- Rainbow’s Gravity
- Vibrators Yawing
- I Saw Vibrant Orgy
- Aviary Bowstring
- Warty Virgin’s Boa
- Varsity War Bingo
- Brain Sow Gravity
- Wintry Bag Savior
- Bargain Ivy Worts
- Abstain, Wry Vigor!
- A Gravity Bro Wins
- Wry Bi Navigators
- Braying Sitar Vow
- Wait, Braving Rosy
- Raving Ways Orbit
- Vagina Bits Worry
- Bit Vaginas—Worry
- Vibrating Ya Rows
- Winy Gravitas, Bro
- Nay—Vibrator Wigs
- Avast, Worrying Bi!
- Vagrant’s Wiry Bio
- Sanitary Brig Vow
- Antiwar by Vigors
- Aviator by Wrings
- Virago Twins Bray
- Ban Ivory Wig Rats
- Warns via Bigotry
- Biting Ovary Wars
- Van Orgy Is Bit Raw
- Vying Brow Tiaras
- Boring TV Airways
- Ow! (Vibrating Rays)
- Braving Sway Riot
- Savory Brain Twig
- A Vibratory Swing
- Ivy, Aborting Wars
- Aviary Bong Writs
- Bro, Astray, Wiving
- Avow Brainy Grist
- Snowy Trivia Garb
- Grab Warty Vision
- Wrong Tibias Vary
- Stay Wiring, Bravo!
- Braising Wavy Rot
- Gator Bra Wins Ivy
- (Brag) Norway Visit
- Gratis Binary Vow
- Nab via Gory Wrists
- Aviary Brings Two
- T’is Rainbow Gravy
- Barrio Swat Vying
- Via Starry Bowing
- Big Wino’s TV Array!
- Bag Ovary, Writ Sin
- Starving Wary Obi
- Boar, Satyr, Wiving
- Any Wigs, Vibrator?
- Avian Grits (by Row)
- Orgy Twin via Bars
- Raving Was by Riot
- Giant Raw Ivy Orbs
- A Vibratory Swing
- I Grow Brainy Vats
- Wry Vagina’s Orbit
- Was Ya Rib Rig on TV?
- Angry Swob Trivia
- Ban War Orgy Visit
- Yo War’s Vibrating!
William F. Buckley
William S. Burroughs
John Clellon Holmes
- King Lear
- Henry IV, Part I/II
- The Tempest
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Antony and Cleopatra
- Twelfth Night
- Much Ado about Nothing
- The first sentence is not compelling.
- Neither are the second, third, or fourth sentences.
- Nor the fifth.
- (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).
- Those blurbs: So thickly pasted in glowing praise is your novel that its spine I dare not crack.
- Swarming with spiders. Scores of mean spiders. A horde, exploding from your novel’s pages.
- Too long.
- Your novel is part of a trilogy.
- Your novel is basically a fan fiction of a nineteenth-century literary novel.
- Your novel is basically a fan fiction of a twentieth-century literary novel.
- Your novel-memoir-thing is basically a blog.
- All the ghosts in your novel are metaphors.
- Ceaseless cyborg sex scenes.
- Four chapters in, my only thought is “I’ve read this novel before.”
- Your novel is in French.
- Your novel is too good and I am too stupid.
- Your novel is morally instructive.
- Printed in pink ink.
- I left it on a plane.
- Your novel is upside down.
- All of your characters have quirky hobbies; this I cannot abide.
- Oh cool, a stranger comes to town?
- Every verb attributing speech to a character is modified by an adverb.
- Too short.
- Too few swamps.
- That cover!
- Your novel is overtly engaged in social issues.
- Your novel is about baseball.
- Your novel is “erotic.”
- Your novel is extraordinarily well behaved.
- Your novel’s extended metaphor is too obvious.
- Written on rope.
- You are a conceptual poet with bad ideas and boring books.
- You had me at Rags to Riches—but back to Rags again?! Not this time.
- Not enough cyborg sex.
- Your novel is a Word doc.
- Your novel is part of a tetralogy.
- 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.
- I drank too much.
- Your novel is filled with pressed flowers which I’d rather not disturb.
- Deader, better novelists await.
- 600 pages of a woman brushing her teeth.
- The main character is too likable.
- Your novel’s extended metaphor is too oblique.
- Your novel’s central character worries about poetry all the time. Poetry!
- The batteries died.
- No pictures.
- I’m too cynical.
- 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.
- Your novel is about a math problem.
- Mimesis, ugh.
- I gave it to a friend I don’t like.
- Not enough chainsaws.
- Your novel kept sending me to look up obscure references on Wikipedia, and the Wikipedia pages were more intriguing.
- Oh cool, you backpacked through Europe?
- Unnecessary end-notes.
- You keep emphasizing how brilliant and intelligent and talented this character is, yet nothing in the prose harnesses that brilliant intelligent talent.
- Your novel is extraordinarily well meaning.
- 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.
- Your novel is in Italian.
- Your novel is too bossy.
- Your central character is invisible, and yet no one is having any fun.
- You’ve mistaken “imagination” for “research.”
- Too much furniture.
- 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).
- Magical realism, eh?
- You are a brilliant young novelist, perhaps, but you’ve forgotten to read so many of the brilliant young novelists who came before you.
- Your novel is made of poison, which is admittedly appealing, but which I fear will kill me.
- Your novel’s characters repeatedly reference other, much better novels (by much deader writers), reminding me that those novels exist.
- Pages and pages and pages of weather.
- I tucked it under the wheel well of a stranger’s automobile.
- All the Southern characters’ speech is rendered in bad phonetic transcription.
- Did you buy these epigraphs in bulk?
- Your novel is very clever and very unfunny.
- Not lurid enough.
- 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?
- Oh cool, you backpacked across Southeast Asia?
- Your novel is cursed.
- Your novel is a sustained argument against breakfast, and I can’t get down with that.
- Hero’s journey, eh?
- The first paragraph is too good. I would only be disappointed by anything that came after.
- I like my dirty realism much dirtier.
- Your novel was actually a salad, so I ate it.
- Having every other character be a Christ figure sounds like a cool idea, but it isn’t.
- No dial tone.
- Your novel is in Japanese.
- Your characters earnestly cite long passages from philosophy.
- I’m lazy.
- Not enough orcs.
- Your novel seems to mistake postmodernism, which is a description, for a prescription.
- Your novel is “like X on Y times Z.”
- Your “literary novel” fetishizes “genre tropes.”
- I didn’t drink enough.
- I’m just jealous.
- The prose is too dazzling.
- Look, we’ve all read Kafka, we get it.
- Time is limited, life is short, ashes ashes we all fall etc.
- I’ll wait for the movie.
- A Serious Man
- The Big Lebowski
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- No Country for Old Men
- Barton Fink
- Blood Simple
- O Brother, Where Art Thou?
- Raising Arizona
- The Man Who Wasn’t There
- Miller’s Crossing
- True Grit
- Burn After Reading
- The Ladykillers
- The Hudsucker Proxy
- Hail, Caesar!
- Intolerable Cruelty
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” by Arthur Guiterman
“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 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)
- Agapē Agape
- Billy Budd
- The Castle
- The Garden of Eden
- Hadji Murat
- Islands in the Stream
- The Leopard
- The Master and Margarita
- The Metamorphosis
- The Mysterious Stranger
- October Ferry to Gabriola
- The Pale King
- Stephen Hero
- The Third Policeman
- The Third Reich
- Three Days Before the Shooting…
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.
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”
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
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
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)
The Big Bounce (1969)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
A Summer Place 
The Sea Wolf (1941)
Little Miss Broadway (1938)
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)
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