For the April installment of Favorite Books, Sebastian invites Jon Lindsey to tell us about his top reads. Jon is the author of the novel Body High. His writing has appeared in NY Tyrant Magazine, Hobart, and Post Road. He lives in Los Angeles. Below are his favorite books.
Calm Face by Bud Smith
You can learn more about writing in an afternoon drinking beers with Bud Smith than you will in an MFA program. Save your $50,000; enroll in Bud’s writing class—online or in his living room; and buy Bud’s books.
Binary Star by Sarah Gerard
This is the book that ushered me into indie lit. Like the foreign guy I met at a frat party in Salt Lake City, who had metal ball bearings implanted in his penis, and ushered me into a Jack-Mormon BDSM dungeon.
Season in Hell and Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud (translated by Bertrand Mathieu)
The red stained mouths of machine guns ring across the infinite expanse of day.
Gorgeous. To me, a beautiful line of poetry. Except, the poem—“Evil”—is one of Rimbaud’s early works, written between 1869-72, and the machine gun wasn’t invented until 1884.
I carried a copy of this translation with me to Paris. I kept a journal in the margins of the poems. I was 19, traveling with my best friend. He was going to be a captain of industry, I was going to be a great writer. The future was ours and I was in Paris for the first time. So of course, I fell in love with the first girl who spoke French to me. Sophie. Our waitress. I returned to the cafe, and asked her to go out with me and my best friend when she got off work. She took us to a bar in the catacombs. Actual human bones in the mortar in the walls. We got wasted drinking carafes of wine while a band played gypsy jazz. Sophie had to work at the cafe in the morning, so I left my friend, with a wink, and walked her home, thinking she and I would make love all night.
At the door, she said goodbye with a hug. I was despondent. I was very drunk. I was also lost. I couldn’t find my way back, and when I finally did, the old Parisian barflies laughed at me and said my friend had been gone for hours. I tried to retrace my steps to Sophie’s apartment, hoping she would take pity on me, let me sleep on the floor, and from there I could weasel into her bed. But I couldn’t remember where she lived. I cried her name in the street, Sophie! People opened their windows and threw garbage at me.
I gave up and found a Rasta taxi who played dub reggae through new subwoofers in an old Mercedes as we drove through the dark streets of the City of Lights. When I got back to my hostel, the front door was locked. I curled up to sleep on the sidewalk, using the curb for a pillow. It started to snow.
At dawn, I spotted my best friend stumbling up the street. He had been mugged walking back from the wine bar. Thugs rolled him for his wallet. He said our friendship was finished. That I abandoned him. Worse, he said that Sophie was an ugly little frog. I hit him. He hit me. He knocked out my tooth.
The winter was so cold, I couldn’t smile outdoors. I wrote the whole story, and more, in the margins of the book of poems. I was going to be a good, maybe great, writer.
I lost the bad translation of Rimbaud, and all my notes, stoned on hash in Amsterdam.
Jell-o Girls by Allie Rowbottom
This is the book I pick up when blah blah blah. Idk, I really, really like it. My wife wrote it.
Road to Los Angeles by John Fante
Ask the Dust is John Fante’s best book. But this is his first book, and there’s something about first books. Like, in them, the writer is most alive.
I discovered Fante while working at a dying bookstore. There were never any customers, and my paychecks usually bounced, so I would have to steal cash from the till, or steal books to sell to other bookstores in order to buy the French cigarettes and bottles of Beaujolais that I needed while on the clock.
I remember picking up Fante’s books because they were beautiful. And valuable, Black Sparrow Press editions.
A year or two later, I finally transferred out of community college and into state college. I enrolled in a creative writing class, which happened to be taught by the guy who wrote Fante’s biography, Full of Life. I was terrified of the guy. I needed him to tell me that I was a young Fante.
In his workshop we read our stories aloud and then the whole class critiqued. I read my story. My voice shook, cracked, tried to quit on me and run out of the classroom. I was bombing. I would need to give up writing, give up my dream, go to work for my father hauling toxic waste.
I read my story’s last line and looked up from the page at the professor. He pumped his fist, like “Hell yeah, Jon.”
On my bookshelf, I still have those Black Sparrow first edition Fante’s. I couldn’t sell them.
NY TYRANT Books
My friends from back in the day are really into motorcycles, speed metal, and Frank Franzetta. I’m not. They cook their own DMT. I love them. But old friends thwart rebirth. I see these dudes, yay’d up at pool parties, and they ask me what I’m reading. I give them NY Tyrant books: Firework, Essays and Fictions, LiveBlog, The Sarah Book, Welfare.
I never see the books again, but it doesn’t matter. I buy more.
After my early fanboy DMs to NY Tyrant publisher Giancarlo DiTrapano, he and I had started to become friends. Last year, he passed on my novel, Body High, and it crushed me. But then, a month ago, he sent me these messages:
I was trying to convince Gian to come to Los Angeles for the pool parties. He wanted me and Allie to come see him in Italy. I would have gone to Mars to hang out with him. We were so close to making it happen.
At Gian’s funeral his brother said something like, “Gian made all his friends feel like his best friend.” That’s true.
"Favorite Books with Sebastian Castillo" is our monthly column in which previous contributors and friends of Peach Mag are invited to share the works of literature that have made the biggest impacts on their reading and writing lives. Sebastian is the author of Not I and 49 Venezuelan Novels. Read previous installments of Favorite Books here.