- John F. Szwed, Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra
It’s still hard to know what to make of the life of Sun Ra: here he starts in the terrible reality of the American twentieth century and ends somewhere vague, a mysterious life lost in the recounting of the music and obscured by his own mythology. There’s something important here, and this almost gets it, but there’s more to be excavated.
- Benedict Anderson, The Fate of Rural Hell: Asceticism and Desire in Buddhist Thailand
It is hard to imagine a better title than the one this sui generis book has. This was ostensibly banned in Thailand, though copies were openly being sold here – maybe a new cover is enough for authorities not to notice? A lovely little book – I wish Anderson had written more like it.
- Christian Kracht, Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas, translated by Daniel Bowles
Read because I was interested in island utopias. Marred by solecisms from the first page: it’s as ludicrous to describe people as “Malaysian” forty years before the country was created as it is to describe “tiny little cubes of mangosteen”. Maybe the first of these came in translation; the narrative voice is sloppy, and a good editor could have strongly improved this book.
- Dexter Palmer, The Dream of Perpetual Motion
Read because I liked Version Control so much; the steam-punk set-up initially scared me off, but there’s a lot to like here: voices from J R and Harold Bloom’s pick-up lines filter through, among many others. I have the sensse that Palmer’s best work is ahead of him.
- Claudio Magris, Danube, translated by Patrick Creagh
Feeling very late to this. So many pointers to things that are probably worth reading that I will not get to any time soon.
- Ben Lerner, 10:04
I’m not sure why I like Geoff Dyer when he does this kind of writing and find myself put off by others writing in his footsteps: not very convinced by this.
- Paul Beatty, The Sellout
Embarrassed I didn’t know Beatty’s work before this: it’s astonishing that a novel so much in Ishmael Reed’s tradition could reach such a mass audience. Will be digging into his past work.
- Michael Allen Zell, Law & Desire
I’m interested in the trajectory of Zell’s career: starting as an experimentalist wearing avant-garde influences on his sleeves, he’s moved into regionalism via a detective series. I don’t know New Orleans at all, so it’s hard for me to judge his success. Still worth watching: he’s using the local to build, in small steps, to something bigger.