A brilliant and fascinating book. The author's deference toward Horkheimer and Lowenthal over all other members of the Frankfurt School is evident but...moreA brilliant and fascinating book. The author's deference toward Horkheimer and Lowenthal over all other members of the Frankfurt School is evident but hardly detrimental. As mysterious and complex a thinker and individual as he was, cast in the light of his only intellectual companions -- from whom he still maintained a certain distance from -- Benjamin appears far more so than when taken simply on his own.(less)
This novel is perfect and essential. It has already been tragic that it remained out of print for so long, but it is even more tragic that it has yet...moreThis novel is perfect and essential. It has already been tragic that it remained out of print for so long, but it is even more tragic that it has yet to be considered the masterpiece of world literature that it is.(less)
Easily one of the most enjoyable and engaging books I've read in the past few years, though I am not entirely happy with this particular edition. The...moreEasily one of the most enjoyable and engaging books I've read in the past few years, though I am not entirely happy with this particular edition. The introduction is roughly twice the length of the text it is introducing, and the translator made a number of questionable word decisions. I would love to find a more 'definitive' edition to re-read.(less)
It took me years to climb over the grad-school critical theory wall which seems to surround this book and actually pick it up and read it: now after r...moreIt took me years to climb over the grad-school critical theory wall which seems to surround this book and actually pick it up and read it: now after reading the book I remain completely ambivalent toward the post-structuralist reception of the book as some kind of harbinger of a "new kind of fiction" and instead argue a simple point which is that Chris Kraus wrote a wonderful, engaging, brilliant novel, much in the same way that hundreds or thousands of other writers write wonderful, engaging, brilliant novels. There is nothing new about mixing autobiographical content into an ostensibly fictional environment, nor is it completely revolutionary to discuss other writers or writing within a given text -- our anecdotal example here could be almost the entirety of Russian literature, whose constituent texts endlessly reference other, answer questions posed in previous works, reuse characters conceived by other writers, discuss ideas posited in previous centuries.
That being said, I am drawn to this novel for one primary reason: it is a monument to honesty, to vulnerability, to fragility -- that is, to that human response to a frequently inhuman world.(less)
Virtually unknown in the English-speaking world of letters, it is a tragedy that the iconoclastic Argentinian poet Héctor Viel Temperley found transla...moreVirtually unknown in the English-speaking world of letters, it is a tragedy that the iconoclastic Argentinian poet Héctor Viel Temperley found translation only after his death. This collection brings together two of the poet’s final books, Crawl and Hospital Británico -- the former a collection of images as seen by a swimmer passing by an urban coastline in a thunderstorm; the latter the chaotic and kaleidoscopic ruminations of Temperley himself while hospital-bound and recovering from brain surgery -- in a single gorgeous trade-paperback volume. Temperley’s poems are visceral, surreal, and luminous (not to mention occasionally terrifying), and are written from a deep-seated commitment to the rigorous development of religious thought -- I can imagine Temperley as a demented analogue of T. S. Eliot. I predict I will be reading and re-reading this collection for years to come. This is not to be missed.(less)
Leigh Stein’s debut novel, The Fallback Plan is the story of Esther, a recent college graduate who, for lack of knowing what else to do and having lit...moreLeigh Stein’s debut novel, The Fallback Plan is the story of Esther, a recent college graduate who, for lack of knowing what else to do and having little by way of options, moves back in with her parents. She spends her days taking expired painkillers and devising a screenplay for a film about pandas that is loosely based on “The Chronicles of Narnia,” until her parents hire her out as a babysitter to a neighborhood couple, a task to which she reluctantly resigns herself. Adulthood is exposed as a facade masking brokenness and doubt, awkward affairs occur, Esther and her two friends in town get drunk a few times; however, a majority of the book describes the adorable, heartwarming interactions between Esther and May, the four-year-old she spends a majority of her days with, and this is where Stein’s crisp, light prose really shines through. A lovely read and exciting precursor to her soon-to-be-published book of poetry, Dispatch From the Future, due this summer from Melville House.(less)
A very interesting investigation into the phenomenon of "writers who don't write." This single book is packed with something like fifty descriptions o...moreA very interesting investigation into the phenomenon of "writers who don't write." This single book is packed with something like fifty descriptions of authors and/or books that all sound completely amazing. If I had ever thought I was running out of books to look for -- which I hadn't -- this book would have more than solved that problem.
Vila-Matas' prose isn't anything particularly incredible -- however, the book is maybe only 25% fiction (or something, if you can quantify that), written as a series of footnotes composed by a fictional, hunchbacked narrator. Each note provides a detailed description of a writer or book which provides a good example of a "writer of the No," a writer who, following in the footsteps of Melville's Bartleby, "would prefer not to." There are occasional illuminating passages, but a majority of the value of this book lies in its archival/categorical quality.(less)
Perhaps I am jumping the gun here, but I think I'm starting to understand Aira's 'method,' so to speak: his novels are small, perfectly crystallized s...morePerhaps I am jumping the gun here, but I think I'm starting to understand Aira's 'method,' so to speak: his novels are small, perfectly crystallized stories growing within the narrative substance of the world at large, with him as a kind of transcriber or collector more than author.(less)
"Youth was the time for happiness, its only season; young people, leading a lazy, carefree life, partially occupied by scarcely absorbing studies, wer...more"Youth was the time for happiness, its only season; young people, leading a lazy, carefree life, partially occupied by scarcely absorbing studies, were able to devote themselves unlimitedly to the liberated exultation of their bodies. They could play, dance, love, and multiply their pleasures. They could leave a party, in the early hours of the morning, in the company of sexual partners they had chosen, and contemplate the dreary line of employees going to work. They were the salt of the earth, and everything was given to them, everything was permitted for them, everything was possible. Later on, having started a family, having entered the adult world, they would be introduced to worry, work, responsibility, and the difficulties of existence; they would have to pay taxes, submit themselves to administrative formalities whilst ceaselessly bearing witness -- powerless and shamefilled -- to the irreversible degradation of their own bodies, which would be slow at first, then increasingly rapid; above all, they would have to look after children, mortal enemies, in their own homes, they would have to pamper them, feed them, worry about their illnesses, provide the means for their education and their pleasure, and unlike in the world of animals, this would last not just for a season, they would remain slaves of their offspring always, the time of joy was well and truly over for them, they would have to continue to suffer until the end, in pain and with increasing health problems, until they were no longer good for anything and were definitively thrown onto the rubbish heap, cumbersome and useless. In return, their children would not be at all grateful, on the contrary their efforts, however strenuous, would never be considered enough, they would, until the bitter end, be considered guilty because of the simple fact of being parents. From this sad life, marked by shame, all joy would be pitilessly banished. When they wanted to draw near to young peole's bodies, they would be chased away, rejected, ridiculed, insulted, and, more and more often nowadays, imprisoned. The physical bodies of young people, the only desirable possession the world has ever produced, were reserved for the exclusive use of the young, and the fate of the old was to work and to suffer. this was the true meaning of solidarity between generations; it was a pure and simple holocaust of each generation in favor of the one that replaced it, a cruel, prolonged holocaust that brought with it no consolation, no comfort, nor any material or emotional compensation."(less)
"Once in camp I put a log on top of the fire and it was full of ants. As it commenced to burn, the ants swarmed out and went first toward the centre w...more"Once in camp I put a log on top of the fire and it was full of ants. As it commenced to burn, the ants swarmed out and went first toward the centre where the fire was; then turned back and ran toward the end. Some got out, their bodies burnt and flattened, and went off not knowing where they were going. But most of them went toward the fire and then back toward the end and swarmed on the cool end and finally fell off into the fire. I remember thinking at the time that it was the end of the world and a splendid chance to be a messiah and lift the log off the fire and throw it out where the ants could get off onto the ground. But I did not do anything but throw a tin cup of water on the log, so that I would have the cup empty to put whiskey in before I added water to it. I think the cup of water on the burning log only steamed the ants."(less)
I am very glad that I read this book back-to-back with Fatelessness. Here, Kertesz accomplishes in 130 pages what many writers are unable to in 500+....moreI am very glad that I read this book back-to-back with Fatelessness. Here, Kertesz accomplishes in 130 pages what many writers are unable to in 500+. Here, Kertesz manages to bring me to tears on three seperate occasions. I will not summarize this book nor provide my explanation of its premise but I do intend to drive home exactly how absolutely necessary it is -- like not as an opinion but in an objective sense that I can't actually explain -- to read this book. Unforgettable.(less)