Reading: 2011

Total Items: 100

Haunted — Chuck Palahniuk (-)
Especially annoying. I might have to give up on this author.

Maitreya — Severo Sarduy
Equally strange but ultimately more straightforward than Cobra.

God’s Hazard — Nicholas Mosley
Why have we created the story of a god that is puckish and vengeful? Why not portray god as a kindly old man that is concerned that his children see him as a friend and benefactor and not a punishing father figure. I have been collecting some of Mosley’s fiction and this is the first one I have read. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Red Shift — Alan Garner
Garner creates in his three related and interleaved stories a dynamic and visionary account using the unity of a single place in England and presenting differing narratives representing three times in the life of the area. Although deceptively simple, the use of intertwining narratives keeps the reader on point. The title is a great image and I have been musing on its implications. A good one.

Redemption — Chantal Chawaf (+)
Short but complex and intense. We meet a lover and also a brutal killer; the first line of this novel is an intriguing introduction to a powerful and upsetting narrative:  “As night fell, Charles became a vampire.” The author skillfully weaves discussions of literature, art, semiotics, etc. in between the episodes of stalking, ripping flesh and the many sides of love.

Death, Sleep & the Traveler — John Hawkes
I had forgotten how good John Hawkes writes.

The Mirror in the Well — Micheline Aharonian Marcom
The author on more than one occasion directly refers to life as it exists in the novel. The implication is that the fiction is its own reality; people change within the fiction; the narrative is life. Otherwise, a warning:  explicit language and some rather intimate sexual acts treated with matter-of-factness.

The Poor Mouth — Flann O’Brien (+)
Translated from the Gaelic and a moving, but often funny, treatment of the poverty and ignorance in Western Ireland. Several times while reading this novel I was struck by similarities to the great novels of Erskine Caldwell. Not to be missed.

The Last Post — Ford Madox Ford
The final volume to the excellent series published under the name, Parade’s End.

Theatre of Incest — Alain Arias-Misson
My mother my lover; my daughter my other; my sister my sweet witch. Theater, huh? Maybe it’s all a metaphor for the various ways a man loves a woman?

Asleep in the Sun — Adolfo Bioy Casares
The separation of body and soul … and dogs. Good stuff by a wonderful author.

Cobra — Severo Sarduy
I may have to reread this one. Cobra is a transvestite dancer. Sarduy is a surrealistic author. Interesting, mesmerizing, but not totally coherent in my mind (it’s me, not the novel).

Bust Down the Door & Eat All the Chickens #10 — Bradley Sands, ed.
This very irregularly published journal is a fun and valuable compilation of Bizarro fiction edited by one of the top writers in the field.

The Prague Cemetery — Umberto Eco
You would think that with all the little bits of arcania with which Eco peppers his prose that he could come up with a novel that wasn’t essentially boring.

Tell-All — Chuck Palahniuk (-)
Another one of those Palahniuk titles that works out what the author thought was a good idea for a novel but ultimately is a song with one note. Obvious and ultimately stupid.

King Rat — China Miéville
A secret race of humanoid rats living in the shadows of London. I wasn’t mesmerized and the novel I thought would be quick fun turned into a slog. I also have the next novel in the series but now I’m thinking about what I can get at the Book Trader Emporium.

My Fantoms — Théophile Gautier 
Although this collection of stories were all written by Gautier, the translator has taken them and created a theme-based volume which we can only assume Gautier might have approved. Actually, it’s a good selection of Gautier’s more outré stories and the translations are crisp and enjoyable, with one questionable characteristic:  many points in the stories are translated in a decidedly British manner. Gautier is a strong figure in French literature and Richard Holmes might have been a bit more careful to maintain their Frenchness … Frenchiosity … whatever …

Pygmy — Chuck Palahniuk (-)
You have to read this one for its silly entertainment value and accept it as being somewhat more coherent than Captain Billy’s Wizz-Bang. The cover blurb that it is South Park meets The Manchurian Candidate is misleading—it doesn’t come close to the sophistication of either work.

Captain Fracasse — Théophile Gautier 

The Winter of Our Discontent — John Steinbeck
A lesser known title by a very popular author.

Foxfire: Confession of a Girl Gang — Joyce Carol Oates
Oates is a very prolific and varied author. She tells a good story but for the most part, her books stay on the level of popular fiction.

No More Parades — Ford Madox Ford
The second volume of Parade’s End and I believe the only one actually taking place on the continent in the execution of the war. Some interesting parallels between the process of the war and Tietjen’s life outside of the military. Like Powell’s Dance, Ford makes connections between the characters to further hold the narrative together.

The Romantic Dogs — Roberto Bolaño
A reread and well deserved. I can read Spanish but the dual-language edition makes it easier to avoid confusion.

Tropic of Orange — Karen Tei Yamashita
Yamashita’s technique of interleaving narratives—having several characters tell their stories, initially rather loosely associated with the other characters and their stories—is clearly developed in this novel and it definitely keeps the readers’ interest and attention. This is a wonderful novel, full of accurate and fun observations as well as a magical approach to life. Last year I read Pynchon’s LA story, Inherent Vice, and it was not half as good as this one.

La Bête humaine — Émile Zola
One of Zola’s more explicit and violent novels but still a good read. I thought the railroad theme that carried through the novel was most interesting and created a good metaphor for the historical activities depicted in the text.

Brazil-Maru — Karen Tei Yamashita
The first novel, which was about Brazil, was somewhat surrealistic. This second novel is more historical fiction but still a wonderful story. This is an author to watch.

C — Tom McCarthy (-)
Light entertainment that is highly reminiscent of several other novels that treated the same themes and narratives much better. Hard for me to recommend.

Under the Volcano — Malcolm Lowry (+)
Exquisite. The writing; the imagery; the symbolism; the human condition. A must read. Do not be dissuaded by reviews that dismiss this novel as being just about an alcoholic—it is clear that they didn’t even bother to read the book. It is so much more. Yes, there is a focus on the drunken Consul but the alcoholism is not the subject, rather the Consul’s response to the human condition. Also, there is a wealth of literary and historical allusions and references in this novel, most so carefully blended in with the narrative that you might miss them, but they act like little sparks to the reader’s interest as they are uncovered. I loved it.

Count Julian — Juan Goytisolo (+)
The second in Goytisolo’s early trilogy and full of amazing writing. There are a lot of observations on writing and novels in this one making it both a strong narrative on what it means to be a Spaniard and also on what it means to be a writer.

Some Do Not … — Ford Madox Ford
Many years ago I read the first two novels of this collection—Parade’s End—but they have faded in my memory so when the novels were brought up at a recent chat session, I decided to go back and read (or reread) the novels. I have a great admiration for Ford’s writing, and this reread of Some Do Not … was a good reminder that novelists once wrote good and interesting prose.

The Word “Desire” — Rikki Ducornet
Excellent collection of stories. I some you can see some of the subjects that later went into her novels.

Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Militant Midwives — Michael Bond
The latest romp with Monsieur Pamplemousse and his faithful dog, Pommes Frites.

Them — Joyce Carol Oates

Never Any End in Paris — Enrique Vila-Matas (+)
Vila-Matas is absolutely one of my favorite new authors. Each of his novels is different, both from his other novels and also from most of what is being written around the world. Not to be missed.

Fable For Another Time — Louis-Ferdinand Céline (+)
Like all of Céline, the prose is direct, personal, and often complex. With this one you have to add the time spent looking up persons, locations and events in the footnotes. But well worth reading and just the first book in a series the author wrote centering around his experiences following the Second World War.

Murder on the Eiffel Tower — Claude Izner [FR]
Nothing exciting here.

Scorch Atlas – Blake Butler (+)
Fascinating, depressing, consistent. This pastiche should be on everyone’s reading list that has nightmares about the future of this planet. My only concern being: why do the terrifying insects get to survive?

The Seamstress and the Wind – César Aira

The City Builder – George Konrád (+)
Densely written full of lists and compilations of images and metaphoric language that is extremely evocative. The discourse is built out of these small bits of imaginative language and I found it fascinating.

The Monstrous and the Marvelous – Rikki Ducornet
A loose collection of essays and observations with some insight into other works by the author.

Curfew – José Donoso (+)
Chile during the dictatorship.

Secret Dead Men – Duane Swierczynski
Very imaginative: a detective who is dead and reanimates bodies, slurps up souls, and maintains a hotel of dead souls in his brain, ready for any occasion. Unfortunately I wasn’t engaged after half the book was over. Perhaps even the most imaginative ideas become dull and commonplace – gimmicky even – if they are the only things in the story.

Do You Hear Them? – Nathalie Sarraute

The Blonde – Duane Swierczynski
A fast moving mystery that satisfied. I read about this author and decided to try a couple of titles from the library. So far, so good.

The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes – Pierre Klossowski
Followup to Roberte Ce Soir. Basically the same characters and probably need to be read in order, but I’m not sure if this is two novels or one novel broken into two parts.

Ghost – Alan Lightman
Light entertainment.

Remainder – Tom McCarthy
Is it real or is it Memorex. This novel seeks to answer the question. It’s a good read but reminded me of other fiction, especially Andrew Crumey.

Odd Number – Gilbert Sorrentino
Here the way the writing is possibly more impressive than the story. Sorrentino is always ready to extend the craft of fiction.

Roberte Ce Soir – Pierre Klossowski

The Obscene Bird of Night – José Donoso (+)
Intensely interesting but you have to keep on your toes because the narrative jumps around with little warning. The themes in this novel are numerous and quite thought provoking. So get your monster on and start reading.

The Angels of Perversity – Remy de Gourmont
Tasty little stories.

The One Marvelous Thing – Rikki Ducornet
All of Ducornet’s stories are wonderful.

Le Noeud de Vipères – François Mauriac (+)

Through the Arc of the Rain Forest – Karen Tei Yamashita
Just enough weird to make it fun and interesting. I have found a new author to devour.

Sleepless Nights – Elizabeth Hardwick
This got onto my reading list and I have no idea why. It wasn’t a bad book; you might consider it more of a collection of semi-related vignettes.

Sweet Tooth (Les Loukoums) – Yves Navarre
Chronicle of gay lust and the experience of New York City by a foreign journalist. And then there’s Luci. Uncompromising. Good Stuff.

Painted Ladies – Robert B. Parker
Although published after the author’s death, this is a complete, finished novel. It’s hard to get annoyed at Spenser’s incessant wise-cracking when you know there will be no more Spenser.

Sixkill – Robert B. Parker
The last Spenser! The author died last year and this last novel appears to be cobbled together from an incomplete draft, notes, etc. What I noticed was that Parker was introducing a new character into his remuda of tough guys to call on when Spenser needed assistance on a job. Sad.

The Romantic Dogs — Roberto Bolaño
Nice collection of poems by the author conveniently printed in both Spanish and English.

Last Evenings on Earth – Roberto Bolaño
Smooth, conversational stories independent but not unlike the episodic novels from Bolaño.

The Scale of Maps – Belén Gopegui
The story intertwining love and architecture is good but I most appreciated the freshness of the prose, even in translation. This might be a good one to read in Spanish.

A Minor Apocalypse – Tadeusz Konwicki (+)
In a decaying Communist world, Konwicki (character and author) struggles for survival while under an obligation to self-immolate in an act of protest. Excellent.

John-Juan – Douglas Woolf (+)
Waking up on the Mexican border in your pajamas with No-Doz in your pocket and an unusual watch, no wonder he ended up running alongside the roads collecting used Kleenex. Sort of a Kobo Abe flavor and fun.

The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner (+)
Even rereading, this is a tremendous novel that is rich in all things — narrative, theme, and style. Not to be missed.

Ya! – Douglas Woolf

Lord of Misrule – Jaimy Gordon
A very different, but award winning, novel by this author.

The Queen of Spades – Alexandr Pushkin
A different version of the Dead Man’s Hand.

Jakob Von Gunten – Robert Walser
Although I see this often called Walser’s best work, it didn’t do it for me like some of his other novels and stories.

The Mystery of the Sardine – Stephan Themerson (+)
Intriguing with a twist at the end that forces the reader to reconsider the entire novel.

The Inquisitory – Robert Pinget (+)
A servant is being questioned: why? what happened? what do we learn fron the answers the servant gives? You have to keep on your toes for this one.

Butterfly Stories – William T. Vollmann (+)
Vollmann has such an easy style. This one again returns to the subject of prostitution, narrating a tour of the whores across Southeast Asia.

Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines – Michael Bond

Inherent Vice – Thomas Pynchon
One wonders what the author was thinking. Kinky Friedman does a better job on this sort of novel but I guess you have to give Pynchon some credit for going outside his strength and delivering mediocrity.

The Ask – Sam Lipsyte
Interesting viewpoint; lively prose. I like this author.

Sanctuary – William Faulkner (+)
Dense and haunting, a powerful southern gothic. Popeye is no cartoon character here.

L. C. – Susan Daitch
A story within a story within a story.

Buddha’s Little Finger – Victor Pelevin
This novel was too overloaded with philosophical discourse and the supposedly instructional narrative just didn’t seem to fit well. It gets complex so pay attention. I don’t think this is the Pelevin novel to start with but it does create and few new wrinkles in the gray cells.

Monsieur Pamplemousse on Vacation – Michael Bond
Although I don’t rate these fun books I do recommend them. It seems Bond has continued writing the M. Pamplemousse series and I have a lot to catch up with.

Indiana, Indiana – Laird Hunt
I think this novel was better than I thought but I just couldn’t get in the groove.

Le Hussard sur le toit – Jean Giorno (+)
An extended picaresque dealing with a 19th century horse soldier that is trying to get back to his home in Italy while cholera ravages France. I found it mesmerizing, even though it wasn’t terribly complex. Read it and form your own opinion.

Stone’s Fall – Iain Pears
Barely adequate entertainment without introducing anything fresh or startling. Read like an old Wilkie Collins novel with a few writing school twists to hopefully make it more suspenseful. Didn’t help much. Quality to quantity ratio very low. The big secret was, in a very amateur move, revealed about 500 pages before it was to be sprung on the reader. Pears must not think much of the intelligence of his ideal reader. Recommended for the campfire, and I don’t mean story-telling time.

JEF 37: Bizarro Fiction! – Eckhard Gerdes ed.

The Impossibly – Laird Hunt
This is an amazing narrative which deserves multiple readings.

Requiem For a Dream – Hubert Selby, Jr. (+)
This is an author that should get more attention. His novels tend to focus on the less desirable parts of everyday life but they are not endless strings of obscenities and gore but rather evocative observations that draw the reader into a different world with different characters, a world that might be just on the other side of town.

Jerusalem — Gonçalo M. Tavares (+)
Well written with a challenging narrative structure. Highly recommended.

Z Marcas – Honoré de Balzac

Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh
A difficult read with all the Scottish street slang and simulated dialect, but definitely worth the effort. The novel brought up a few strong points that really make you think.

The Blue Lantern – Victor Pelevin (+)
An excellent collection of Pelevin’s strange stories. Warning: I have three volumes of Pelevin’s stories and there are a couple in each collection that overlap. This isn’t really a problem because rereading a Pelevin story in often imperative, not to mention pleasurable.

La Conquête de Plassans – Émile Zola
A hard to find edition from the Rougon-Macquart series (#3); I found the 1957 translation by Brian Rhys titled A Priest in the House. Being an early text, you can see that Zola has some room to improve.

Paz – Honoré de Balzac
Balzac is so predictable and repetitious. I am beginning to lower my opinion.

The Meat and Spirit Plan – Selah Saterstrom (+)
I love this author. Her writing is, as they say, so real …

Memories of the Future – Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

The Golem – Gustav Meyrink (+)

The Winter Queen – Boris Akunin
A period mystery written in and of Russia. Somewhat entertaining but I’m not planning on filling out the series.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape – Michel Butor
Part autobiography, part surrealism, all nouveau roman.

Pussy, King of Pirates – Kathy Acker (+)
Some of the rawness of the earlier works has been smoothed out as the author matures in her vision of art and the skill of fiction. Most definitely one of my favorite writers and it still is such a shame that we lost her so early on.

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
Boring and trite. I’m getting too much of this first person narrative and hope it dies a quick death.

River Out of Eden – Richard Dawkins
A good, simple introduction to the subject of Darwinian evolution, new enough to include the genetic information but not quite up to date any more.

A Prince of Bohemia – Honoré de Balzac
Messy. I’m actually becoming less of an advocate for Balzac the more I read.

The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett
Pleasant enough but I’ve heard more involved and interesting stories in a Jay Leno interview.

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