December 22, 2010

Twelve from the Shelves: My Books of 2010

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 9:00 am by John Self

This year’s blogger’s dozen comes from a shorter longlist than usual, since I read fewer books this year than in recent memory, owing to ongoing symptoms of parenthood. My main regret this time is that there are books which could have made it but for the fact that I haven’t reviewed them here (yet), such as Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, which was for its first half at least, the best debut collection of stories I’ve read in years. Or Tim Parks’ Teach Us to Sit Still, a boon and a hazard for the practising hypochondriac. Or Gabriel Josipovici’s What Ever Happened to Modernism?, a book of essays which was simultaneously enlightening and reassuring.

The list is in alphabetical order by author. As usual, I have exercised my right to include one more than is strictly proper, because frankly, who gives a damn?

Greg Baxter: A Preparation for Death
I like to think this book would have impressed and delighted me just as much even if I hadn’t approached it with no expectations. I believe it probably would have, not least because it understands and articulates that in the world “it is more agreeable to be in bondage to the superficial [...] than to become imcomprehensible,” and is also aware of its own – of every piece of writing’s – fatal limitations. “A man who wishes to transfer his experience to the page might as well try to throw a typewriter at the moon.”

Thomas Bernhard: Old Masters
For years I had intended to read Thomas Bernhard, and had been fearful of doing so. All the frightening things – the paragraphless pages, the famous ‘rants’ – turned out to be both true and misleading. Old Masters may be entry-level Bernhard, but it could hardly have been a more addictive or joyful experience. I reiterate my recommendation of it here despite the protests of my own sense of ‘art selfishness’.

Karel Čapek: War with the Newts
Another one I’d heard great things about, without ever believing that a 75-year-old book could be so funny, relevant and modern as this one. It’s so nimble that it manages not to fall over its own feet despite the breakneck pace of the satire – satire of capitalist society that covers many bases in many forms, from newspaper journalese to academic discourse.

Daniel Clowes: Wilson
A perfect marriage of content and form, Wilson is as funny as its six-panel cartoon form might suggest, but with exceptional timing and emotional weight added in. Clowes both respects and disrupts the comic strip format, giving us a character who is misanthropic but pathetic, and a book which is like a stiletto hammered into the reader’s heart.

Evan S. Connell: Mrs Bridge
Mrs Bridge has the appearance of a gentle character study, but has ambition in its structure – one hundred brief scenes showing aspects of our heroine in a way that is as quietly devastating as anything Richard Yates wrote. Perhaps there is time, yet, for Connell to become belatedly famous without having to die in penury as Yates did, though someone had better put him back in print in the UK first. “They had started off together to explore something that promised to be wonderful, and, of course, there had been wonderful times. And yet, thought Mrs Bridge, why is that we haven’t — that nothing has — that whatever we — ?”

Christopher Isherwood: A Single Man
A rare re-read for me these days, and this book – widely and rightly regarded as Isherwood’s finest novel – has only improved in the decade or two since I first encountered it. It is a study of one day in the life of one man – and also of how the firings of our consciousness come together in the form of an identity. Who am I? It is also a painful account of 1960s homophobia. “Even when they are geniuses in spite of it, their masterpieces are invariably warped.” I’d rate it warp factor ten.

Tom McCarthy: C
A book which was surrounded by the sort of buzz and static which it contained and described, C was an unusual, teasing, beautifully written novel, difficult to sum up but impossible to get out of your head. Its themes of technology and communication, and their symbiotic relationship with humanity, make it a novel for our blogging, tweeting times, and its literary qualities make it one good reason to mark down the Booker Prize as not yet a complete dead loss.

Bernard Malamud: The Magic Barrel
The Magic Barrel is one of those little masterpieces which has been knocking around for fifty years or so just waiting to be read. It is a sympathetic, harrowing and comic portrayal of the Jewish immigrant experience in America in the 1950s; a world in 150 pages.

Joe Moran: On Roads
Whether or not he’s responsible for the irksome coinage ‘everydayology’, Moran is brilliant at extracting the juice from our daily grind with wit and aplomb. The roads which circle our lives but are unregarded in themselves are a perfect subject matter for him, seasoned with tasty cultural references from Patrick Hamilton to Black Box Recorder. This book untangles a spaghetti junction of social history into a funny and illuminating narrative, a page-by-page pleasure.

Andrew Rawnsley: The End of the Party
This is the only story of New Labour (well, its second and third terms anyway) that anyone could wish for – unless you’re a real glutton for punishment. It gives believable and depressing accounts of all the major crises (if there were any periods of calm between the crises, history has already forgotten them) and provides either a reminder of how difficult government is, or an affirmation of how power corrupts, etc. My review is so detailed that you may not need to read the book afterwards anyway.

Keith Ridgway: The Long Falling
A timely reminder of one of the most talented but least appreciated novelists now working in English, The Long Falling, Ridgway’s debut novel, is less ambitious than his later work, but just as fully achieved. It’s a straight story about a straight society struggling to accommodate challenges to its orthodoxy, and of one woman at a time of crisis. Also read his blog, where he writes about books like Alone in Berlin much better than I do.

Judith Schalansky: Atlas of Remote Islands
A perfect jewel, a work of art, and a work of literature all at once. Atlas of Remote Islands is a high concept, a simple idea, and a frightening challenge to our expectations of atlases as books which connect countries and make the world a smaller place. This atlas defamiliarises and isolates, in the most bracing and stimulating manner. When I wrote my blog post, Schalansky’s book had had no coverage in the mainstream press; now expert reviews like this one show my own effort as sadly surface-literalist. So read it instead, but more importantly, read the book.

Bruno Schulz: The Street of Crocodiles
My thirteenth choice tips the balance of this list in favour of old books rather than new ones. And this is the oldest of them all (just about) and the strangest (for sure). Schulz’s florid, flighty prose feels like a new way of looking at the world, and expands in imaginative fancy even as its subject matter closes in on streets and rooms and members of a family. Sorry to make this a theme, but once again the mainstream press proves much better than I am at explaining why Schulz is so good. So start here.

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45 Comments »

  1. leroyhunter said,

    Something for everyone in the audience I’m sure John.

    I spent a good bit of time this year catching up on previous “12 from..” selections – Dyer, Wander, Rolin, Ourednik – so thanks again for all of those.
    And some of this year’s reviews that haven’t made your personal cut are on the shelf for future enjoyment.

    I bought the Moran (surprised to find it while not really looking for it) and also went out and bought a full-price version of Schalansky as I couldn’t bear to sit around waiting for it at a mere 25% reduction. Silly of me but a tribute to your review, which you’re being unnecessarily hard on I reckon.

    There’s more to think about on the list – Bernhard, Connell, Malamud – and I might even swallow my intense irritation at everything McCarthy does & says and try C in paperback. Merry Christmas!

  2. John Self said,

    Thanks leroyhunter. Truth be told, if I’d forced myself to leave one book off the list, it would have been C, but it is a very interesting book and worth reading. I understand (I think) your irritation at McCarthy – his publicity rounds for the book seemed in large part to be whatever the opposite is of a charm offensive. Best bit was when he was appearing along with the other Booker shortlistees before an audience of paying punters, when Booker administrator Ion Trewin would ask each author one question about their book. He asked McCarthy “What kind of book have you written?” (a not unreasonable question, given the various claims made for it and denied about it), to which McCarthy replied, “A novel.”

    Glad you’ve found some inspiration here and elsewhere on my blog. I’d forgotten all about Patrik Ourednik – what a wonderful book!

  3. seventydys said,

    A fine list of books – especially the Schulz writing that has the potential to change the way one reads.

    I think you’re being much too hard on your reviewing but, on the other hand, that hesitancy and self-reflexiveness combined with enthusiastic but careful reading is what makes your blog so readable & persuasive.

  4. Mark Thwaite said,

    Nice round-up John. Glad Schulz is now part of your world.

    Just wanted to say, your review of Judith Schalansky’s ‘Atlas of Remote Islands’ was one of the things that brought my attention back to a book that — after Josipovici’s essential What Ever Happened to Modernism? — was probably my book of the year. Thank you.

    markx

    (ReadySteadyBook’s year review is here: http://bit.ly/ei750g )

  5. Sara said,

    Glad you included at least one woman on a list of 12 men…!

  6. John Self said,

    Hi Sara. Someone else pointed that out on Facebook earlier. That was the first time I’d noticed the (relative) lack of women. Just as well I didn’t go into compiling the list with such things in my head, otherwise it may not have truly reflected my favourite books. Similarly, for all my issues with big publishing houses and their risk-averse tendencies, my list contains six books published by Penguin imprints and four by Random House imprints. Again, if I’d thought about that before doing the list, I might have included more small press choices, to the detriment of books that I liked more.

    However, my reading this year has been about 90% male writers, I think, so the list is actually pretty representative for all that.

  7. Trevor said,

    Well, I’m not sure what you were talking about when you left this comment on my blog:

    The only thing I don’t like about your list is that it looks much more appealing than my own (which will go up at the end of the month)…

    What’s that all about? You have an excellent list here, and I’d already (based on your initial reviews) marked at least half of them as ones I need to read, starting with The Street of Crocodiles (which I’ll be reading in conjunction with The Messiah of Stockholm and The Magic Barrel (which, though you tipped me off months ago, I still haven’t read!).

    Thanks for the great year of reviewing, John!

  8. John Self said,

    I suppose, Trevor, it’s like the old thing of someone else’s book, or newspaper (or in this case, end of year list) being more interesting than one’s own: in this case for the sole reason that I haven’t read most of the books on your list but think I might like them!

  9. A very nice list John, most of them tempt me and I don’t think I’ve read any of them (except War with the Newts, on which I totally agree with you). I plan to reread that Malamud review, he really stands out to me there as tempting for some reason.

    I just did my own equivalent list, which included Alma Cogan so thanks again for that recommendation. Definitely one of my reads of the year (not a phrase I like, but there you go).

    I only have one woman on my list too, though three fall just below the list in the also mentioneds. Odd, I hadn’t thought about it at all but like you it probably reflects much of my reading being male writers this year. Still, somehow slightly disappointing even though I certainly wouldn’t want to read anyone because they were a particular gender.

    Must read more Muriel Spark, she’d make anyone’s end of year list. And more Jean Rhys (another writer you introduced me to actually, and a favourite of mine). Any excuse to read Spark and Rhys should always be taken…

  10. Sara said,

    …my reading this year has been about 90% male writers, I think, so the list is actually pretty representative for all that.

    John, I think this is the heart of the issue. If most of the authors you read are men, then clearly your favorite novels will be by men. Of course you are entitled to read whatever you want and maybe last year you read 90% women, I don’t know. But to make a larger point, as a writer and doctoral student in English, I am frequently dismayed by the number of men who mostly read books by men. I think women are much more likely to read books by men than men are to read books by women. I see male lecturers in my department who have, maybe, 10 books on a reading list and only one is by a woman (and that one is a token). I’m not saying this sort of behavior applies to you — I read your blog from time to time, but not enough to form an opinion on it. It’s just that when I saw your list, it brought up this issue for me.

    I certainly wouldn’t want to read anyone because they were a particular gender

    But Max, if most of the books you read are by men, then I don’t see how that statement is accurate.

  11. An intriguing list, as always, with a number of points and reminders for future reading, also as expected.

    This list, like others including a number of others (including my own), reflects another phenomenon of 2010 — disappointing works from “A-list” authors (Amis, MacEwan, Franzen would be a start for me). You are more ruthless than I am about setting aside a disappointing book. I’d be interested in how many novels by “name” authors that you started and found weren’t worth the effort of finishing. Beatrice and Virgil doesn’t count — somebody had to write the truth about it, so I’m glad you sacrificed some time for the good of the reading side.

  12. I have to admit, I think A list authors are often disappointing. By the time the media pays them attention their best work is often behind them. They become like cultural supertankers, ploughing on and struggling to adapt quickly to changing conditions around them.

    Amis’ best work is long behind him. I’d query McEwan generally – there’s a reason whenever the Guardian asks who’s overrated his name outnumbers all the other suggestions put together. What has Rushdie done lately? Franzen seems like a good author made famous for reasons outside the books themselves (how long The Corrections took to write, his media statements, the Oprah thing, his shunning of technology when writing, lots of good human interest stuff there). They’re A list because they’re A list, not because of what they write today. If you write an article about them you know your readers will know who they are, that can’t be said for many much better authors.

    Many of these writers for me are like say Jack Nicholson, Robert de Niro or Al Pacino. Wonderful actors in their day. Huge talents. But really, what have any of them done of note in the last couple of decades?

  13. It’s accurate because I gave no thought to their gender Sara.

    Over the year I did read a fair number of female writers, it’s just that fewer of them made my top twelve for the year. I didn’t keep track though of what the split was and I didn’t think about gender when compiling my end of year wrap-up.

    Now, your comment interested me because it flags to me I may be inadvertently ignoring female writers or deprioritising them which would be an issue – because it would mean I’d be missing out. What I don’t want to do though is read someone because they’re female (any more than I want to avoid them because they’re female).

    So, Jean Rhys, I’m a big fan. But, I don’t care that she’s a woman. Were it to turn out the novels were really written by a male accountant living in Dagenham that wouldn’t lessen them for me. I want to read some Linda Grant soon, but because they’re supposed to be excellent, not because she’s female.

    I read a lot of older fiction and a lot of translated fiction, and I do think there’s an issue where for much of history there’s simply been more serious male fiction available. There’s no gender bias to talent, but there is a gender bias to who gets published and in what numbers. There’s a reason many female writers wrote under male names historically, and I suspect a large number didn’t and simply didn’t reach an audience.

    Equally, serious fiction written by women is often marketed as unserious, making it harder to spot. It’s commonplace for literary fiction written by women to be marketed essentially as chicklit which does nobody any favours. Rachel Cusk for example, an excellent writer but I think she could be more accurately marketed than she is (though to fewer readers in all likelihood). Penelope Lively, who I have yet to read, is apparently an author of the most stunning prose but gets marketed as general fiction or “women’s fiction” (whatever the hell that is).

    Partly I think more serious fiction by men sees publication, partly I think much of the serious fiction by women that does see publication is marketed in such a way that male readers are often unlikely to be aware of it. The fault may lie in ourselves, but it also lies in our publishers and in how books by women are brought to market.

  14. I’ve only just finished the Schalansky otherwise it would have appeared on my own list too, a real gem of a book and one that I have bought as a present for my bibliophile father. He bought me some Keith Ridgway for my birthday (because I asked him to after reading your reviews) and my review of his story collection Standard Time will be up first thing in the new year. Thank you for the tip. We’re never going to see eye to eye on Greg Baxter’s book so let’s just leave that there! Just seeing Wilson in your pile made me chuckle as I remembered some of the hilarious, final-panel punchlines. Black comedy doesn’t begin to cover it. I can’t even begin to imagine how the film version will come over! On another tangent those Penguin European Classics seem to be good value for money, one for my Christmas money perhaps.

    Many thanks for all your reviews this year, always a pleasure, sorry not to have commented more but as you know finding the time to read all the stuff you want can be hard enough with little ones to contend with. Happy Christmas and all the best for the new year…

  15. John Self said,

    Sara, I was going to say something similar to Max. Although I do (as it turns out) read mostly books by men, it’s not a conscious decision – though it must be on some level a subconscious or unconscious decision, otherwise by the law of averages I would read half and half. Nabokov reputedly described himself as “exclusively homosexual” in his literary tastes, though I’d like to think of myself as bi-curious at least. (I had better not extend that metaphor any further.)

    I am happy to commit to trying to read more women next year – why, I’ve already made a start with Barbara Comyns, who will (probably) be the first author I review in 2011. On or around my TBR piles I also have books awaiting attention from Lydia Davis, Jenny Turner, Iris Owens, Enid Bagnold, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Cynthia Ozick, Anita Brookner, Véronique Olmi, Maria Barbal, Anna Kavan and others, so you can chart my progress. (But then again, this still represents a male:female ratio in my TBR piles of well over 10:1.) I am of course happy to receive recommendations too!

    In response to Max’s point about Jean Rhys, of whom I too am a big fan, I suspect Sara may think that stressing such sex-blindness is part of the problem. That is, when you say you wouldn’t care if her books turned out to be by a male accountant from Dagenham, I know what you mean, but if they were, then they wouldn’t be Jean Rhys books, feeding from her own experiences as a woman in Paris in the early 20th century. The identity and character – and sex – of the author is intrinsically bound up in the book, and blindness to that is not possible or even, I think, desirable.

    Kevin, I suspect the titles among these that might appeal most to you are The Long Falling and Mrs Bridge. Someone on Twitter today told me that they loved Mr Bridge, but hadn’t read Mrs. Which reminded me that I need to tackle the companion volume myself.

    Thanks for your comment William. No need to apologise for the lack of comments – I’m pretty poor at commenting myself these days. Indeed, as more people read my blog on RSS feeds, fewer visit the site and so they don’t get the opportunity to leave comments (or not easily, anyway). Or others will comment on Facebook or Twitter. Nonetheless comments remain, to me, the lifeblood of my blog, so I’m always glad to get them.

  16. [...] Lês fierder by Asylum [...]

  17. Linda C said,

    I am very glad to see your mention of Evan McConnell’s Mrs. Bridge. Both Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge are haunting, unforgettable books. Each can be read in a single sitting, but one will, I think, tend to linger over a lot of passages. And, yes, I recommend that you read Mr. Bridge as well. Incidentally, are you aware that Paul New and Joanne Woodard made a Merchant Ivory of the books(1990)? Normally, I wouldn’t recommend a movie of a book, but in this case, (as you might expect from that actors and Merchant/Ivory production) it is, I think, quite good.

  18. Lee Monks said,

    Great list John, and thanks for your stellar (presumably largely chore-free – ridiculous, anthropomorphism-addicts aside) work once again. The blogs I read regularly (Mookse, Kevin, Pechorin’s, this, many others) far outstrip the broadsheet/periodicals in actually finding interesting books and writing about them with a discerning and infectious enthusiasm. The ever-gnomic, evasive, vaguely non-commital nature of most print literary coverage just won’t do: thanks for making up the shortfall! And some bold choices that go straight onto the book-token-redemption longlist.

    I would imagine that Jennifer Egan might have a chance for next year…

    On a personal note I’m chuffed that you reviewed (and shortlisted) Wilson, as Clowes is brilliant and it’s his best work (just eclipsing David Boring). More please!

  19. It’s nice to see a graphic novel there certainly. I’ve only read Clowes’ Ghost World (and that after seeing the film, the shame, the shame) but he’s definitely worth paying attention to.

    On the gender thing, I don’t think demographics are a useful guide to who gets published and how they get marketed. After all, if that were the case we’d expect far fewer great Irish and Jewish writers and far more Chinese ones (based on population sizes). Some groups have better support for those within them who wish to become writers (middle class white men particularly) and have easier access to publication (ditto), and I think although there are a great many great women writers they still tend to get marketed in a way that makes it harder for those working at the literary end to get noticed. If I’m a man and I write a novel about a dysfunctional family coming together at Christmas it likely gets sold as literary fiction, if I’m a woman and I do the same it’s often marketed very differently and literary readers may never hear of it. I’m also not at all sure this situation is improving, if anything I suspect it’s getting worse.

    I do think works should be capable of standing apart from the author, shorn of their details, but it’s not the most interesting of debates.

    The Isherwood and the Connell are interesting. I’d forgotten the Connell review, I’ll take proper note of it this time.

    If Sara’s still about, I would ask one thing. Are there any authors you’d say cry out to be read who’re not getting recognition? If you had to champion two or three authors who would they be? If I were to read more books by women, which women should I be looking out for?

    Obviously I have my own ideas, Rhys, Spark, Wharton, Grant, Quin, but who would you suggest?

    • Trevor said,

      You’ll know this already, Max, but just to add to your list: Ozick, P. Fitzgerald, and — don’t forget! — Maile Meloy!

      • I’ve downloaded a Meloy sample onto my Kindle.

        The Ozick and the Fitzgerald too Trevor? Have you no mercy?

    • Sara said,

      If you like Rhys and Spark, then from a similar-ish time period, there are the [American] Southern Gothic women like Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty, who are amongst my favorites.

      Lately, I’ve been reading non-Anglophone writers. I like Elif Shafak, Herta Mueller and have just started reading Dubravka Ugresic.

      • Carson McCullers’ I’ve read some of and definitely liked. I’m familiar with O’Connor, though haven’t read her (actually, I thuoght Flannery was a man’s name).

        The others I don’t know (save Herta Mueller which rings a bell) and I’ll look up. Thanks Sara, much appreciated.

      • John Self said,

        I can vouch for McCullers (I’ve written about The Member of the Wedding on this blog) and O’Connor, though her stories over her novel. I’ve also read Müller but didn’t write about her here as I found myself more or less foxed by her stuff.

      • Trevor said,

        And I can vouch for Welty and O’Connor. O’Connor may be my favorite writer, in fact. I certainly think reading anything she wrote is worthwhile. Let me also throw in Willa Cather, another favorite, since we are veering to early 20th-century American women writers.

        Also, I’ve been wondering how much education curriculum is to blame, and publishers (who could do better) are more responding to hat we learn in school. In my highschool Literature classes the only woman writer I read was Emily Dickinson, an only for a quick day on her poetry. It’s hard to get over the unspoken lesson that what’s worth revering is written by men, as wrong as it demonstratively is.

  20. Hello John, your list is perfect for my site :-) My site is all about top lists. Would you like to publish on it? Or do you allow me to reproduce your list on mine? I will make link to your page of course. Please tell me if you agree, then I’ll do it or help you open an account if you wish to use it yourself.
    Also you could do a top 10 of your most commented articles in 2010.
    Let me know, thanks.

  21. seventydys said,

    Reading surveys show that men who read read mostly (often entirely) men whereas women’s reading is both more balanced in this regard and broader in terms of the subjects (of course, there are male-reader dominated subjects.) I don’t think that arguing the merits of sex-blindness in choosing & reading books (& there are merits in this approach) overcomes the fact that men’s notion of what’s culturally worthwhile is structurated, is pre-narrowed to confirm a view of ourselves as central and that this tends to be self-perpetuating.

    Publishers are trying to reach buyers-readers as they currently behave and it is often women writers that get branded & packaged as mid-market when the actual quality of the writing far surpasses that position. Great women writers are still excluded from the high table or viewed as ‘a dog walking on its hind legs’ as Dr Johnson said of female preachers. I would count Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Elizabeth Bowen, Clarice Lispector and many others in that company.

  22. [...] Someone cleverer than me observed C “was surrounded by the sort of buzz and static which it contained and described.” But while the buzz amplified C to the Booker shortlist, the hype around Freedom and Franzen seemed to diminish the book. It was so ludicrously overpraised, and subsequently criticized and shunned, that it was almost impossible to evaluate fairly. [...]

  23. Monika said,

    Tim Parks’ Teach Us to Sit Still: ooooommmmmmmmmm – it’s a good one; Tim Parks describes his body’s functions in an often hilarious manner, his inability to live with that body and the subsequent humility he learned (sit still). If you’re very stressed out this book might even give you some ideas how to deal with your own stress. Not a self help book but very appealing if you’re interested in how somene else deals with cronic pain. Funny, too.

  24. [...] John Self of The Asylum has released his yearly “12 From the Shelves: My Books of 2010“. [...]

  25. Trevor said,

    Merry Christmas to the Selfs (or Selves)!

  26. [...] Self offers a “blogger’s dozen,” 13 of his favorite reads from 2010, only a few of them published this year. One of them is a book [...]

  27. [...] Self from Asylum – I haven’t read any of these and only heard of three – hurray for book [...]

  28. LeeMonks said,

    I only wish I’d read the tremendous Greg Baxter earlier! Just on it now.

    So what did you make of the Josipovici (spelling?) then? I daresay it would be a bugger to review.

  29. Joshua said,

    Great list John, and thanks to all those who commented with their favourites – plenty to go on.

    Surprised,here and elsewhere, by the absence of Javier Marias’s fianl installment in his Your Face Tomorrow trilogy. I absolutely loved it, and have since gone on to read everything Marias has written. What do others think?

  30. John Self said,

    Thanks Joshua. Don’t be surprised by the absence of Javier Marias here: I haven’t read him! The publisher did send me the second and third volumes of the trilogy last year, but I haven’t read the first one yet – and frankly the prospect of doing so, given the total length of the project, didn’t fill me with get-up-and-go.

    Lee, I liked the Josipovici very much, finding it as I said above both reassuring (in the sense that it articulated for me some things I’ve thought for a long time without knowing how to express them myself) and enlightening, for its comprehensible account of what modernism means and how and why it developed.

  31. Lee Monks said,

    John, I thought it was a marvellous, addictive treatise on a fascinating subject. Exhilarating, even. And I agree with your comment re articulation of matters hitherto unspoken. Everyone should have one etc.

    Joshua: I love Marias and I can only hope more read him.

  32. Joshua said,

    John: don’t be daunted by the trilogy – yes it’s huge, but utterly thrilling, with moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity. Maybe start with a shorter one, see if you like him – his style is consistent throughout, remarkably so. Old Souls is probably closest to Your Face Tomorrow, and very good.

    Also regarding Bernhard, I’ve only read The Loser but loved it, very funny, revolving around Glen Gould and the world of pianists. Have a friend who’s become obsessed and is reading his entire works.

    Lee: Good to hear. Just finished Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, but keen on the Josipovici, Scahlansky and Mathias Enard’s Zone…

  33. Lee Monks said,

    I think a good way into Marias might be Bad Nature: or Elvis In Mexico, a swift, accessible read by his standards and a perfectly plausible act of ventriloquism. And a great and useful snapshot of his loftier extrapolations.

    As a trilogy (YFT) I can think of few, if any, more enticing. It’s a hefty undertaking but way more than worthwhile. I believe a single volume is imminent. Get your hand round that if you can, and I hope for those taking the plunge it isn’t squint-heavy text.

  34. Lee Monks said,

    Joshua: I’ve just had a look at Mathias Enard’s Zone (and ordered a copy: how could I resist?) and it looks fascinating and alluringly daunting. 517 pages of a single sentence? Interesing….

  35. John Self said,

    Here is Steve Mitchelmore’s review of Zone.

  36. Lee Monks said,

    Cheers John. And a fine review it is too. Will you be reading/reviewing it?

  37. Joshua said,

    Lee: Zone – count me in too. hope to see a review in these pages John!

  38. [...] and the latter has had plenty of attention this year since its reissue by Penguin (and was in my books of the year list in 2010). Mr Bridge will be reissued in February 2013: go get [...]

  39. […] and the latter has had plenty of attention this year since its reissue by Penguin (and was in my books of the year list in 2010). Mr Bridgewill be reissued in February 2013: go get […]


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