We’re all coping. And managing to find some time to read. Here’s what we’re currently reading at Entropy this week.
I’m calling these few weeks my Thick Stack Weeks. Here’s a list of some of what I’m reading:
- Michael J. Seidlinger’s The Face of Any Other from Lazy Fascist Press. As always, Michael brings the \m/ with a smart exploration of identity and enough “character invasion” to keep readers with ADD interested.
- I’m finishing David James Keaton’s The Last Projector from Broken River Books. DJK should probably be locked up somewhere. This is about movies and violence and the inner working of the porn industry, among other things, but what matters the most is the wild humor that permeates everything.
- The Bewdley Mayhem by Tony Burgess. This brick of an omnibus edition includes the three books by Burgess that take place in the town of Bewdley: The Hellmouths of Bewdley, Pontypool Changes Everything (yeah, the one they made into a movie), and Caesarea. I’m about 100 pages in and this thing is brutal in more than one way. More about it next time.
- Into the Field by Tracy Dahlby. Dahlby was one of those journalists who was around back when National Geographic would give superb writer carte blanche to go somewhere in the world and report, write, travel, report, travel, and write some more until they had a great story. In this book, he discusses the stories behind six pieces on Asia he did for National Geographic. Really great, funny stuff.
- The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino. It was time they finally got around to translating the few that were left untranslated. What can I say about this? Calvino had an outstanding command of language and storytelling, and this is a hell of a collection.
I’m reading General Chemistry: Essential Concepts by Chang et al. and it’s not really getting the job done for me, though I’m also reading a ton of anatomy articles on Wikipedia, which is a rabbit hole you can go down for a long time. And a book about Rabbinic hermeneutics because it’s due soon. I would rather be reading something literary, like Lucy Ives’ Orange Roses or Gary Lutz’ Partial List of People to Bleach or the Maria Irene Fornes book I bought but can’t find now.
ETA to add on my “might shove my chem book aside” list are Jenny Boully’s The Body, Patrick Ourednik’s Europeana, and especially Ali Smith’s How to be Both.
The Inevitable June. Art and Words by Bob Schofield. TheNewerYork Press.
Also reading Doll Palace by Sara Lippman, which are these real electric stories about girls growing up in and around New Jersey (where else?)
Feliz Lucia Molina:
- My Mother: Demonology (kathy acker)
- Go Find Your Father (harmony holiday)
- Works (edouard levé)
- You Da One (jennifer tamayo)
- Uncle Andrew’s iPads (bernadette mayer)
- The Soul at Work (franco “bifo” berardi) ♥
Michael J Seidlinger:
- Find Me by Laura van den Berg
- Does Not Love by James Tadd Adcox
- Consumed by David Cronenberg
I’m reading Sarah Waters’ new novel The Paying Guests. I’m only about 100 pages in, but so far it contains everything I adore about Waters’ novels: a period setting with all the best accompanying details, queer women, a burgeoning mystery, beautiful writing that makes reading it such a pure, delicious pleasure. At the same time, it is wholly it’s own book, as all her novels manage to be; while they may all have some recurring themes, the distinct personality of each novel rings true. This one, set after WWI, gets deep into English class systems and what it means to try and traverse that system, both “up” and “down.”
This weekend is the Southern Festival of Books and I’ve been reading Dave Wright’s Riverwalkers as a sort of preparation. These poems are a great blend of lyric narrative and the metaphysical, with a heavy dose of the Southern Gothic. They’re perfect to get me in the mood for live readings, food truck barbecue, and meeting up with friends in Downtown Nashville.
Queen Lucia (1920) by E.F. Benson is a charming tale of social intrigue and escapades set in the small British town of Riselholme, where Lucia Lucas, Georgie Pillson, and Daisy Quantock are all vying for the top spot as the grand commander of the social scene. It’s the first of six novels in Benson’s “Lucia and Mapp” series. When some new guests come to town, including a Guru, a spiritualist, and famed opera singer Olga Bracely, antics–of course–ensue.
- David Ohle’s The Old Reactor
- Dear Letter Office an art/text collaboration by Spiky & Lauren Simkin Berke
- and (appropriately for a list of things unfinished) Edouard Leve’s Works
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
SONG OF THE SHANK by Jeffery Renard Allen.
“He can’t see it, can only feel its warmth on his skin, feathers of light and shadow. Steady light. Everything waits to be seen, wants to be seen, and remembered. The world taunts him with its sights. But touch is his primary means of witnessing the world. Taking stock. Fingers the patterned ridges of tree bark, which reveal less of what it actually there—weight, density—offering only the skeletal outline of some longing.” (159)
- Ezra Pound—The Cantos.
Started these years ago and never finished, but I think they’re unbearably genius: the focus on (world) history, mythology, translation. Every line is perfect even when it doesn’t seem like poetry.
- Jorge Luis Borges—Collected Fictions (reread).
Borges is one of my absolute favorite authors, but he’s the only one I haven’t reread, and it felt like time to fix that.
- Don Quixote—Cervantes
For class, but I’ve been wanting to read this book for years, which is cool.
Time for Contempt—Book two in The Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski.
It picks up shortly after book one and carries on with the awesome story of Geralt, the Witcher. It’s epic fantasy done in a very interesting way, in a way I’ve never really seen it done, but how I meant to do it in my own novel. While the novels are titled after Geralt, there’s a pretty large cast and a world that naturally expands. I have a lot to say about these books, and even though I’ve only just started book two, it’s already becoming one of my favorite series. There’s a lot of action, intrigue, suspense, along with humor, and he covers a wide range of topics, from racism and imperialism and colonialism and genocide to ecological issues related to exploiting natural resources all set in a world technologically and sociologically similar to the late middle ages.
Read 50-100 pages from each book each week if work isn’t too crazy…
- On iPad as kindle: a treatise of human nature by David hume
- Social behavior of female vertebrates edited by Samuel Wasser (to debunk sexism in how social biologists write about sexual activity)
- The gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (fiction)
- Neuter by helene Cixous
- Of grammatology by derrida
- plus others pictured above.
Two books are holding my eyes open at night while someone snores gently beside me. A third, Jack Spicer’s biography—a hard back—doesn’t count. It only props up the alarm clock which stopped working at 1:35 about a month ago. The first book is Sampson Starkweather’s Flowers of Rad. It’s a chapbook, you can read it in an hour. I’ve spent two weeks with it, the lines on page two like a thrilling mantra: “magic isn’t the ability / to make things disappear / but to make things reappear.” The other book, the sad book, the book of yearning and confusion is Katherine Cottle’s I Remain Yours. It consists of love letters between the author’s great grandparents, and her letters to them. I am reading it for answers to some very specific questions I have regarding sex, intimacy, faith. I have learned, for example, that Fay Wray’s grandfather spent forty years living with the Native Americans who dressed his gunshot wound after he was left for dead. And I have learned that “a large beast would one day / hold me in his palm” and that “he was a harmless creature, / just lonely, and looking for something / other than his ordinary world.”
I actually just started reading a new book a few nights ago. It’s The Portrait by Iain Pears (an author I mentioned in the recent “books people haven’t read but should” list). It’s not at the level of An Instance of the Fingerpost so far, but it has an interesting premise: the entire text is a monologue delivered by a portrait artist to his sitter, a prominent critic and former friend. Thus, the text explores and explodes the relationship between artist/author and critic/audience. Just started the book, but I liked this passage:
“I think the others laughed at me behind my back, but I didn’t care. I wore my adoration, my reverence, like a badge of pride. ‘William says…’ ‘William thinks…’ ‘William and I…’ Heavens, but I must have been ridiculous. You encouraged it, flattered and cajoled. ‘Don’t worry about the others. An artist like yourself…’ ‘You have something special; real ability…’ All those phrases; I lapped them up, wanted more, wanted you to say them again and again. It was like bathing in milk. And I didn’t realize how much I filled a need in you: everything was fresh for me; you had seen everything before, many times over. With me in tow you could catch some of the excitement of discovery and feel the joy of novelty once more. I think it is why you so earnestly advocate the new in art. You are constantly in search of something to excite you and stir an enthusiasm that a too-fortunate education has snatched from your grasp.”
Dennis James Sweeney:
I just just finished Home/Birth, by Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker, from 1913 Press, and oh my goodness is it a cool book. I never thought I’d be so compelled by an uber-political collaborative poem-essay about giving birth at home but something about this book just tore my heart out.
A friend also loaned me It Is Daylight by Arda Collins and her poems are really doing it for me right now. They do that rare thing of being sincere and intelligent and funny and complicated all at once. Came with an ideal model of starting to read a book of poems, too: have a bunch of wine and read some poems from it out loud with someone, and then when you go back to it on your own you will have a sense of nostalgic déjà vu during certain lines and poems (because of course you have seen them before), which really supercharges the reading experience.
It’s rare that I read two books in a row that I like as much as these. Reading life is good right now.
Gaby Torres Olivares:
I’m reading La vida breve (A brief life) by Juan Carlos Onetti. I’ve never read anything by this Uruguayan writer before, and a very good friend of mine not only recommended me the book but also found a copy for me. Her recommendation came about a few months ago, when we were talking about Latin American literature and its first relationships with cinema; then, Nadia suddenly remembered that in La vida breve, the main character is writing a screenplay, and that his process of writing occurs as a metafiction in the novel. At the time, Latin American literature and its first relationships with cinema was enough reason to consider La vida breve as one of my next readings, but the fact that it was a gift made me start to read it as soon as I could, in honor of her generosity. The novel was published in 1950 by Editorial Sudamericana.
About the novel:
José María Brausen (the main character) is an existentialistic man from Uruguay who works in a publicity agency in Buenos Aires. His monotonous life has a plot twist when his wife, Gertrudis, has a mastectomy in one of her breasts as a result of breast cancer (even though her condition is never mentioned as such). Brausen has to live with his wife’s new reality, and often her mastectomy is used as a metaphor of the scission in their relationship, or, her illness is used as an ineludible symptom of the languishment of their life together. Through his work, Brausen is assigned to write a screenplay, project that he unconsciously uses to avoid his own reality. His capacity to create parallel universes exceeds fiction when he creates an alter ego, Arce, and through him starts a secret relationship with his next-door neighbor. At the beginning, these three realities appear as separate chapters, in order to follow the character’s alternative ways of enduring his life, but over the pages they start to subtly dapple each other’s realities… I am in the middle, so I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
About the author:
Juan Carlos Onetti was an Uruguayan writer from Montevideo. He was imprisoned during the Uruguayan dictatorship, in 1974; once he was liberated he traveled to Spain to live the rest of his life in exile, and died in Madrid in 1994 (La vida breve was published before his exile). Other literary works by him that have been translated into English are: The shipyard, Bodysnatchers, Let the wind speak and A brief life.
The forthcoming song is sung in the novel as an analogy of its title. The “chanson” was originally a poem by George du Maurier:
I am halfway through Paula Bomer’s INSIDE MADELINE and loving it. Paula writes about adolescent and pre-adolescent girls with just as much brutal honesty and dark humor as she did alienated moms in BABY. Her sentences are deceptive—seeming simple in their directness, but with a special rhythm upon closer inspection.
I just finished reading Gina Abelkop’s genius I EAT CANNIBALS which is a time machine, a bestiary, and best playlist ever (ft. Joanna Newsom, PJ Harvey, 1880s Western dance hall divas and more!). Also been reading Moises Kaufman/Tectonic Theater Project’s THE LARAMIE PROJECT (again) for a class I’m teaching and am newly obsessed with the possibilities of adopting ethnographic methods in narrative art. And started the final installment of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, ACCEPTANCE, tonight. Glad to be back in Area X. Don’t tell me anything!
Just finished SOLARIS by Stanislaw Lem. It was really good. I came to Lem through his weirder books like IMAGINARY MAGNITUDE, MORTAL ENGINES, and THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS, which are about introductions to scientific texts that don’t exist yet, space knights, and the surreal, stumbling journeys of Ijon Tichy respectively. SOLARIS felt the most complete. A beautiful exploration of our relation to animals, the Other, space.
Also just finished Kevin Killian’s TWEAKY VILLAGE, which I’m working on a more polished review for, but is definitely worth checking out, as it demonstrates a post-New Narrative Killian. The sexiness remains, but also an alchemical conjuring of images and elegiac, cascading anecdotes about his obsession with movie stars, Spicer, and Kylie Minogue. May help some with what is going on in San Francisco right now.
I’m in the middle of Allen Mandelbaum’s translation of Ovid’s METAMORPHOSIS, which is fantastic. Echo and Narcissus, the horrid foundations of rape culture in the west, Medusa—it’s all there. In Ovid’s version of Narcissus, he doesn’t kiss his reflection until he drowns, but basically just stares at himself until he dies of starvation, I think.
I just finished reading Fun Home by Alison Bechdel for a class I’m teaching. Dipping in and out of And They Were Two in One And One in Two Edited by Nicola Masciandaro & Eugene Thacker, a book very relevant to the collaboration I’m working on with Michael du Plessis on decapitation scenes in cinema. Also on my nightstand, Slow Movies by Ira Jaffe, The Planets by Sergio Chejfec, A Most Ambiguous Sunday, And Other Stories by Jung Young Moons, and Kafka’s Letters to Felice.
I’m rereading Ernst Meister’s In Time’s Rift and reading Wallless Space (look out for a review on this one soon):
Where the cross is
of the hourglass,
lightning takes root.
Here at this point,
how you stand,
all time unfolds.
you would be
like to be
Since my wife & I are both professors of writing and literature our lives are inundated with books. In addition, since I have the attention span of a Korsakoff’s psychosis patient, I have about a dozen things going at once depending on my physical location. That said, here’s the only way I know how to answer the question of what I’m reading now:
IN THE BATHROOM
- Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist
- Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising TPB 2
- Artforum Summer 2014
Roxane’s book strikes me as exactly what young people need to hear right now: that it’s better to be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.
I’m late to Rachel Rising. Came across used copies of the first three trades at Blue Cypress in New Orleans and had to swipe them up. Mostly I don’t care for monochromatic comics, but this one is exceptional. A haunted city named Manson is home to revengeful spirits.
Every time I pick up a new issue of Artforum I tell myself I’m going to get a subscription, but then I don’t. Was pleased to read criticism by Travis Jeppesen and Kevin Killian in this issue. There’s also a cool section on comic books. Much like fashion magazines, the ads are just as interesting as the “main content.”
ON THE NIGHTSTAND
- Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 1
- Jeff VanderMeer Authority
- Caroline Weber Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
I love old school comics. The original Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby is super fun. Villains such as Mole Man are particularly appealing to me, because of how weird they are.
I loved the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation. It had mystery and horror and it felt like something strange was lurking on each page. This second one has very little of that appeal. I’m about 150 pages into it and I’m forcing myself to finish, because I got the final installment, Acceptance, and I want to see what happens. My hope is that this second volume will turn weird at some point, or at least get interesting in some way. At the moment, it’s like a procedural following a character I find much less compelling than the main character from the first book, Ghost Bird.
Weber’s book on Marie Antoinette offers a compelling lens for rethinking the relationship between history and fashion. I find it captivating and insightful.
IN THE LIVING ROOM
- Blake Butler 300,000,000
- Luke Goebel Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours
- The Grand Piano Vol. 1
- September Vogue
- September W Magazine
Sadly I tend to get behind on my fashion magazines too easily. That’s probably the reason why I am reluctant to pull the trigger on an Artforum subscription. I discontinued my subscription to Vogue a few years ago, but kept my subscription to W. Now I purchase individual issues of Vogue when it’s the big Fall or Spring issue or when there’s something particular that I’m interesting in seeing. Not in love with Wintour’s cover selection for the September issue. Ah well, it’s the insides that matter most.
The Grand Piano is a ten volume collaboration between a few of the Language poets. This opening volume begins on the topic of love. I got the full set this past summer and only now am I getting into them. So far so good.
Luke Goebel’s book caught my attention after I read an excerpt called “Tough Beauty” in The American Reader. Boy howdy, his language is on fire. If you care about sentences, you’ll be over the moon with this one.
The intensity of Blake’s newest book makes Randy Macho Man Savage look like Droopy Dog. I don’t feel equipped to speak about it much at the moment other than to say…well…let me put it this way: his previous work throbbed and screeched and squealed and simmered and looped and pulsed and thumped and echoed and twisted and kneeled and shot glances of light out from the dark corners, but this one screams and rings and blares and speeds along and swipes and rips and gnaws and scrapes and burns and pours so much gasoline on the flames of language that horror seems to radiate from it like everything that came before it was a skeleton and Blake put meat on that skeleton and then fed it maggots and television and put in a bathtub full of Hydrofluoric acid.
IN MY BACKPACK
- Claudia Rankine Citizen
- Ernest Cline Ready Player One
Rankine’s book uses second person better than any other example I’ve ever read, for a number of reasons but primarily because of the way it both implicates the reader and allows the reader access to the speaker’s position. Love the stuff about Serena Williams, and the inclusion of Hennessy Youngman’s Art Thoughtz.
I came across Cline’s book on a list of “Best Science Fiction of the 21st Century.” I’d never heard of it before, but I was sold after reading a description of it as part Willy Wonka part Matrix. I’m only a couple chapters into it, but I like it. It’s fun.
ON MY WORK DESK
- Leslie Scalapino Zither & Autobiogrphy
- Leslie Scalapino The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom
- Leslie Scalapino & Lyn Hejinian Sight
At the moment, when it comes to my own writing, Scalapino dominates my headspace. These three happen to be on my desk at this moment, but other of her books are laying all around me. I’m finding so much fuel for my own work in her work. The way she gums up a sentence, the way she toggles between legibility and illegibility, the way she moves in and out of focus is mesmerizing. I really regret not having contacted her while she was still alive to tell her how much her work meant to me. I never contacted David Markson or Raymond Federman either before they died. I regret that. Makes me think I should write Clark Coolidge a letter to tell him how much his writing means to me before I lose the chance.