- Steve Erickson, Shadowbahn
Reminiscent of both Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 3 and Scott Walker’s The Drift but ending up as a light version of Dhalgren. I like the idea of Erickson’s writings, but he’s never really clicked for me. Here what fails is the way he talks about music: rhapsodizing about the extreme cultural importance of pop music (especially the same old guys with guitars) almost always seems tiresome, if not reactionary, to me.
- Benedict R. O’G. Anderson & Ruchira Mendiones, editors, In the Mirror: Literature and Politics in Siam in the American Era
It’s not particularly easy to get a handle on Thai literature; this collection of short stories from 1955–1976 with a long contextualizing introduction by Benedict Anderson is easily the nicest I’ve found. Anderson doesn’t shy away from political analysis, almost always politely sidestepped in a Thai context; but that’s crucially important for understanding Thai writing (or more accurately the general lack of it). Unfortunately, this book isn’t that likely to show up outside of Thailand, having been printed in Bangkok by Editions Duang Kamol in 1985; a reprint wouldn’t be a bad idea, though I’m not sure who’d be willing to do it.
- Roberto Bolaño, The Skating Rink, translated by Chris Andrews
- Roberto Bolaño, Monsieur Pain, trans. Chris Andrews
- Roberto Bolaño, Antwerp, trans. Natasha Wimmer
- Roberto Bolaño, A Little Lumpen Novelita, trans. Natasha Wimmer
I burnt out on Bolaño after 2666, which seemed rambling, unfocused, and not nearly as good as the short novels that were the first translations of his published in English. While I’m glad that so much of his work is available in English, a lot of it does seem rather minor, more like excerpts from some bigger corpus. The Skating Rink (with no real writer figures) and Monsieur Pain (an attempt at historical fiction) seem like outliers in his work; Antwerp seems very obviously to contain seeds of later work; A Little Lumpen Novelita is accomplished but feels like an overgrown short story.
- Apichatpong Weerasethakul et al., Apichatpong Weerasethakul Sourcebook: The Serenity of Madness
A collection of material related to Apichatpong’s recent (ongoing?) gallery show, published jointly by Maria in Chiang Mai and the Independent Curators International in NYC. Surprisingly interesting contents: a collection of emails from Apichatpong to the late Benedict Anderson, a long narrative by actress Jenjira Pongpas Widner on growing up in 1960s Isaan across the river from Vientiane, and an interview with Withit Chandawong about politics in Isaan in the 1960s and 1970s. Inadvertently sheds light on the stories in In the Mirror; what’s most striking about this collection is how forthright it is about politics in Thailand: it’s a bit surprising it was for sale in Chiang Mai. Recommended.
- Jerzy Kosiński, The Hermit of 69th Street
- Elif Batuman, The Idiot
I don’t know that I feel enough distance from this to say anything objective, but it’s a lovely book and worth reading.
- Joshua Cohen, Four New Messages
A re-reading, kind of – I read (or heard) all of these pieces at one point or another, but never got around to reading the book version. Cohen’s diction seems unmatched among American fiction writers (who am I forgetting?), especially when he goes into Bernhard-style ranting (Witz) though his singular voice doesn’t necessarily lend itself to imitation, which he sometimes tries to do here: the voice of a Midwesterner relating the stay of a New Yorker among them strains credibility a bit. But these are quibbles.
- John Darnielle, Universal Harvester
Darnielle, on the other hand, has the Midwestern voice down cold – that’s largely why I liked this book, a pleasant diversion.
- Leonora Carrington, The Oval Lady, trans. Rochelle Holt
Reading Silvina Ocampo reminded me of Carrington, so I went back to look at this short collection, looking forward to the full edition whenever I get my hands on that.
- Brix Smith-Start, The Rise, the Fall, and the Rise
There must be a book tracing the history of the male creative genius being an asshole: one would like to know when being an asshole as a side-effect of being a genius crossed over and people thought they needed to be assholes because they were geniuses.
- Benedict Anderson, A Life Beyond Boundaries: A Memoir
This book isn’t as long or as interesting as one would like: Anderson clearly lived an interesting live, and this is more formal and detached than it needs to be. But there’s some useful thinking about interdisciplinarity and its intellectual history here; it reminds me I should go read his Indonesian writings.