Jimmy Chen has a full-time job at a large unnamed institution and enjoys occasionally reading. He is the head horticulturist at Embassy of Misguided Zen's National Philodendron Conservatory. His chapbook typewriter was recently released by Magic Helicopter Press.
what are you reading now
I'm re-reading Oblivion by D.F. Wallace. When I first read it in 2004, I wasn't as involved in writing as I am now, and my perception of the book has changed for the better, as much as I've always loved him. For example, in "Mister Squishy", I never understood the man scaling the outside of the building, and I still don't 'understand' it -- which I think is the point, a kind of blind faith we must give to a piece of fiction, to embrace its artifice.
classic you’ve been meaning to read
I tried The Brothers Karamazov two times but just couldn't get into it. Either we're getting more shallow, or our concerns are different. It just seems so melodramatic.
last book to make you laugh out loud
I'm always laughing out loud, so I'll talk about the only time I laughed uncontrollably, like actually heaving. It was from reading Murakami. I don't even remember what book, but the narrator said something about how fat women were like clouds to him -- very large and having nothing to do with him. I guess what struck me was that Murakami wasn't trying to be funny; it was his unique logic which I found so humorous.
book you borrowed and never returned
A bunch of Penthouse back issues (c. '87 - '89) from my former (self-explanatory) best friend's dad's collection in his garage.
if you could write yourself into any book or story
Definitely Raymond Carver's stories, just because they are so beautiful. It sounds funny, but I wish I lived in Carver's world. Just this morning while jogging I saw a chair through a window and started imagining scenarios of someone who sits in that chair after work everyday. I'm always thinking 'this feels like a Raymond Carver story'. I think he deeply cultivated my conception of voyeurism in relation to anonymous intimacy.
worst book-to-film adaptation
Great Expectations with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke. The latter also butchered Hamlet. Maybe I'm just jealous because he frenched Winona Ryder.
strangest book you’ve ever read
Mason & Dixon, and not because of typical Pynchon 'weirdness', but for the exact opposite reason. There are books you remember easily, and there are books you don't remember anything about, but you remember reading. Does that make any sense? Like, I remember the act of reading it more than I do the actual novel. His language had gotten to this very strange place, and it may have just been 'Old English', but it was Pynchon's Old English. I remember feeling so alive reading each word.
book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone
The Koran for some Koreans that came over for dinner. I was so confused.
best american short stories, pen/o. henry prizes, or the pushcart prize anthology
I used to really enjoy Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry, but I actually like Best American Essays more.
collected stories of
I really enjoyed Charles Ryder's School Days and Other Stories by Evelyn Waugh. Like Oscar Wilde, and I would even say David Sedaris, Waugh's stories are riddles, like the way you set up a joke. His stories are not so much about the characters or even content (however socially relevant at the time), but about the way they're told. It's like rhetorical agenda without meaning. I often try to approach writing this way, tight 'packages' of a mere idea for the sake of its writing. I consider Waugh to be a 'shallow' writer, and part of me really enjoys that.
if you could subscribe to only one literary journal
One Story because I really love that concept: great faith in the paltry form of the short story. Plus I would think 'why this one?' and hopefully learn from the one they chose.
best thing you’ve read online recently
"Pagoda" by Crispin Best at Abjective. I find the oblique allusions very instructive, in terms of how I should try to write more that way. The worst thing is for a writer to not trust the reader, and I think I do this sometimes. "Pagoda" doesn't worry about making sense, yet doesn't alienate the reader.
most anticipated upcoming release
I'm sorry that I'm being so DFW-centric, but The Pale King. I will admit I wasn't blown away by the excerpt from the New Yorker, but prior to that Harper's published a piece called "The Compliance Branch" that seemed to also be an excerpt, which was completely brilliant. I'm also looking forward to The Wild Things by Dave Eggers, which I think 'accompanies' the release of the movie. One thing I admire about Eggers is each of his books are completely different, not necessarily in the writing, but its self-aware 'projectness', like it's never just a fiction or non-fiction, but this really earnest, ambivalent struggle of what and why the book is.
recommended reading list:
Books Written by Japanese People
- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
- A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe
- I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki
- The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
- Monkey's Raincoat by Matsuo Basho