For the first time in my life I kept a list of every book I completed this year. I’m not sure why I did it. I was finishing grad school. I probably wanted something to show for it. And, sure, I had phantom visions of putting together a list such as the one that follows.
These are the books I completed. I’ve left off all the false starts and abandonments and in-progresses. Some of these books deserve more than a few sentences, and while I’ve written about a few of them elsewhere, I’ll leave the true criticism to more focused attempts. This is an overview, written with the hopes of sharing my year in reading, and of sharing a few names, and of sharing some thoughts on a few names that require no sharing.
*Read about books 11 through 20 here.
21. I Remember by Joe Brainard
Read Autoportrait instead, if your time is limited. Brainard came first but Levé evolved the whole disjointed, declarative list thing. I got worn out reading this book, I remember that. I liked when he would remember something I could not possibly remember because it doesn’t exist anymore. I’m thinking specifically of media or clothing. It’s short and enjoyable.
22. The Grass Harp by Truman Capote
Some kids and some adults hide out in a tree house and the town gets upset about it. People seem to be way angrier than they should be. Some folks in the tree house find love. This book should have been a Disney movie. Maybe it was, I don’t know.
23. Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things by Glibert Sorrentino
Someone puts a candle inside their partner and lights it. This book is mesmerizing and frustrating. Watching people dismantle their own writing isn’t as fun as it used to be.
24. Galaxies by Barry Malzberg
God damn, Barry Malzberg. Where did he come from? Why don’t more people care? I came to him as late as possible, 2012. Malzberg’s been around for…what….fifty years? It’s just brilliant sci-fi. It’s just brilliant. He wrote porn, too, and that’s all in there. Can’t escape some nipple descriptions here and there, along with the spaceship rapidly descending into a black hole while the dead try to convince the ship’s only operator to just let it fall.
25. Beyond Apollo by Barry Malzberg
I got on a kick. This is still my favorite Malzberg so far. He’s funny and dark and someone much smarter than me will write a great piece about him soon. It is a frustrating experience finding a writer you really love.
26. It Was Like My Trying to Have a Tender-Hearted Nature
by Diane Williams
I read this on the roof with my sleeves up. I remember something about an affair with the neighbor. Diane Williams is unparalleled. This has a novella in it, and I want to see what she could do with a novel.
27. The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq
Where did this guy come from and how is he so popular? Or, better yet, how have I not heard of him before now? An aesthete and a scientist are half-brothers, I think, and they live their lives making messes and improvements. They book is actually sort of sci-fi, in a way. And delightfully pornographic. Not unlike Malzberg
28. The Falling Astronauts by Barry Malzberg
Yup. More Malzberg. I came across a whole trove of old Malzberg when I was in Denton, TX, for some reason. I read the books in a green leather chair. I grew up in that chair. My dog was collapsed on the floor nearby. Malzberg is simply fun to read. This book is exciting. It fizzles before it booms. Reading it, I started to feel like Malzberg must be incredibly sad some of the time. I wonder if it’s a thing people ask about, or if he hides it, or if he has people close to him who know all about it.
29. Black Hole by Charles Burns
Probably should have read this earlier. I read it in Prague this summer. I had just got engaged and the books were a gift for her. I devoured them. Charles Burns keeps it the good kind of weird: scary, compelling, beautiful, strange, familiar. Kids go through a lot in this book. A lot we don’t know enough about. That’s the killer thing. Burns knows when to keep us in the dark. He knows what to show and what to hide.
30. Lanzarote by Michel Houellebecq
So Michel Houellebecq decided to write an article for some journal about traveling to a resort and then he got bored or couldn’t so he made it into a little fart of a novella. I don’t know if any of that is true, except for the fart part. Read this book if you have a few hours to spare in Prague or whatever.