List of writers mentioned in Gordon Lish’s Paris Review interview

A list of writers mentioned in Gordon Lish’s Winter 2015 (No. 215) Paris Review interview

Jean Baudrillard

Harold Bloom

Harold Brodkey

William F. Buckley

William S. Burroughs

Raymond Carver

Neal Cassady

Cormac McCarthy

Don DeLillo

Jacques Derrida

Denis Donoghue

Tess Gallagher

Leonard Gardner

Jack Gilbert

Allen Ginsberg

Barry Hannah

Giles Harvey

 Victor Herman

Noy Holland

John Clellon Holmes

Jack Kerouac

Ken Kesey

Stephen King

Romulus Linney

Sam Lipsyte

Atticus Lish

Gary Lutz

Norman Mailer

Ben Marcus

Patty Marx

Cynthia Ozick

Grace Paley

James Purdy

J.D. Salinger

Christine Schutt

Jason Schwartz

Allan Temko

Joy Williams

Tom Wolfe

List with no name #56

  1. King Lear
  2. Henry IV, Part I/II
  3. The Tempest
  4. Othello
  5. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  6. Hamlet
  7. Antony and Cleopatra
  8. Twelfth Night
  9. Much Ado about Nothing
  10. Macbeth

Reasons I didn’t read your novel

  1. The first sentence is not compelling.
  2. Neither are the second, third, or fourth sentences.
  3. Nor the fifth.
  4. (I’m sure the later sentences are sterling, stunning stuff, but I’m sorry, I’m sorry, those earlier efforts couldn’t propel me onward).
  5. Those blurbs: So thickly pasted in glowing praise is your novel that its spine I dare not crack.
  6. Swarming with spiders. Scores of mean spiders. A horde, exploding from your novel’s pages.
  7. Too long.
  8. Your novel is part of a trilogy.
  9. Your novel is basically a fan fiction of a nineteenth-century literary novel.
  10. Your novel is basically a fan fiction of a twentieth-century literary novel.
  11. Your novel-memoir-thing is basically a blog.
  12. All the ghosts in your novel are metaphors.
  13. Ceaseless cyborg sex scenes.
  14. Four chapters in, my only thought is “I’ve read this novel before.”
  15. Your novel is in French.
  16. Your novel is too good and I am too stupid.
  17. Your novel is morally instructive.
  18. Printed in pink ink.
  19. I left it on a plane.
  20. Your novel is upside down.
  21. All of your characters have quirky hobbies; this I cannot abide.
  22. Oh cool, a stranger comes to town?
  23. Every verb attributing speech to a character is modified by an adverb.
  24. Too short.
  25. Too few swamps.
  26. That cover!
  27. Your novel is overtly engaged in social issues.
  28. Your novel is about baseball.
  29. Your novel is “erotic.”
  30. Your novel is extraordinarily well behaved.
  31. Your novel’s extended metaphor is too obvious.
  32. Written on rope.
  33. You are a conceptual poet with bad ideas and boring books.
  34. You had me at Rags to Riches—but back to Rags again?! Not this time.
  35. Exposition!
  36. Not enough cyborg sex.
  37. Your novel is a Word doc.
  38. Your novel is part of a tetralogy.
  39. Your novel was so goddamn excellent that it made my right eye twitch. As if it, my eye, were doing some manic jig. Then, my other eye—the left one—well, your novel was just so literary that that eye got to twitching something awful as well. By the second chapter, my eyes were fairly vibrating, and a clear but steady stream of snot was leaking from my nose. By the fourth chapter, I could no longer feel my lips, and by the beginning of chapter five, I was literally insensate. It took me months to recover, aided by family and friends alike. I will try your novel again when I am stronger.
  40. I drank too much.
  41. Your novel is filled with pressed flowers which I’d rather not disturb.
  42. Deader, better novelists await.
  43. 600 pages of a woman brushing her teeth.
  44. The main character is too likable.
  45. Your novel’s extended metaphor is too oblique.
  46. Your novel’s central character worries about poetry all the time. Poetry!
  47. The batteries died.
  48. No pictures.
  49. I’m too cynical.
  50. Your novel was a brightly-colored bunch of helium balloons—beautiful, sure—but I gave them to my daughter and she—almost immediately—surrendered the string to which they were tethered. Your novel is in heaven now, where it certainly belongs.
  51. Your novel is about a math problem.
  52. Mimesis, ugh.
  53. I gave it to a friend I don’t like.
  54. Not enough chainsaws.
  55. Your novel kept sending me to look up obscure references on Wikipedia, and the Wikipedia pages were more intriguing.
  56. Oh cool, you backpacked through Europe?
  57. Unnecessary end-notes.
  58. You keep emphasizing how brilliant and intelligent and talented this character is, yet nothing in the prose harnesses that brilliant intelligent talent.
  59. Your novel is extraordinarily well meaning.
  60. Your novel is carved into the bark of a very tall tree atop a very tall mountain which I am too physically weak to climb.
  61. Your novel is in Italian.
  62. Your novel is too bossy.
  63. Your central character is invisible, and yet no one is having any fun.
  64. You’ve mistaken “imagination” for “research.”
  65. Too much furniture.
  66. Your novel is just the May 1968 issue of Playboy with your name written on the cover in Sharpie. (Okay, I did read your novel).
  67. Magical realism, eh?
  68. You are a brilliant young novelist, perhaps, but you’ve forgotten to read so many of the brilliant young novelists who came before you.
  69. Your novel is made of poison, which is admittedly appealing, but which I fear will kill me.
  70. Your novel’s characters repeatedly reference other, much better novels (by much deader writers), reminding me that those novels exist.
  71. Pages and pages and pages of weather.
  72. I tucked it under the wheel well of a stranger’s automobile.
  73. All the Southern characters’ speech is rendered in bad phonetic transcription.
  74. Did you buy these epigraphs in bulk?
  75. Your novel is very clever and very unfunny.
  76. Not lurid enough.
  77. I left it out in the rain. It turned to pulp and became a temporary home to small suburban animals—do you find some measure of joy in that? No?
  78. Oh cool, you backpacked across Southeast Asia?
  79. Your novel is cursed.
  80. Your novel is a sustained argument against breakfast, and I can’t get down with that.
  81. Hero’s journey, eh?
  82. The first paragraph is too good. I would only be disappointed by anything that came after.
  83. I like my dirty realism much dirtier.
  84. Your novel was actually a salad, so I ate it.
  85. Having every other character be a Christ figure sounds like a cool idea, but it isn’t.
  86. No dial tone.
  87. Your novel is in Japanese.
  88. Your characters earnestly cite long passages from philosophy.
  89. I’m lazy.
  90. Not enough orcs.
  91. Your novel seems to mistake postmodernism, which is a description, for a prescription.
  92. Your novel is “like X on Y times Z.”
  93. Your “literary novel” fetishizes “genre tropes.”
  94. I didn’t drink enough.
  95. I’m just jealous.
  96. The prose is too dazzling.
  97. Look, we’ve all read Kafka, we get it.
  98. Time is limited, life is short, ashes ashes we all fall etc.
  99. I’ll wait for the movie.

List with no name #55

last-supperthe-last-supper-1311the-last-supper-1523the-last-supper-1547the-last-supperthe-last-supper-from-the-winged-altar-in-st-peter-in-leuventhe-last-supper1last-supper-coburg-panelhdthe-last-supper-1546the-last-supper-1594halfhdlord-s-supper-1903the-last-supper-of-jesus-1911d3ed11f9-6a23-4b7b-89af-1fec31c40f48

List with No Name #54

  1. Fargo
  2. A Serious Man
  3. The Big Lebowski
  4. Inside Llewyn Davis
  5. No Country for Old Men
  6. Barton Fink
  7. Blood Simple
  8. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  9. Raising Arizona
  10. The Man Who Wasn’t There
  11. Miller’s Crossing
  12. True Grit
  13. Burn After Reading
  14. The Ladykillers
  15. The Hudsucker Proxy
  16. Hail, Caesar!
  17. Intolerable Cruelty

A probably incomplete list of books I’ve read so far this year

The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon

Dockwood, Jon McNaught

A German Picturesque, Jason Schwartz

Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon

Two Serious Ladies, Jane Bowles

Flee, Evan Dara

Birchfield Close, Jon McNaught

Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera

Infinite Fictions, David Winters

Syrian Notebooks, Jonathan Littell

Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon

Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis

Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

Gaha: Babes of the Abyss, Jon Frankel

The Spectators, Victor Hussenot

Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed

Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

The Wallcreeper, Nell Zink

Cess, Gordon Lish

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

High Rise, J.G. Ballard

Millennium People, J.G. Ballard

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov


Updating the reviews page to this blog today (a chore! a bore!) I realized just how many books I’d read this year and failed to write about…so far, anyway. The list above is probably incomplete, and only includes books I read cover-to-cover (or in a few cases audited on mp3)—so stuff like essays by William Gass and collections like Vollmann’s Last Stories and William T. Vollmann: A Critical Companion (etc.) I left off. And yes, I’m aware that the list is heavy on white guys.

Sixteen Don’ts for Poets (1917)

“Sixteen Don’ts for Poets” by Arthur Guiterman

from Literature in the Making (1917)


“Don’t think of yourself as a poet, and don’t dress the part.

“Don’t classify yourself as a member of any special school or group.

“Don’t call your quarters a garret or a studio.

“Don’t frequent exclusively the company of writers.

“Don’t think of any class of work that you feel moved to do as either beneath you or above you.

“Don’t complain of lack of appreciation. (In the long run no really good published work can escape appreciation.)

“Don’t think you are entitled to any special rights, privileges, and immunities as a literary person, or have any more reason to consider your possible lack of fame a grievance against the world than has any shipping-clerk or traveling-salesman.

“Don’t speak of poetic license or believe that there is any such thing.

“Don’t tolerate in your own work any flaws in rhythm, rhyme, melody, or grammar.

“Don’t use ‘e’er’ for ‘ever,’ ‘o’er’ for ‘over,’ ‘whenas’ or ‘what time’ for ‘when,’ or any of the ‘poetical’ commonplaces of the past.

“Don’t say ‘did go’ for ‘went,’ even if you need an extra syllable.

“Don’t omit articles or prepositions for the sake of the rhythm.

“Don’t have your book published at your own expense by any house that makes a practice of publishing at the author’s expense.

“Don’t write poems about unborn babies.

“Don’t—don’t write hymns to the great god Pan. He is dead; let him rest in peace!

“Don’t write what everybody else is writing.”

(Read the entire essay after the jump)

Continue reading “Sixteen Don’ts for Poets (1917)”

List with No Name #53

  1. Agapē Agape
  2. Amerika
  3. Billy Budd
  4. The Castle
  5. The Garden of Eden
  6. Hadji Murat
  7. Islands in the Stream
  8. Juneteenth
  9. The Leopard
  10. The Master and Margarita
  11. The Metamorphosis
  12. The Mysterious Stranger
  13. October Ferry to Gabriola
  14. The Pale King
  15. Persuasion
  16. Stephen Hero
  17. The Third Policeman
  18. The Third Reich
  19. Three Days Before the Shooting…

A brief note to readers new to Infinite Jest (and a very incomplete list of motifs in the novel)

David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest poses rhetorical, formal, and verbal challenges that will confound many readers new to the text. The abundance of (or excess of) guides and commentaries on the novel can perhaps have the adverse and unintentional consequence of making readers new to Infinite Jest believe that they can’t “get it” without help.  Much of the online analyses and resources for Infinite Jest are created by and targeted to readers who have finished or are rereading the novel. While I’ve read many insightful and enlightening commentaries on the novel over the years (and, in particular, over the past six weeks rereading IJ), my intuition remains that the superabundance of analysis may have the paradoxical effect of actually impeding readers new to the text. With this in mind, I’d suggest that first-time readers need only a dictionary and some patience.

(Still: Two online resources that might be useful are “Several More and Less Helpful Things for the Person Reading Infinite Jest,” which offers a glossary and a few other unobtrusive documents, and Infinite Jest: A Scene-by-Scene Guide,”which is not a guide at all, but rather a brief series of synopses of each scene in the novel, organized by page number and year; my sense is that this guide would be helpful to readers attempting to delineate the novel’s nonlinear chronology—however, I’d advise against peeking ahead).

The big advantage (and pleasure) of rereading Infinite Jest is that the rereader may come to understand the plot anew; IJ is richer and denser the second go around, its themes showing brighter as its formal construction clarifies. The rereader is free to attend to the imagery and motifs of the novel more intensely than a first-time reader, who must suss out a byzantine plot propelled by a plethora of characters. Readers new to IJ may find it helpful to attend from the outset to some of the novel’s repeated images, words, and phrases. Tracking motifs will help to clarify not only the novel’s themes and “messages,” but also its plot. I’ve listed just a few of these motifs below, leaving out the obvious ones like entertainment, drugs, tennis (and, more generally, sports and games), and death. The list is in no way definitive or analytic, nor do I present it as an expert; rather, it’s my hope that this short list might help a reader or two get more out of a first reading.


Heads

Cages

Faces

Maps

Masks

Cycles

Teeth

Waste

Infants

Pain

Deformities

Subjects

Objects

Continue reading “A brief note to readers new to Infinite Jest (and a very incomplete list of motifs in the novel)”

“Sorites for a Rich Indian Uncle” — Harry Mathews

IMG_6253

Click on the damn image to make it much bigger so you can read Mathews’ list (or sorites/stories/sorties). From Selected Declarations of Independence. The illustration is by Alex Katz.

 

“Snips of the Tongue” — Harry Mathews

“Snips of the Tongue”

by

Harry Mathews

from Selected Declarations of Independence

Once burned, twice snide

+

Every drug has its day

+

The road to help is paved with good intentions

+

Never pull of tomorrow what you can do today

+

When in Rome, do as the Trojans do

+

Half a loan is better than no bread

+

Every crowd has a silver lining

+

One man’s meat is another man’s person

+

Look before you leave

+

A snitch in time saves nine

+

In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is kinky

+

Too many cooks spoil the dwarf

List with No Name #52

Continue reading “List with No Name #52”

A (probably incomplete) list of films mentioned in Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice

Below: A (probably incomplete) list of films mentioned in Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice.

I’ve listed them in the order in which they show up, and also in the editorial style in which they appear—initially, Pynchon separates the release year with a comma or doesn’t give a year at all, before settling on parenthetical citations—with the one quirk of A Summer Place—its year is indicated in brackets. Obviously this inconsistency is actually some kind of super-meaningful clue, a key that will unlock any unresolved mysteries of Inherent Vice—right?

Black Narcissus, 1947

Caligari

Metropolis

Dr. No, 1962

Now, Voyager (1942)

Fort Apache (1948)

He Ran All the Way (1951)

I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Roman Holiday (1953)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Vertigo (1958)

The Big Bounce (1969)

Champion (1949)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

A Summer Place [1959]

The Sea Wolf (1941)

Little Miss Broadway (1938)

List with No Name #50

Mason & Dixon, Thomas Pynchon (incomplete)

The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis

Woman on the Edge of Time, Marge Piercy (abandoned)

Life A User’s Manual, Georges Perec (abandoned with intentions to return)

An Armful of Warm Girl, W.M. Spackman

Dockwood, Jon McNaught

The Laughing Monsters, Denis Johnson

The Trip to Echo Spring , Olivia Laing (incomplete)

An Ecology of World Literature, Alexander Beercroft (incomplete)

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of PilgrimageHaruki Murakami

The Age of the Poets, Alain Badiou (incomplete)

Wittgenstein’s Nephew, Thomas Bernhard

Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor

The Habit of Being, Flannery O’Connor (incomplete)

I, Little Asylum, Emmanuelle Guattari

Continue reading “List with No Name #50”

List with No Name #49

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How to Keep Well

how to keep well

More health tips from The White House Cookbook (1887).

The Top 10 Best Novels of 2014

10. The Beekeeper’s Daughter by Sissy Sextuplington

By turns uproarious, scandalous, and emotionally-moving, this kaleidoscopic novel tells the multi-generational story of the Apis clan, from their humble beginnings starting a clandestine honey-service in the catacombs of Ellis Island in the 1890s, to their triumphant crest in the honey-boom of the Buzzing Twenties, to their decline and rebirth from their own ashes/wax over the course of the 20th century. This sting stuns!

9. Cacanisius’ Crossing by Caomh-Caolan FitzSimmons-Hughes

How wonderful that this “lost classic” has been recovered anew! FitzSimmons-Hughes of course wrote the novel over a series of decades; each section was written in the language of the European country he was living in self-imposed exile in at the time. Cacanisius’ Crossing was then translated into Irish Gaelic, and has finally been translated into English. The 1085-page story details the last five minutes in the life of its central character. Kaleidoscopically stunning.

8. Dovetail by Samuel Samold

In this dystopian romance-thriller, society is split into two groups: those who have earned their genetically-grafted tails, and those who must go “SansTail.” Will plucky Becky Fang pass the Trials of Wattle and earn her place in the dominant tribe (along with dreamboat Crispin’s affection)—or will she follow the strange mysteries of the secret resistance force, The Cloacal Tunnel? A compelling stunner.

7. The Kite Runner 2 by Khaled Hosseini

The whole book club bawled. Again.

6. Jimmy Hat Johannson and the Crystal Creeper Caper (A Charleston ‘Nights’ Mystery) by Edwin Turner

I feel a little weird putting my own NaNoWriMo novel on here—not the least because it hasn’t come out yet (FS&G in hardback in the US, March 2016; Penguin in the UK, Australia, Canada, and NZ in May 2016; Japanese and Latvian translations TBD)—but it’s really, really good. I even let a friend look over it to check for any bad writing (there wasn’t any) before I sent it to the Wylie Agency. The plot: Jimmy Hat Johansson is just a good ole boy from a backwoods burg…but a summer job with his Uncle Ray’s lawn business plunges him headfirst into a world of sinister intrigue–housewife murderesses, a corrupt sheriff, and a crystal meth syndicate!

5. The Lumberjack’s Apprentice by Knob Hayden

Knob Hayden’s remarkable journey comes to life in this remarkable collection of stories (The Lumberjack’s Apprentice is a novel-in-stories). Remarkably, this book was Hayden’s thesis for an experimental MFA program offered by the EGS (via Transylvania University, Kentucky). Each short story is a remarkable entry in this angry young man’s tour-de-force-of-truth. Hayden is only 24, but he’s hardly tender—six days as a lumberjack’s apprentice will roughen any soft palms! Our hero also tries his hand as a busboy, a mail clerk at Monsanto, and a cabin boy. This guy has definitely read Jesus’ Son!

4. Working On My Screenplay by Angela Criss

Kudos to Penguin for this achievement. This is a book of tweets from people who have included the phrase “working on my screenplay” in their tweet, interspersed with sketches of kittens. Sure, you might criticize it as lazy, not particularly insightful, barely interesting, the sort of joke that others like John Cage played decades ago, a gimmick, cruel, boring, or smug. But it’s art and it’s subversive and it provides much-needed metacommentary and it can be yours for only 10 bucks!

3. Too Many Cooks: The Novelization by Jonathan Franzen

Stunningly remarkable work from Franzen, who slowly teases out the Adult Swim’s immediate cult-classic 11-minute video to 475 pages in this sweeping multigenerational epic. Stunning to think that Mr. Franzen never even watched the short film!

2. Brooklyn Novel Title TK  by Daktoa Rugburn

Wyoming Strongniece has no idea what to do after college—an internship at a Fortune 500 company offered by one of her father’s friends? An experimental MFA program offered by the EGS? Should she work the summer at her favorite bar, making artisanal cocktails for the surly locals, and continue to support her suicidal roommate Hershey as she tries to launch her acting career? Or maybe—just maybe—she can have it all. A dazzling debut sure to stun and reward.

1. The Sector of Attention by Moses Kingson

In vivid prose, Kingson’s unforgettable 27th novel explores the nadirs and acmes of the human soul. A swirling kaleidoscope of epiphanies and soul-searching, this kaleidoscopic stunner makes us reexamine all we thought we knew about WWII. I can’t wait to actually read it.