Wednesday, December 27, 2006

ten *words*

books, books, books. I'm surrounded by them everywhere I go. They are squatters in my apartment, quite literally they have no homes--not enough bookshelves line our walls. And yet 2006 was not a banner year for me and reading. There are several reasons for this, the inclusion of Croftie's car taking away sunday CTA commutes (2 hours a week right there), netflix, etc. This is not to say my literary world wasn't rocked, say, 10 times or so if not more. And on that note, drumroll please...

10. My Name is Red, Vintage Books (2002) by Orhan Pamuk.
Wish I could say I read this before he won the Nobel, but no, I'm just another literary bandwagoneer. Glad the award forced my hand though. A thriller and a treatise on 17th century turkish painting, who woulda thought that was even possible?

09a. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Mariner Books (2006) by Jonathan Safran Foer
09b. Black Swan Green, Random House (2006) by David Mitchell
kids sure can write these days. These two youngins (youngens? younguns? damn you colloquial English!) turned out concise, devastating tales of youths discovering the world is big and bad and full of hurt. Both novels have their problems (and their fair share of detractors) and both authors are in line for something really huge down the line. a fine place to sit and rest along the way tho.

07. In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, Penguin Books (2005) translated by James Grieve.
originally published in french by marcel proust in 1919.
i will now always associate Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine as the greatest living proust scholar and his character is not far off the mark when he says In Search of Lost Time may be the most important piece of writing since shakespeare. He's also right when he says next to nobody reads it, possibly because each of the six parts is close to 500 pages long and reads like one huge sentence. fans of Lost complain after every episode that things are moving too slowly and nothing is happening with the plot. that simply isn't so. 30 pages of the young narrator waffling whether or not to go walk the promenade and maybe, perchance, just maybe, gasp, possibly catch a glimpse of vacationing nymphets, then finally deciding not to, that's slow.

06. the Invisibles, Vertigo Comics, (1994-2000) by Grant Morrison
heady, trippy, hella smart Situationist style comics. Morrison scripts the lives an underground resistance movement trying to stop the world from giving itself up completely to shadowy corporations and sinister conspiracies. The first Trade collection is flat-out unbeatable.

05. At Swim 2 Birds, Dalkey Archive Press, (2005, originally 1939) by Flann O'brien

04. the Man Without Qualities, Vol. 1, Vintage Books (1996) by Robert Musil, translated by Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike. originally published posthumously in 1930, in German (never completed)
dense philosophy that mostly went over my head. i'm smart enough to realize that this is a novel that influences the Influencers, though i wouldn't be able to tell you the finer points as to how. Lots of folks will tell you this ranks right up there with modernist literature's top cows Mann, Joyce, and Proust. it is certainly as bulky as its brethren at 725 pages. definitely followed each chapter with a chaser of spiderman though, just to get the 'high art' aftertaste out of my noggin.

03. Europe Central, Penguin Books (2005) William T. Vollmann
I like my novels long. 500 pages minimum. I like something i can sink my teeth into, that buries an anchor in me and just keeps dragging me along turning up all kinds of stuff along the way. something with scope and heft. Like the Pynchon i'm currently reading this novel is epic in scale, literally continental in plot. The characters are all rich and wonderful (and sometimes biographical *cough cough,* Oline, *cough*) and every few pages a sentence just lands with a kind of floral gravity only a handful of living authors can produce. and i learned me some history too.

02. the Tin Drum, Vintage Intl, (1990) by Gunter Grass, translated by Ralph Manheim. Originally published in german in 1959.
long, unwieldy, bizarro, seriously, what's not to like. Another 'road' war novel (see #3), another masterpiece. all of a sudden i'm a germanophile or whatever german lit readers are called (probably nothing since all three of us have never met). just realized only 2 titles on this list have nothing to do with war or terrorism (#7 blissfully bourgeios and uninvolved with that sort of thing and #5, blissfully convoluted and metafictionally absent from that sort of thing) and the next title is no different...

01. Fables, Vertigo Comics, (ongoing series begun in 2003) by Bill Willingham.
the single most imaginative thing i've read in years. imaginative in that it scoops up all these existing stories and completely re-invents them, re-interprets them and re-positions them into something masterful and new. If the Sandman and Frank Miller got me back into comics, Fables made sure I'm going nowhere fast. and why should I? with art this beautiful, sharp, and politically aware who needs your Canon? Not I good sirs! well that was rather melodramatic. guess i'll just go quietly now.



At 8:23 AM , Blogger oline said...

since i have read literally one of the 11, i've little to contribute. nonetheless, there are many things i love here, so a list of accolades:

1. "literary bandwagoneer"

2. the inclusion of EL&IC and the subsequent struggle over the spelling of youngins.

3. "floral gravity"

4. the admission that steve carell in LMS is forever the greatest living proust scholar.

5. "modernist literature's top cows"


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