Jesse Nathan: The Last Book I Loved

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062608bookHow the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone by Sasa Stanisic was the last book I love love loved. It’s explosive, a text that’s sinewy and daring. It tears open the marks left on the narrator during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 90s. The chapters are introduced Twain-style–like this one called, “How sweet dark red is, how many oxen you need to pull down a wall, why Kraljevic Marko’s horse is related to Superman, and how war can come to a party.” The book’s a brilliant debut for Stanisic. He creates a sprawling narrative built of equally expansive sentences. There’s this, for instance: “That just-a-moment had hardly died away before Father turned and Hemingwayed Bobuljub so forcefully that the tobacconist was sent flying against the bookshelves. Or this: “Soldiers on the porches of buildings, soldiers behind sandbags, soldiers in bars acting as landlords and guests combined.” Plus, Daniel Handler is on the cover on a beach in a yellow shirt and a black suit playing an accordion.


Jesse Nathan is an editor at McSweeney’s and the managing editor of the Best American Nonrequired Reading. His poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, the American Poetry Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Nation. He was born in Berkeley, grew up in Kansas, and lives now in San Francisco. More from this author →