Staff Picks: Alcoholics Anonymous, Hollywood Star Whackers


This Week’s Reading

Clancy Martin. Photograph by David Eulitt.

The cover story in this month’s issue of Harper’s: “The Drunk’s Club,” by Clancy Martin. An irreverent, harrowing, tough-minded account of Martin’s experience in Alcoholics Anonymous, which he describes (characteristically) as “the cult that saved my life.” —Lorin Stein

I’ve begun reading George Gissing’s New Grub Street, a late Victorian novel of the literary demimonde, which one of the characters calls “the valley of the shadow of books.” It’s a grim place: The editors are stupid, the writers are desperate, and everyone seems to live in a garret. A conflict is shaping up between the Pragmatist, who writes for money, and the Idealist, who writes for love. But Gissing was a Realist—which means, I think, there will be no happy ending for Literature. —Robyn Creswell

Pick up the January issue of Vanity Fair with Johnny Depp on the cover. Look at all the beautiful people. Then turn to page sixty-four, and read about the delusional world of Randy and Evi Quaid. The two are racked with debt and living out of a Prius in Canada. They are convinced they are being hunted by an anonymous group called “the Hollywood Star Whackers” and that Randy’s royalty checks are being funneled into an account under the name of “Ronda L. Quaid.” Says Randy to the reporter: “I guess I’m worth more to ’em dead than alive.” —Thessaly La Force

There’s something both terrifying and satisfying in the circular logic of recommending that one read a reading list. The list is Donald Barthelme’s, and it comes attached to a lovely essay by Kevin Moffett, published in The Believer in 2003. Moffett recounts the summer he spent attacking the eighty-one suggestions—which had once served as Barthelme’s syllabus—but there’s no reason you can’t make this a winter project of your own. —Miranda Popkey

I’ve been admiring The Novelist’s Lexicon, a petite book edited by Villa Gillet filled with dozens and dozens of contributions from some of my favorite writers. The task? To pick one word that opens the door to their work. Rick Moody picks adumbrated, Etgar Keret chooses balagan, Jonathan Lethem selects furniture, Annie Proulx picks terroir, and—perhaps my favorite—Olivia Rosenthal settles on no. —T. L.

I will plug Isak Dinesen from the afterlife. Don’t think you’re done just because you’ve read Out of Africa! Her Seven Gothic Tales are a wonder: complex negotiations between a romantic past and a nervous, sober present. —Katy Waldman