Attention Span 2009 – Juliana Spahr
I keep thinking to myself that it has been a really amazing year of reading for me. I have loved so much of what I have read. I have no complaints. I’m not sure I have read a book I thought was a waste of my time all year. I think I feel this way because I have had trouble reading because I have a two year old who is at that stage where if I am reading in his presence, he comes up and grabs the book and says no, no, no. Reading feels a little illicit right now when I get to do it. Thus all the more sweet. So I should also confess that I think I might write this very differently if I was reading more inclusively. There are many books that came out this year that I have not yet gotten to read. I have an exciting large stack to read.
Mark McGurl | The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing | Harvard | 2009
I confess that I have at moments gotten bogged down in the long readings of Thomas Wolfe and Flannery O’Conner. Mainly because I’m not a super huge fan of that work and so not very well read in it. But the money shot, if one can say that, is the analysis of what he calls “program fiction.” So much here that feels right. Mainly that the university system has shaped US writing dramatically in the last half of the 20th century. Also really interested in his talk about how this fiction has a sort of generic localism (my term not his). But at same time I find McGurl’s respect for “program fiction” super frustrating. He keeps talking about how he likes it! And I’m so suspicious of the writing that this system has produced (not the teaching of writing, that is another complicated story). Primarily because it is a sort of generic local writing that has isolated writing from more activist and urgent concerns.
M Nourbese Philip | Zong! | Wesleyan | 2008
Super obsessed with this book. It has everything. Anti-imperial righteousness, avant garde extremity, ghosts or channeled beings, lists, etc. I love how she “recovers” the names of those lost on the Zong.
Ian Baucom | Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History | Duke | 2005
Also about the Zong and the development of credit around the slave trade. He talks a little about Philip’s book. I was reading it just as the financial markets were collapsing.
Renee Gladman | To After That | Atelos | 2008
Gladman at her best.
Aaron Cometbus | Cometbus | na | na
Joshua Clover gave Chris Nealon the issue of Cometbus on the Berkeley bookstores. And I had to go out and get my own copy. And then I started buying more and more copies to give to people because it such a lovely history of the complications around Telegraph Avenue.
Felix Feneon | Novels in Three Lines | NYR Classics | 2007
Reznikoff-style. Or I should say Reznikoff is Feneon-style. Classic playful social realist writing.
Mark Nowak | Coal Mountain Elementary | Coffee House | 2009
It surprised me! I don’t need to say anymore. I am so in love with this book right now.
Roberto Bolano | 2666 | Farrar, Straus, Giroux | 2008
I know, everyone else has already said all that needs to be said. I will add this though: there is no other male writer of women that is better than Bolano. Plus I keep rereading the sermon in the third book.
David Buuck | The Shunt | Palm Press | 2009
Juggling, with disgust.
Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009
I want to say something about beauty and lyric but I feel that would piss her off. But really, the book made my heart happy.
C. D. Wright | Rising, Falling, Hovering | Coffee House | 2008
How the world defines the personal. Also a really beautiful book. With hope for poetry despite its claim “What is said has been said before / This is no time for poetry.”
More Juliana Spahr here.