Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


the year in reading 2016

Like last year, I'm unimpressed by the year-end best-of lists. And like last year, I've read a dozen books a month (closing in on 100 novels, and 24 books of poetry so far ...) from all over the map, over half in translation, with new incursions into Catalan and Korean (though oddly none yet from Dalkey Archive), and over half by authors I hadn't previously encountered. (And like last year, a gentle reminder that non-profit literary presses deserve your tax-deductible year-end support; I'm partial to Archipelago Books myself, but then I'm on the board.) Unlike last year, I've read more books by women (about a quarter of the total), and won't be opining on the Best Translated Book Awards until the longlist comes out at the end of March. Also unlike last year, I'll select the best reads of each month, and include an honorable mention as well, even as this does not by any means exhaust what was worthwhile*:

Jan: José Eduardo Agualusa, A General Theory of Oblivion (Daniel Hahn) [archipelago]: tight weave within the chaos of Angolan independence [MAO]
Richard Weiner, The Game for Real (Benjamin Paloff) [Two Lines]
Feb: Jack Cox, Dodge Rose [Dalkey] [3AM and (*spoilert*) a two part consideration]
Christos Ikonomou, Something Will Happen, You'll See (Karen Emmerich) [archipelago]
Mar: Sarah Howe, Loop of Jade [Chatto & Windus]: wow, some think overly precious but no allusion gratuitous or wasted, 1st debut Eliot Prize
Llorenç Villalonga, The Dolls' Room (Deborah Bonner) [Dalkey]
Apr: Ralph Cusack, Cadenza [Dalkey]: clinic on Irish yarn-spinning tangled in time and space (Sorrentino afterwords: "a stew of bewildering and impenetrable events, an inexpiicable 'cosmic joke.'" But that's life ...)
Raduan Nassar, A Cup of Rage (Stefan Tobler) [Penguin]
May: António Lobo Antunes, Fado Alexandrino (Gregory Rabassa) [Grove]: PTSD but P for Portuguese nothing Post- about it (and stress on disorder), thick interweave
Han Kang, Human Acts (Deborah Smith) [Portobello]
Jun: Ilja Leonard Pfeiffer, La Superba (Michele Hutchison) [Deep Vellum]: fantastic Genoa, expatriated, poet's pomo-novel; narrator overly bro in least successful of the subplotting, otherwise thumbs-up [MAO]
Robert Coover, The Origin of the Brunists [Grove]
Jul: Christine Brooke-Rose, Thru [Carcanet]: thru the Omnibus, which is to say thru with it, which is to say thru Thru, which I enjoyed the most of the bunch (whereas Between, least): the language semiotics of love and vice versa chiasmusically, and academonically, whodunnit recast as whoseddit, subriffing ... yes some flash and trash too but enough of it works ... Out was nouveau roman but with a difference, a difference that became clearer with Such; she knows how to work a conceit, and how to make you work for it. Between: tourism of simultaneous interpretation, traveling in style more than in substance
{goin' meta, M.A.Orthofer, The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction [Columbia] [my review]; so extra honorable mention next month ...}
Aug: Vladimir Sharov, Before and During (Oliver Ready) [Dedalus]: a bit of history with which I was unfamiliar til now and seemingly forgotten (til Sharov resurrects it) but still operative in the Russian psyche: Fyodorov and Cosmism [MAO]
Elias Khoury, Broken Mirrors: Sinalcol (Humphrey Davies) [archipelago]
Jung Young Moon, Vaseline Buddha (Yewon Jung) [Deep Vellum]
Sep: Pierre Reverdy, The Thief of Talant (Ian Seed) [Wakefield]: hybrid prose poetry, this is a keeper, if only surrealism had taken this track and knit itself as tightly I don't encounter much that demands a reread like this
Pascal Quignard, A Terrace in Rome (Douglas Penick and Charles Ré) [Wakefield]
Oct: Tomasz Różycki, Twelve Stations (Bill Johnston) [Zephyr]: convoluted comedic elegiac verse spanning 20c Poland from east to west and in retrograde [TQC oeuvreview]
Maja Haderlap, Angel of Oblivion (Tess Davis) [archipelago]
Nov: Iván Sándor, Legacy (Tim Wilkinson) [Peter Owen]: retracing the persisting end of 1944 Budapest, plumbing the murky depths of the past, memory, the unconscious ... and how the story comes together, or apart
Sergei Lebedev, Oblivion (Antonina W. Bouis) [New Vessel]
Dec: TBD Eliot Weinberger, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei: with more ways [NDP]: a must-read on poetry in translation (and each in isolation) [MAO]
Mina Loy, The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems (Roger L. Conover, ed) [FSG]: wow! modernism that Modernism wasn't ready for
(and special mention for John Kerrigan, Shakespeare's Binding Language [Oxford]: oaths & vows, Empsonically)

* (a full rendering of my reading in the usual unusual place)