Trivial Necessities

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
You'd think after that dumbass movie Henry and June, a faux-titillating mainstream debacle, kids would reject the whole Henry Miller aura as annoying, but no. It comes up all the time. Tropic, banned in the U.S. for 27 years, is now considered one of the great novels of the century. The lowdown: A clichéd, disaffected expat writer in Paris fucks a bunch of people, including prostitutes with STDs. Less plot, more rant. Sample line: "The ass is worn down, scraped, sandpapered, smooth, hard, bright as a billiard ball or the skull of a leper."

The Veil, by Denis Johnson
Sad, accessible poems by the author of the new novel The Name of the World and the breathtaking short-story collection Jesus' Son, which is now a movie, and not a bad one either. Be conversant in Johnson's deadpan poetry, which inspires the party as 5 a.m. light streaks in the windows: "The eight-ball is a meatball in whiskey heaven" and "I know I'm suburban, I've got a shitty whiskey in my hand/I work a job like eating a knife." The title poem makes the biggest impression, with its urgent last lines "You would know goddamn it. And never be able to say."

illustration: Andrew Skwish

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