- Robert Walser
- Franz Kafka
- Henry Miller
- Thomas Bernhard
- David Markson
- Renata Adler
- W.G. Sebald
- Lydia Davis
- Ben Marcus
Works destroyed in the September 11 attacks
- Ideogram (1967) stainless steel sculpture by James Rosati
- Cloud Fortress (1975) a large, black granite piece by Japanese artist Masayuki Nagare, destroyed in the 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts.
- The World Trade Center Tapestry a 20′ x 35′ tapestry by Joan Miró
- Sky Gate, New York (1977–78) large wooden sculpture by Louise Nevelson
- A memorial fountain for the victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing by Elyn Zimmerman
- World Trade Center Stabile (1971) a 25′ red steel sculpture by Alexander Calder. Approximately 30% of the sculpture was recovered.
- Some 300 sculptures and drawings by Auguste Rodin, part of the Cantor Fitzgerald collection.
- Needle Tower (1968) by Kenneth Snelson.
- Recollection Pond, a tapestry by Romare Bearden.
- Path Mural, by Germaine Keller.
- Commuter Landscape, a large mural by Cynthia Mailman.
- Fan Dancing with the Birds, a mural by Hunt Slonem.
- The Entablature Series by Roy Lichtenstein
- Approximately 40,000 negatives of photographs by Jacques Lowe documenting the presidency of John F. Kennedy.
- The Sphere, an abstract sculpture by Fritz Koenig, survived the collapse but was seriously damaged, and now serves as a memorial.
Countless other works of art and valuable artifacts, found in safe deposit boxes located throughout the towers, were also destroyed.
Two other sculptures were damaged, but not destroyed by the attacks. These are Red Cube by Isamu Noguchi and Joie de Vivre by Mark di Suvero, located down the street from the World Trade Center. They were repaired and still stand today.
From John Steinbeck’s 1969 “interview” in The Paris Review (the piece reads more like a series of short writings than a conventional interview):
ON GETTING STARTED
It is usual that the moment you write for publication—I mean one of course—one stiffens in exactly the same way one does when one is being photographed. The simplest way to overcome this is to write it to someone, like me. Write it as a letter aimed at one person. This removes the vague terror of addressing the large and faceless audience and it also, you will find, will give a sense of freedom and a lack of self-consciousness.
Now let me give you the benefit of my experience in facing 400 pages of blank stock—the appalling stuff that must be filled. I know that no one really wants the benefit of anyone’s experience which is probably why it is so freely offered. But the following are some of the things I have had to do to keep from going nuts.
1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
4. If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.
5. Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.
6. If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.
Best Books I Read in 2011 That Were Published in 2011 (Or Close Enough to 2011)
MetaMaus, Art Spiegelman
Best Books I Read in 2011 That Were Published Before 2011
The Elementary Particles, Michel Houellebecq
Wittgenstein’s Mistress, David Markson
Speedboat, Renata Adler
Best Audiobook of 2011
Best Film of 2011
Most Charming Film of 2011
Most Overhyped Book of 2011
Best Book Cover of 2011
Best Book Series Design
Melville House’s Neversink Imprint
Weirdest (Yet Nevertheless Moving) Novel of 2011
How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, Chris Boucher
Book I Read in 2011 That Still Confounds and Haunts Me
Saddest Book I Read in 2011
Tie: Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry; The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake, Breece D’J Pancake
Best Essay (Print)
“Some Notes on Translation and on Madame Bovary,” Lydia Davis (The Paris Review)
Best Essay (Online)
Worst Literary Trend of 2011
Tie: Lame “literary fiction” novels; Articles that link everything to David Foster Wallace
Best Literary Trend of 2011
Most Obvious Disclaimer
I did not read or see or hear every book or essay or audiobook or film or TV show or record or video that came out in 2011. Also, there are some days left in the year. These are all, just like, opinions man.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “List of Troubles” (from his Notebooks)—
List of troubles
- Heart burn
- Night sweats
- Infected Nose
- Ruined Nerves
- Chronic Cough
- Aching teeth
- Shortness of Breath
- Falling Hair
- Cramps in Feet
- Tingling Feet
- Cirocis of the liver
- Stomach ulcers
- Depression and Melancholia
We often identify genre simply by its conventions and tropes, and, when October rolls round and we want scary stories, we look for vampires and haunted houses and psycho killers and such. And while there’s plenty of great stuff that adheres to the standard conventions of horror (Lovecraft and Poe come immediately to mind) let’s not overlook novels that offer horror just as keen as any genre exercise. Hence: Seven horror novels masquerading in other genres:
In my review (link above), I called Blood Meridian “a blood-soaked, bloodthirsty bastard of a book.” The story of the Glanton gang’s insane rampage across Mexico and the American Southwest in the 1850s is pure horror. Rape, scalping, dead mules, etc. And Judge Holden. . . [shivers].
Rushing to Paradise – J.G. Ballard
On the surface, Ballard’s 1994 novel Rushing to Paradise seems to be a parable about the hubris of ecological extremism that would eliminate humanity from any natural equation. Dr. Barbara and her band of misfit environmentalists try to “save” the island of St. Esprit from France’s nuclear tests. The group eventually begin living in a cult-like society with Dr. Barbara as its psycho-shaman center. As Dr. Barbara’s anti-humanism comes to outweigh any other value, the island devolves into Lord of the Flies insanity. Wait, should Lord of the Flies be on this list?
Okay. I know. This book ends up on every list I write. What can I do?
While there’s humor and pathos and love and redemption in Bolaño’s masterwork, the longest section of the book, “The Part about the Crimes,” is an unrelenting catalog of vile rapes, murders, and mutilations that remain unresolved. The sinister foreboding of 2666‘s narrative heart overlaps into all of its sections (as well as other Bolaño books); part of the tension in the book–and what makes Bolaño such a gifted writer–is the visceral tension we experience when reading even the simplest incidents. In the world of 2666, a banal episode like checking into a motel or checking the answering machine becomes loaded with Lynchian dread. Great horrific stuff.
King Lear — William Shakespeare
Macbeth gets all the propers as Shakespeare’s great work of terror (and surely it deserves them). But Lear doesn’t need to dip into the stock and store of the supernatural to achieve its horror. Instead, Shakespeare crafts his terror at the familial level. What would you do if your ungrateful kids humiliated you and left you homeless on the heath? Go a little crazy, perhaps? And while Lear’s daughters Goneril and Regan are pure mean evil, few characters in Shakespeare’s oeuvre are as crafty and conniving as Edmund, the bastard son of Glouscester. And, lest I forget to mention, Lear features shit-eating, self-mutilation, a grisly tableaux of corpses, and an eye-gouging accompanied by one of the Bard’s most enduring lines: “Out vile jelly!” Peter Brook chooses to elide the gore in his staging of that infamous scene:
The Trial — Franz Kafka
Kafka captured the essential alienation of the modern world so well that we not only awarded him his own adjective, we also tend to forget how scary his stories are, perhaps because of their absurd familiarity. None surpasses his unfinished novel The Trial, the story of hapless Josef K., a bank clerk arrested by unknown agents for an unspecified crime. While much of K.’s attempt to figure out just who is charging him for what is hilarious in its absurdity, its also deeply dark and really creepy. K. attempts to find some measure of agency in his life, but is ultimately thwarted by forces he can’t comprehend–or even see for that matter. Nowhere is this best expressed than in the famous “Before the Law” episode. If you’re too lazy to read it, check out his animation with narration by the incomparable Orson Welles:
In my original review of Sanctuary (link above), I noted that “if you’re into elliptical and confusing depictions of violence, drunken debauchery, creepy voyeurism, and post-lynching sodomy, Sanctuary just might be the book for you.” There’s also a corn-cob rape scene. The novel is about the kidnapping and debauching of Southern belle Temple Drake by the creepy gangster Popeye–and her (maybe) loving every minute of it. The book is totally gross. I got off to a slow start with Faulkner. If you take the time to read the full review above (in which I make some unkind claims) please check out my retraction. In retrospect, Sanctuary is a proto-Lynchian creepfest, and one of the few books I’ve read that has conveyed a total (and nihilistic) sense of ickiness.
Great Apes — Will Self
Speaking of ickiness…Self’s 1997 novel Great Apes made me totally sick. Nothing repulses me more than images of chimpanzees dressed as humans and Great Apes is the literary equivalent (just look at that cover). After a night of binging on coke and ecstasy, artist Simon Dykes wakes up to find himself in a world where humans and apes have switched roles. Psychoanalysis ensues. While the novel is in part a lovely satire of emerging 21st-century mores, its humor doesn’t outweigh its nightmare grotesquerie. Great Apes so deeply affected us that I haven’t read any of Self’s work since.
[Ed. note: This post is a few years old. We run it again for Halloween and will run a follow up post later today].
In a 1990 interview between William T. Vollmann and one of his editors Larry McCaffery. An excerpt from the interview appears as a list in the Vollmann reader Expelled from Eden, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite books (seriously, let’s have another volume—this is clearly the optimum Vollmann delivery system). I’ve kept Expelled from Eden’s list format because, hey, let’s face it, we like lists—
LM: Who are your favorite contemporary authors?
WV: By “contemporary” I assume you mean “from the last two hundred years.”
1./2./3. Right now it seems like I’ve learned a lot from Mishima, Kawabata, and Tolstoy;
4. Hawthorne may be the best;
5. Then Faulkner;
6. Hemingway is usually a wonderful read, especially Islands in the Stream and For Whom the Bell Tolls—that is to say, the grandly suicidal narratives;
7. Tadeusz Konwicki’s A Dreambook for Our Time is beautiful;
8. I also love everything I’ve read by Mir Lagerkvist;
9. Sigrid Undset’s trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter;
10. Multatuli’s Max Havalaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company;
11. Kundera’s Laughable Loves;
12. Andrea Freud Lowenstein’s This Place (which deserves more recognition than it has received);
13. Jane Smiley’s The Greenlanders (which I had the wonderful experience of finding and reading a few months after completing my own book about Greenlanders, The Ice-Shirt).
14. Evans and Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men;
15. Farley Mowat’s The People of the Deer;
16. The first three books of Mishima’s Sea of Fertility tetralogy (how could I have forgotten that?);
17. Random bits of Proust, Zola’sL’Assommoir;
18. Shusaku Endo’s The Samurai;
19.The first two books of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy;
20. William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land;
21. Poe’s stories about love;
22. Everything by Malraux (especially his Anti-Memoirs);
23. Nabokov’s Glory and Transparent Things and Ada;
24. Melville’s Pierre;
25. Thomas Bernhard’s Correction;
26. David Lindsay’s Voyage to Acturus;
27. Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly;
28. A few of Boll’s short novels (Wo warst du, Adam? and The Train Was on Time);
29. Elsa Morante’s History: A Novel;
30. Maria Dermout’s The Ten Thousand Things;
31. Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz;
32. James Blish’s Cities in Flight tetralogy (which is just plane fun);
33. The first three volumes of Lawrence Durrell’sAlexandria Quartet, and I don’t know what all.
There’s lots more. I am sorry not to be able to put down less contemporary things such as Tale of Genji, which is one of my all-time favorites.
“List of Social Changes that Would Assist the Flourishing of Literary Beauty” by William T. Vollmann. Originally published in his essay, “Something to Die For” (Review of Contemporary Fiction) but excised here from Expelled from Eden, the Vollmann reader I’m finding addictive—-
1. Abolish television, because it has no reverence for time.
2. Abolish the automobile, because it has no reverence for space.
3. Make citizenship contingent upon literacy in every sense. Thus, politicians who do not write every word of their own speeches should be thrown out of office in disgrace. Writers who require editors to make their books “good” should be depublished.
4. Teach reverence for all beauty, including that of the word.
You may have noticed (and probably don’t care) that today is October 10, 2010, 0r 10/10/10 (or 10.10.10, or 10-10-10, or whatever iteration you prefer). But some people like lists. So, with very little thought put into the process, here are three literary lists to celebrate 10 Oct. 10–
Ten Ridiculous Character Names
1. Stephen Dedalus (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, James Joyce. Even Stephen ponders how ridiculous and overdetermined his name is)
2. Major Major Major Major (Catch-22, Joseph Heller)
3. Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien. Sure, he’s a hobbit, but “Bilbo Baggins” is still pretty much off the silly scale)
4. Brackett Omensetter (Omensetter’s Luck, William Gass)
5. Horselover Fat (VALIS, Philip K. Dick)
6. Milkman Dead (Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison)
7. Humbert Humbert (Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov)
8. Lionel Essrog (Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem)
9. Tie: Wang-Dang Lang/Peter Abbott/Candy Mandible/Judith Prietht/Biff Diggerance (David Foster Wallace suffers from Pynchon-fever in his début novel, Broom of the System)
10. Tie: Benny Profane/Oedipa Maas/Tyrone Slothrop/Zoyd Wheeler/Rev. Wicks Cherrycoke et al. — (Various novels by Thomas Pynchon. Yes, Pynchon should probably get his own list)
Ten Excellent Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic Novels That Aren’t Brave New World or 1984
1. Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban
2. Camp Concentration, Thomas Disch
3. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
4. Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood
5. The Hospital Ship, Martin Bax
6. Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
7. VALIS, Philip K. Dick
8. Ronin, Frank Miller
9. Ape and Essence, Aldous Huxley
10. The Road and Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
Ten Movies Better Than or Equal to the Books On Which They Were Based
1. The Godfather
2. The Shining
3. The Thin Red Line
4. Children of Men
5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
7. No Country for Old Men
8. The Grapes of Wrath
9. There Will Be Blood