Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


the year in the rest and the best of it

The prior two posts cover current fiction in translation and poetry, each of which accounted for a quarter of my reading overall (another quarter consisting of older translated fiction). Of the current fiction, Can Xue, Wolfgang Hilbig, Yuri Herrera, Jenny Erpenbeck, and Antonios di Benedetto and Tabbuchi all met high expectations, even if not their best; so too with Pierre Senges and Antoine Volodine (perhaps at their best), but Samanta Schweblin's Fever Dream and Olga Tokarczuk's Flights surpassed even their raves. Of the poetry, in English, Tyehimba Jess' Olio was the standout, edging out Monica Youn's Blackacre (and reading Berryman's Dream Songs in proximity didn't hurt, nor broader background), and in translation, Luljeta Lleshanaku's Haywire.

Other readings that exceeded high expectations:
Christa Wolf, Cassandra (Jan Van Heurck) [FSG] brilliant in concept and execution, the essays following more interesting than most critiques
Mike McCormack, Solar Bones [Soho] the hour or day of reckoning
the latter my first exposure; other authors who've I'd not encountered and who impressed include Tarjei Vesaas (The Ice Palace, The Birds) and Tor Ulven (Replacement) (both overcoming my aversion to scandifiction), Antonio Moresco (Distant Light), Yiyun Li (The Vagrants) ...

... and from The Bookshelf of Good Intentions: James Joyce, Finnegans Wake [Penguin]: must say something, what I said along the way:
(after part I): funny how a book of such reputation hinges largely upon reputation; and speaking of gossip and such, such modalities: he do the puhleeze in different joyces; I knew going in it was circular but it's more matryoshka without an outside, everything nested within everything else
(after part 2): many a novel throw one into the middle right off but few manage to keep one in the muddle the whole way thru
(and once the whole way thru) (with the prop of Campbell & Robinson's Skeleton Key, which was the Baedecker at hand, not so much an analysis as a gloss, but all such inadequate anyway to the multischema underlying; also appreciate Anthony Burgess' appreciation in ReJoyce), my first take is closest to that of Waggish (except that I put in weeks rather than months) (cf further reflections), and might elaborate further that the collisions are inelastic, everything holds together because it sticks together, whether at the level of portmanteau words or twisting turns of phrase (both of which along with the musicality serves to slow one down) or semiotectonics or modes and registers or architexture ... could say more about the chaotic neurotic indeterminancy and humor but it's still settling, unsettled ... and I have a substantive disagreement with one characterization, though I'm no expert: Joyce doesn't create a universe, he recycles the one we got (same with the language) ... on musicality, Skeleton Key and ilk may be thought fake books, but then so too the Wake itself to an even larger music (which also plays into encyclopaediac aspect).

And even with all this I'm leaving out some worthies, so: the year's full reading list


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