I complain too much, and things are busy, and MAN I have not read nearly as much as I wanted to by this point in the (calendar) year. But, some books I’ve finished or started and some thoughts about them:
Jews Without Money by Michael Gold
Great fun. Socialist Realism! Reminded me a lot of A Contract With God (a graphic novel, still—). The writing was fine and dandy, and the story was at turns heartbreaking and generally good. The last chapter was a bit too hit-you-over-the-head though, with regard to the socialism stuff. Not that I’m not down, but it seemed to not resolve the novel satisfactorily with regard to narrative, and so it was just a platform for the author’s own views: fine, but made me enjoy the book less, in the end. Would still recommend, however.
Six Memos from the Last Millennium by Joseph Skibel
Fucking loved this. So great. Esp. after having read the Calvino book (Six Memos for the Next Millennium) not long beforehand. But mostly it was great because it was all Talmud stories, which are fun, and the “novelist(ic)” reading of them was absolutely wonderful and marvelous. I really want to hang out with Joseph Skibel and learn from him. This book really was great and I can’t say enough good things about it.
Annotations by John Keene
This, I read for a class, but rather enjoyed. It being in large part about St. Louis was great, and it’s a kind of experimental novel that I’m not trying to do myself, but a kind I greatly admire (i.e., I couldn’t do that much compression). We’re going to meet this guy next week (he’s doing a “Master Class”), and that’ll be cool. Looking forward to it. Working through another of his books, Counternarratives, presently.
Modernism: Evolution of an Idea by Lathem & Rogers
Also for a class (you’ll begin to notice a pattern now). It was a great survey of the field. The suggested bibliography is perhaps the most important thing.
The Secret Agent by Conrad
I made it to 27 without having read Conrad. Shame. I rather enjoyed this book, have a lot of ideas about it, and wrote a paper on it. Conrad is great — a little longwinded, probably kind of racist, almost certainly somewhat sexist — and also a helluva prose stylist. Cool to read the stylistic “transition” b/t the Victorian/Edwardian sensibility and the emergent Modernist sensibility so evident. And I TOTALLY SAW THE PLOT TWIST. Just for the record.
Howard’s End, EM Forster
Also for class. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it. Wasn’t that into it. It was fine. I liked the narrator, sort of. Probably didn’t give this book its due attention, but what can you do?
The Good Solider Ford Maddox Ford
Ah, love it when a class gives me an excuse to reread a book I like. And I really like this book. Stylistically, it’s something I aspire to (in some sense). Heartbreaking, and I just love how it circles and expands and goes back and forth running over and over the same ideas but differently, and man it throws some shade here and there, and it’s just lovely and wonderful and I like it very well.
Witz by Joshua Cohen
This is last, but is in fact the first book I actually began this year. It’s almost 900 pages though, and school has been insanely busy, and so I haven’t been able to give it much attention. And it demands attention. I think it’s like the modern Jewish Ulysses, except if Ulysses was parodying Genesis instead of the Odyssey. But maybe that’s wrong. I read just up to the “turn,” and so I’m not really grasping the whole of it yet. But god damn can that dude write a sentence. So fun.
And that’s what I’ve got for you. For now. It’s been busy.