2023: exile from goodreads

KeskusteluClub Read 2023

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

2023: exile from goodreads

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 18, 2:42 pm


The Sluts
Concrete and Woodcutters*
Battles in the Desert
The Plains*
Brontez Purnell
Robert Walser*
Beyond Shame
Albert Angelo*
Sojourn and Afternoon Raag*
Sweet Days of Discipline
Actual Air
About a quarter of Emily Dickinson's output *
I've got a probably nine-deep poetry collection rotation that I'm still gradually working through.
Washington Square
*= actively intend to explore more from this author this year

What Purpose Did I Serve in Your Life
Bad Sex

Nana or Pot Luck
Something by Wharton, likely House of Mirth
Something by Delany
Something by Lispector
The rest of Dickinson
The Australian Ugliness
Exercises in Style
At least 10 poetry collections by distinct authors
The Pity of War
Fish Story

tammikuu 6, 12:57 pm

First book was Digging Up Mother. I'm trying to adjust to going back to work and trying to get back into the habit of reading, so I wanted something that felt nice and smooth on my brain before I started the sojourn into things of greater substance/things that I started when I was more lucid. I'm conceptually interested in reading contemporary comic novels, but it seems like everything out there is a book of essays about going to a top 25 American university and then writing for an NBC sitcom, with only Norm MacDonald transcending the genre (though I have d*wnl**d*d Pryor Convictions and I've got hope for that). I want Swartzwelder's work to be more engaging than I seem to find it, however, that might be on me rather than on him. Bukowskian as it may be, this was a fun read. I found the earlier sections particularly compelling -- the boundless cruelty of the low inhibition juvenile delinquent being needlessly used against a well-meaning parent is something I have always enjoyed. Stanhope has a strong style but has a tendency to veer into descriptions which I wouldn't call "flowery" but are certainly "overtagged" in a way that can put me off. The mother-son relationship which grounds the book is compelling and provides an effective frame. It does leave me wanting for a more constant detached perspective, but also, what am I expecting from this? It's good, it's exactly what I expected, it was worth my time.

tammikuu 6, 1:39 pm

>1 slimeboy: I read By Night in Chile last year, my first Bolaño. I'd been intimidated by the larger and more violent, 2666. Maybe someday...

>2 slimeboy: Last year I also read Trevor Noah's memoir about growing up in South Africa called Born a Crime. Have you read that? It's not always funny, but I thought it was excellent.

tammikuu 6, 2:41 pm

>3 labfs39: You gotta try out The Return or Nazi Literature in the Americas -- I liked all of the shorter stuff of his I've read more than Savage Detectives (perhaps controversially). 2666 isn't particularly "impenetrable," it's just long and there are a lot of great angles to explore. Like, I feel that returning to 2666 for a second, more critical read would be significantly easier than returning to the Savage Detectives, just because there are so many threads that you can follow.
I've not read the Trevor Noah book -- I think I may need to teach it in the future, so stay tuned.

tammikuu 6, 5:04 pm

>4 slimeboy: I would definitely like to try something else by him, it just won't be this year as I'm up to my ears in the African Novel Challenge. Dan/dchaikin and I read By Night in Chile together as a buddy read. It was helpful to have someone with whom to bounce ideas around.

tammikuu 7, 6:44 pm

Happy to see you have a thread going. I'll follow along. I enjoyed By Night in Chile. It was difficult but playful. I've also read his first novel, published posthumously, The Third Reich, which I found oddly terrific. But I have ready his better known tomes.

tammikuu 10, 3:49 pm

Second book was Beauty Salon, which was very quick and I was able to read while sitting in the cell phone provider waiting room. I like stories where a particular space is paid a meditative, prolonged focus -- The Plains and parts of Woman in the Dunes jump into my mind as key examples of this -- and Bellatin's beauty salon most certainly exists in that space. In all of those books, human characters (narrators and otherwise) feel more like property of the space. Here, there's a sort of equation of "space" and "disease" which is theoretically interesting but I think in the case of AIDS art may be better achieved through character-driven work. There's a strong allusion to Cortazar's "Axolotl" which merits greater exploration, shoving Blow-Up and Other Stories -- a book I started and then ended up abandoning as a result of a mouse infestation years back -- higher on my list for this year. Maybe Puig merits a visit as well? We'll see where we go. I might need to mellow out when I see the roads forking, but Libgen is a kind of hypomanic trigger.

tammikuu 10, 6:04 pm

>7 slimeboy: Sand was practically a character in Woman in the Dunes.

tammikuu 11, 10:12 pm

I like stories where a particular space is paid a meditative, prolonged focus - sometimes, me too. I mean, when they work for me, they're wonderful. I do really like how you phrased that.

tammikuu 13, 2:23 pm

>9 dchaikin: What are your top picks for "space" books?

tammikuu 13, 2:36 pm

Hmm. I’ll need to think about that question

tammikuu 13, 3:00 pm

>10 slimeboy: If I can give an answer to that question, I would say that of the books I read last year, these had the most sense of place:

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh (the Sundarbans)
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (western Japan)

In 2021,
Woman in the Dunes, which you mentioned
Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov (Kyrgyz steppe)

tammikuu 14, 1:24 pm

>12 labfs39: Snow Country is a great call, and I totally agree with that assessment. I flagged The Hungry Tide and Jamilia for future exploration.

tammikuu 14, 1:38 pm

#3 was Cherry. I was curious about the mythos of the late Giancarlo DiTrapano. Pretty standard post-alt lit/Carver-synod MFA stuff. Kid goes to Iraq, returns, develops an opioid addiction. Violent feedback loop section followed by druggy feedback loop section. Unremarkable style begets unremarkable substance. I find myself delving into this alt lit/MFA extended universe whenever I'm at the beginning of a good reading streak -- rocket boosters falling into the ocean, depleted of fuel -- but man, they really do nothing for me. I'm extending this streak with Crapalachia, which seems to be characterized with this cohort but is already much, much better.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 15, 10:16 am

Hi Exile,

I pursued your question a bit. I looked at by 2023 reading and actually most books try to give a particular space some meditative, prolonged focus, but they aren't all as effective. It became, for me, a question of degree. How much did they manage to do this successfully? I read 64 books last year, and 11 did this to a decent degree of success. (I'm not counting the four-part Anniversaries, which really does this for an object - the NY Times). Here's my list:

The Colony by Audrey Magee - maybe the best, focuses on a fictional small island with a handful of people
Middlemarch by George Eliot - 1830's midlands
Summer by Edith Wharton - small town Massachusetts, roughly the first decade of the 1900's
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley - Oakland impoverished
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith - Botswana
The File On H. by Ismail Kadare - 1930's Albanian countryside
Persuasion by Jane Austen - early 1800's Sumerset
El Llano Estacado : Exploration and Imagination on the High Plains of Texas and New Mexico, 1536-1860 by John Miller Morris
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - 1850's Manchester
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi - 1980's Iran
An Island by Karen Jennings - fictional contemporary African island

I like the Island bookends. If I were to recommend one for place, I might go with The Colony, well, you know, if you were asking right now. It might change later.

tammikuu 15, 10:15 am

>15 dchaikin: I'll definitely check out The Colony. I've only read Summer of this lot, and I'd agree strongly with you. I think that Edith Wharton's work does a great job of illustrating what I do and don't mean. As with Snow Country and The Plains, the "placedness" that I took away from Summer is very much tied to a communal feeling/understanding of what the setting is rather than the literal setting and context itself. When I read think about the sense of place in that book, I think about how particular details -- the library in disrepair, the emptiness of the town, plant overgrowth, the sort of pervasive immobility -- converge into this sort of humid August placidity that also exists outside of small town Massachusetts, but feels immediately recognizable regardless (something like Jonathan Richman's "That Summer Feeling" approximates this, though obviously that takes a more sinister turn in Wharton). The effect is almost like a close first-person plural -- "you, like us, agree that now feels like this". This is at contrast with something like The Custom of the Country, where the sense of place derives from the depth of detail and specificity of all the individual details converging to create an exhaustive sense of place. I tend to be more immediately drawn to the Summer types, but I get a lot out of the Custom of the Country types.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 15, 10:29 am

>14 slimeboy: Hmm yeah, I had a copy of Cherry and lent it out and haven't felt a strong desire to follow up about getting it back. I can always library it up if I feel its lack in my life.

I also like books that meditate on place, particularly when that's not the focus of the book (such as a nature or particular city narrative). I'll have to think about what that means in my reading.

tammikuu 15, 10:28 am

Summer was a terrific read. I really enjoyed it. And i love what you have to say about the aspect of place. I read both Summer and Custom of the Country last year and they’re still both fresh. CotC does have a sense of different places, but I think it’s more settings for Undine than a meditation on place. I’m mulling over the idea that ”the sense of place derives from the depth of detail and specificity of all the individual details converging to create an exhaustive sense of place.” Its odd that the Italian village where her new husband sees poetry in the trees stands out far stronger in my memory than Paris. And New York is a place that mostly happens inside homes and an office. for me there is an atmosphere of a time and some places that comes out of it. But Undine’s needs, her commentary on priorities and financials-over-all-else, predominates in my own head over all that.

I really like your post. They are two completely different literary things, and from the same author and in (or nearly in?) sequence. She was doing a lot of things at once.

tammikuu 18, 11:00 am

>18 dchaikin: "Atmosphere of a time" is a good way of putting it, yes! This is tangential, but whenever I think about CotC the first thing I think about is how the narrator describes the experience of turning on electric lights.

tammikuu 18, 11:14 am

>19 slimeboy: i don’t remember that passage ☺️

tammikuu 18, 1:25 pm

As discussed earlier, #4 is Crapalachia, which I liked more than I was anticipating. The depth of McClanahan's sympathy for his characters (particularly the narrator's uncle with cerebral palsy) is central to the book in a way that reminds me of Carson McCullers. I liked the handling of local histories, death, and the landscape -- they all converge into this truly merciless sense of inevitability ("intertia" feels too conquerable a term and "fatalism" feels like it requires a greater burden of recognition by the characters -- it is felt, it is known, but everyone tries their best to not voice it). After a brief Google Scholar perusal, I'm sort of surprised no one has written about this book in conversation with Hillbilly Elegy? Seems ripe for that for fairly obvious reasons -- the different ways their respective authors deal with leaving and returning to the region and particular negotiations of dignity/sympathy/empathy are two topics I think would broadly merit some kind of scholarly engagement.
My main hesitance to approach this initially had to do with McClanahan being oft-recognized as a key alt lit figure. After I got about a third of a way in, a friend explained to me that McClanahan's adjacency to the alt lit scene of the early 2010's had more to do with the general online social scene than any sort of aesthetic linkage, and thank God for that. Outside of its status as an autofiction text and some line-break styling (who among us doesn't have page counts to hit, after all?), this book is not significantly impacted by this influence, or at least manages to shave off many of the sharper edges of the "twee id" aesthetic. I do think that McClanahan could afford to take more stylistic risks, though -- he has strong narrative instincts and clearly understands what makes for compelling characters, but his prose is plainspoken in a way that leaves something to be desired. I'll be continuing with The Sarah Book and/or Hill William sometime in the future.

tammikuu 18, 1:58 pm

I haven’t read Scott McClanahan, but I’m intrigued by the ways you analyze him. Hillbilly Elegy is pa book I like less and less the more I think about it.

tammikuu 21, 12:49 pm

Finished Black Postcards last night. My main takeaway was that it appears two of the members of Galaxie 500 may have been taught by Jeffery Epstein at the Dalton School. Otherwise, it feels like a treatment for a bloated Whit Stilman movie about Dean Wareham -- something I would be more than happy to watch but I would absolutely understand if someone else violently hated. Interesting insights into the music industry, fun gossip, a nice book for filling in the negative space of your day.

tammikuu 21, 1:11 pm

I think i would enjoy a bloated Whit Stilman movie. 🙂 (I’m still trying to convince my daughter she should watch Barcelona)

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 21, 10:53 pm

>23 slimeboy: Black Postcards was a pandemic buy of mine—your review sounds like about what I would expect, so I'm still looking forward to it. Bloated Whit Stillman, ha... an old high school friend of mine was in Metropolitan and Barcelona.

tammikuu 22, 7:33 am

>25 lisapeet: Please tell me it's Chris Eigeman.

tammikuu 22, 11:14 am

>26 slimeboy: The one and only.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 22, 12:22 pm

An old high school friend! That’s really cool, Lisa.

tammikuu 22, 4:06 pm

>27 lisapeet: Absurd! His performance in Kicking and Screaming is an all-timer for me. Any classic high school CE stories?

tammikuu 22, 11:08 pm

Nah, not much to tell. He was a very nice guy, fun to hang out with and a good dry sense of humor. And not messed up, which was definitely not necessarily a given in that place.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 23, 4:11 am

>16 slimeboy: The effect is almost like a close first-person plural -- "you, like us, agree that now feels like this".

Greetings! I've just found your thread and have enjoyed reading through the conversations. The comment I've quoted here made me think of (though I think in a different way than what you mean precisely) the Danish novel We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen, in which a Danish seaport is in many ways the primary character in a story told over several generations of mariners. The town moving through time is the nucleus of the narrative.

tammikuu 23, 9:03 am

>30 lisapeet: Love to hear about someone in the public eye acting like a completely normal person -- a rarity these days, it feels.
>31 rocketjk: Thanks for the recommendation! I'm intending to read Fish Story this year, and this may be an interesting companion piece.

tammikuu 24, 8:15 am

Just finished The Hole, another very quick one. Some great images -- the narrator's trek from her home to 7-11 in nasty summer heat in particular sat well with me. The corporate convenience store as key community center in an atomized area is something I find very compelling, and it's dealt with here in a fittingly quaint manner. There are now rap videos that are shot entirely in superstores. The author's rather unsubtle commentary on domesticity/work culture served its purposes but isn't something I'm really going to be carrying with me in any meaningful way. A friend recommended this one due to my love for Kobo Abe, and while I would probably not recommend it on those grounds, it's certainly got its charms. I wouldn't say this is "underdeveloped" on the whole -- as Oyamada clearly has narrative and aesthetic reasons for avoiding particular conversations between characters which would necessarily happen in, say, Henry James -- but I do think there were cop-outs which were needlessly limiting. Still, I will continue with Oyamada and check out The Factory.

tammikuu 29, 11:48 am

Finished Chemical Pink a day or two ago. I was really pleased with this book, which I heard about in an interview with Alissa Nutting. It's very graphic and cartoonish in a way that might put off many people, but there's a lot being done with topics and concepts pertinent to the online discussions going on today re: body image/pornography/fetish/bodybuilding culture/tessellating power dynamics which I think merits further engagement. The characters are generally pretty two-dimensional in a way that works for the purposes of the story and for what I wanted to get out of it -- which was mostly figuring out how the author was going to play with these extremes of physicality and abjection (more the former than the latter). The emotional/moral core of the story (i.e. the daughter's subplot) felt compulsory and could have had just been morphed into a much fuller storyline about the daughter's adjustment to California. Arnoldi clearly has the right instincts to make a plot like that work exceedingly well, but it seemed that she wanted to stick the landing rather than write something bloated -- an admirable instinct in the world of the contemporary first novel. I had a great time with this one.

tammikuu 29, 4:57 pm

>34 slimeboy: Interesting. Enjoyed your review I’m not familiar with the a book or author… or really the topic. So it would be all new to me.

tammikuu 30, 9:32 am

>35 dchaikin: It's definitely not for everyone, but if you're interested, it moves rather nicely.

helmikuu 6, 11:00 am

I'm working through a few different things right now (primarily short story collections), but I did a quick detour through Springfield Confidential at some point last week. More about the life and times of Mike Reiss than anything, which I wasn't mad about (particularly as a fan of "The Critic"). I view this as a sublimation of my desire to like the fiction of John Swartzwelder more -- his craft is impeccable and while I love genre parody in an absolute-value sense, I don't generally like genre fiction? What I really want is for Swartzwelder to parody, like, Theodore Dreiser. Anyway, to the original point, this book is probably worth it if you're a fan of the Simpsons and can read it in two hours or less (if you're on this website, that's probably you).

helmikuu 7, 4:28 pm

Finished Normal People. I just pushed through the last two-thirds over the past day and a half -- a grand anthropological dirge. I can only really talk about this in terms of television, because that's really what it demands. It feels like some sort of Netflix-reconstructed (re: bland and aggressively digital-looking) version of Gilmore Girls without the "snappy" or "precocious" (or "irritating," which is a fair opinion to have) Gen-X dialogue and without that show's actually interesting engagement with class/generational difference and their negotiations. This is clearly popular because it contends to be for adults but is actually for teens -- the dialogue is flat, the characters are unambitious, any sort of description of scenery or action barely registers, the action of the book is "will they/won't they" Degrassi drama and no character has the interiority to really help that drama feel worth engaging with. The descriptions of class anxiety feel like a last-minute interjection added in the margins by someone in freshman composition -- "show, don't tell" certainly applies here. The aspect of this book that I find particularly puzzling is its sex-negativity. This isn't uncharted water in the grander "media aimed at millennial women" universe -- "Girls" does an excellent job of engaging with these types of questions -- but how what I can very loosely and hesitantly describe as "kink" is engaged with is moralistic in a way that feels retrograde. That's not a minus for me in and of itself, but the way Rooney approaches these scenes lacks nuance, physicality, and agency -- they're astonishingly one-dimensional. Didn't get it!

helmikuu 7, 5:39 pm

I don't intend to read the book the book, but I really enjoyed your review.

helmikuu 7, 7:18 pm

>39 baswood: I appreciate that and I fully encourage you in your avoiding this trash.

helmikuu 7, 10:02 pm

Yeah, what Bas said. I really enjoy your perspective, in general, but especially on that book.

helmikuu 8, 3:43 pm

Finished the last two stories of The Ballad of the Sad Cafe today. An endless well of love and mercy -- I can't wait to continue into her works (and revisit "Wunderkind"), as I owe her a more complete going-over. Does anyone have a Annemarie Schwarzenbach recommendation?

helmikuu 9, 2:52 pm

Hi, saw your question about Herriman's bio in another thread--no, I haven't read it, and thank YOU for bringing it to my attention. I have a twitchy relationship to bios and similar, in general avoiding them, but in Herriman's case I'd love to learn more about the enigmas of Krazy.

helmikuu 11, 9:39 am

>43 LolaWalser: I'm not LW but following the conversation because I'm a huge Krazy Kat fan—for many years of my early life if you'd asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, the answer would have been "cartoonist," and I had pretty sophisticated tastes even as a kid (and yes, Pogo, as well as '60s/'70s underground comix, were huge influences). I was actually an illustration major as an undergrad, back in a distant time.

I've had Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White on my shelf forever, and actually this would be a great year to get to it. What makes it a great year for that book I don't know, just a little gut twinge that says YES THIS, but that's enough.

helmikuu 11, 4:06 pm

>44 lisapeet: I started Krazy but I haven't picked it up in a minute. A lot of interesting/hilarious things about the world of early 20th century cartooning and newspapers, but the author's style felt much drier than the subject matter warranted. I'm a big fan of that world as well/had similar aspirations in early youth -- very sad to hear about the recent passing of Aline Crumb whose body of work is pretty shockingly underrated -- any hot comix recommendations that I may have missed?

helmikuu 18, 12:11 pm

Finished How to Be Gay and It's Not Easy Bein' Me over the last week-ish. The former I had been stopping and starting for a couple months -- Halperin engages with particular objects of analysis at great lengths, and it's sometimes better to re-approach the book with fresh eyes just to have a Joan Crawford breather. Still, a comprehensive and accessible analysis of gay male aesthetic/identification/culture/patterns of cultural transmission. Halperin is very funny and cutting when he wants to be, too. Probably worth your time if you're a gay literature generalist.
The latter is a book by Rodney Dangerfield, so the astute LT-er can likely come to their own conclusions with that one. I enjoyed it as a thing to run one's eyes over. The most compelling takeaway was that Rodney made a movie called "My Five Wives" inspired by his marriage to a Mormon woman. As a general rule, I loathe watching movies, except the violently Sandlerian ("Boner Creek II") or those by Michael Haneke. Todd Solondz splits the difference.

maaliskuu 1, 1:18 pm

Finally/mercifully having a relatively low-volume work day. I finished another of Doug Stanhope's books which I probably needn't go into and Vox. I will definitely check out The Mezzanine on the strength of Baker's style in this book -- he does do a good job of focusing on particular tactile details in particular (the "blanket" arc in particular) that I thought was distinctive and compelling. At the same time, there's a very affected-but-undercomitted desire to "play with language" (ex. "strum") that and the "chipped beef and olive oil" arc in particular has a certain proto-cheuginess to it that engages a "Home Improvement"-inflected erotics that I find distracting. Clearly a very talented writer, clearly someone I should explore further, this was not the best vehicle for him.

maaliskuu 1, 2:26 pm

>45 slimeboy:

Oh dear, that's the first I hear about Aline Crumb. Frankly never expected her to go before Robert. Pancreatic cancer--what a bitch.

>47 slimeboy:

It's been ages, but I recall loving Baker back when. Great sense of humour.

maaliskuu 30, 11:20 am

I am well overdue for an update -- though I continue to circulate through a rotation of books (The Fermata; Gore Capitalism; Outline; a host of short story collections that I'm hopping in and out of), I finished Fish Story, Jesus' Son, and Stay True. As expected by my initial viewing of Sekula's work at the contemporary art museum in Athens, there's much to chew on and ponder here -- its offer of a postmodern realism really made me reconsider my reading of Commons from last year -- perhaps already ripe for a reread; I am an excitable prole re: thinking through any sort of "serious" visual art, so even the basest theoretical discussions relating to painting are a joy (please recommend me literally anything on this front); thinking the shipping container/ports/the ocean compelled me to download a bunch of Melville, who I desperately owe. Jesus' Son has its moments -- the last story I found particularly compelling, but I did think that aspects of its sparsity felt phoned in. This might be a beef created through seeing Johnson's style getting jacked too much, though. I enjoyed Stay True because the author was an unbearable 18 year old much in the same way that I was an unbearable 18 year old, and is really doing his best to outrun that on the page. Does he succeed? Not really, and I appreciate that. Is it going to, like, change your life? Probably not.

maaliskuu 30, 1:15 pm

>49 slimeboy: Is it going to, like, change your life? Probably not.
Maybe not, but it made for an enjoyable capsule review. As far as theoretical discussions relating to painting, I should have more of these at hand than I do... I think I tend to read more about individual artists rather than art theory, having left my art school days in my past and behind a veil of smoke. One book that I really want to read soon, though, is John Berger's Ways of Seeing. It's not exactly universally loved, but I've heard enough opinion about it to pique my interest.

maaliskuu 30, 5:15 pm

>50 lisapeet: Good point -- I've got that one downloaded, actually! I'll check it out.