My Struggle vol. 2: A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

This book, which manages to balance a compelling and relentless narration of one life’s quotidian minutiae against the rather less quotidian thought processes that attend those minutiae, or at least the author of this book (and that is another interesting tension: the book purports to be the life of its author, therefore to be the author itself in some ways, but the back of the book says fiction, and of course it is) is convinced that examining minutiae destroys the very thing which one wanted to examine in the first place. It is as though the atoms of our lives are given weight by the protons of our thoughts and the electrons can either have location or velocity, but not both. In fact, the author says so multiple times:
p76 “Or was it perhaps that the light which illuminated the world and made everything comprehensible also drained it of meaning?” p414 “The eye which gave meaning to the world was a constant possibility, but we almost always decided against it. . . .” p487 “This was the problem with all representation, of course, for no eye is uncontaminated, no gaze is blank, nothing is seen the way it is. And in this encounter the question of art’s meaning as a whole was forced to the surface.” p503 “But the stars twinkle above our heads, the sun shines, the grass grows and the earth, yes, the earth, it swallows all life and eradicates all vestige of it, spews out new life in a cascade of limbs and eyes, leaves and nails, hair and tails, cheeks and fur and guts, and swallows it up again. And what we never really comprehend, or don’t want to comprehend, is that this happens outside us, that we ourselves have no part in it, that we are only that which grows and dies, as blind as the waves in the sea are blind.”

Black Hole by Charles Burns

A picture of a white slit. A picture of two bones tied together at a 120º angle. A picture of a broken bottle. A picture of a rip in the skin? A picture of the moon. A picture of a slit in a foot. A picture of a marijuana bud. A picture of a sharpened stick. A picture of a half-eaten burger. A picture of a tab of acid between two strips of tape. A picture of a sprinkling of stars. A picture of two thorny twigs intertwined to make a slit shape. A picture of a broken double popsicle. A picture of a tiny-toothed mouth (sideways slit). A picture of a picture of Rob. A picture of sperm cells swarming around a giant egg. A picture of a friend chicken leg. A picture of an orange. A picture of a flaming slit. The End. “Is it a mirror? Just a crack at first . . . a thin sliver of light. . . . and then it spreads, opens up. I don’t understand. Why does it have to be like this? Why do I have to go through all of this shit?” One hemisphere composed of an orange, a pipe shaped like a compact skeleton, shreds of paper, bits of bone, a length of rope or some segments of worm, a tail or a vine, a bottle cap, dried leaves, a book of matches, a bag of weed, a twig or two, a broken bottle. Another hemisphere composed of the moon, a cigarette, a picture of Rob, twigs and leaves, shards of glass, a bone with a bit of string tied around it, a baloney sandwich with one bite missing, a frog, a handgun. Our galaxy is a slit and a spiral at the same time.

Trees (issues 1-8) by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard

On page seven of issue seven, the professor character refers to the spaces that have grown up under the Trees as “interzones,” an obvious reference to William S. Burroughs, but the professor characterizes these interzones negatively, saying, “Nothing good grows in the shadow of a Tree.” Lots of things grow in the shadows of the Trees over the course of the first 8 issues of Ellis and Howard’s graphic novel, not all of them bad. The community under the Chinese Tree, for example, seems to be the sort of utopian interzone Burroughs had envisioned, a place where one can “live differently . . . be comfortable and safe” and not “work for a living.” But can one think of Burroughs’ visions as utopian, or does he mix utopia and dystopia in much the same way Ellis then does: The bad gets worse and the good gets destroyed (every place in The Cities of the Red Night that starts out living under the Articles eventually sinks into depravity, right (or do they start out depraved?)?)? It’s not yet clear what destruction means in the case of Trees. It might mean just that, or it might mean rebirth, which could, if one is honest, be much, much worse.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

On page 106 of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, one can find the following paragraph:
Of course he knew. They'd all been telling him so his whole life. When Tina liked Park instead of Steve in grade school, Steve had said, 'I think she feels safe with you because you're like half girl.' Park hated football. He cried when his dad took him pheasant hunting. Nobody in the neighborhood could ever tell who he was dressed as on Halloween ('I'm Doctor who.' 'I'm Harpo Marx.' 'I'm Count Floyd.') And he kind of wanted his mom to give him blond highlights. Park knew he was different.
This paragraph could be about me growing up, and not simply because I dressed up as Harpo Marx one Halloween. I identified quite a lot with all the characters in this book, though I’ve never been a girl or a parent, and that’s one of the many things this book does really well: it makes emotions everyone has and situations everyone has some experience with feel deeply personal. It’s also really well-written, with clear, clean prose and a (mostly) tight plot. Plus, for reasons I cannot explain, I really, really like the way the title could also be an intersection in a town somewhere and probably is.

Cities of the Red Night by William S. Burroughs

Considering that the book is, in part, about a) 18th century pirates and b) a 20th century private detective (pirate police?) perhaps the fact that I read a pirated copy of this book is justified? I’m going to say no, because the hallucinatory effects of the (cut-up) prose were often mitigated and/or undermined by the thought that maybe what I was reading was simply uncorrected OCR scanning. Then again, the fact that I read a pirated electronic copy scanned from a paper book dovetails nicely with the fact that the book is also in part about the transmigration of the soul.

Thoughts on 5 of the books I read in 2014

1. Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän by Max Frisch I wish I had written this book: Small chunks of text, lists, images, repetition, and in the end, there is a landslide, but not the one you expect. I wish I had written this book, but I didn’t, so I wrote about it instead. 2. HHhH by Laurent Binet Another book I kind of wish I had written: A strange mixture of fact and fiction and meta-versions of both in small, relatively easily digestible bits all of which work together to prove that David Shields (see also) read the signs all wrong: It’s not reality we want—it’s fiction (or it’s fantastic reality, which is also fiction). It’s strange: I don’t remember many details of the story, but I remember the book. I remember being intrigued by it more than liking it. I remember thinking that intrigued by might be more important than liking. 3. Violenzia by Richard Sala I read Violenzia at least twice last year. I also read Sala’s work Super Enigmatix (link) as it was posted this last year. Both Violenzia and Super Enigmatix (as characters) are agents of chaos, not unlike the Joker in the Batman universe, but there’s something about a) the “flatness” of Sala’s drawing, b) the sureness of his lines, and c) his color palette which makes his chaos more insidious. In fact, those three things work together to create an almost Lynchian effect: The innocent, colorful, flat world you (think you) know is seething underneath. 4. The Robber by Robert Walser I read The Robber as research for an article I wrote for 3am Magazine, but didn't discuss it in that article. In an oeuvre spectacularly concerned with walking, this book feels as though it has given up the physical act of walking for a more fervent intellectual version—walking in tight mental circles. So much of what I’ve read of Walser just begs for a biographical reading, and all I want is to reject that impulse. Very nearly every sentence in Walser’s final (known) novel is itself a novel.
“Often the inflexible bends in its secret interior, and it is the rule of the immobile to invoke a longing, a motion, and it moves in its circle and comes over to look at him yet cannot catch a glimpse of him, but at least it's made the effort. Those who perambulate take on a task for those unable to do so, and it is always the stony that one seeks to soften and the soft degenerates into stone.”
5. Bluets by Maggie Nelson I had a number of lengthy discussions with two friends who also loved this book. My position is that, although the book reports (on) emotion, it is itself not emotional. That is not a value judgment. This is yet another book I wish I had written. More than HHhH, it is making a gesture toward David Markson’s work which I find well nigh irresistible. I think I read Markson, Perec’s Life A User’s Manual and parts of Tristram Shandy for the first time all within the same 9-month period and was infected by the idea that everything is composed of parts and that the connective tissues between those parts can be left out and the “story” will still make sense (or even more sense(s)). While reading Bluets, I also made the following playlist of songs mentioned (obliquely or directly) in the book:
    Let X=X—Laurie Anderson Mood Indigo—Duke Ellington I Get A Kick Out Of You—Ella Fitzgerald Pirate Jenny—Nina Simone River—Joni Mitchell Famous Blue Raincoat—Leonard Cohen Blue—Lucinda Williams Lady Sings the Blues (1956 Studio Version)—Billie Holiday Red Dirt Girl—Emmylou Harris

Things I read in 2014 that weren’t books

This project (to keep track of everything I read in 2014 that wasn't a book) was begun on 13JAN14 (after much logistical wrangling which never really got sorted out to my satisfaction), and though not exactly abandoned mid-April, it was certainly not as obsessively updated as hoped. I present here an unedited, and rather difficult to read copy of the list I kept. How will I quantify facebook? What about tumblr? Very likely every post @ London Shop Fronts Bad Machinery Hobotopia The market for Bibles never ends Ecstasy — Lajos Gulacsy “There’s a purity of intent and a lack of self-consciousness that I wish I could achieve when I was experiencing pleasure” (David Foster Wallace) Lawyers helped daughter with tooth-fairy affidavit for lost tooth (+ pp2-3) Witching Hour “The Young Housewife” — William Carlos Williams One paragraph of David Bowie’s Final Gig as Ziggy Stardust Documented in 1973 Concert Film The Problem with Facebook: “It’s Keeping Things From You” Watch The Bicycle Trip: An Animation of The World’s First LSD Trip in 1943 The evangelical masculinity of ... Allen Ginsberg? The Bloatee: Google’s Music Timeline: A Visualization of 60 Years of Changing Musical Tastes Germany's 10 tackiest souvenirs for tourists News from the States of the Union: Alaska! Pheromone Bouquetoil on linen24" x 20"2012 Chapter 4: “The Modernist Event” in Figural Realism by Hayden White A New Free eBook Every Month from the University of Chicago Press “Odysseus” — Robert Walser (which felt/read as though it had been written within some sort of Oulipean constraint) Mathias Svalina "Don’t think any intelligent person is going to be deceived when you try to shirk all the difficulties of the unspeakably difficult art of good prose by chopping your composition into line lengths." News from the States of the Union–Arkansas! Is delayed until Friday. News from the States of the Union: ARKANSAS! (paper and pen note taking ostensibly better than laptop) Peripatetic Pussycats Gertrude Stein on Football RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman (Biblioklept—I didn’t watch the videos, couldn’t) Charlie Brown, existentialist placekicker The Haunting Final Portrait of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Part of Victoria Will’s Civil War-Era Photo Collection David Foster Wallace’s Sharp Letter to His Editor: “Don’t F with the Mechanics of My Piece” An Artistic Portrait of Stephen Fry Made From His Own Bacteria Learn To Pick Locks, With The MIT Guide To Lock Picking (1991) On Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus “William S. Burroughs was a high modernist and a writer of complete trash” 100 Point William Burroughs Riff Blog outing online racists causes a stir (followed immediately by “I Hate Music” by the Replacements coming through on the shuffle) Valentine’s Day Wishes from Thomas Bernhard (frequency) See Ottoman-Style Posters of Star Wars, The Godfather, Scarface and Other Classic Movies 4 Things To Know About What's Happening In Ukraine: The RoboCop Rule: When Remakes Have More Killing, But Less Goretheatlantic.comLike a lot of films today, the recent update of the 1987 original trades subversive carnage for sanitized violence that asks… One YouTube user just made Full House a lot more macabreavclub.comShooba doo bop bow wow! The Curious Story of How Bootlegged Hollywood Movies Helped Defeat Communism in Romania Matthew Kirkpatrick's Believer article about the floating McDonald's (Bernadette Mayer, "Be strong Bernadette") "03595" by Kate Greenstreet in DQ 48:2 "Post Hole Digger" by Jason F. McDaniel in DQ 48:2 "Inside a Map of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Arm" by Carrie Oeding in DQ 48:2 “Home Movies: Alexander Payne, High Plains auteur” by Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker 28 OCT 13. Watch Steven Soderbergh’s Creative Mashup of Hitchcock and Gus Van Sant’s Psycho Films David Foster Wallace and the search for grace in solipsism "Sometimes I think that principal difference between those who are in general cheerfully-inclined and those who are not is that the former know better than to even countenance their own bullshit for one instant.” "Morning Phase" von Beck: Willkommen in einer anderen Welt Ukraine-Krise: Putin, Hitler und die Clintonôg “Form the habit of taking some of your solitude with you into society” (Schopenhauer) “Nouns” — Tom Clark (George Saunders, “Realist Fiction”) Architects Dress as Famous Buildings They Designed in Vintage 1931 Photo Watch David Brenner (RIP) Make the First of His 158 Appearances on The Tonight Show in 1971 (Secretion secrets: things you didn’t know about ear wax) Sound Language (a note on Ernst Havlik’s (1981) Lexikon der Onomatopoien in Futility Closet) Let Us Explore The Pocket Calculators of Many Lands love (the mereological report) Fred Phelps, Sr., 1929 - 2014 Titanic: The Nazis Create a Mega-Budget Propaganda Film About the Ill-Fated Ship … and Then Banned It (1943) Episode #3 of Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson: “When Knowledge Conquered Fear” (US Viewers) “Died” — Ben Marcus Flann O’Brien’s Complete Novels (Book Acquired, 3.24.2014) Erdrutsch in den USA: "Wir wussten, dass es passieren würde” Kind aus Schlamm gerettet Mapping the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ Secularization and the siege of the Branch Davidians In that deep love, include me too. Ram Dass / Fierce Grace Young American Großeinsatz der Feuerwehr in Iowa George R.R. Martin Releases a Free Chapter From The Winds of Winter: Read It Online Another Moby-Dick (Book Acquired, 3.29.2014) List with No Name #45 Riff on William Shakespeare [Here, sometime in April, I seriously started slacking on this project.] Carl Sagan Writes a Letter to 17-Year-Old Neil deGrasse Tyson (1975) J.R.R. Tolkien Snubs a German Publisher Asking for Proof of His “Aryan Descent” (1938)’t_for_everybody/ Selections from One-Star Amazon Reviews of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow Such Sweet Thunder: Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn’s Musical Tribute to Shakespeare (1957) “The Ache The Ache” Julia Cohen Arda Collins Bittersweet Reminiscences of The Life Aquatic Curation and Creation in Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch’s Vampire Film (This Is Not) David Foster Wallace’s Annotated Copy of Ulysses Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Die Bundeswehr

Books I read in 2014

1. Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins 2. Transmetropolitan vol9: The Cure by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson 3. Transmetropolitan vol10: One More Time by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson 4. I Have Blinded Myself Writing This by Jess Stoner 5. The Next Monsters by Julie Doxsee 6. Stoner by John Williams 7. Card / Clip by Kirk Keen 8. Rooms by Marthe Reed 9. Before He Let Them Guide Sleigh by Jeff Hecker 10. A Wooden Leg: a novel in 64 cards — text by Leni Zumas drawings by Luca Dipierro (x2.5) 11. Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän by Max Fischer 12. Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences by Lawrence Weschler 13. Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis 14. My Friend Dahmer by Derf 15. HHhH by Laurent Binet 16. nulls by Pattie McCarthy 17. Buddy Buys a Dump by Peter Bagge 18. Apocalypse Nerd by Peter Bagge 19. Violenzia by Richard Sala 20. LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien 21. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson 22. Are You My Mother by Alison Bechdel 23. Nevers by Megan Martin 24. Isle of 100,000 Graves by Jason 25. Werewolves of Montpelier by Jason 26. The Robber by Robert Walser 27. Athos in America by Jason 28. Hey, Wait . . . by Jason 29. The Iron Wagon by Jason 30. The Living and the Dead by Jason 31. Violenzia by Richard Sala 32. Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser 33. Low Moon by Jason 34. Kind One by Laird Hunt 35. Lost Cat by Jason 36. The Last Musketeer by Jason 37. Like Oysters Observing the Sun by Brenda Sieczkowski 38. The Stars Below by Zack Smith & Rich Ellis 39. Gamz im Ernst! by Lewis Trondheim 40. Die Farbe der Hölle by Lewis Trondheim 41. Slaloms by Lewis Trondheim 42. Pat Boon: “Happy End” by Winshluss 43. Against Conceptual Poetry by Ron Silliman 44. Super Negra by Winshluss (though I don’t think I can claim to have read this; it’s in French and I sussed out a percentage of the story by looking at the pictures) 45. Bluets by Maggie Nelson 46. Smart Monkey by Winshluss 47. Pinocchio by Winshluss 48. Welcome to the Death Club by Winshluss 49. Schottenfreude by Ben Schott 50. Bluets by Maggie Nelson 51. The Book of Joshua by Zachary Schomburg 52. Alan Mendelsohn, Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater 53. The Education of Robert Nifkin by Daniel Pinkwater 54. Les Frères Chapuisat: In Wood We Trust by Estelle Dorsaz, Sacha Georg, Emmanuelle Lequeux, and Arthur de Pury 55. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi 56. Postlude by Haldon Lockly 57. This Coming Fall by Matthew Winston 58. The Imagination of Lewis Carroll by William Todd Seabrook 59. The Mundane History of Lockwood Heights by Allen Kechagiar 60. The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink 61. Sara or the Existence of Fire by Sara Woods 62. LOTR: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien 63. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl 64. Meow, Baby! by Jason

While Listening to Henry Plotkin

0. While Listening to Henry Plotkin 1. I was cold and sweating. I was sweaty cold. As I warmed, the sweat cooled, making me colder as I got warmer. I stopped the bike to photograph a tree, and the gear slipped as I slowed. My feet nearly slipped off the pedals as well. I had trouble keeping the bicycle upright between my legs. I rode all the way around the tree once to find the angle that best combined form and color. Perhaps I should have photographed the tree from multiple angles. As it was, what I felt was the best angle included the bums on the bench in the distance. When I initially rode past them, one of them was speaking in a voice made of gravel. Gravel always “crunches.” Breakfast cereal always “crunches.” First I was cold and sweating, but now I’m just cold. 2. Having just read a poem, an unfinished poem by Michael P. and being struck more than once, I mean a chord within me was—and but now also listening to exceptionally accomplished modernist music by an eleven-year-old—and wanting to continue the striking poem, continue examining my own beliefs and/or continue adding and modifying the existing structure so that it changes without changing, standing in a river, buying but never opening a box of colored pencils, wanting to make the joke “pencils of color,” but knowing better, and also being aware of the ease with which I just couched that joke like I thought you wouldn’t notice, like how his eye is on a slow journey to his chin, how I probably over-sharpen my pencils and too soon, like how characters allow us to do and say things . . . even though how is this not also a character, and the inability to write without thinking about a reader and being judged by that reader so that I would be forced to admit that yes, in fact, there is a God. Yes, there is, in fact, a God. There is also a button on my desk, a mother-of-pearl button shiny and opalescent on one side, mottled red and brown on the other and I always think of blood and I always think of blood. “Bloody Buttons” would not even be a good name for a band. My belief that I have something to say and it’s important. My belief that I have nothing to say and it isn’t important. Or rather that I have something to say and it isn’t important when what I really want is to have nothing to say and for it to be important. My belief in hope. My belief in pencil sharpeners. My belief in my essential unbelievability. I mean, that I should not be believed. Not because I am a liar, but because, perhaps, I don’t even know I’m not telling the truth. So much of this is philosophy for neophytes. and then what seems to have been out of rhythm resolves itself into the larger complex of sounds. Complex of apartments. 3. My writing feels stalled in the same way my life feels stalled. Trying to make something new and interesting from something that’s been done and overdone. Writing about writing for Christ’s sake. I mean look at this! Or maybe always on the cusp of something and never pushing or working hard enough. Not having a practice. What is a practice? Going into private practice. 4. AnlageBaum

In fact, there is nothing at all to say.

'In Turkey, a man brought home a goat to sacrifice for Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice-which celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God-and stored it on his roof until, on Wednesday, it fell off, landing on and killing his 13-year-old son, who was playing below. "In fact," the man said, "there is nothing at all to say."' From the always interesting Harper's Weekly Review