Proust Quote of the Week


This one KILLS me. From Swann’s Way:

This was many years ago. The staircase wall on which I saw the rising glimmer of his candle has long since ceased to exist. In me, too, many things have been destroyed that I thought were bound to last forever and new ones have formed that have given birth to new sorrows and joys which I could not have foreseen then, just as the old ones have become difficult for me to understand. It was a very long time ago, too, that my father ceased to be able to say to Mama: “Go with the boy.” The possibility of such hours will never be reborn for me. But for a little while now, I have begun to hear very clearly, if I take care to listen, the sobs I was strong enough to contain in front of my father and that broke out only when I found myself alone again with Mama. They have never really stopped; and it is only because life is now becoming quieter around me that I can hear them again, like those convent bells covered so well by the clamor of the town during the day that one would think they had ceased altogether but which begin sounding again in the silence of the evening.

Marcel Proust, Jay Cutler, and Mike Glennon Walk Into a Bar


As we enter Week 5 of the NFL Season, the Bears are 1-3, Mike Glennon has thrown more than twice as many interceptions in Chicago than Jay Cutler has in sunny Miami, and I’ve really only started reading Proust.

But before we get to that, I’d just like to note:

(1) this story about how playing tackle football before age 12 is tied behavioral and cognitive problems later in life;

(2) this study of the brains of 111 former NFL players, 110 of which had CTE;

(3) the fact that a posthumous examination of the brain of Patriots tight end/convicted murder Aaron Hernandez revealed he had a “severe form” of CTE; and

(4) Donald Trump vs. the NFL, or more specifically Trump vs. players who exercise their First Amendment rights by taking a knee and peacefully protesting police brutality against people of color during the playing of the National Anthem.  Just so we’re clear: African-American athletes  peacefully protesting against racism = not okay/fire them/”son of a bitch”/treason; white power rally in Virginia = totally okay/some “very fine people.”

So, back to Proust. I’ve decided to go with the reading-a-few-pages-every-night-before-bed strategy, which numerous people who have completed all of In Search of Lost Time have recommended.  Thus far, I really like how reading my nightly pages requires me to slow down. Unlike anything else I read all day—awful news, awful tweets, more awful news—I take my time; I let myself linger over the words, the sentences, how they’re constructed, the memories and images they evoke. Admittedly, I won’t be done with all 4,000-plus pages until 2020—but maybe that’s the point.

And finally: Mike Glennon is out. On Monday night,Bears rookie QB Mitch Trubisky—and second overall pick in last year’s draft—will be making his first regular season start, against the Minnesota Vikings. I almost wish I was watching football.


Football Book Club Returns: #NoKaepernickNoNFL

Football Book Club is back for the 2017-2018 NFL Season, and if you’re looking for a good reason not to watch pro football—aside from the whole concussions/brain damage/ruined lives/early death thing—then we’ve got two words for you: Colin Kaepernick.

For those of you not in the know, the Colin Kaepernick Saga basically boils down to this: the quarterback sat—and later began taking a knee—during the pre-game National Anthem as a silent, non-violent protest of police brutality against people of color. About the protest, Kaepernick, who later donated $1 million to the charities focussing on racial justice issues, said:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

While Kaepernick’s protest met with support from some teammates and fans, it didn’t go over so well with the Rich Old White Dudes in charge of the NFL. And—surprise, surprise—at the start of the 2017-2018 Season, Colin Kaepernick finds himself a quarterback without a team or a job.

However, this strategy by the NFL—much like producing dozens of bogus research papers about how concussions don’t really harm players—hasn’t proved entirely successful.

A host of organizations are now calling for a boycott of the NFL, including the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP.

“There will be no football in the state of Georgia if Colin Kaepernick is not on a training camp roster and given an opportunity to pursue his career,” said NAACP Atlanta Vice President Gerald Griggs. “This is not a simple request. This is a statement. This is a demand.”

Meanwhile, a group of black pastors are also calling for an NFL boycott. Pastor Debleaire Snell of the First SDA Church in Huntsville, Ala., explained the proposed #blackout this way:

Kaepernick engaged in a silent, non-violent protest. He did this to raise awareness to the number of brown and black individuals that have been beaten and killed at the hands of law enforcement across this country. Since the end of last season, as a result of this protest, Colin Kaepernick has been unable to find employment in the NFL. I find that strange, seeing that the NFL has employed individuals that have been convicted of sexual assault, domestic violence, cruelty to animals, along with driving while under the influence. A number of NFL owners have come out and stated the reason they cannot employ him is because of a fear of a backlash from sponsors or a certain segment of their fan base. And it’s interesting that they’ve capitulated thus far to a certain segment of the fan base while fearing no backlash from the African-American community…My belief is simply this. If Colin Kaepernick was willing to take a stand for those of us who are non-celebrities that would have to interact with law enforcement on a day-to-day basis, if he’s willing to take a knee for us, certainly we ought to take a stand, and stand with him.

Check out the #blackout video below:

Just this month, NAACP president Cornell Williams Brooks compared Kaepernick to Rosa Parks, and there’s currently an online petition at calling for a boycott of the NFL—#NoKaepernickNoNFL—that has garnered close to 200,000 signatures.

So, if you suddenly find yourself with a whole lot of free time this NFL season, consider joining us at Football Book Club. This is the Year of the Long Read/The Fallacy of Youth, so we’ll be tackling In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust; An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser; and Compulsion by Meyer Levin. Check out our full schedule here!


The Violent Mr. Fox


art by Julie Morstad

By Ryan Joe

It’s hard not to be beguiled by the teasing wit in the opening chapters of Mr. Fox. Helen Oyeyemi’s novel begins when an enigmatic firecracker of a woman named Mary Foxe surprises the novelist St. John Fox by appearing in his study. At first we assume she’s his mistress.

Later, we learn she’s a muse Fox himself invented and who has somehow been conjured into reality.

And as a muse, Mary has a problem. St. John Fox, author of lurid thrillers, has a habit of killing his female protagonists.

For St. John, it’s violence in lieu of real intimacy or human connection. He ostensibly loves Mary – which complicates his relationship with his neglected, dissatisfied wife Daphne. But Mary sees through him: “Oh you don’t love me,” Mary said. She undid the collar of her dress and bared her neck. “You love that,” she said.

The two begin writing stories through which St. John slowly works out his own issues with emotional intimacy. Soon Daphne starts writing herself, at Mary’s behest. And in writing, each experiences a transcendent such-and-such ending with…

Well. Let’s just say that if Wes Anderson were a therapist, this is exactly the sort of thing he’d prescribe.
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Loading The Big Guns With Blanks


By Ryan Joe

I’m going to discuss Manuel Gonzales’s debut The Regional Office Is Under Attack regardless of spoilers. So be warned.


So, here’s a novel that’s both completely entertaining and a completely missed opportunity – a comic book in prose instead of panels.
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Book 4: ‘The Regional Office Is Under Attack!’ by Manuel Gonzales


For the next two weeks, Football Book Club will be reading The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales and posting about An Untamed State by Roxane Gay.

Chandler nominated The Regional Office Is Under Attack! for FBC because, “in his short story collection The Miniature Wife, Manuel Gonzales managed to make the plight of a zombie, a video game character, and a vengeful, doll-sized spouse emotionally explosive. This lead me to the natural question: how much further could this author go in a book-length exploration of a squad of super-powered action babes?”

A Dark Space With No Exit


By Ryan Joe

Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State is both very easy and very difficult to read. Easy because the novel follows the general outlines of a thriller – the heroine is kidnapped and eventually released – and because Gay’s prose is clear and unadorned, save for the opening sentence.

That candid writing style guides us through the breaking of a woman’s body and mind, and the often excruciating steps she and her loved ones take to begin the slow process toward something approximating recovery.

The destruction happens to a wealthy American-born woman named Mireille, visiting her parents in Haiti. On her way to a beach excursion with her husband Michael and her young son, armed men kidnap her and, after Miri’s father refuses to pay the ransom, rape her repeatedly. At this point, we begin to see the slow dissolution of Miri’s personality, which becomes a necessity for her survival: “There is nothing you cannot do when you are no one.”

The damage extends even after Miri’s captivity. After she’s released, the psychological aftershocks threaten the foundations of her every relationship – especially the one she has with herself. “I whispered my name several times, tried to find a way to fit myself into that name, tried to hide the truth. I as no one, a woman with no name, no family.”
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Book 3: ‘An Untamed State’ by Roxane Gay

coverFor the next two weeks, Football Book Club will be reading An Untamed State by Roxane Gay and posting about Zero K by Don DeLillo.

Ryan nominated An Untamed State for FBC because, “At face value, An Untamed State, about a young mother kidnapped for ransom in Haiti, is ostensibly the stuff of pulp. But Roxane Gay, based on what little I’ve read of her (Mostly her New York Times columns and her Tweets), is more interested in exploring issues around race, nationality, and the violence men seem to reserve for women. I picked up Gay’s novel about a year ago and, finally, I look forward to reading it.”

Zombies, Pre-teen Millionaires, and The Orange Priest of Orcus

By Dan Bjork

I absolutely plowed through M.R. Carey’s The Girl with all the Gifts, giddily even. I read on the subway, I read while my wife watched the Chilean version of Access Hollywood, I read at work while a high school freshman bickered with his mother about whether an hour was enough time to get to Wall Street from the UWS. This is all very new to me. I read hermetically (otherwise), super early in the morning, as an essential part of quieting my mind. I don’t really face the world without first spending 45 minutes inside someone else’s narrative. Most importantly, I think, this is first book I’ve read for FBC where an ‘I don’t have my hook yet’ panic never set in. Sunday night, while cooking a simple lentils, rice, and chicken thighs dish that leans heavily on Goya Adobo and should modestly get me through Wednesday (spoiler: it did), I began my notes. Assembling the roughest of outlines. All stemming from the single impression I had: that I really enjoyed this book.

And the notes were super simple, so much so I can share them in full: “Maybe it has something to do with the simple precision [re: language] –> its images are clear and never showy and never stacked to create ambiguity –> and this extends to the presentation of emotions as well. Situations are allowed to simply happen. Asked to bear the brunt of this weight. This flies in the face of everything my world-class education in writing 12 page stories seems to scream. How?”

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It’s Cold In Here

By Ryan Joe


Note: This week, we were supposed to read half of Zero K, but I ended up powering through the whole thing. So needless to say, there are end-of-the-book spoilers.

I have never entirely figured out how to read Don DeLillo – a writer I admire but don’t really enjoy. I haven’t read a lot of him – White Noise, The Body Artist, half of Americana and now Zero K – but it’s enough for me to generally understand where he gives me the most trouble.

Typically, that’s when his characters stop seeming like real people and start becoming vessels for ideas about…well, media consumption, commercialism, history or whatever. Regardless of the topic, it’s the point where the characters become indistinguishable from the author, when his cast begin to seem like little DeLillo fingerpuppets.
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