Big Books Issue
Writer, Narrow House Press founder and editor
Published: September 28, 2011
City Paper: What are you reading right now?
Justin Sirois: The War I Always Wanted by Brandon Friedman. I’m reading it mostly for research purposes, which takes up most of my reading lately. I just finished Baghdad Bound: An Interpreter’s Chronicles of the Iraq War by Mohamed Fadel Fahmy. And I try not to read the Drudge Report, but somehow I end up there every morning.
CP: What was the last book that really struck you?
JS: In The War I Always Wanted, Friedman, as a soldier in the 101st Airborne, writes very frankly about fear. And fear is something I’ve never really felt—hopefully will never feel—the way he has. He almost describes war as the absolute worst camping trip of your life, but people are trying really hard to kill you. And sometimes you accidentally kill each other.
CP: Do you remember what the first book you read as an adult that really hit you was?
JS: It has to be Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. I don’t think there’s anything new I can say about that book, but his language had a power over me unlike anything I’d encountered before. There’s pages I’ve reread and reread. Same goes with [McCarthy’s] Blood Meridian. Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media and The Medium Is the Message did a similar thing to me when I was 18. He taught me to look at written words sculpturally—crafting sound inside compositions in a way that lifts the language into something magical.
CP: What book are you looking forward to reading soon, but maybe haven’t gotten around to yet?
JS: I just picked up a copy of The Prairie Traveler. It was published in 1859 for westward-traveling pioneers. It seems like U.S. Army Capt. Randolph B. Marcy is also describing the worst camping trip of your life.
CP: Do you always finish every book you start or do you leave a trail of half-read books in your wake?
JS: I want to blame my fading attention span on the fact that I’ve had a tough time finishing books lately. I finished more video games than books in the past six months, but luckily the stories in the video games I play are better than most (commercial) novels. If you’re going to play any game that came out in the past five years, play Red Dead Redemption. It made me a bit teary toward the end.
CP: Are there any authors you like to the degree that you try to read everything they’ve written?
JS: Cormac McCarthy. Dahr Jamail.
CP: Name a book you feel you should read but have never gotten around to.
JS: Everything by Howard Zinn, probably.
CP: What genre of book is your “candy,” the guilty pleasure?
JS: First and third person shooters. I’m half kidding.