Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Adam Wilson

By posted at 6:00 pm on December 14, 2013 4

I’ve always liked books about drugs; they’re a good substitute for drugs. This year I read Michael Clune’s White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin, a memoir that reads like a lost modernist novel — James Joyce as a junkie in modern day Baltimore. James Frey eat your heart out.

I finally got around to reading Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose books. There was a lot of noise about the cycle’s most recent installment, At Last, but I preferred the earlier, druggier Bad News, a comic masterpiece about an upper class British twit trying to score heroin in 1990s New York that calls to mind one of the all-time great novels of excess, Martin Amis’s Money.

coverSam Lipsyte has always written wonderfully about substance abuse — see his early story “Cremains,” in which a man mixes his mother’s ashes with morphine and injects them into his arm — and his new collection The Fun Parts is no exception. Not all the stories are about drugs though, and my favorites cover fresh ground, from drone invasions to high school shot put competitions. No matter the subject, Lipsyte wins with his swervy sentences that can carry a reader from pants-pissing laughter to pants-shitting pathos in a just couple of comma-hinged clauses.

Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers is like a drug cocktail — equal parts Dexedrine and Viagra — with its disarmingly brilliant depiction of woman named Reno who rides motorcycles, men, and the icy waves of the New York art world. Lots of praise has been heaped upon this novel, and, unlike most bags of overpriced cocaine, it actually lives up to the hype.

coverI’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my father’s book, Kick and Run, a lovely and haunting memoir about his life as a soccer fan, player, journalist, and coach. The book begins with my father getting injured falling out of bed while scoring prescription drug-inspired goals in his middle-aged fever dreams, and also includes useful ruminations on the problem of playing soccer stoned — sometimes the ball is big, sometimes it’s small.

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4 Responses to “A Year in Reading: Adam Wilson”

  1. Jim
    at 2:34 am on December 15, 2013

    I need someone to clear this up for me because the internet is useless…is Adam Wilson’s father the famous soccer journalist? or just happen to write a book about soccer?? I’m so confused. I can’t figure out if the same guy wrote Kick & Run AND Inverting the Pyramid

  2. ptb
    at 11:07 am on December 15, 2013

    Pretty sure it’s a different Jonathan Wilson — I had the same thought.

  3. Adam Wilson
    at 4:16 pm on December 16, 2013

    While it’s true that my dad is not the Jonathan Wilson who wrote Inverting the Pyramid, he is famous in his own right, as a fiction writer, critic, essayist, and soccer journalist too–he covered the World Cup for the New Yorker in ’94, an experience that is extensively documented in Kick and Run. This is not the first time he has been mistaken for the “other” Jonathan Wilson, and he even wrote a funny essay about it (and other things) at The Paris Review: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/06/19/cutouts/

  4. A Year in Reading: Bloomers Edition | Bloom
    at 6:02 am on December 20, 2013

    […] Elliott Holt, who also mentions The Flamethrowers in her list, identifies it as a great book, and Adam Wilson writes that it “lives up to the […]

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