Peter Coviello's Off-Topic Reads

July 3rd, 2018

Peter Coviello has written about Walt Whitman, Mormon polygamy, Steely Dan, the history of sexuality, queer children, American literature, stepparenthood, and Prince. This work has appeared in The Believer, Frieze, Avidly, Raritan, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Two scholarly works on the topics include: Intimacy in America: Dreams of Affiliation in Antebellum Literature and Tomorrow's Parties: Sex and the Untimely in Nineteenth-Century America In 2017–18, he was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Peter will discuss his latest book Long Players: A Love Story in Eighteen Songs on 07/17, 6pm, at the Co-op. 


H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald - A rending book about grief. The death of Macdonald’s father, and the cavernous sorrow she finds herself propelled into, give shape to her meditations on training a hawk, and on the dense, entangled cultural and literary histories of raptors. It sustains this persuasive, off-beat humor throughout, and manages to be about the least self-absorbed memoir you’ll ever read. I took it to be a fine model (though I failed conspicuously at the non-self-absorption). 

Flyboy in the Buttermilk, by Greg Tate - Nothing – not Greil Marcus, NME, the Baffler: NOTHING – taught me as much as this book about the possibilities for writing about music and culture, with style and acuity and a sometimes-polemical exuberance. It introduced me to Samuel Delaney, and made me love Bad Brains, and here, better than 25 years on, is hard to match.

The Best People in the World, by Justin Tussing - A sprawling and exhilarating heartbreak of a novel. It’s about a 17-year-old boy named Thomas who, in 1973, runs off from his Paducah home with Alice, his teacher, and Shiloh, the local unreconciled countercultural outcast, and about the home they make together, for a while. So it’s a love story, though it is most about the kinds of sorrow we cannot live with – and how, together and alone, we live with them. I love it more desperately every time I read it.

The Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers - The best book I know about the loneliness of childhood, and the queer flights of adolescent imagination that go into concocting a *world* – some vision of a place where one might, at last, belong. Every sentence glints.


About Long Players: A story of heartbreak, stepparenthood, and the limitless grace of pop songs, "Long Players: A Love Story in Eighteen Songs" is a memoir about our many interwoven ways of falling in love: with books, bands and records, with friends and lovers, and with the families we make. We follow Coviello through his happy marriage, his unforeseen divorce, and his fumbling postmarital forays into sex and romance. How do these three go on improvising a sort of world for one another? In the teeth of so much heartbreak, uncertainty and grown-up sorrow, how do they reinvent the love that held them together? And why does it seem so often that, whatever new form that love will take, songs will be at the center?

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