) and chilling stories by Megan Abbott and Jonathan Santlofer, as well as Joyce Carol Oates.

So I guess I have been reading, after all.
Visit Rachel Shteir's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Gypsy.

The Page 99 Test: The Steal.

--Marshal Zeringue