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A Year of Favorites

I have been thinking that the books I love the most are ones that possess somehow a tenderness as well as something else, something like grotesqueness. So many texts I read this year circled around trauma and love and loss, but in surprising and original and unsentimental ways. I read so many violently gorgeous books this year, some are ones I kept on hearing about for years, like three beautiful books of obsessive circlings, Lydia Davis’ The End of the Story, Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling With D.H. Lawrence, and Édouard Levé’s Suicide (Dalkey Archive Press). Everything Two Dollar Radio is publishing I would describe as urgent and inerasable – this year I read Karolina Waclawiak’s How to Get Into the Twin Palms, Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon’s Nothing, and Jeff Jackson’s Mira Corpora. Same too goes for everything Danielle Dutton is publishing at DOROTHY—this season is my favorite yet—Amina Cain’s meditative, lovely Creature and Renee Gladman’s Ana Potova Crosses a Bridge, the third part of her extraordinary, haunting series on the city-state of Ravicka, circling around loss, architecture and translation. Danielle Dutton, Amina Cain, and Renee Gladman are three of the most exciting and subtle innovators in contemporary prose working today.

Speaking of subtle and tender, I know it’s not a book but I cannot get T Fleischmann’s poem-essay about “Felix Gonzalez-Torres, queer affection, and ice” that Maggie Nelson published as part of PEN’s Poetry Series out of my skin since I’ve read it. Same goes for Karen Green’s devouring, exquisite grief-collage, Bough Down (by the way, everything Lisa Pearson is publishing at SIGLIO is magnificent, from Sophie Calle’s Address Book to Dorothy publisher Danielle Dutton’s Sprawl.) Speaking of text + image, one of the best exhibits I saw this year is still at The Drawing Center, the microscripts of Swiss writer Robert Walser juxtaposed against Emily Dickinson’s poem-scraps on found materials, such as envelopes (my partner brought home last week both New Directions books, both Walser’s Microscripts and the newer The Gorgeous Nothings, I cannot wait to steal them away from him.) I read two wonderful books dealing with the epistolary and the void this year, Trisha Low’s The Compleat Purge, a compilation of suicide notes and abject confessions, published by Kenning Editions, and S.D. Chrowtowska’s philosophical rumination Permission (Dalkey Archive Press). I also swooned over reading, finally, the Correspondence of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann (Seagull Books).

I feel this is the right time to say that this summer reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch was something like an epic, wonderful, event —it feels like everyone I know was reading Middlemarch. My favorite theoretical discovery this year has been the texts of Giorgio Agamben, and his new brilliant collection Nudities is a good place to start for neophytes. There are so many exciting texts I read experimenting with memoir— Lynn Crosbie’s spiky, heartbreaking Life is About Losing Everything (Anansi) and Mathias Viegener’s lyric-essay 2500 Random Things About Me Too (Les Figues).  I have decided my favorite genre is the jeremiad, the infuriating lament—my world was rocked by Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse this year, no one writes more forceful prose than Dworkin, everyone should read Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, especially her most recent, The End of San Francisco (City Lights). I thought about what Sarah Schulman was arguing in The Gentrification of the Mind all year, nodding my head mostly quite vigorously. I loved reading Fire in the Belly, C. Carr’s biography of my favorite scribe of the jeremiad, David Wojnarowicz, who I have been thinking about constantly, since I moved to New York.

Kate Zambreno is the author of two novels, O Fallen Angel (Chiasmus Press) and Green Girl (to be reissued by Harper Perennial in May 2014). She is also the author of the critical memoir Heroines (Semiotext(e)’s Active Agents) and the upcoming anti-memoir Book of Mutter (Wesleyan University Press, 2015). She is teaching this year in the creative writing program at Sarah Lawrence College and the MFA program at Columbia University.

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