2013: My Year in Reading

“‘You seem fully immersed in a study of oppression. Any reason for this?’

‘Well, I do live in the world.’” Rebecca Lee, Bobcat and Other Stories. (Algonquin)

“Step by step, she forced her husband’s friend to the wall. Whenever he recalled his embarrassment he felt like crawling into a hole. Could such a wanton woman ever be so solemn? We can only say that since she has lost all credibility, she must be acting.” Can Xue, Five Spice Street. (Yale)

“I probably shouldn’t be telling you such ugly, monstruous things, Cal/ and I’m not. I’m telling the Andromedans, / to plea for a place in their galaxy. / I want to tell them I am among weak / people here, and I am strongBrenda Shaughnessy, Our Andromeda. (Copper Canyon)

“In Kundera’s novels…we can intuit the obvious meaning: what could be more vulgar than to arbitrarily give—from a childish desire for verisimilitude or, at best, mere convenience—an invented name to an invented character? In my opinion, Kundera should have gone further: what could be more vulgar than an invented character?” Laurent Binet, HHhH. (Picador)

“Today, artists can no longer pretend to constitute an avant-garde offering a radical critique. But this is is not a reason to proclaim that their political role has ended; they have an important role to play in the hegemonic struggle. By constructing new practices and new subjectivities, they can help subvert the existing configuration of power. In fact, this has always been the role of artists, and it is only the modernist illusion of the privileged position of the artist that has made us believe otherwise.” Chantal Mouffe, Agonistics. (Verso)

“Beds are made of trees, and coffins are beds with lids. Death is sleep without bottom. Its nature silent and consciousless and densely dark—

Imagine you are walking through a dream. But your dream is not just that, not just open. Your dream isn’t just one big gray open scape of mist you can step into, you can walk anywhere through, stick a hand or arm or leg into and just wiggle anywhere, no.

There are obstructions, even here. This is a dream with obstructions.

And so it is real. So it is real life.” Joshua Cohen, Four New Messages. (Graywolf)

“I’m not saying that such writing should be discarded: Who hasn’t been moved by a great memoir? But I’m sensing that literature—infinite in its potential of ranges and expressions—is in a rut, tending to hit the same note again and again, confining itself to the narrowest of spectrums, resulting in a practice that has fallen out of step and unable to take part in arguably the most vital and exciting literary discourses of our time.” Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing. (Columbia)

“Everything I can say about what it means to lose, what it means to do without, the inadequate weight of the past, you already know.” Claire Vaye Watkins, Battleborn. (Riverhead)

“I cannot stress enough how much this mechanistic world, as it becomes more and more efficient, resulting in ever increasing brutality, has required me to FIND MY BODY to FIND MY PLANET in order to find my poetry.” CA Conrad, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon. (Wave)

“This book is dedicated to mankind.” Michel Houellebecq, The Elementary Particles. (Knopf)

“Much of his poetry, when translated, looks bullet-ridden, torn, and scooped out, though when heard in their original language, read aloud by the author…these same poems, while unintelligible, have been known to make the listener weep and thereafter dwell on a history of lost opportunities.” Manuel Gonzales, The Miniature Wife and Other Stories (Riverhead)

Usually extreme love rebounds as enmity / while the slightest kindness is met with joy.” Hong Zicheng, Vegetable Roots Discourse. (Counterpoint)

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