Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


2022 reading

2022 was marked by a bounty of highly anticipated books, which by and large (some larger than others) did not disappoint ... so, looking back on looking forward:

the cinderblocks:

Luis Goytisolo, Antagony (Brendan Riley) [Dalkey]: making of the writer and of the writing; past impinges on present (and vice versa), especially familial (in decline) and childhood, in bourgeois provincial Catalonia, Franco bracketed (and replaced by early neoliberalism); high degree of difficulty (exacerbated by having read first half 3 years back); most important release of the year, revitalized Sp/Cat literature.

Mircea Cărtărescu, Solenoid (Sean Cotter) [Deep Vellum]: I'd been waiting for this since while he was writing it: saw him at McNally Jackson in 2013, touring for Blinding, and in Q&A brought up some of the esoteric maths he'd employed (even before then he'd described his writing as fractalic), he responded that in what he was then engaged in these became more central. I was expecting more in the way of fractals (and fractional dimensions) and chaos theory (strange attractors) but had to recalibrate once into the text. Much more on a fourth dimension mostly spatial ... with ruminations suggesting Rubik's tesseract (in college a mandatory Eng Comp class set a task to describe an object, any object, so of course I expounded on the tesseract), otherwise nods to other maths, but that's not really the point, more on modes of escape ...While a continuation and elaboration of prior writings, there's a lot more going on, investment in surreality and dreams (initially I was reminded of Michal Ajvaz, whose Empty Streets (Andrew Oakland) [Dalkey] I caught up with earlier), driven by existential and physical fear and pain (and attendant madnesses), childhood trauma (not to mention dentistry, in which I've had to indulge lately), set in the physical and psychical ruins of Bucharest under Ceaușescu (some have compared Solenoid to Adam Buenosayres, similarly city-centred). Also, we're talking alternative autofiction here; and, for purportedly anti-literature, there's sure a lot of literary tropes in play. For all that, tis a baggy beast on stilts, but it carries you along, willingly or no. But ... Blinding was fresher, and this will respark interest.

Jon Fosse, Septology (Damion Searls) [Fitzcarraldo]: waited for the single-volume version, tho there's nothing singly voluminous in the whole (starting with a double [at least] portrait of the artist), no person, not even God, or the play of the light ... it can be a bit much; can be seen as in dialogue with My Struggle Knausgaard, sole cover blurber ... sparse reveals buried under text mountain.

Olga Tokarczuk, The Books of Jacob (Jennifer Croft) [Riverhead]: big'n'baggy but not sloggy, no thread unstitched; best o'the bricks, weird (intended or not) resonance with 20c Jacob Taubes.

Halldór Laxness, Salka Valka (Philip Roughton) [archipelago]: the first part, Thou, Pure Grapevine, in the insularity of a remote village, shone; the second part, Birds on the Shore, brings the world in, to lesser effect satirically and otherwise.

the rest:

Laszlo Krasznahorkai, A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, A River to the East (Ottolie Mulzet) [NDP]: visit to monastery on Kyoto outskirts; been waiting a long time for this, worth the wait, LK at most lyrical; other New Directions offerings this year, Chasing Homer & Spadework for a Palace (John Batki), kinda slight.

Hermann Burger, Brenner (Adrian Nathan West) [archipelago]: multithreading past and present (no future) even within paragraphs, playing off preconceptions of Proust antiliterarily, and to cigars what Moby-Dick is to cetology (speaking of which ...)

Pierre Senges, Ahab (Sequels) (Jacob Siefring & Tegan Raleigh) [Contra Mundum]: a meta-picaresque, as meta as it gets, in (too) many directions, or dimensions, a send-up on culture (or what passes for it in America) (and elsewhere), playing to the crowd of the very few in its excesses, and for the most part (barely) getting away with it ... variations on a theme exhaustive and exhausting, at times sloggy; doesn't measure up to Fragments of Lichtenberg, but exceeds what else has been englished and fun besides.

Luis Sagasti, A Musical Offering (Fiona Petch) [Charco] (also Firefly from a couple years back) tight harmonious braid; not so much the way I roll as what I roll in; likewise,

Daniel Mendelsohn, Three Rings [WmCollins, couldn't wait for nyrb]: billed as Auerbach / Fénelon / Sebald but much more, tightly woven multidimensional digressions on (prior) writing models and representation.

I should also mention Nobelaureate Abdulrazak Gurnah, Paradise [New Press], Desertion, & By the Sea [Bloomsbury] older stuff newly available; these are the 3 essentials, not yet tempted by Afterlives.

So that's what I knew about beforehand, but there was quite a bit I didn't see coming ...

Carl Phillips, Then the War: and selected poems 2007-2020 [FSG]: held off after prior selected til; strong, assured, if a bit repetitive at times

Gary Indiana, Fire Season [Seven Stories]: selected essays, many shine, others only occasionally glint

Fleur Jaeggy, These Possible Lives (Minna Zallman Proctor) [NDP]: nominally de Quincey Keats and Schwob but concisely all over the place

Peter Weiss, The Shadow of the Coachman's Body (Rosmarie Waldrop) & Conversations of the Three Wayfarers (E.B. Garside) [NDP]: proto-nouveau roman boarding house follies & tripartite monologue, cri-de-flâneuris

Emily Hall, The Longcut [Dalkey]: putting Bernhard's voice to different use, impressive debut

Mieko Kawakami, All the Lovers in the Night (Sam Bett & David Boyd) [Europa]: Tokyo isolata; held off til this'un (paired it with or against Sayaka Murata, Convenience Store Woman (Ginny Tapley Takemori) [Grove])

Sevgi Soysal, Dawn (Maureen Freely) [archipelago]: corrosive 70s Turkey under martial law in provincial city

Shuri Kido, Names and Rivers (Tomoyuki Endo & Forrest Gander) [Copper Canyon]: Japan's current Far North Poet (I've been remiss with Japan having concentrated on China, working on correcting)

This year's reading skewed towards this year's releases, at least as many more read as listed above, mostly at least worthwhile ... and meanwhile, from prior years, some off-the-runs that stood out:

Ludwig Hohl, The Notes: or On Non-premature Reconciliation (Tess Lewis) [Yale/Margellos]

Jens Bjørneboe, Moment of Freedom (Esther Greenleaf Mürer) [Norvik]

Jerzy Ficowski, Everything I Don't Know (Jennifer Grotz & Piotr Sommer) [WorldPoetry]

Diane Seuss, frank: sonnets [Graywolf]

Ye Lijun, My Mountain Country (Fiona Ste-Lorrain) [WorldPoetry]

Hjalmar Söderberg, Doctor Glas (Paul Britten Austin) [Anchor]

Claude Simon, The Acacia (Richard Howard) [Pantheon]

David Albahari, Globetrotter (Ellen Elias-Bursać) [Yale/Margellos]

Lucia Berlin, A Manual for Cleaning Women (Stephen Emerson, ed) [Picador]

Hồ Xuân Hương, Spring Essence (John Balaban) [Copper Canyon]

Rosmarie Waldrop, Gap Gardening: selected poems [NDP]

Kiwao Nomura, Spectacle & Pigsty (Kyoko Yoshida & Forrest Gander) [Omnidawn]

and some genre-play of various sorts:

Hervé Le Tellier, The Anomaly (Adriana Hunter) [Other Press]

M.John Harrison, The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again [Gollancz] (followed up with You Should Come With Me Now [Comma])

Chi Ta-Wei, The Membranes (Ari Larissa Heinrich) [Columbia]

Percival Everett, The Trees [Graywolf]

All in all, a rewarding year of reading. As to what's in the pipeline for 2023, dunno ...