Welcome to our Book Club series. Reading has always been a part of my life, for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always had a curiosity into what other people were reading, often questioning my family members about the books they had on their shelves or at the pool. Over the last few years, I’ve reconnected with that joy and it has become a constant with my friends, sharing our recent favourite reads, what we’ve taken away from them and what we are excited about exploring next. Bringing those conversations to 909, our Book Club series will delve deeper into other creative’s reading history from what they enjoyed when they were growing up, their most impactful read, quotes and more. In order to extend this community of readers, there is a bonus question for those who answer where they recommend a book(s) to next person who contributes to the club.
DJ Voices is one of the reasons I started the Book Club series on Untitled 909. Inspired by her late nites book club Instagram account which was launched a few years ago and the conversations that were started around it, I realised I wanted to carve out a space on my own platform to chat to people about their favourite books and reading journey – I love digging into people’s reading habits, how many books they have on rotation and what their reading goal is for the year (thank you Good Reads for letting me keep track of this) as well as sharing the books I’ve read each month. DJ Voices and I have previously chatted about our reading experiences so I was obviously thrilled when she said yes to contributing to 909’s Book Club – the dream guest!
Based in New York but originally from Florida, DJ Voices is a DJ, co-founder of Working Women, Nothing In Moderation radio show host on The Lot Radio and is one of the bookers at Nowadays where she platforms both established and emerging artist as well as holding down her own residency nights. Truly an unstoppable force, DJ Voices is a highly regarded voice within the city’s underground and beyond, not only for her excellent and dynamic approach to her DJ sets but her ability to bring communities together through workshop and panels, mostly at Nowadays, and tirelessly champion those who moved her the most. Her sets have been featured on the likes of Resident Advisor and FACT whilst some of her key gigs include Panorama Bar, Sustain Release, Honcho, The Level Party and Hot Mass to name a few.
This weekend on the 12th May DJ Voices will be bringing her Late Nites Book Club to Nowadays before her next residency night with Andrew Devlin, where they will be discussing McKenzie Wark’s Raving – you can find the details here.
Your favourite childhood book?
Unfortunately my strongest memories of reading as a child are connected to a certain author that shall not be named. I would love to go into detail about how much I loved those books as a kid but the joy is sadly marred by recent events and it no longer feels right.
Other than that, the experience of reading itself sticks out more than one specific book, although I did read A Wrinkle In Time several times. Even as a child I really valued my alone time, probably because it allowed me to immerse myself more fully in the things I loved, first in fiction and then in music. For most of my adolescence I had a subscription that delivered a stack of books once a month to my home, which I would devour on arrival. I can’t recall specific titles but I do think back on the experience as a defining feature of my childhood.
Most impactful/influential book you’ve read?
I am weak in the face of a good book and often moved to breathlessness and hyperbole when something really gets it right. I feel like so often I’ll finish a good book and claim it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever read, so this is difficult to narrow down! Still, I’ll try. I just stood in front of my bookshelf for twenty minutes in an attempt to come up with the right answer, and here are a few:
– Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson. Probably my most cited book personally and the one I’ve read most in my life. There’s a tenderness to this coming of age story that undoes me every time, and Anne Carson’s ability to make her writing so evocative yet succinct is really magical. Each sentence opens up a new world and I care deeply for Geryon (the main character) as if he were a friend.
– Beloved by Toni Morrison. I first read this in high school and have since revisited it a few times. This is definitely the first book that taught me how powerful fiction could be, that it wasn’t just an escape or a way to feel good, but instead a confrontation with discomfort, complication and hard truths. It’s a masterpiece and I’ll forever be grateful for what Toni taught me.
– Excitable Speech by Judith Butler. I studied philosophy in college and took a course called Language and Politics that literally changed my life. My feeble brain could barely keep up at the time but my introduction to this kind of theory was maybe my first encounter with the psychedelic. I remember walking away from the first class of this course with a new appreciation of what our minds were capable of. It was nothing short of exhilarating, and also just downright fun.
– Samantha Hunt – The Seas. Here’s an example of a recent book I’ve read rising to the top of my list right after completion. As you can probably tell I’m a sucker for a coming of age story, and in this one the main character believes herself to be a mermaid. The book is short but filled with imagery of water and the color blue, two of my favorite things we can use language to describe. It was not a happy ending, which I loved, and made me weep for a good ten minutes after I finished it, which I also loved.
A quote that has stuck with you?
I feel like the appropriate answer to this question should involve some sort of wisdom I’ve gleaned from books over the years, but that is rarely the type of quote that sticks with me. Instead it’s usually short, precise sentences that are so universal they should be obvious, that stand the test of time for me. For example:
“Alive in a room as usual.”
This is from Anne Carson’s Red Doc and often pops into my head at random times, especially if I’m feeling depressed, because it really nails how mundane the difficulties of life can feel sometimes. Yet there’s a sense of humor and teen angst here too that really tickles me.
Other lines stick with me simply for their beauty. Also from Carson:
“Hard morning winds were blowing life bolts against the sky, each one blue enough to begin a world of its own.”
This one made such an impact on me that I named a party series Blue Enough, which ran for a few years here in Brooklyn. I struggled with depression from a young age, and the second part of this sentence particularly resonated with me because of the mood-related connotations of the color blue. I always saw my depression as a reasonable response to a fucked up world and the impetus for demanding a better one for ourselves and others. Being blue enough to begin a world of our own became a personal mantra, an ethical stance, and a way to define community.
Maybe a bit obvious but I think the writer whose work I’ve read most widely is Elena Ferrante, so she’s gotta be up there. Yes, her work is quite popular but to me she more than lives up the hype. Lorrie Moore would have to be high on the list as well. Self Help is an absolutely brilliant collection of stories. And Danez Smith is by far my favorite poet. They could convert anyone into a lover of the form.
Definitely fiction. For me it rivals music for its ability to just absolutely emotionally rock me and immerse me in its own world.
A book that you recommend everyone should read in their lifetime?
Again it’s hard to think of anything “universal” here but these are my recommendations nonetheless:
The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington. Probably my favorite book second to Autobiography of Red. Written by an eccentric surrealist painter based in Mexico, this is an incredibly weird, wild and hilarious tale of a bunch of 90 year old women living together and getting into all sorts of trouble.
A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimar McBride. I’m recommending this because I think all readers deserve to be challenged. On the surface it’s a story of adolescent sexual awakening, but it’s written in an unconventional, stream of consciousness style that verges on incomprehensible at times. The result, to me, is pure poetry and one of the most compelling narrative voices I’ve ever encountered.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs – Dub: Finding Ceremony. Gorgeous lyrical poetry written in a chorus style, heavy with oceanic metaphors. It’s an abstracted approach to telling stories of colonialism, enslavement, ancestry and togetherness that hopes to inspire listening, learning and ultimately, healing.
Your favourite setting to read in?
First thing in the morning on the couch, alone with a cup of coffee. I find it impossible to read in many typical settings, like on the subway or at night. My day starts off right if I’m able to allot 1-2 hours first thing in the morning to reading. I try to keep one book of fiction, one non-fiction and one book of poetry in rotation at all times. I begin the morning with poetry because to me it’s a bit like stretching before a workout. After I’ve read 3-5 poems, the longest stretch of time is then dedicated to fiction, and I finish with 20 – 30 minutes of non-fiction. By that point I’m usually experiencing a reader’s high verging on euphoria and the day is downhill from there.
Are you someone who shares books with friends? If so, which book have you shared recently?
Definitely, but I keep a meticulous list of who has what and I’m not afraid to ask for it back after a while!
Recently I’ve loaned out Conflict is Not Abuse by Sarah Schulman (maybe another one everyone should read), No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, and Rogomelec by Leonor Fini.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished McKenzie Wark’s Raving which we’re reading for my book club that happens at Nowadays. And I’m in the middle of Blue Light of the Screen: On Horror, Ghosts, and God by Claire Cronin which I picked up because I’m a bit obsessed with the supernatural ; )
A recommendation for the next Book Club contributor to read?
Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra. Here was my review of it on @latenitesbookclub:
Very short, impossibly sweet capture of first love that feels more like a statement about what art is and what it can do. Formally interesting and super digestible; I had multiple audible reactions to the writer’s cleverness in less than 80 pages.