Jake Fuchs was born in New York City but grew up in Beverly Hills in a family headed by his father, the novelist and screenwriter Daniel Fuchs. He now lives in Berkeley with Freya, his wife of 50 years. They have three children and a delightful little grandson.
From 1971 to 2005 Jake taught English at CSU Hayward, specializing in 18th-century British literature. He began writing fiction in the late ’90s and has been fascinated and tortured by the craft ever since.
He has five published books. Two are scholarly, Horace’s Satires and Epistles and Reading Pope’s Imitations of Horace. Death of a Dad and Death of a Prof are both satiric mystery novels. Book number five is the autobiographical fiction Conrad in Beverly Hills, published in 2010. Book number six, the academic satire Posterior Trumpets, is just finished and not yet out.
This morning I found the books listed below on the table next to my side of the bed. On other mornings there would be different books, but probably of the same kind. Nothing heavy. I’m capable of reading heavy—there’s a thousand-page biography of Joseph Conrad waiting for me in the living room—but I don’t do it in bed.
Henry James, What Maisie Knew (Penguin, 2013). Well, maybe this one is semi-heavy. It tells the story of young Maisie Farange, a child who must make her way of self-discovery in a world of deceitful adults. I’ve never had an easy time with James and thought I might sneak into What Maisie Knew by reading it before going to sleep. Plan hasn’t worked so far, but I’m not done trying. Maisie was originally published in 1897. Mine is the Penguin edition.
Philip Josè Farmer, The Dark Design (Tor, 2010). This science fiction novel is part of Farmer’s Riverworld Saga and is very poorly written. I must have forgotten I had it on my bedside table. It’s going to promptly depart and may likely be replaced by one of the 42 novels I own by Philip K. Dick, all neatly arranged on a shelf in my study.
George Pelecanos, Drama City (Warner Books, 2006). Drama City tells the story of ex-con Lorenzo Brown, trying to go straight, and parole officer Rachel Lopez, on a wrong path but finally able to save herself. Like all Pelecanos’ crime fiction, Drama City moves briskly along, and you don’t have to study every page to learn what the author is getting at. Needless violence and suffering disgust and anger Pelecanos and he insists that you share his feelings, while being fascinated by his story. He may not be heavy, but he’s obviously serious.
Henning Mankell, The Shadow Girls (Vintage Books, 2013). I can’t explain why I picked this up, knowing nothing of Mankell, but I’m glad I did. Very funny, which somehow I hadn’t expected in a novel written by a Swede. And serious, too, in its way. The “hero,” a failing writer, becomes involved with three young women seeking to settle in Sweden after fleeing abuse in their homelands. How odd. I don’t want heavy in my bed with me, but I seem to have a thing about serious. Let’s see about the rest.
Don Carpenter, Hard Rain Falling (New York Review Books, 2009). This was originally published in 1966. Someone gave me this to read while I was recovering from surgery. It’s crime fiction more than anything else and comes with an intro by none other than George Pelecanos. The hero, Jack Levitt, whose suffering is bizarre and unfair, is one of the most sympathetic violent criminals in my reading experience. The same can be said of his friend, pool shark Billy Lancing. Each man avoids being completely ground down by responding to the decency innate in the other. Nonetheless, the dark side of America is fully illuminated here. Perhaps this makes it an odd choice for reading before slipping off to dreamland, but there it is. And speaking of the dark side, see immediately below.
Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son (Picador, copyright 1992 by Johnson). I read two of these nightmarish stories one night, then dreamed that my wife was making me pick up lighted matches by their heads. Probably just a coincidence. I’d read him anywhere. Johnson’s characters struggle in twilight. Violence is itself a character, an unwelcome guest that no one knows how to get rid of.
Any genres you won’t take to bed? If so, what have they done to deserve banishment?