Yesterday Today Tomorrow Forever: Recommended Books March 2024

Hello Readers,

I didn’t intend for the March issue to be a Josh’s Birthday Issue and I certainly didn’t pick the books with that in mind, but now that I’ve noticed I can have this come out on my birthday, well, why not right? If you are inclined to do something nice for me today, I’d love to do a few Josh Sends You Three Paperbacks bundles. They’re good for the store, they seem to be fun for readers who get them, and I think they’re a ton of fun to put together.

If there’s anything else worth noting in the intro for this issue it’s that I finally write about Minor Detail. I read it and handsold it when it first came out because it is an incredible fucking novel. It’s a book that leaves a permanent mark. I haven’t avoided including it. Folks who know me in person and on social media know that I don’t believe anything in bookselling is apolitical. It’s just the gap in issues and the haphazard way I put this together, and it’s general informality meant I didn’t think about featuring it until after I’d put together the February issue. I’ve seen other people express this idea more eloquently but we, as writers, readers, and people, are just not fucking equipped to cope with this many catastrophes that are happening now. There are just too many fronts in whatever this conflict is. I don’t have an answer to that at all (and as the father of the best little kid in the world who is now just over a year old, I’d really like to have an answer for it) but there is something done when we, at least, write the problem out in words even when we don’t write out the solution. That is, after all, one of the promises, one of the refuges of literature; to be not alone in seeing the problem.


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The American health care system is a fucking hassle. You schedule a GP appointment for a referral for a specialist who you have to confirm is in network and then make sure the prescription is also covered and oh wait, this particular thing doesn’t count towards your deductible, so you still have to pay for this & half the time the insurance company screws up so you have to spend a few hours on the phone reminding them to pay for what they said they’d pay for…for many Americans accessing our health care is basically an extra part time job. For many it’s a full time job.

Now imagine, you had to do something like that every day; to go to the grocery store, to work, visit a relative, get water. Imagine if just about every task it takes to get from the start of the day to the end of the day was actually three or four tasks. Three or four exhausting, time consuming, dehumanizing tasks.

Minor Detail is such a potent work to me because it shows how apartheid stacks different types of violence and terrorism on top of each other in order to totally control a specific group of people. There is, of course, the terrorism of the Nakba, the violent conclusion to Minor Detail (which is both shocking and predictable), and the current genocide we are watching. but there is also a bureaucratic terrorism; getting IDs and passes and other paperwork, showing them two, three, four times a day, sometimes to the same soldier every time, knowing that at least one of those times you’ll be questioned, tested, doubted, harassed. Every stamp, every check point, every new form, every “this pass is expired” is a reminder that you exist at the discretion of someone else.

These violences, of course, feed into & support each other. How much easier is it to commit an act of violence against someone else, when you, yourself, have been ground down by checking passes all day? How does bureaucracy transform a perceived need for security into absolute control? How does the language of bureaucracy justify violence by creating an assumed criminality in a population? How are acts of violence transformed into yet more bureaucracies of security? How much anger builds up at those check points?

I read Minor Detail long before Shibli had her award revoked and I’d considered talking about it here a few times before in this newsletter, so it feels a little awkward finally getting to it, months into a genocide, but “later than maybe it should have been” is still better than never.


Arguably one of the most important publications of 2024, Praiseworthy uses a semi-imagined climate catastrophe (a permanent, stationary dust-storm-like haze) to tell a story about well…damn near everything. Dreams, family, culture, identity, money, propaganda, hubris, failure, suicide, moths, donkeys, and, of course, colonialism, anti-colonialism, and imagining a post-climate-collapse world.

What is most striking to me, at this moment, is just how slowly the plot is moving. I’ve just finished the first 150-odd page section and almost all of those pages have been iterations of the same action, with some consideration for the consequences and environment of that action. The second section starts similarly with a kind of center-of-gravity event/action being circled over and over again by both the characters, the narrator, and the prose. It’s like Wright is writing the way Rothko paints, stacking incredibly thin layers of paint (or prose I guess) to create a kind of fluid chromatic density. I don’t know if that’s an experience writing can recreate or even approximate. The thing about a Rothko painting is that you can see the result of all the layering as a single image, and writing doesn’t accumulate in that same way.

Nor do I know if Wright is aiming for that type of experience or if Wright is aiming for any particular experience at all. But whenever I’m faced with a book as daunting as Praiseworthy, I sometimes need a phrase for or idea of or image of the experience I’m having in order to develop my thoughts with the depth a work like this really deserves. So, for, the moment I’m reading a massive Rothko painting and, through whatever image you need, you should too.


I have got a big stack of interesting and innovative nonfiction next to my bed right now, so this was something of a difficult choice. (Of course, I’ve got time to get to some of those other ones.) Which I guess is another way of saying that if weird ass nonfiction is your bag, you’ve got a pretty solid year ahead of you.

This month, I’m going to highlight Personal Score: Sport, Culture, Identity by Ellen van Neerven because sport, despite having dozens of TV networks and periodicals and journalists and fan sites and rituals and dogma, despite the almost unimaginable amount of human money, time, and effort spent on sport, it still feels to me, like very little thinking is really done about sports. (I know plenty of books and essays and poems have been written about sports, but the ratio still seems way off to me.) I think there are a lot of different reasons why that is, from toxic masculinity to vestigial nerd/jock conflicts, to, you know capitalism, but the point remains that my ears prick up whenever I notice someone taking an intellectual approach to sports.

In a lot of ways, I’m in a different place in terms of the sophistication of my reading and my thinking than the prose and ideas in Personal Score, which should not be read as a critique in anyway. Intellectualism is and should be a spectrum of topic, sophistication, and intensity, after all, with as many access points as possible. More specifically, if Personal Score had existed when I was in college, or, honestly, maybe even fifteen years ago, I would have gotten to where I am now much sooner. To put this yet another way, if you have a relatively (to me anyway) young art school jock in your life, Personal Score will be great for them.


At some point in the not too distant past, I realized, when trying to pinpoint why I love the works of Joseph Cornell and Louise Nevelson so much, that, whatever my visual interpretation skills may be, I am drawn to works that include frames within the frames. Something about the additional visual organization that is such a vital part of Cornell’s boxes and Nevelson’s black assemblages is just visually satisfying to me. So, when I found myself with a project that could benefit from featuring a number of real artists, I included Cornell and Nevelson, because, like, why would I set myself up to do a bunch of research about an artist I don’t like.

On the one hand, there are so many destructive stereotypes about what kinds of people end up as artists or get to be artists and what art should be expected to do to those who organize their lives around it; or, to put this a little differently, on the one hand a lot of people hurt themselves and the people important to them trying to force themselves into the “interesting” lives they think artists (and writers) are supposed to live. On the other hand, Louise Nevelson lead an interesting life, with the intense emotions, complicated relationships, financial challenges, and artistic triumphs and failures that we expect from that stereotypical life. The thing about the infinite possible ways for humans to live life is, a life that is unnecessarily destructive when lived by one person, is the most fulfilling another person could lead. No, I have no idea how to know which is which, for me or anyone else.

Since I’m pretty sure I’ve found the event from Nevelson’s life that I’ll need for this project I’ve set the book down for the foreseeable future. There’s just not enough time in my reading life for the rest of Louise Nevelson’s artistic life. If you’re a fan of her work, you’ll enjoy this book. I haven’t read enough other biographies of artists to know how this fairs for fans of the genre but it seems to be well-researched and well-written.