Painting by Tim Williams http://www.flickr.com/people/shitao

My latest commentary is posted at Kotori Magazine as part of my column “These Altered States.” There’s a lot of talk about “moving forward” and the American Dream these days (and those days back in 2012). “These Altered States” has the secondary title “America Trying to Become Itself.” This month’s post is a shout out to provocative progressive thinkers and doers everywhere. Read it right here, “Do Not Be Reasonable – Boundaries and the New America.”

I want to point you to another online read that I think is phenomenal writing and important news for all of us. I honestly had never heard of George Saunders until I was tweeted about this NY Times Magazine piece on Saturday morning. The title, though, says something important: “George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year.” Click on that link and check out the story before NYT puts up their wall to members only. Joel Lovell’s writing is superb and Saunders insights about the meaning of life are powerful. Here’s a taste: “I began to understand art as a kind of black box the reader enters,” Saunders wrote in an essay on Vonnegut. “He enters in one state of mind and exits in another.” Saunders’s book, Tenth of December, comes out tomorrow. I pre-ordered a copy Saturday morning about halfway through the Lovell essay/interview.

Lastly, I just want to say that the best book I read last year I’m still reading and will be through February I imagine. Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 is the most intriguing and magically written piece of fiction I’ve come across in a long time. It’s a beast of a story,  nearly 1,200 pages long, but the translation of Murakami’s language is so spare and straightforward, you really don’t mind the heft. I am a little more than a third of the way through and I am intrigued, entranced, and on the edge of my seat.

The story is told in alternating points of view between Aomame, a fitness training beauty who loves to fuck bald men but also happens to be an assassin, and Tengo, a high school math teacher and promising novelist no one knows about. Tengo ghostwrites a 17-year-old girl’s novel for a contest. All of the characters in the story are connected to a mysterious cult that lives in the mountains away from Tokyo. Throughout 1Q84, so far, anyway, questions of Time, Space, and what is Real goose the story forward.

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami (Photo credit: Bradley Wind)

In a way, Murakami is channeling Don DeLillo’s Mao II and Stieg Larrson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But there’s so much more going on here with Borges, Kafka, Joyce, and Orwell coming into the mix. Buy the book (it’s about $20 in paper (that includes shipping costs) or $15.99 digitally) and prepare to understand why TV and movies sometimes just can’t go all the way in.

I’m excited about all three of these reads. I wouldn’t suggest them if I didn’t think folks would appreciate them. Let me know your thoughts. Let me know what you’re reading that I’m missing. Let me know that you read this!

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