Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


2019 wrap-up

I've not had a lot to say this year, and won't say as much about my reading as in past years: I've managed two books a week (and so over 100 for the year), of which a third were poetry, a third translated novels, and the rest split fairly evenly between novels in english, short stories, and nonfiction of various stripes.

There seems to be a resurgence in short stories these days; just about half of Archipelago Books' offerings this year are in that category. The Tabucchi, selected from prior Archipelago and New Directions collections, will be the go-to book henceforth, and Vladislavić's early stories exceeded expectations, but there's also a lot newly in translation: the singular Uhart, and the still-to-be-read Onetti, Ambai, and Ikonomou. McPherson put me on to Robert Kelly's unreplicatable experiments in prose, while Song Cave brought new Raymond Roussel and Charco Margarita Garcia Robayo's Fish Soup.

In longer prose, this year's stand-out in english is Anne Burns' Milkman [Graywolf]; and late to the party, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's Kintu [Transit]; for some reason I'd been giving African literature in English short shrift, no longer. In translation, the usual suspects (Daša Drndić, Can Xue, Laszlo Krasznahorkai) were all solid but not at their best, but Dubravka Ugresic's Fox [Open Letter] is top of her game. Some writers new to me also scored high (June was a particularly good month-of-the-book) (also, Lina Meruane's Seeing Red [Deep Vellum]).

I'm still filling gaps in my poetry reading, this year finding a lot of headliners good-but-not-great (Jorie Graham, Rita Dove, Amiri Baraka, Natasha Trethewy, Charles Simic (though his renderings of Vasko Popa [nyrb/poets] are not to be missed)), but found The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks [LoA/American Poets Project] to be essential indeed. Surprisingly, it was poetry in translation that most stood out (see Adam Mickiewicz below): Prévert & Eluard [Black Widow] and Giorgio de Chirico from the Italian [A Public Space] and the surrealist-inflected Miltos Sachtouris (Karen Emmerich, cf) [Archipelago], and as always Chinese classical via David Hinton and David Young, and current via Zephyr. Another stand-out won the BTBA 10 years back, Elena Fanailova's The Russian Version [Ugly Duckling].

As always, the blow-by-blow is available at The Fictional Woods.