The Best of What I’ve Read, Version 2011

This, this blogposting thing, is something I should do more often. A Year-end post is as good a place as any to start. Reading this year was a bit of a mess as far as documentation was concerned–I spent the summer away from home and neglected to pack the book in which I’ve been recording the books I’ve read since 1995.  But I’ll do my best to reconstruct.

These are in no particular order.  And I was going to have a list of at least ten, but here’s what I’ve got:

The Avian Gospels by Adam Novy.  I reviewed this book earlier in the year for Cow Heavy, and the review will soon be on Lit Pub’s (wonderful, wonderful) site as well.  Wonderfully written, beautifully published, and worth rereading.

Best European Fiction 2011, edited by Alexandar Hemon.  I’m working my way through the 2012 installment of this wonderful series (and that volume is sure to appear on next year’s best-of list), but the 2011 collection has astounding work, from a tale of artistic expression under the heel of political repression by Michal Ajvaz (honestly, more of his novels need to appear in translation),  to Frode Grytten’s beautifully portrayed dissolution of a marriage in “The Railway Station.”  It’s my hope that the inclusion of these authors in this anthology leads to more of their respective works to be translated into English for a wider readership.

Normally Special by xTx. Appearances shall deceive.  Harrowing stuff for such a small book.  People on the bus will see you reading that brightly colored little thing and have no idea what you’re going through.  Get it get it.

Poems for the Millennium, Vol. 1, Edited by Pierre Joris and Jerome Rothenberg.  This was my summer of avant-garde poetry, and at over 830 pages, this was a sizable chunk of that summer.  You’ll find important works here that you can find nowhere else in English, mainly because this is the first time they’ve been translated into English.  Representative work by important members of influential movements.

Atomised, by Michele Houellebecq.  “…outside the strict confines of history, the ultimate ambition if this book is to salute the brave and unfortunate species which created us.  This vile, unhappy race, barely different from the apes, had such noble aspirations.  Tortured, contradictory, individualistic, quarrelsome, it was capable of extraordinary violence, but nonetheless never quite abandoned a belief in love.”  Houllebecq has been in the press quite a bit in the past year or so, and not only due to his mysterious disappearance.  I really was on the fence about putting this on the list, in that I didn’t like it.  This, however, seems a rather shallow determining factor, considering how much the book affected me after finishing it.  I thought about it for days.  Sure, it’s explicit.  Sure, it’s occasionally irrritating, but it’s unforgettable.

The City, Our City by Wayne Miller.  A beautifully-unified collection of poems that explores the idea of City. My review of it appears in this month’s edition of The Sycamore Review, available now.

The Book of Hours by Marianne Boruch.  This book is a departure of sorts for Boruch. The control, the intensity of her earlier work is here, applied to what could be seen as a book-length poem.  A series of untitled poems, in quatrains, that portray the events surrounding the death of her mother and the writer’s dialogue with herself on the dificulty of “how do I write this?  What do I do to get this to stick to paper?”  Beautifully written.

The Songs and Stories of the Ghouls by Alice Notley.  I admit I’m a bit of a freak fan of Notley.  I don’t entirely understand what’s going on in all of her astonishingly-burgeoning oeuvre (her recent Reason and Other Women remains mostly opaque to me), but she’s interesting. Her classic Descent of Alette was the result of Notley wanting to write a feminine epic.  Such stories had been told only from the masculine point of view. This latest book grabs at women in mythology:  Dido, Medea.  “Nothing is changeable except for a myth.  Let’s change that.”  Power, even in the hands of women, was only there to give to men:  “No one really believes in her power, I assure you.  She is only allowed it as an adjunct to her passion.  She can’t just have it.  No woman is as yet allowed that.”


~ by dblomenb on December 18, 2011.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: