I’ve been a very slow reader lately. Some of these were sitting in piles for weeks, half-read.
May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks
The short stories in this collection feel like like they were meant to be told out loud to groups of people. Many are just a page or two. They alternate between surreal and mundane in a natural way because there is a constant thread of loneliness that never leaves.
Out by Natsuo Kirino
H O L Y S H I T is all I can say.
Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
Strings Too Short to Use was the story that interested me the most and I wanted more of, but Moore spends the most time on The Nun of That instead, which didn’t interest me so much. I do love the overall idea that these characters are the same yet different, with the same names but then with the details rearranged in a different light—except you realize that things don’t change that much after all.
Plus there’s this line: How can she say that she has begun to think that all writing about art is simply language playing so ardently with itself that it goes blind?
Bluets, Jane (a murder), The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson
I want to press a copy of The Art of Cruelty into the hands of everyone I know. It is easily some of the best criticism written in the past ten years. Maggie Nelson is scary-smart and omnivorous and big-hearted and sharp-tongued and brave and never flinches when she writes about anything difficult. I don’t quite understand how she does it but I believe in her and I would follow her anywhere.
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
You’re a chump if you don’t read this book.
Speedboat by Renata Adler
I wonder whether this or Out was the more brutal book. People aren’t murdered or chopped into pieces in Adler’s New York but they do get shuffled around meaninglessly. They aren’t anyone you know and the narrator is unreliable to the last. I know a lot of people’s entry into this book was how the hyper-fast fragmented style was supposed to mirror contemporary media consumption or something? but the whole time I was thinking these people lived on Mars, they are Martians whose feelings all evaporated.
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, w/Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Ballad of the Sad Café, The Member of the Wedding
I didn’t like Carson McCullers as much this time around. I already read The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter before but this was the first time I tackled any of her other novels. She is always at her best when writing from the POV of tumultuous young girls.
Madness & Civilization by Michel Foucault
If I said I wasn’t bored at times while reading this, I’d be lying. Though, I can see how Foucault’s approach was revolutionary. Reading it now, especially, is so strange. No one talks about the broader social and historical aspects of madness these days; the focus is on the intensely personal or the medical. You can trace the walls being erected through this narrative. I do think a lot of his ideas are crucial and have even shaped the way I think about culture, but I’m not sold on him as a writer.
Dangerous Muse: The Life of Lady Caroline Blackwood by Nancy Schoenberger
Caroline Blackwood first caught my attention in the painting Girl in Bed. I then heard she was an aristocrat and writer and bohemian who was, of course, known for marrying famous artists and because I have this thing about reading the biographies of women who are mythologized as muses to figure out what they were really doing I picked up this book and for the most part was entertained.