Hayden Woolley’s pastime is our obsession. As well as being an English teacher and a writer for Drowned in Sound, Hayden moonlights as becoming a pre-teen boy from the 90s. His Twitter feed TweetsFrom98 is an all too familiar glance back into the nylon angst of the mid to late 90s. References to The Animals of Farthing Wood, walkmen batteries, hair curtains and The Big Breakfast are rife, so much so that we’re willing to say it’s the best thing on Twitter. If you haven’t had the pleasure I suggest you have a look immediately, then check out the exceptional selection of books he’s kindly chosen for us from his shelf below.
Charles Bukowski: Ham On Rye
This book always reminds me of the slow-motion Raging Bull scene where Jake La Motta is smashed into a pile of heaving offal before thousands of horrified onlookers. Except with Bukowski there’s nobody to throw the towel in, and the beating lasts for 300 of the darkest, ugliest pages of fiction that’s ever made it to publication. Ham On Rye marks the “beginning of a long and successful career in alcoholism,” and the low-life laureate’s descent is at once gripping, numbing and bizarrely edifying. A must-read.
Tom Wolfe: The New Journalism
This compelling showcase curated by Tom Wolfe and featuring pieces by the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Truman Capote and Norman Mailer represents the imperious power of the written word in times of social turmoil. Breathing fire down the goose-fattened necks of the literary establishment it supplanted the 1950s model of journalists as two-bit scoop merchants with staggering ambition and quality. The stand-out here is Michael Herr’s Khesanh piece taken from his Vietnam diary Dispatches. Losing his non-combatant status on arrival, Herr plunges harrowing depths in relaying the carnage back to American soil.
The scripts for the first 17 Seinfeld episodes have a rejuvenating quality to them. Reading them gives me an instant glow of warmth and familiarity, like the spritz of a favourite scent on a beautiful summer morning. In written form the episodes buzz with potential energy; they’re a great well of inspiration to draw from for anyone looking to craft razor-sharp dialogue.
Christopher Hitchens : Arguably
Hitch summons his lighthouse-beam intellect and cascades it onto his subjects with dazzling alacrity and power in this vast collection of essays. It’s a pleasure to be brought so close to one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century, as Hitchens romps through literature, politics, religion and speculative bluster (see: Why Women Aren’t Funny) with his trademark ferocity and warp-speed wit. An absolute education.
David Foster Wallace: Consider The Lobster
The peerless David Foster Wallace occupies his own realm way beyond the remit of superlatives. This collection embodies what writers mean when they talk about a state of flow. Surfing across the English language, Wallace daisy-chains ideas from nowhere and creates webs of connections that make your head-spin. My favourite here is How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart, a compelling insight into the psyche of pro-sportsmen and why you will (probably) never be one.