Currently viewing the category: "reading"


I’m going to be reading, probably from my forthcoming collection of short fiction Everything Flows, at the Pygmalion Lit Fest in Champaign-Urbana, or Urbana-Champaign, or somewhere in Illinois, on September 27 or 28. I’ll also be playing in DTCV on one of those two days as well. The music line-up is here. There is a band called Major Lazer headlining which is probably the worst band name I’ve ever heard. I’m sure they’re awesome.

Okay, so here’s the books I’ve read in French so far this year. Or at least the books that I could be bothered to go find on my bookshelves or piled on the floor in my office and on my bed or all over the table in the dining room or on the second shelf of the coffee table in the living room or just, you know,  on top of the refrigerator (and more than once inside the refrigerator; I’m always amazed at what I manage to leave in the refrigerator when distracted). Or wherever else.

I’m not providing links to these because either you can’t find the editions I have, because when I’m in Paris or any city in France or even in the countryside I am drawn like a wood-worm to bookish places and have had really good luck finding things without looking for them, or they’re really easy to find. Everything on this list I recommend, if you can read French at all, though certainly most of this stuff requires a fair degree of fluency. Except for Houellebecq. He writes like a fourth-grader. But I still like his new novel —the one that (finally) won him the Goncourt — despite not usually having much interest in his output.

As always, stuff I re-read for research or for some other reason is indicated with an asterisk. Non-asterisked items are new-to-me, though not necessarily new.

1. Alain Robbe-Grillet, Un roman sentimental, Fayard

2. Boris Vian, Manuel de Saint-Germain-des-Prés (coffret), Livre de Poche

3, 4. Chateaubriand, Memoires d’Outre-Tombe, Tomes 1 & 2, Bibliotheque de la Pléiade (1958) *

5. Claude Simon, Le Jardin des Plantes, Les Éditions de Minuit *

6. Edouard Dujardin, Les lauriers sont coupés, Flammarion *

7. Ernest Renan, Vie de Jésus, Gallimard *

8. Frédéric Révérend, L’Invention d’un château suivi de Le Coffre meurtrier, Éditions de l’Amandier

9. Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, Livre de Poche *

10. Henri Bergson, Matière et Memoire, Librairie Félix Alcan (1934) *

11. J-K Huysmans, A rebours, Flammarion *

12. Jean Cocteau, Les parents terribles, Gallimard (1938)

13. Jean-Laurent Cassely, Paris: Manuel de Survie, Parigramme

14. Jean-Patrick Manchette, Fatale, Folio Policier

15. Jean-Patrick Manchette, La Position du tireur couché, Folio Policier

16. Joseph Bédier, Le roman de Tristan et Iseult, L’Édition d’Art (1946)

17, 18, 19, 20. Marcel Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu, Tomes 1, 2, 3, 4, Bibliotheque de la Pleiade *

21. Maurice Blanchot, L’arrêt de mort, Gallimard

22. Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Gallimard (1966) *

23. Michel Houellebecq, La carte et le territoire, Flammarion

24. Michel Vianey, En attendant Godard, B. Grasset (1967)

25. Nathalie Sarraute, Les Fruits D’Or, Gallimard

26. Octave Mirbeau, Le Jardin des Supplices, Bibliotheque-Charpentier (1922) *

27. Pierre Clementi, Quelques messages personnels, Gallimard

28. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Le phénomène humain, Éditions de Seuil

29. Raymond Queneau, Zazie dans le Métro, Olympia Press (1959) *

30. Raymond Roussel, Nouvelles Impressions d’Afrique, Princeton

31. Robert Pinget, Mahu ou Le Matériau, Les Éditions de Minuit *

32. Robert Pinget, Taches d’Encre, Les Éditions de Minuit *


As promised in this post, here is a list of the non-fiction books I’ve read thus far in 2011, either written in or translated into English. Almost everything on here was read for purposes of research, with the exception maybe of the books on/by Godard and Tarkovsky. Though I would argue that these are more or less essential reading for anyone in the film business.

I’ve indicated those which are (thorough) re-reads with an asterisk. Unlike my fiction list, the inclusion of a book here does not constitute a recommendation. In fact, some of them were so awful they made me throw them across the room. But I had to read them, for professional reasons. That said, Ben Schwartz’ compendium of comics criticism and Richard Brody’s book on Godard deserve some kind of special merit badge for general excellence.

In several cases I haven’t provided links, because the version of the book I own is long out of print and I’m too lazy to find out if a contemporary iteration exists.

The final part of this list will concern itself with books I’ve read in the first half of 2011 that were written in French. The French books on this list I read in translation out of lassitude or dread.

1. Alistair Horne, Seven Ages of Paris, Vintage

2. Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting In Time, University of Texas*

3. Augustin Thierry, Tales of the Early Franks, Translated by M.F.O. Jenkins, University of Alabama

4. Ben Schwartz, ed., The Best American Comics Criticism, Fantagraphics

5. Bob Mould, See A Little Light, Little, Brown

6. Caroli Linnaeus, Philosophia Botanica, Joannis Trattner (1763)*

7. Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, L.C. Page and Co.*

8. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Vintage

9. Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise of Folly, Norton*

10. Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, Vintage

11. Erwin Schrödinger, Statistical Thermodynamics, Dover

12. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ignatius

13. Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of England, Penguin Classics

14. George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, Harcourt

15. George Santayana, Scepticism and Animal Faith, Dover*

16. Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces, Belknap/Harvard*

17. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, Black & Red*

18. Harvey F. Berlin and Darrell Ruhl, Ed., Blake and Swedenborg, Swedenborg Foundation

19. Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, The Library of Liberal Arts*

20. Italo Calvino, The Complete Cosmicomics, Penguin Classics

21. Jacob Boehme, The Signature of All Things, James Clarke*

22. Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death, Translated by David Wells, University of Chicago*

23. James Clerk Maxwell, Matter and Motion, Dover

24. Jean Cocteau, Past Tense: The Cocteau Diaries, Vol. One, Translated by Richard Howard, Harcourt Brace Jovanovic*

25. John Cook, Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, Algonquin

26. John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Everyman*

27. John Sellers, Perfect From Now On, Simon & Schuster

28. Jon Savage, England’s Dreaming, St. Martin’s Griffin*

29. Jonathan D. Spence, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, Penguin

30. Kaya Oakes, Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, Henry Holt

31. Ludwig von Beethoven, Letters, Journals, and Conversations, Translated by Michael Hamburger, Thames and Hudson

32. Mao Tsetung, Quotations From Chairman Mao Tsetung, China Books

33. Martin Buber, I And Thou, Simon and Schuster*

34. Michael Angold, Byzantium, St. Martin’s Press

35. Michael Azerrad, Our Band Could Be Your Life, Little, Brown

36. Michael Schmidt, The Lives of the Poets, Vintage

37. Michael Temple, James S. Williams, Michael Witt, eds., Forever Godard, Black Dog

38. Natasha Synessios, Tarkovsky’s Mirror, I.B. Tauris*

39. Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, Princeton*

40. Peter Ackroyd, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination, Doubleday

41. Richard Brody, Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, Metropolitan

42. Rob Bowman, Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records, Schirmer

43. Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind, Oxford University Press*

44. Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs, Translated by Richard Howard, Hill and Wang

45. Sayyid Qutb, In The Shade of the Qur’an, Vol. 30, Islamic Book Service

46. Simon Reynolds, Rip It Up And Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1994, Penguin*

47. Stevie Chick, Spray-Paint The Walls: The Story of Black Flag, Omnibus

48. T. Geoffrey W. Henslow, The Rose Encyclopedia, Arthur Pearson

49. W. G. Sebald, On The Natural History of Destruction, Random House*

50. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Modern Library

I’ve seen a few people compile lists of books they’ve read so far in 2011, and the thought ocurred to me: I like lists!

But I don’t like lists that are too long, so I’m going to parcel these out in manageable portions. This first list confines itself to fiction written or translated into English. Upoming lists will devote themselves to a) fiction written or translated into French and b) Non-fiction written or translated into English.

I might also do a separate list of movies I’ve watched (whether on DVD or at the theater) so far in 2011. That list is likely to be much longer. By my count the list of books I’ve read so far is somehwere around 150, but a lot of those books, for instance the ones that I will post under non-fiction, were  for research, and not simply for pleasure. So it’s not all fun and games, even after someone loses an eye.

Works of fiction that I read specifically for film projects are noted with an asterisk. I’ve listed the books alphabetically by first name of the author because that was what Microsoft Word decided to do and I cannot argue with software.

I have only included books on this list that I can recommend, and I’ve left out a few that I re-read so often it wouldn’t be fair to count them (Pale Fire, Ulysses, The Third Policeman, etc). You’ll of course note that many of them were not published in 2011, or even 2010 in some cases, but this is what I read, so this is what you get. Links will take you to places where you can purchase these books online, but I urge you to seek them out at your local independent bookstore, if possible.

You’ll also note that I have declined to rate or review any of the books listed. I did this for two reasons. 1) I already have or am going to review many of the books on the list, either here or at the Los Angeles Review of Books, or 2) I don’t have anything interesting to say about some of the books, except: “I liked it. You should read it.”

That said, here goes something:

  1. Aaron Burch, How To Take Yourself Apart/How To Make Yourself Anew, Pank
  2. Alan Warner, The Worms Can Carry Me To Heaven, Jonathan Cape
  3. Alasdair Gray, 1982, Janine, Canongate Classics
  4. Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz, (Translated by Eugene Jolas), Continuum*
  5. Amelia Gray, Museum of the Weird, The University of Alabama Press
  6. Anna Winger, This Must Be The Place, Riverhead Books *
  7. Blake Butler, Ever, Calamari Press
  8. Blake Butler, There Is No Year, Harper Perennial
  9. Danilo Kis, garden, ashes, (Translated by William J. Hannaher), Dalkey Archive
  10. Darby Larson, The Iguana Complex, Nephew
  11. David Foster Wallace, The Pale King, Little, Brown
  12. Frank Hinton, I Don’t Respect Female Expression, Safety Third Enterprises
  13. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, (Translated by Alan Myers), Oxford University Press*
  14. Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, (Translated by Lydia Davis), Viking
  15. Hjalmar Soderberg, Doctor Glas, (Translated by Paul Britten Austin), Anchor
  16. Jennifer Egan, A Visit From The Goon Squad, Anchor Books
  17. Jesús Ángel Garcia, badbadbad, New Pulp Press
  18. Jim Ruland, Big Lonesome, Gorsky Press
  19. John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor, Anchor*
  20. John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer, Mariner Books
  21. Justin Taylor, The Gospel of Anarchy, Harper Perennial
  22. Lee Rourke, The Canal, Melville House
  23. Lydia Davis, The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, Picador
  24. Lydia Davis, The Cows, Sarabande Books
  25. Matthew Stokoe, Cows, Little House on the Bowery/Akashic Books
  26. Michael Kimball, Us, Tyrant Books
  27. Molly Gaudry, We Take Me Apart, Mud Luscious Press
  28. Nathan Larson, The Dewey Decimal System, Akashic Books
  29. Nina Revoyr, Wingshooters, Akashic Books
  30. Patrick deWitt, Ablutions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  31. Patrick deWitt, The Sister Brothers, Ecco
  32. Roberto Bolaño, 2666, (Translated by Natasha Wimmer), Picador
  33. Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives, (Translated by Natasha Wimmer), Picador
  34. Scott McClanahan, Stories V!, Holler Presents
  35. Tao Lin, Richard Yates, Melville House
  36. Thomas Bernhard, Prose, (Translated by Martin Chalmers), Seagull Books
  37. Tom McCarthy, C, Alfred A. Knopf
  38. Tom McCarthy, Remainder, Vintage
  39. Tom Williams, The Mimic’s Own Voice, Main Street Rag
  40. William Maxwell, So Long, See You Tomorrow, The Harvill Press

The Los Angeles based creators of  a weekly podcast called Hugs & Disses, which is a name I am informed they made up all by themselves, were kind enough to ask me on their program this week.  I traveled to their sumptuous headquarters in Echo Park where they somehow managed to cajole me into talking about myself for almost two hours. Can’t think of a single reason anyone wouldn’t want to hear that.

Apart from me, that is. On the list of things I don’t like to do, “listen to the sound of my own voice” is very high, somewhere near “look at pictures of myself” and “eat glass.”

But if you’re interested in hearing me talk about whatever we ended up talking about, including but not limited to my novels, Guided By Voices, films that I have written, and enema porn, you can go here and satisfy your curiosity. While there, you should be sure to subscribe to the podcast, because it’s a weekly deal, and I’m sure all of the other episodes in the series thus far are more interesting than the one featuring me. Many thanks to the H&D crew for extending the invitation.

Andy Manalis | Ira Smolens | Granger Whitelaw

I was at a dinner party recently at which I met a Famous novelist, who told a story about meeting the Very Famous novelist Thomas Pynchon, who I’m sure you know has a reputation for being, shall we say, a very private person. He doesn’t give interviews. He doesn’t do readings. It’s big news when a decades-old photo of his wrist appears. Nobody knows what he looks like. Etc.

Pynchon came up in conversation because FN and I were talking about the strange phenomenon of author readings, with which we have both long since made our peace, and the daunting task of establishing and maintaining an online “presence” that nowadays comes with the business of writing books. Understand that no one forces us to do readings, or to establish and maintain an online presence, but it is expected, and because of the changing ways in which people discover and consume cultural artifacts, it’s almost inescapable.

So much so, that when FN met Pynchon, Pynchon was musing about the possibility of doing a book tour for his new novel. To which a horrifed FN replied, “No! You can’t! Don’t you see, you have what we all want. You did it. You got away with it. Why throw that away now?”

To which Pynchon replied that, yes, he had “gotten away with it,” but he was pretty sure that if he’d come along twenty years later, he wouldn’t have been able to do so.

There’s a lot to be said for participating in the writerly conversation, for interacting with both readers and other writers, for the free exchange of ideas and enthusiasms. I get that, I really do. But I still struggle with the opposing urge towards hermetic solitude that is, I think, at the root of any writer’s being.

And I still envy the fuck out of Pynchon.

A small item of business: I’ve mentioned the new-ish and so-far great LA-based lit-mag Slake before. (Q: How many hyphens will fit in an American sentence? A: Too many.) Their second issue is about to appear like worms after a heavy rain, to celebrate which fact they’re having a launch party. A bunch of contributors to Issue 2 will be reading, including me, and I’m told there will be food, drink, and art, not necessarily in that order. Los Angeles area readers can and should note details and RSVP here. The event is this Saturday, which is why I’m posting it now. Also because they asked.

There will be an audiobook version of The Failure, details TBA.

There will be French and Italian editions of The Failure, translated by persons of great skill and published by persons of questionable taste, forthcoming this year. Again, details TBA.

That is all. For now. God bless you!