- V., mostly on a beach in Ko Lanta.
- The Road, in the maternity ward after my daughter was born.
- Infinite Jest, late at night after I first moved to Tokyo. And then lugging it onto the train.
- Un Bel Morir, in the emergency room all night, my mother’s fever so high.
- As I Lay Dying, another hospital.
- 2666. On a plane leaving San Francisco. And then compulsively every night for a month.
- Angels, on a Florida beach.
- Cat’s Cradle, on a houseboat, on a river.
- The Once and Future King, in the back of a rented car that was zooming across the South Island of NZ, my parents repeatedly imploring me to just look up please.
- Ulysses, on the old gold velour couch I sometimes still miss, on my roommate’s Ritalin, comprehending next to nothing. And then a decade later, with real joy.
- Carlos Castaneda
- Tom Robbins
- Paulo Coelho
- John Irving
- Tom Wolfe
- Bret Easton Ellis
- James McInerney
- Mark Leyner
- Miranda July
- Tao Lin
- Mulholland Dr.
- Blue Velvet
- Inland Empire
- The Elephant Man
- The Straight Story
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
- Wild at Heart
- Lost Highway
- Barry Lyndon
- Paths of Glory
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Dr. Strangelove
- The Shining
- A Clockwork Orange
- Eyes Wide Shut
- Full Metal Jacket
- The King of Comedy
- Taxi Driver
- Mean Streets
- Raging Bull
- After Hours
- The Last Temptation of Christ
- Shutter Island
- Gangs of New York
- The Age of Innocence
- Cape Fear
- Bringing Out the Dead
- The Departed
- The Aviator
- The Color of Money
- Haruki Marukami
- Joyce Carol Oates
- Philip Roth
- John Updike
- Saul Bellow
- Paul Bowles
- Edith Wharton
I have not written a good novel. I have not written a novel. I don’t expect to write any novels and shall not tell anyone else how to do it until I have.
If you want to study the novel, go, READ the best you can find. All I know about it, I have learned from reading:
Tom Jones, by Fielding.
Tristram Shandy and The Sentimental Journey by Sterne (and I don’t recommend anyone ELSE to try to do another Tristram Shandy).
The novels of Jane Austen and Trollope.
[Note: If you compare the realism of Trollope's novels with the realism of Robert McAlmon's stories you will get a fair idea of what a good novelists means by 'construction'. Trollope depicts a scene or a person, and you can clearly see how he 'leads up to an effect'.]
The novels of Henry James, AND especially the prefaces to his collected edition; which are the one extant great treatise on novel writing in English.
In French you can form a fairly good ideogram from:
Benjamin Constant’s Adolphe.
The first half of Stendhal’s Rouge et Noir and the first eighty pages of La Chartreuse de Parme.
Madame Bovary, L’Education Sentimentale, Trois Contes, and the unfinished Brouvard et Pecuchet of FLAUBERT, with Goncourt’s preface to Germinie Lacerteux.
After that you would do well to look at Madox Ford’s A Call.
When you have read Jame’s prefaces and twenty of his other novels, you would do well to read The Sacred Fount.
There for perhaps the first time since about 1300 a writer has been able to deal with a sort of content wherewith Cavalcanti has been ‘concerned’.
You can get a very brilliant cross-light via Donne. I mean the difference and nuances between psychology in Guido, abstract philosophic statement in Guido, the blend in Donne, and again psychology in Henry James, and in all of them the underlying concept of FORM, the structure of the whole work, including its parts.
This is a long way from an A B C. In fact it opens the vistas of post-graduate study.
From Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading (New Directions).
- Superman character design reboot — everything’s exactly the same, only Superman now has small orange-feathered wings growing out of his neck. Clark Kent wears a permanent neck brace.
- Stunning new issue reveals Batman won’t eat broccoli.
- Special Aquaman appearance in Little Mermaid reboot in which Aquaman murders Scuttle.
- Martian Manhunter releases dope mixtape (under his alias J’onn J’onzz); Pitchfork gives it a 6.2.
- Wonder Woman sends back her sarapatel — “Sorry, just doesn’t taste authentic.”
- Flash is the subject of a shortlived 1990s TV show remembered fondly by exactly no one. Danny Elfman composes the score.
- Green Lantern stalks former high school girlfriend on Facebook; spends hours watching locomotive trains on YouTube; argues frequently with neighbors; has occasional thoughts about suicide.
Novels That Will Be Considered the Most Important Literary Works of the Twentieth Century in the Year 2100 (According to Dalkey Archive)
Novels That Will Be Considered the Most Important Literary Works of the Twentieth Century in the Year 2100
Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
Malone Dies, Samuel Beckett
Molloy, Samuel Beckett
The Unnamable, Samuel Beckett
The Lime Works, Thomas Bernhard
Nostromo, Joseph Conrad
JR, William Gaddis
The Recognitions, William Gaddis
Ulysses, James Joyce
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O’Brien
The Inquisitory, Robert Pinget
Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust
Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
Mulligan Stew, Gilbert Sorrentino
Speculative list from the Dalkey Archive (from an issue of their journal Context; compiled from responses of “advisors at universities and bookstores”). I’m sure the fact that they publish several of these titles has nothing to do with these books’ inclusion. I’ve read all of seven of these, some of five of these, and none of three of these.
1. Reboot of True Blood as a half-hour sitcom focused on Merlotte’s; Lafayette is the star, that red headed chick is his sidekick, and Sookie is nowhere in sight.
2. Reboot/sequel of Battlestar Galactica that picks up right where the second reboot ended, in modern-day New York City. No sci-fi elements. The series is simply a dull soap opera.
3. Girls/Game of Thrones mashup; the Khaleesi sends her dragons to eat privileged white people in Brooklyn. The series is over in about 4 minutes.
4. Sequel to The Wire that takes place entirely in your imagination; you occasionally muddle key details.
5. Reboot of Mad Men as insufferable single-camera faux documentary 30 minute sitcom featuring direct-to-camera interviews, etc.
6. A fourth season of Bored to Death; each episode is 8 minutes long and embedded as a series of “commercial breaks” into random late-night infomercials.
7. Reboot of Family Ties as a serious one hour drama / secret mash-up with Batttlestar Galactica (Dad Keaton begins to suspect that Alex is a cylcon—or is he a cylon himself?!).
8. American version of Downton Abbey that lasts nine seasons longer than the British version.
9. Nine hour miniseries sequel to Xena: Warrior Princess.
10. Reboot of The Sopranos in the style of Real Housewives of New Jersey.
11. Reboot of Freaks and Geeks that gets canceled after one season but no one from the show moves on to any measure of fame or success.
12. Reboot of Seinfeld as a series of dramatic monologues performed by subterranean survivors of some unnameable apocalypse.
13. Reboot of Breaking Bad without cancer, meth, crime plots. Series is about a high school teacher and his family.
14. Reboot of Entourage as a first-person shooter video game where players can repeatedly execute the characters.
15. A fourth season of Deadwood.
- The part where Ahab says he’d strike at the sun if it insulted him.
- The fight at Ennet halfway house.
- When Bloom stands up to the cyclops.
- Judge Holden directing the men to make gunpowder.
- Pretty much all of “The Bear.”
- When Raskolnikov does the second murder.
- Janie kills Teacake.
- The chapter where Netley drives Gull around London and Gull extemporizes a lecture on history and crime.
- Those last twenty pages of Correction.
- Bast yelling in anger at little JR.
- That other underground man, the invisible one, escaping electroshock experiments in the hospital.
- Lear and his dead daughter Cordelia.
- Ishmael & Queequeg
- Father Mapple & Jonah
- Bildad & Peleg
- Starbuck, Stubb & Flask
- Queequeg, Tashtego & Daggoo
- Starbuck & Queequeg
- Stubb & Tashtego
- Flask & Daggoo
- Stubb & Cook
- Steelkilt & Radney
- Moby Dick
- Ahab & Starbuck
- Ahab & Pip
- Ahab & Fedallah
- Ahab & Carpenter
- Ahab & Perth
- Ahab & Gardiner
- Ahab & Moby Dick
- Gordon Lish
- Ed Sanders
- Nadine Gordimer
- Harry Matthews
- Doris Lessing
- Cynthia Ozick
- Philip Roth
- Derek Walcott
- William H. Gass
- John Ashberry
- E.L. Doctorow
- Lawrence Ferlinghetti
- Harold Bloom
- Gabriel García Márquez
- Joyce Johnson
- Milan Kundera
- Amiri Baraka
- Gary Snyder
- Joyce Carol Oates
- Mario Vargas Llosa
- Joan Didion
- Harper Lee
- John Barth
- Don DeLillo
- Cormac McCarthy
- Chinua Achebe
- Umberto Eco
- Günter Grass
- Heaven’s Gate
- John Carter from Mars
- My Blueberry Nights
- The Box
- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
- Nothing But Trouble
- Joseph Cornell’s boxes.
- Much of J.G. Ballard, especially the stuff in the ’70s and ’80s.
- The Residents.
- The films of the Brothers Quay.
- Charles Burns’s stuff.
- Wm. Burroughs, or the idea of Wm. Burroughs.
- Joseph Beuys and his goddamn fat and felt.
- Eudora Welty
- Zora Neale Hurston
- Flannery O’Connor
- Carson McCullers
- Kate Chopin
- Lillian Smith
- Katherine Anne Porter
- Shirley Ann Grau
- Harper Lee
- Alice Walker
- Lydia Cabrera
A Bosom Friend.
The First Lowering.
The Town-Ho’s Story.
Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales.
The Pequod Meets The Virgin.
Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish.
Heads or Tails.
The Pequod Meets The Rose-Bud.
A Squeeze of the Hand.
Leg and Arm.
The Log and Line.
The Pequod Meets The Delight.
From William H. Gass’s essay “The Concept of Character in Fiction.”
- McNulty & Bunk
- Carver & Herc
- Poot & Bodie
- Avon & Stringer
- Freamon & Bunk
- Kima & McNulty
- Freamon & Prez
- Rhonda & Daniels
- McNulty & Freamon
- Snoop & Chris
- Omar & Brother Mouzone