Blog about some recent reading

The last little bit of Spring trickles away here in North Florida, where beautiful days with highs of 82℉ promise to turn into burning sweaty hell in the next week or two. The Spring 2021 semester is behind me, and I’ve found a lot more time to read. So, re: pic, bottom to top:

Paul Kirchner’s latest collection Dope Rider: A Fistful of Delerium is dope goofy gorgeousness. I’ve been taking it a page a day or so and am about to run out of the stash. I hope to have a review of it soon (maybe in The Comics Journal, where I reviewed Kirchner’s last collection, Hieronymus & Bosch).

Paul Kirchner

I also read some comix by Drew Lerman, and wrote about them here.

Drew Lerman

I picked up Rachel Cusk’s much-lauded novel Outline a few weeks ago at a Friends of the Library Sale. It was not for me. The flat, “tell-don’t-show” style didn’t bother me—indeed the prose is very “readable” (whatever that means)—but I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. A lot of smart people like this novel (and the trilogy it initiates), so maybe I fundamentally misread it. And in fairness, the whole contemporary autoficiton thing has left me cold, with the possible exception of Elena Ferrante’s so-called Neopolitan Novels, which I loved.

I read four B.S. Johnson novels in something of a blur. Johnson was an English avant-gardiste writing primarily in the 1960s. I wrote a bit about some of the novels hereChristie Malry’s Own Double-Entry ended up being my favorite, with Albert Angelo a close second. I thought Trawl was extremely tedious. I broke down and ordered a copy of his “novel in a box,” The Unfortunates—maybe I’ll muster the energy for something bigger on Johnson.

I’m a little over half way through Patrick Suskind’s Perfume (trans. by John E. Woods), and I really dig it—it feels like a long time since I’ve read a good ole fashioned historical novel told in the third-person omniscient/free indirect style. Set in France in the mid-1700’sPerfume is the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a perfume genius, a freak, a murderer. I’d seen Tom Twyker’s film adaptation years ago, but the novel is richer, taking us deeper into Grenouille’s strange mind. Great stuff.

I recently finished Norah Lange’s fragmentary memoir, Notes from Childhood (trans. by Charlotte Whittle). It’s a propulsive and rich read, a loving but unsentimental, magical without a trace of whimsy. I wrote about it a bit here.

He Wants (Book acquired, some time in February 2016)

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British author Alison Moore’s novel He Wants is getting a release on this side of the Atlantic from Canadian publisher Biblioasis.

From novelist Rachel Cusk’s review of He Wants two years ago in The Guardian:

Following her Booker-shortlisted The Lighthouse, Alison Moore’s artistically pleasing second novel is a sort of Midlands Death in Venice, a story of ageing and thwarted desire in which a man drifts away from his moorings into Dionysian impulses, after a lifetime spent serving the values of the humdrum contemporary community in which he lives.

He Wants evokes a world that is purposefully pedestrian – the Dionysian impulses pertain to halves of shandy and the desire to taste a Swiss liqueur called Goldschläger – but its themes of self-realisation, identity and mortality are grand enough. Moore’s protagonist, a widower RE teacher who is approaching retirement, is intimately captured in the midst of a disintegration brought about by the loss of the structures that have thus far formed and maintained his personality: work, marriage and certain relationships that have created or reinforced his sense of existence.

Aftermath (Book Acquired, 7.08.2013)

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When a review copy of Rachel Cusk’s memoir Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation (new in trade paperback from Picador) showed up the other day, a dim bulb went off—where did I know Cusk’s name? I’m not generally a fan of the memoir, so I doubt I’d read it. And then! Aha! Yes—it was a review of Cusk’s memoir that won Camilla Long this year’s “Hatchet Job of the Year” award.

From Long’s review (originally published in The Sunday Times):

The book is crammed with mad, flowery metaphors and hifalutin creative-writing experiments. There are hectic passages on Greek tragedy and the Christian concept of family, as well as fragments of ghost stories, references to the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy, and heavy Freudian symbolism, including a long description of the removal of a molar, “a large tooth,” she writes portentously, “of great…personal significance”. The final chapter is an out-of-body experience — her situation seen through the eyes of her pill-popping Eastern European au pair. Oddly, I read the whole thing in a Bulgarian accent.

I don’t know, that sounds pretty weird. Kinda intrigues me.