november 1–15, 2023


  • Charles Portis, Norwood
  • Charles Portis, Gringos
  • Nicolas Bouvier, The Scorpion-Fish, translated by Robyn Marsack
  • William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors
  • Hugh Trevor-Roper, Hermit of Peking: The Hidden Life of Sir Edmund Backhouse
  • Fritz Leiber, The Wanderer


  • মেঘে ঢাকা তারা (The Cloud-Capped Star), directed by Ritwik Ghatak
  • Killers of the Flower Moon, dir. Martin Scorsese


  • “Ariana Chaivaranon: All Under Heaven,” Cartel Artspace, Bangkok
  • “Mit Jai Inn: Underground,” Gallery Ver, Bangkok
  • “Blowing Up The Tale of Ageing Society,” Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
  • James Nachtwey: Memoria,” BACC
  • “Womanifesto: Flowing Connections,” BACC

october 16–31, 2023


  • Werner Herzog, Every Man for Himself and God Against All, translated by Michael Hofmann
  • Iris Origo, A Study in Solitude: The Life of Leopardi: Poet, Romantic and Radical
  • Dante, Vita Nuova, trans. Virginia Jewiss
  • Dana Stevens, Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century
  • William Shakespeare, As You Like It
  • Volker Weidermann, Ostend: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, and the Summer Before the Dark, trans. Carol Brown Janeway
  • Patricia Highsmith, The Tremor of Forgery


  • Back Stage, directed by Roscoe Arbuckle
  • Good Night, Nurse!, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • Coney Island, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • The Rough House, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle & Buster Keaton
  • The Garage, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romano
  • The Bell Boy, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • The Butcher Boy, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • Alien, dir. Ridley Scott
  • Dancing Pina, dir. Florian Heinzen-Ziob
  • Out West, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • Moonshine, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • The Hayseed, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • His Wedding Night, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • Oh, Doctor!, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • The Cook, dir. Roscoe Arbuckle
  • Santiago, Italia, dir. Nanni Moretti


  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai
  • “Irresistible Relations: An exhibition of recent works by Asit Kumar Patnaik,” Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
  • “The Majestic Symphony: H. R. Das,” Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
  • “Karlette Joseph,” Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
  • “Mini Suboth: Aetheria / Dharmaraj Rampure: Shringar,” Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
  • Elephanta Caves, Mumbai

october 1–15, 2023


  • McKenzie Wark, Raving
  • Ivy Compton-Burnett, Daughters and Sons
  • William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Chloe Aridjis, Sea Monsters
  • William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
  • Bernardo Zannoni, My Stupid Intentions, translated by Alex Andriesse
  • Selby Wynn Schwartz, After Sappho
  • Gita Mehta, Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India
  • William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
  • William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale


  • 千年女優 (Millennium Actress), directed by Satoshi Kon
  • Our Hospitality, dir. Buster Keaton & John G. Blystone
  • The In-Laws, dir. Arthur Hiller
  • El botón de nácar (The Pearl Button), dir. Patricio Guzmán
  • Possession, dir. Andrzej Żuławski

(More to say about these soon.)

september 16–30, 2023


  • William Shakespeare, The Tempest
  • Shirley Hazzard, The Bay of Noon
  • Osamu Dazai, Early Light, translated by Ralph McCarthy & Donald Keene
  • Michael Swanwick, Hope-in-the-Mist: The Extraordinary Career and Mysterious Life of Hope Mirrlees
  • Michael Swanwick, Bones of the Earth
  • W. H. Auden, The Sea and the Mirror
  • Ivy Compton-Burnett, A House and Its Head
  • Shirley Hazzard, We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think: Selected Essays
  • William Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing


  • Prospero’s Books, directed by Peter Greenaway
  • A Walk Through Prospero’s Library, dir. Peter Greenaway

I’ve fallen into a half-baked project of re-reading Shakespeare, mostly from realizing that I hadn’t really re-read most of him since college, though I’d liked the bits and pieces I’d gone back to; it’s also very easy to polish off a volume of the Pelican Shakespeare without thinking too much about it. I imagine I’ll get distracted from this project after a few more plays, though I’m liking it so far. The Tempest, on re-reading, seems curiously inert plot-wise: once you know that Prospero is basically all-powerful, there’s not very much dramatic tension about how things will resolve themselves, though it’s still not entirely predictable. I’d never actually seen Greenaway’s adaptation, which really deserves to be seen in cinema. It’s impossible to imagine anyone making anything like it today. Greenaway’s focus on the figure of the book deserves attention; his twenty-minute short, A Walk Through Prospero’s Library, is an extended close reading of a few minutes of the finished film.

I also find myself re-reading Shirley Hazzard: The Bay of Noon is a fine short novel, and it almost makes one regret that she didn’t do more like this. We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think feels like a posthumous grab-bag; there are nice pieces in it, but it’s hard to imagine Hazzard agreeing to put it out. Earlier this year I’d set myself a project to read all of Ivy Compton-Burnett in order; I was distracted in March, but A House and Its Head is the most purely enjoyable thing I’ve read in a while.

september 1–15, 2023


  • Colin Dickey, Under the Eye of Power: How Fear of Secret Societies Shapes American Democracy
  • Matthew Zapruder, Why Poetry
  • Safia Jama, Crowded House
  • William Shakespeare, Othello
  • Charles Portis, Masters of Atlantis
  • Djuna, Counterweight, translated by Anton Hur
  • William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

I re-read Charles Portia’s Masters of Atlantis to see if there was anything new there in the light of Colin Dickey’s exploration of the American perception of secret societies – and, it’s true, because it’s comfort reading. MOA is an exploration of the secret society in comic form; but it’s also a novel about profound stasis, not dissimilar to Oblomov. The secret knowledge at the center of the Gnomon society manifestly fails to change anything in the world, or changes things infinitesimally slowly; seeking it lets the characters ultimately do nothing.

The plot threatening in the background – a thwarted novice turned FBI agent comes to wreak revenge – ends in a slow motion fizzle: arriving late to provide evidence in a hearing, Pharris White tells his story to a clerk on leave from a Christmas party; he gives her the evidence he’s spent the book collecting, and she throws it away. Everything eventually dissolves; the same has happened to the Gnomons’ abandoned temple. Does it matter? The characters have accomplished nothing, really, but they are happy, or as happy as they can be, at the end. It’s perhaps Henry James’s “The Beast in the Jungle” played as a comedy.

august 16–31, 2023


  • The Penguin Anthology of the Prose Poem, edited by Jeremy Noel-Tod
  • Evelyn Waugh, Decline & Fall
  • Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies
  • Alan Garner, Red Shift
  • Christian Wiman, He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art
  • Claire Dederer, Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma
  • Erik Davis, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies


  • Museo, directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios
  • Hail Satan?, dir. Penny Lane
  • The Last of Sheila, dir. Herbert Ross

The Penguin Anthology of the Prose Poem is a decent idea: a good general anthology of the history of the prose poem. There’s an interesting structural arrangement: it’s arranged in order by date, reverse chronologically, starting with the present and working its way back to the French 19th century. Predictably there’s a bit of jiggery-pokery over what a prose poem might consist of. Aside from arranging the poems in date of publication, however, there’s no historicizing whatsoever; one looks in vain for author bios or real contextualization. Instead, the prose poems are allowed to breathe free; unless you flip forward to the end of a poem, you might not know who it’s by when you start it. These aren’t terrible ideas in and of itself; however, the anthology sags under its persistent attempts to make an argument for the history of the British prose poem, almost all of which could be cut without great loss. I can imagine that it’s tempting to avoid the “first the French, then the New York School, then everybody” narrative! But the obvious highlights that everyone knows shine much brighter than the filler around them. 

Claire Dederer’s Monsters is a useful way of thinking about art and the people who made it; it worked especially well after re-reading Evelyn Waugh’s first two books, inspired by the LRB piece. I don’t think I’d actually read Decline & Fall since being assigned it in college (!); now the two books struck me as splitting the difference between Ronald Firbank and Henry Green without being as serious as either. There’s gratuitous racism in Decline & Fall: a punchline at the end of the chapter is that a main character’s boyfriend is . . . Black, which is clearly meant to be hilarious. A chapter or so of received minstrel jokes follows. Homophobia is used in the same way in Vile Bodies: a gay secondary character is meant to be a funny distraction. It’s hard to imagine any reader getting around this now – it struck me as odd that this wasn’t mentioned in Seamus Perry’s piece – read with Remote People, Waugh’s account of a trip to Ethiopia, written between these two, it’s hard not to see Waugh as repellent. 

I came to Erik Davis’s High Weirdness looking for contextualization of Carlos Castaneda, and an understanding of how people came to take him seriously. There’s a bit of that in this book, a very thorough investigation of Terrence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson, and Philip K. Dick’s visionary experiences during the 1970s; I think I liked it most as a compendium of pointers to interesting things. I’m not quite convinced of the importance of McKenna and Dick’s attempts to think through what happened to them – the novels that came out of Dick’s experiences are interesting, though I’m not sure that context makes them deeper. Wilson’s work mostly passed me by, except through secondary adaptations – I can’t tell if reading through that would be worthwhile or not. 

august 1–15, 2023


  • Djuna Barnes, The Lydia Steptoe Stories
  • Robert A. Kaster, The Appian Way: Ghost Road, Queen of Roads
  • Anne Garréta, Not One Day, translated by Emma Ramadan & Anne Garréta
  • Nona Fernández, Voyager: Constellations of Memory, trans. Natasha Wimmer
  • H. G. Wells, The Croquet Player
  • John Ashbery, Something Close to Music: Late Art Writings, Poems, and Playlists, edited by Jeffrey Lependorf
  • Henry James, In the Cage
  • Amanda Montell, Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism
  • Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
  • Henri Charrière, Papillon, trans. Patrick O’Brian
  • Christian Kracht, The Dead, trans. Daniel Bowles
  • Kenneth Koch, Sun Out: Selected Poems 1952–54
  • Robyn Schiff, A Woman of Property
  • John Berger, Bento’s Sketchbook


  • Three Ages, directed by Edward F. Kline
  • Asteroid City, dir. Wes Anderson
  • 千禧曼波 (Millennium Mambo), dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien


  • “Martha Alf, Opposites and Contradictions,” Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles
  • “Salomon Emquies: Complex Systems,” Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles

A bunch of scattered reading – part of this was due to travel and being on a plane and picking things at random as distraction from whatever was going on. My criterion for this is often things that are short and seem less imposing. More (re-)reading of Henry James’s novellas; I’m a little surprised that In the Cage, his novella about a telegraph operator, isn’t more widely known as an example of technological mediation. (It does turn up in Deleuze & Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus, though they’re doing something else with it.) The H. G. Wells book is an odd little book which isn’t really well-known for good reason; I always feel curious about how the books he’s still known for are all in the first decade of a fifty-year career. A couple of years ago I was interested by his The Wonderful Visit, which is maybe not forgotten in the French world; I can’t quite convince myself that he’s worth a thorough reading, though I would like someone to do that for me.

Papillon is maybe interesting as an example of an unverifiable narrative: it feels basically like a novel, though it is ostensibly a memoir; most of what happens is fundamentally unverifiable because there wasn’t anyone else to see or to comment on the truth of what Charrière says happened. A lot of it seems wildly unlikely. This seems more interesting read now, when it’s hard to imagine anything being that unverifiable, when everything exists in databases.

july 16–31, 2023


  • Andrés Caicedo, Liveforever, translated by Frank Wynne
  • Lisa Hsiao Chen, Activities of Daily Living
  • Carlos Castenada, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
  • Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Reputations, trans. Anne McLean


  • Casa Museo Otraparte, Medellín, Colombia
  • Cathedral Labyrinth of Thorns, Curaçao
  • Landhuis Bloemhof, Curaçao

A bunch of random things in here, mostly because I was traveling. The Caicedo novel comes from reading about the figure of Caceido in interviews with Colombian artists from the 1970s; it seems like something that would have been revelatory at the time, though it feels impossibly dated now in its vision of the emancipatory power of music and the 1960s. (Perhaps it’s interesting as a precursor to Bolaño’s writing, which might flow from the ruins of that world?) 

I’d never read Carlos Castaneda; when I met an older man who talked about how revelatory those books had been, I read the first one. I found myself wishing for something like a Norton Critical Edition of this: taken as face value – or as anthropology – this seemed ridiculous, read as a creative fiction project, it might be more interesting. I am not the ideal audience for this book! Though I would like to know why this was as influential as it was; and it seems like the sort of text that would lend itself to many wildly different readings by audiences at cross purposes with each other. I’m not sure who could put that together.

Chen’s novel on Tehching Hsieh and the problem of projects deserved more attention than I remember it receiving; it falls into the slim category of contemporary novels that I can imagine wanting to re-read.

july 1–15, 2023


  • Henry James, Daisy Miller
  • Henry James, Washington Square
  • Yukito Ayatsuji, The Decagon House Murders, translated by Ho-Ling Wong
  • Emmanuel Carrère, Yoga, trans. John Lambert
  • Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
  • Yukito Ayatsuji, The Mill House Murders, trans. Ho-Ling Wong
  • Monique Wittig, Les Guérillères, trans. David Le Vay
  • Ursula Le Guin, Dangerous People


  • Eating Raoul, directed by Paul Bartel
  • Washington Square, dir. Agnieszka Holland


  • “Sam Francis and Japan: Emptiness Overflowing,” LACMA
  • “Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond,” LACMA
  • “Afro-Atlantic Histories,” LACMA
  • “Light, Space, Surface: Selections from LACMA’s Collection,” LACMA
  • “Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa. Cantándole a las plantas,” Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín
  • “Luisebastián Sanabria. Temporada de eclipses,” Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín
  • “Nicolas Collins. Alcance largo,” Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín
  • “Débora Arango. República, 1948–1958,” Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín
  • “Versión libre. Sucesos en la Colección MAMM,” Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín
  • “Fragmentos del mundo,” Museo de Antioquia, Medellín

A lot of disconnected reading because of travel. I’d intended to re-read more Henry James, though I ended up distracted and things are a bit all over the place. I do think I’d last read Daisy Miller when I was a teenager: the idea of a teenager reading Henry James feels ludicrous, as so much of his work is clearly literature for the middle-aged. Predictably I felt antipathy for him when I was young; I can’t say that I love him now, or that I’m ever likely to love him, but I do appreciate him more now, and I think I’ll keep going on with the novellas, still procrastinating away from reading the late books.

I last read Northanger Abbey an astonishingly long time ago; on re-reading, it turned out that I remember very little accurate about it. I’d remembered it as a comedy on the perils of reading, a parody of the Mysteries of Udolpho; that’s in there, though that’s a small part of the book, and the rest was entirely unfamiliar to me, to the point where I wondered if I’d actually read it. The peril of re-reading is to realize how block-headed you were in the past.

In a similar spirit of rectification, I finally read Carrère’s Yoga, which I’d been putting off – his previous collection published in English hadn’t done very much for me, and this didn’t do much either. I did like his previous books, which always felt like they were going to drive off the rails, then straightened themselves out at the last possible moment. With the latest two, I feel like I’ve had too much of Carrère – perhaps it’s that so much of the autofiction is meta-autofiction, where the repercussions of publishing books in his life becomes the narrative (and, in the latest one, much is pointedly excluded from the book, which the reader is expected to know because Carrère is a celebrity. It feels like Carrère has exhausted his subject.

The Sam Francis show at LACMA isn’t particularly kind to him: the contemporary Japanese work that it presents as an influence on him (Gutai and otherwise) is more interesting that Francis’s work, and makes the viewer wish there were a whole show of that. 

june 16–30, 2023


  • Leonardo Sciascia, To Each His Own, translated by Adrienne Foulke
  • Robert Plunket, My Search for Warren Harding
  • Patrick Modiano, Scene of the Crime, trans. Mark Polizzotti
  • Henry James, The Aspern Papers
  • Thea Lenarduzzi, Dandelions
  • Nick Pinkerton, Goodbye, Dragon Inn
  • Rex Stout, Over My Dead Body
  • Dino Buzzati, The Stronghold, trans. Lawrence Venuti
  • Mitch Sisskind, Do Not Be a Gentleman When You Say Goodnight


  • Aprile, directed by Nanni Moretti
  • Il deserto rosso (Red Desert), dir. Michelangelo Antonioni
  • 不散 (Goodbye, Dragon Inn), dir. Tsai Ming-liang
  • They All Laughed, dir. Peter Bogdanovich
  • Daisy Miller, dir. Peter Bogdanovich

I made my way through most of Henry James’s novels a few years ago, leaving off after The Wings of the Dove, with The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl still outstanding. I keep meaning to go back, though it’s taken a while; rewatching Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating a few months ago, I found myself searching out the short stories behind that, and now I find myself going b

ack to James in general – his depictions of hapless Americans bumbling through Europe seem like they might be of consideration when so much of my life is spent around hapless Americans and Europeans bumbling through Asia – though how long I can keep up that enthusiasm is not clear to me; reading the New York Edition introduction to The Ambassadors might put anyone off of reading entirely. Lately I’ve been re-reading the shorter novels; the impetus for The Aspern Papers was Robert Plunket’s My Search for Warren Harding, a Charles Portis-y transposition of the plot of that book into Los Angeles in the early 1980s. Peter Bogdanovich’s filmed version of Daisy Miller – I hadn’t seen most of his work after Paper Moon – is almost slavishly faithful to the original, and loses something by that fidelity. They All Laughed is an odd mess, a picture of 1981 New York where everyone is listening to country music and rollerskating when they are not falling into bed with each other.

I’m glad there’s a new translation of Buzzati’s Il deserto dei Tartari; I can’t say that I care for the title – “The Tartar Steppe” is much more evocative – and I’m not sure that the translation seems to me like a marked improvement over the old one, though more versions are always better. NYRB has also reprinted Joseph Green’s translation of A Love Affair, which I don’t think I’ve read, though I might be forgetting things.

Fireflies Press’s short books on films are fantastic and beautifully produced; it took me a while to get around to reading Nick Pinkerton’s book on Goodbye, Dragon Inn, though it was worth the wait, a thoughtful consideration on the place of the theater in watching films. I should get a copy of Dennis Lim’s Tale of Cinema, which came out when I wasn’t paying attention.