Staff Picks: Nathanael West, Pavement, Eliza Griswold


This Week’s Reading

I’ve just finished Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts and am halfway through The Day of the Locust (New Directions not long ago issued them together in a single paperback volume). The undercurrent of violence in the two novels, the way in which nearly every act and thought is awash in it, is startling. The characters in Miss Lonelyhearts are drowning in Prohibition booze; how else to manage the crushing disappointment and despair of early thirties America? But the illusion of Hollywood hope that masks alienation and desperation in Day of the Locust feels like a much longer hangover. —Nicole Rudick

If you fell in love with Stephen Malkmus’s dead eyes in the “Major Leagues” music video, or appreciate apathy raised to the level of art, or just really like the sound of 1994, then read Chuck Klosterman’s GQ profile of Pavement from earlier this year. New York Magazine also has a sharp—and more recent—analysis of the band’s resurgent appeal. —Miranda Popkey

The Tenth Parallel, Eliza Griswold’s account of years traveling through regions of Africa and Asia crossed by the latitudinal line that—owing to centuries of historical accidents and decades of misguided Western intervention—marks where Christian and Muslim cultures meet, or rather collide. What’s particularly striking is the restraint of the writing, given the violence—both physical and spiritual—she chronicles in a series of stories. There are clearly no simple answers to the conflict, and Griswold, to her credit, avoids reductive solutions or comforting interpretations. The stories themselves are enough. —Peter Conroy

The GQ oral history of GoodFellas is a reminder that the best pulp culture is invariably produced by insurgent campaigns. It’s also made me wonder whether the enduring power of “Then He Kissed Me” owes more to the Steadicam shot to which Scorsese set it, or vice versa. —David Wallace-Wells

I heard David Bezmozgis read from his forthcoming novel, The Free World, at the FSG Reading Series last Tuesday. And I pocketed a galley that’s been keeping me up past my bedtime. The book isn’t out until April of next year, but in the meantime, you can tide yourself over with “The Train of Their Departure” in The New Yorker.Thessaly La Force

I watched eagerly the first installment of “Grand Openings,” a video essay on director David Fincher—and especially his credit sequences—by Matt Zoller Seitz and Aaron Aradillas. Nobody else seems to have figured out how to make use of the possibilities of video criticism beyond the DVD-commentary model, and though the series Seitz has produced for the Museum of the Moving Image’s Moving Image Source over the past year or two might not be all masterpieces, he is truly miles ahead of the competition. —D. W.-W.