srijeda, 1. kolovoza 2012.

Liste stupova književne povijesti (nastavak)

(nastavak prethodnog posta) Liste najboljih, temeljnih književnih djela svih vremena često su predvidljive i zamorne, no ove osobne liste objavljene na blogu Big Other zanimljive su jer uključuju i mnoga manje poznata djela, a izbornici uglavnom imaju nekonvencionalan ukus. Iako će se tu naći i Dante i Shakespeare, važnije je, barem meni, pojavljivanje autora kao što su primjerice Flann O'Brien, Barry Hannah, Gary Lutz, Michael Martone, David Markson, Patrik Ourednik... te čak nekih stripova i djela u drugim medijima. 

Alexandra Chasin

1. What Shall I Put in the Hole That I Dig? Eleanor Thompson
The first book I read. Can’t write without reading. What I dug so much, I think, were the meter and the metaphor, because other than that, the book is rather sophomoric.
2. Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
Charlotte’s line, all her lines, but especially “Some Pig.” What kind of mind thought of those mots justes? Writing is a matter of life and death. It’s in and in between the lines.
3. Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
It’s not funny. Writing is a matter of life and death.
4. The Frogs, Aristophanes
Brekekekex koax koax. From the makers of onomatopoeia.
5. The Poetics, Aristotle
Couldn’t ask for a better strawman.
6. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf,
Political, angry, in total control of every word.
7. Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert
Le. mot. juste.
8. Beloved, Toni Morrison
9. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
Writing into the gaps
10. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Palindromic Pip. “Mudbank, mist, swamp, and work; work, swamp, mist, and mudbank.” Chiasmus makes the world go round.
11. Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Bronte
Structure inside structure inside structure.
12. The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann
Novel of IDEAS!
13. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
14. Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
The mind of my dreams.
15. Betrayal, Harold Pinter
If I knew how he did that….
16. Stuff by:
Samuel Beckett
Jorge Luis Borges
Gertrude Stein
Ditto ditto.
William Faulkner
When you really want to talk about sentences.
17. The Waves, Virginia Woolf
Because it fails.
18. Double or Nothing, Raymond Federman
Blew the lid off. For which, undying gratitude.
19. The America Play, Suzan-Lori Parks
History, Imagination, Language. Genius.
20. Traffic, Kenneth Goldsmith
Appropriation, a gold mine. Conceptual writing: redundancy, oxymoron, both or neither? Think about it.
21. Push, Sapphire
22. A Humument, Tom Phillips
23. The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
“Either you have stumbled indeed, without the aid of LSD or other indole alkaloids, onto a secret richness and concealed density of dream; onto a network by which X number of Americans are truly communicating whilst reserving their lies, recitations of routine, arid betrayals of spiritual poverty, for the official government delivery system; maybe even onto a real alternative to the exitlessness, to the absence of surprise to life, that harrows the head of everybody American you know, and you too, sweetie. Or you are hallucinating it. Or a plot has been mounted against you, so expensive and elaborate, involving items like the forging of stamps and ancient books, constant surveillance of your movements, plantings of post horn images all over San Francisco, bribing of librarians, hiring of professional actors and Pierce Inverarity only know what-all besides, all financed out of the estate in a way either too secret or too involved for your non-legal mind to know about even though you are co-executor, so labyrinthine that it must have meaning beyond just a practical joke. Or you are fantasying some such plot, in which case you are a nut, Oedipa, out of your skull.”
24. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
“Maybe that’s why my mother cut my tongue.”
25. Notes From Underground, Dostoyevsky
Someday my journal may come in handy.
26. Riverfinger Women, Elana Dykewoman
She could write about queer stuff and live to tell the story.
27. Becoming a Man, Paul Monette
So honest it’s embarrassing
28. Woman Hating, Andrea Dworkin. “Afterword: The Great Punctuation Typography Struggle”
“…Ive attacked the fundaments of culture. thats ok. Ive attacked male dominance. thats ok. Ive attacked every heterosexual notion of relation. thats ok. Ive in effect advocated the use of drugs. thats ok. Ive in effect advocated fucking animals. thats ok. here and now, new york city, spring 1974, among a handful of people, publisher and editor included, thats ok. lower case letters are not. it does make one wonder.
so Ive wondered and this is what I think right now. there are well-developed, effective mechanisms for dealing with ideas, no matter how powerful the ideas are. very few ideas are more powerful than the mechanisms for defusing them, standard form —punctuation, typography, then on to academic organization, the rigid ritualistic formulation of ideas, etc. —is the actual distance between the individual (certainly the intellectual individual) and the ideas in a book.
standard form is the distance
to permit writers to use forms which violate conventions just might permit writers to develop forms which would teach people to think differently: not to think about different things, but to think in different ways. that work is not permitted.”
Move over, big brother.
29. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” Audre Lorde
Keep moving.
30. The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin
31. His notebooks, Charles Darwin
You’ve really got to open your mind to think new thoughts
32. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, among other things
Can’t write without thinking. Can’t think without Foucault.
33. Glas, Jacques Derrida.
White space prose. Theory is creative writing. It is anti-intellectual and self-limiting to imagine that philosophy and cultural and literary theory are inimical to “creative writing.”
34. Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa
35. Dictée, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
36. Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow
37. Angels in America, Tony Kushner
38. The Book of Salt, Monique Truong
39. Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed
40. Burger’s Daughter, Nadine Gordimer
41. Dutch, Edmund Morris
42. Michael Martone, Michael Martone
43. A Midwife’s Tale, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
44. The Unredeemed Captive, John Demos
45. Holy Land, D.J. Waldie
46. The People Who Led to My Plays, Adrienne Kennedy
Goes deep and wide. Best use of fragments. Better even than David Markson’s work, also v. impactful.
47. Lost in the Funhouse, John Barth
The formal range in the collection as a whole. The most fully realized symbiosis of form and content (and poignancy to boot) in the title story in particular. Jonathan Safran Foer’s story, “A Primer for Punctuation of Heart Disease” also ranks in this respect.
Last but not least:
48. The Random House Dictionary
The reference book to which I refer more than any other. Sits, literally, at my left hand, as I write.
49. Words Into Type, ed. Marjorie Skillins
Next to the dictionary, it offers the standards of manuscript preparation from grammar to typography. I adhere more often than I depart. Third edition.
But not last.
50. Everything by Johanna Drucker
What texts can look like and why and why not.
51. Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson
52. Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson
53. The Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson

Paula Bomer

1-The Collected Short Stories of Flannery O’Connor
2-Habit of Being by Flannery O’Connor
3-Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor
4-War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
5-Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy
6-Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert
7-The Monk by Matthew Lewis
8-The Dwarf by Par Lagerkvist
9-The Silent Angel by Heinrich Böll
10-Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
11-Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
12-Because They Wanted To by Mary Gaitskill
13-Two Girls, Fat and Thin by Mary Gaitskill
14-Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
15-Don’t Cry by Mary Gaitskill
16-Zuckerman Bound by Philip Roth
17-Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth
18-The Collected Short Stories by John Cheever
19-The Journals of John Cheever
20-Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
21-Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
22-The Collected Short Stories by Richard Yates
23-Cold Spring Harbor by Richard Yates
24-Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Marriage by Alice Munro
25-Runaway by Alice Munro
26-The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro
27-The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
28-Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
29-The Cazelet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard
30-Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
31-A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
32-Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
33-The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
34- The Quiet American by Graham Greene
35-The Diaries of Anaïs Nin
36- Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
37-Saying Goodbye to Mr. McKenzie by Jean Rhys
38-Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
39-Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
40-Bad Dirt by Annie Proulx
41-The Brutal Language of Love by Alicia Erian
42-The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
43-Beloved by Toni Morrison
44-Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
45-David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
46-Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
47-Stranger on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
48-The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
49-Orlando by Virginia Woolf
50-Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories by Franz Kafka

Gabriel Blackwell

1. The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton. Borges’s list has The Blue Cross (the first Father Brown), but not Thursday. I read Blue Cross, but I wasn’t bowled over. Next to it on the library’s shelves, though, Thursday, and—from its jacket copy—what promised to be an incredible book. And so it was and is.
2. The Chill, Ross Macdonald. All I really “needed” to read of Macdonald’s was his first Archer, The Moving Target. And I wasn’t hugely impressed by it (I promise not all of these will be prefaced that way). But I kept going, steadily reading through the Archer canon. And that’s when I found this beautifully flawed detective novel, perhaps my favorite book in the genre.
3. Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler. Not that I doubted him for a second, but when Michael Martone recommended this to me, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It was context, mostly—I was supposed to be studying fiction at the time, so I couldn’t see the value in reading non-, but it was on my reading list, so I read it. It changed the way I thought about what I was doing, which is what Martone was after, I’m sure.
4. The Emigrants, W. G. Sebald. Vertigo had just come out the year I worked in a bookstore. I shelved it; it looked interesting (i.e., it had pictures). I bought it. I didn’t get far in it— perhaps twenty pages. I was reading Very Big Books then, Don Quixote, The Decameron, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Anna Karenina. Sebald’s little book got crushed. Which makes it all the more surprising that I then seem to have bought the two other Sebald books New Directions had put out, all of them still in hardcover. Rather than premonition of the importance Sebald would come to have on me, I suspect it was sheer boredom that drove my decision—there just wasn’t much to do at that bookstore that looked like work but wasn’t. Special ordering books for oneself satisfied the essential conditions. The me who picked up that untouched copy of The Emigrants eight or nine years later would be very indebted to the boredom of that 22-year-old me.
5. The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin. This book was $2 used, at Powell’s; I was interested in it, but I’m certain I would never have read it if it had been even a dollar more. I don’t know what to think of that penny-pincher I was. Now that I’ve read it, I can’t calculate its worth to me.
6. Jealousy, Alain Robbe-Grillet. Not my favorite Robbe-Grillet, but I think the one that has stuck with me the most. But I wouldn’t have read it if it hadn’t come packaged with another Robbe-Grillet (the alluringly-titled In the Labyrinth, which I couldn’t pass up, and which I had originally sought out the book for) in an omnibus edition.
7. The Geography of the Imagination, Guy Davenport. I mistakenly thought I had no interest in this book, but a friend of mine kept after me to read it, until, finally, I did. Don’t be like I was, be as I am.
8. Either/Or, Søren Kierkegaard. Particularly for the “Diary of a Seducer.” I read Kierkegaard without particular passion, simply because I had a few of his books (see above note on working in a bookstore), until I got to Either/Or. I’m glad I bothered to read so far.
9. Confidence Man: His Masquerade, Herman Melville. I did one of those Dalkey seasonal sale things where you get 10 books for $60, and they didn’t have one of the books I originally ordered. I was looking through their fiction offerings for something to replace it when I saw this. “Dalkey has a Melville?” I thought. I love Moby-Dick and the other, more famous stuff, but I wouldn’t have felt compelled to read this had it not been for its seemingly odd context.
10. Pedro Paramo, Juan Rulfo. This one is on Borges’s list, but I didn’t come to it that way. I think when I saw it there, I just didn’t see it, a couple of names I didn’t recognize. Borges didn’t annotate, so it might as well have been a biography of a man I’d never heard of by another man I’d never heard of. A decade later, I found myself reading it at a teacher’s insistence. I am incredibly grateful that she insisted.
11. The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard. Cheap remainder. The sticker (still on the cover) says $3.95, down from $14. Found in a stack at the front of The Strand when I happened to be visiting NYC. I didn’t have any particular interest in reading Ballard at the time—I think the limit of what I knew about him was that he was the Crash guy—but I flipped through to the table of contents (“Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan” there at the bottom), and I figured I could give him a shot.
12. The Third Policeman, Flann O’Brien. See following note. I love this book with the kind of partisanship that, as a teenager, I reserved for obscure punk/garage bands.
13. Manuscript Found at Saragossa, Jan Potocki. When I graduated from college, I didn’t have a stack of books to read. I just didn’t know where to start—though I had studied comparative literature, I didn’t really know what was like what I liked, and the internet wasn’t yet so helpful in that regard. I didn’t even know where to look to find out where to look. So, I started with my budget, which was a wonderfully grounding constraint. I rode my bike or walked down Rampart to the New Orleans Public Library’s central branch on my days off, where I would grab anything that looked interesting on the new nonfiction rack and then, if I had room in my backpack, I would pick an aisle of the fiction section and pull down any spine that looked interesting. I thus found Manuscript and The Third Policeman through dumb luck and persistence and a lack of anything else to do. Those weekly trips—and the books I found while looking for other books—are what made me decide to try to write fiction.
As I look around at my bookshelves, I realize that a yet more incredible thing about many of these thirteen is not that they came into my possession at one time or another but that, once they did, I read them. Who can say why that happens with a book like The Songlines, a book I knew very little about and hadn’t really intended to read when I brought it home and not, say, A Temple of Texts, a book I sought out? There is so much to read now, more than there ever was before (and when you read this, there will be even more), that what we read in a lifetime can only ever be a tiny sliver of a fraction of what we might have read, perhaps of what we “ought to” have read. Frankly, I don’t trust this kind of list for that reason, and I don’t think you ought to, either—they’re accidents, more or less, based on completely incomplete information. I might have been frustrated just starting out, out of college and without a syllabus, but now I’m content to let accident dictate what I read for the most part. I don’t question what comes into my hand so much anymore; it leads to agonizing over my choices rather than reading, and reading’s much more fun. Because I have a feeling that there are always more accidents waiting, and, though I can’t look forward to them, I can celebrate their possibility by always looking.

Matt Bell

Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
Angels by Denis Johnson
Venus Drive by Sam Lipsyte
The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson
Last Days by Brian Evenson
In the Aeroplane over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
The Age of Wire and String by Ben Marcus
The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, ed. by Ben Marcus
Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders
Telling It Again and Again by Bruce Kawin
Fiction and the Figures of Life by William Gass
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver
Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss
Nightwork by Christine Schutt
On Eloquence by Denis Donoghue
Neck Deep and Other Predicaments by Ander Monson
The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret
1984 by George Orwell
Michael Martone by Michael Martone
Guide by Dennis Cooper
God, Jr. by Dennis Cooper
Super Flat Times by Matthew Derby
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
U.S.! by Chris Bachelder
Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje
Motorman by David Ohle
Log of the S.S. the Mrs Unguentine by Stanley Crawford
Girl With the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
Endgame by Samuel Beckett
Return to the City of White Donkeys by James Tate
Kamby Bolongo Mean River by Robert Lopez
Waste by Eugene Marten
Grim Tales by Norman Lock
Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker
Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter
John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead
Criers & Kibitzers, Kibitzers & Criers by Stanley Elkin
Killing Kanoko by Hiromi Ito
The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King
The Paris Review interviews
The five AWP 2009 presentations on “Truth and Consequences in Non-Realist Fiction” by Brian Evenson, Laird Hunt, Joyelle McSweeney, Kate Bernheimer, and Eric Lorberer, later collected in Fence 21
Europeana by Patrick Ourednik
Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson
Unsaid, especially Issue 4
Underworld by Don DeLillo

Gary Amdahl

A great many grand and beloved books are missing from this list; I thought I’d try to draw up something like a “blueprint after the building.”
Dickinson’s poetry
Emerson’s essays
Thoreau’s journals
Hawthorne’s tales
Emerson is no longer fashionable in some English departments? Greatness in American letters begins with him. It was wounded in the Civil War, and died when Melville was forgotten by the last reader to remember him. Faulkner raised the dead and animated the tombs, but dead is dead. Still, as Stevens put it, the houses will crumble and the books will burn, but they are at ease in a shelter of the mind.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth and King Lear
Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist
Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller
John Donne’s “Holy Sonnets”
Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus
Everything I am drawn to in the English language I can trace back to Elizabethan anarchism.
Lowry’s Under the Volcano
White’s Riders in the Chariot and Voss
Laxness’s Independent People and Iceland’s Bell
Novelizations of The Man from U.N.C.L.E
James Michener’s The Source
Cloak and Dagger: the Secret Story of OSS
Conan the Barbarian
Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood
Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment
Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady
Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!
Melville’s Moby-Dick, or The Whale
Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow
Barth’s Giles Goat-Boy and The Sot-Weed Factor
Joyce’s Ulysses
McGuane’s 92 in the Shade
Matthiessen’s Far Tortuga
Barthelme’s Sadness and Snow White
Coover’s The Public Burning
Hawkes’s The Blood Oranges
One book led to another. Fireworks. Mind on fire. (I was 22.)
Welch’s Winter in the Blood
Eastlake’s The Bronc People
The only good (along with some rolling memories drunk in a dinghy in the middle of Cayuga) to come out of a ridiculously abortive attempt to get an MFA at Cornell.
Proust’s Search for Lost Time
Montaigne’s Essays
Great works that saved my life in a bad time. I wanted to go deep deep deep into what I knew was good good good because I had been bad bad bad.
Oedipus the King
A Streetcar Named Desire
Waiting for Godot
The Curse of the Starving Class
Long Day’s Journey into Night
Between Man and Man
The Portable Nietzsche
Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death
The Persian Letters
Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo
I was in and out of college for twelve years. I was a terrible student. The first four books were the required readings in Arthur Ballet’s “Introduction to Theater” at the University of Minnesota. Ballet was legendary as a teacher, influential in the off-off-Broadway movement, and in the development of regional theater. Without him I doubt I would have had the desire to write plays, and probably would not have had the opportunity I had in Minneapolis and Saint Paul in the 80s to see them living on stages. The last two plays in that set were the first plays I saw with a life in the theater in mind. The second set of books were taught by a very old man whose name I cannot remember, in the long lost “Humanities Department.” I’m pretty sure it was his class that convinced me that difficulty could be pleasurable.
Admiration and affection abounding for this man and his work.
Krapp’s Last Tape (but effectively every word Beckett ever wrote)
The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens
This means these writers and their works are never out of my mind.

Johannes Göransson
  1. I think of going to a performance by “Blackie,” an improvisational band, in the basement of the Speedboat Gallery in St Paul with a friend. There were more people in the band than in the audience. We sat on a flea-ridden couch. The many instruments made a ruckus and a man dressed up as a typical all-American boy in drag (baseball hat, preppy clothes) yelled “We’re in Spokane! We’re in Spokane” and filmed himself while writhing around on the ground. It was like watchng someone masturbating in a hotel room: I felt filthy with Art. Afterwards my friend and I got in the bathtub, as if to get rid of the filth. After a while I realized that the water had gotten cold because I saw my friend shivering, he had goose-skin. Art is like sperm, as Artaud realized a long time ago, in the greatest poetry for the 20th century: “Sperm is not urination but a being who always toward a being advances to toerrfy it with itself.” Or: “Not a fiction, this sperm, but war with torn-crowned cannons which churn their own grapeshot before churning the ONE entry.”# Sperm as a numbling quality. It makes your lips tickle if you kiss a girl who’s just given you head.
  1. (You can also find insights about sperm in horror movies such Hellraiser as well as Matthew Barney’s sperm-covered art.) (After all, Art is a house that wants to be haunted, as noted by the greatest poet of all, the Spinster of Amherst. And that is why there are so many bleeding idiots locked in its attics, so many scissors left by its telephones, so many birds without teeth in its orientalist exhibitions.)
  1. Art is often most affecting when it’s not admireable or tasteful. When it’s ridiculous. Right now my wife Joyelle is downstairs reading a Kurtz-monologoue into a tapeplayer while playing the Doors’ “This is the End” and watching napalm blossom out of the jungle (aka “the zone”). This fall Tarpaulin Sky is publishing her book Salamandrine: 8 Gothics, which will ruin all of American literature for at least 20 years. The term “prose poetry” will finally be retired.
  1. I think about this one-man play I saw on the lower east side some time in the late 90s. It was spoken by a guy who had been mistaken for Hitler by an underground Hitler-cult. I watched it in one of those basements beneath a storefront on the Lower Eastside. As he told the increasingly absurd and therefore true story of his abduction and consequent physical ordeals and pleasures, the ugly, middle-age man grew sweatier and sweatier. I thought he was going to have a stroke. A pig stroke. But he survived grotesquely and spetacularly. The walls were covered with newspapers and the air was stale. We didn’t survive. The cult didn’t survive. That man with his pig stroke had infected the entire velvet underground.
  1. When I was a kid my father would read me nighttime stories about the Holocaust and Stalin’s gulags from these big coffee-table books full of photographs. He thought it was important that I understand Europe, he said. But it told me more about Art than history. My dad also showed me tons of movies. He had wanted to become a film director but failed and become a journalist. Now he wanted me to become a filmdirector, so he showed me all these films that he thought were great: Hitchcock, John Ford, Bridge Over the River Quai. I could never sleep at night so I stayed up watching news reports with him. Often he was in jail in Eastern Europe, then I stayed in my mom’s bed, but I was still afraid, so I imagined this elaborate, sarcophagi-like contraption whereby we would sleep in an underground beneath the bed and to not arouse suspicion in our killers, we would have these effigies of us on our bed, effigies that would bleed when cut. I still sometimes think about this invention, and i wonder if I could get it patented still. I think that plan was my greatest work. I think I was inspired by Arabian Nights, which was my favorite book at the time.
  1. Inger Christensen and Jackson MacLow reading her book “Alfabetet” in NYC around 1994: For weeks afterwards I felt their entrancing and entranced voices in my head: “Doves exist.” That poem is an incantation to Art. Academics and canonical thinkers fall back on very dull versions of “originality” to define their greatness, but it’s contagion of Art that makes for the greatest works: Art is not the singular but that which constantly infects and causes its own repetition. It’s a dance craze at the occupation. They dance the pony dance.
  1. I think about this Basquiat show I saw at the Tony Schafrazi Gallery in Soho back around 1997. My girlfriend at the time was working as a copyeditor at some design magazine, and she called me from work breathlessly telling me that she had found an artist whose art was just like my poetry. She had seen one of his scrawled anatomical paintings in the spread for some rich person’s house. It just so happened that the exhibit was up at the time. I went there and was totally enraptured. Sat for hours staring at those sabotaged, vulnerable bodies, penetrated by art. The readymade of a door decorated with a baroque series of martyrs: retinal art taking back the streets for and with Art.
  1. Or this great show I saw in Brussels with Congolese artist, Bylex Puma…. Named after the Bylex camera… All Enlightenment Theories turned occult brilliance… Afterwards snacks at the Café Congo….
  1. If I’m talking about visual art, I also have to mention the book-version of Joseph Beuys’s Arena, a series of photographs as relics of a performance that seems to immense and extensive that every part of the world might in some way be transformed by it. I hate the reductive urge to “document” as a way ot avoid the kitsch of Art, as if to get at Truth by avoiding Art. In Beuys’ he documents the Art: Everythign is already Art. The magic of the camera!
  1. Or the Nathalie Djurberg show The Parade, which was just at the Walker in Mpls. Or the Kara Walker show I saw at the Walker back in the 90s. In both of these shows, the Art totally messes with scale, with the spectator’s position in the gallery. I went to Walker’s show not knowing anything about it and at first I was like, “Oh great, some silly sillhouettes,” but then I looked and saw the horrific amazing images and by then I was already caught, already too far into the room. In Djurberg there’s a similar dynamic with all these color-coated birds forcing the spectator to the sides where we see these claymation films about bodies being penetrated by Art.
  1. Or this Eva Hesse show I saw at the Walker: it was sketches for her whips and stuff. The opposite of Beuys’s imaginary souvenirs. Her whips are perhaps best incarnated in that sci-fi movie Cronenberg made in the 90s: where they use Hesse’s whips to connect to different computer games.
  1. Actually, probably the greatest art I ever experienced was the Guthrie’s production of Jean Genet’s “The Screens” when I was 16. It’s this long, long play set during the demise of France’s colonial reign of Algeria. The main character (played by an actor I recognized from the television show “Fame”) shudder-danced throughout the many-hours long play, at one point carrying his dying mother on his shoulders. The colonialists wore amazing costumes with huge boots. I don’t want to re-read it or watch it again; I carry it inside of me: the power of Art, how it can be found in the wounded main character, in the costumes of the colonialists.  So often people want Art to be good, to help them be good, but Hitler and Stalin loved Art too, and Ronald Reagan was a cowboy actor.
  1. I was carried to America by a crowd of men wearing Ronald Reagan masks and nightgowns. We walked through a woods that was decorated with plastic deer. When we got to America, we turned on the spotlights and shot the deer into pieces. Then we nailed our clothes on the trees and shot at them. Then we placed the remains on newspapers.
  1. I feel like I am getting this image of shooting exercises from Sara Stridsberg’s wonderful novel Darling River, which retells the story of Lolita. But it’s many different Lolitas. The girl is so fake, she becomes many. She dies in childbirth. In another of her novels, Drömfakulteten, Stridsberg tells the fake biography of Valerie Solanis in a series of theatrical mis-en-scenes. The mis-en-scene reminds me fo the Beuys piece I mentioned above. But it’s the Art of the woman who shot Andy Warhol.
  1. Another pillar of greatness:
“Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row.”#
  1. I’m really interested in pageantry. It’s of course to be found in Genet’s other plays, in particular the brilliant numb show “The Blacks,” and in his amazing novels, such as Our Lady of Flowers, which is probably my favorite novel of all time. When I read Genet, I am constantly writing down sentences and words that I later use in my own writing. I do the same with Nabokov. Lolita is probably my second favorite novel. In both Our Lady of Flowers and Lolita, there is a criminality surging through the baroque style. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. In detective novels, the prose style must be direct or we would doubt the detective’s urge toward truth and crime-solving.
  1. Of course this pageantry can also be found in Jacobean plays, such as The Duchess of Malfi or The Changeling. I love how these plays are tragedies that always verge on becomes travesties, farces. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Once a friend and I recorded a movie adaptation of Duchess of Malfi at a shooting range. She had a very violent beauty about her. She knew how to operate the most horrible instruments masterfully. When we were done, my body was bruised and my clothes – my beautiful teenage clothes – were ruined, absolutely ruined. One must be absolutely ruined. I mean modern. I mean obscene. I mean a virgin.
  1. This pageantry is of course also the mode through which in the beautiful 1960s trashy underground cinema of Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith and Werner Schroeter was concocted. Or even in Godard’s masterpiece Weekend. Or in the 1970s trash of John Waters. Or Hitchcock’s trash period (Psycho, The Birds etc.) I love all that stuff. The film becomes so fragile, worn, vulnerable – like gossamer, tulle, ornate orientalist death-veils – and yet it’s powerful, violent, hilarious. We’re in the apocalypse; we need to wear the right costumes as the shit goes down.
  1. I started writing poetry soon after I came to the US when I was 13. At first I translated pop songs, such as the decadent pop of Imperiet. Pop music has always been important to me. Speaking of pageantry, I remember going to a Depeche Mode show with my dad when I was in 5th grade; what impressed me the most was not the music but how beautiful all the fans looked in their Berlin-inspired garments and dyed hair, their black trenchcoats and leather boots. I started affecting that look (and I use the word “affect” with total respect). When I started junior high school in the US, this costume ellicited an extreme and extremely violent response: I was constantly tackled and attacked in the hallways, classrooms and on the way home from school. This was a fascinating experience. It taught me that costumes and violence go together (like milk and arsenic). In Eisenstein’s “Ivan the Terrible” Part 2, Ivan has his secret guard dress up the pretender prince in Ivan’s robe and crown while they dance a riotious pony dance. The pretender, in drag as Ivan, is then stabbed by Ivan’s would-be murderer, a virgin priest. It just so happens that Eisenstein used Stalin’s own personal Red Army dance troop to act the part of the secret service. This was proof to Stalin that Eisenstein was criticizing him.
  1. I also love “Horses” by Patti Smith. Why do we always want to massacre the horses? Horses are amazing in that they are both authoritarian and pretty, both powerful and vulnerable. When we get on a horse we have to be concerned because it might take off and it might throw us off (broken neck, concussion, miscarriage etc) and yet it’s so pretty. Girls like to put bows in its mane, boys like to wraps barbwire around its throat. Its physique is so powerful and muscular that the muscles and bones almost push through its skin, which makes it vulnerable.# In my head I always see horses as tortured due to their strange inside-out anatomies. I see them littering a field in the Midwest, killed by toy arrows. They are the waste, the by-product of that grand exercise in America, making the virgin land productive. How do you deal with all these dead bodies? You build a hotel (Overlook, The Great Northern). In Smith’s awesomest song, the horses horses horses come back from the dead, they erupt in the same teenage violence that turns Johnny into Rimbaud, turns “The Twist” or the “Watuzi” into extremist torture-dances. Johnny Rotten hated it. Smith had used his personal dance troop. She had fucked them up good.
  1. Of course I have plenty of regular Great Authors I could add to this list. Most of them are 19th century druggies like Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Lautremont, Stagnelius (“Till Förruttelsen”), Poe, Kleist etc. And their 20th century descendants, like Lovecraft, Bataille (the essays, Blue at Noon, the encyclopedic entries, the jokes) and Artaud (both the theater and the poetry, to the extent that one can make a distinction). I think Bataille’s “expenditure” interacts wonderfully with the trashy pornos I mentioned earlier. And Artaud’s plague is certainly present in Djurberg’s polluted birds.
  1. For me Lovecraft, Bataille and Artaud come together most feverishly in the contemporary Swedish poet Aase Berg and the contemporary Korean poet Kim Hyesoon (translated by Don Mee Choi). In Berg’s Mörk materia (I translated it as Dark Matter, forthcoming from Black Ocean this fall), Berg brings together schlocky sci-fi exoticism, grotesque horror movie kitsch with Blakean apocalyptic visions. Both Kim and Berg work in an ultra-violent, ultra-montage-y way akin to how art critic John Kelsey has described the methodology of the fashion design brand Rodarte (which consists of a horror-obsessed twin sisters straight out of a horror movie):
“Rodarte attack materials at the molecular level, devising ways of transforming and combining them into strange, unorthodox complexes—“vinyl birdskin,” “wool cobweb,” “metallic mohair,” and so on—before submitting the results to an intensely labored reconstructive surgery–cum-couture. The research-and-development phase of their process may involve fraying a material with pinking shears, hand-dyeing it, or burning fabric with acid or a cigarette lighter before elaborating the labyrinths of knit loops, Frankensteinian assemblages, and multilayered architectures that fit on bodies. Sometimes criticized for an indifference to structure or for a certain inarticulateness that accompanies their wizardry with materials, Rodarte, we could argue, relocate design in the fingertips, the eyeballs, and that part of the brain most exposed to and shaken by the world—away from the more academic, silhouette-oriented values that rule the traditional houses of Europe.”#
  1. About Dark Matter, the great English fantasy (is that what you call that kind of graphomaniacal writing?) writer China Mieville says: “’Extraordinary and urgent, a coded warning smuggled out of dark.” I think this is very apt: A lot of the art I like has the urgency of a warning, a vision of the apocalypse, but the art is thick like a “code”, like something that is “smuggled.” It is both totally “accessible” and curiously, perversly heavy and “dark” with art. You have to move into it, you must let it corrupt you: you have to read it. You will not make it to the other side. In “Silk Road” Kim Hyesoon writes:
Suddenly the fever came for me and pounded my insides and left
leaving a few words on a thin piece of silk that could melt
but later… later… as I ripened to mush
Out of the blue, after many decades, I went to visit my fever
  1. Other books in this genre might be Blake’s Auguries of Innocence and Plath’s Ariel.
  1. “We haven’t paid a damned thing. We’re the Pearls of Stockholm.” (
  1. There are a bunch of Swedish poets from the last few decades that I love: Ann Jäderlund, Eva Kristina Olsson, Lars Noren (before he became a playwright, he wrote some amazing halllucinatory poetry, such as “Revolver” from 1968), Öyvind Fahlström (the first poet to use the phrase “concrete poetry”) and the early work of Bruno K Öijer (his later stuff seems a bit too new-agey for me). And while I’m talking about Sweden, can I also admit that I love Strindberg, especially his Spöksonata: the horrible architecture, the sinister cook. Or the ghosts of Ibsen (from “greater Sweden”): the way that genes, contagion and breeding all overwhelm the tragedies, the way Peer Gynt is crowned in a madhouse in Cairo.
  1. I’m running out of steam here for this performance. I have a headache and my hands feel strangely trembling. Perhaps I have drunk too much coffee, perhaps I’ve smoked too much opium, perhaps it’s a cracking its head against my window. Nijinski says one must be nervous to create Art. In the Heart of Darkness, the trading company’s quack doctor instructs Marlowe how to survive in colonial Africa: “In the tropics, one must before everything keep calm.”… He lifted a warning finger… “Du calme, du calme. Adieu.””
  1. I feel like I should mention Kathy Acker – I’ve read all her books but I can’t tell them apart. Like with Guy Maddin’s brilliant films or Beuys’s imaginary exhibition, they seem part of an endless work of art. Like Acker or Berg or Kim, Swedish poet and dramatist (Teater Mutation), Sara Tuss Efrik works like “termite” artist, chewing her way through texts (‘Tis A Pity She’s A Whore etc) or old shitty pictures found in a flea market like Manny Farber’s “termite artists.” It is flashy, adorable, grotsesque, violent and fascinating; it does not have any of the American experimental puritanical iconophobia, the morality of restraint. It saturates.
  1. Like I said, I love a lot of 19th century writing. Shelley’s Alastor. Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale.” Tennyson’s “The Palace of Art.” Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Jane Eyre. Wuthering Heights. “The Sandman.” Huysman’s interior decorating. Etc. But I also love a lot of 20th century canonical works like Breton/Soupauts The Magnetic Fields”, Parland’s Idealrealisation, Björling’s Där jag vet att du, everything by Celan, Michaux, Mina Loy, The Baroness, Majakovskij, Cesaire, Vallejo, Raul Zurita (in every translation), Etc. I hope I’ve mentioned enough books because I’ve gotten sick and must go take some medicine.
  1. This should all be performed before an audience of saints. Make them hungry, make them hott, make them sweaty make them nott. This should all be performed in the dark, by teenagers who smell bad or who wear extravagant perfumes made from the sperm of roses.

John Matthew

1. Blood Meridianby Cormac McCarthy. I once suggested this as a fixture on high school reading lists and a principal told me parents would riot. I still think it belongs in every possible canon.2. The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy. More ways to describe lightening than you thought possible. 3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
4. Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The great novel of ideas.
5. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. Of course the inventive typography is wonderful, but the pathos within the erudition makes this book sing.
6. Blindness by Jose Saramago. Taught me the power of a “what if” premise.
7. Snow by Orhan Pamuk.
8. The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg by Deborah Eisenberg. Compression, compression, compression. She is the best at it.
9. The Collected Stores of Flannery O’Connor by Flannery O’Connor. She knows the human heart, all that is wicked and all that is good.
10. After the Quake by Haruki Murakami. Contains two of best short stories ever written. The rest are pretty good too.
11. Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Cats, classical music and wells.
12. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I don’t mean to get all Heraclitan on you, but I don’t know how you can be the same person after reading this book.
13. Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace. This entry is a placeholder for all of Wallace’s nonfiction. Read it all.
14. The Children’s Hospital by Chris Adrian. If any contemporary writers have imaginations better than Adrian, I haven’t read them.
15. The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq. A primer on the wrong ways to think about sex.
16. 2666 by Roberto Bolano. I wish all novels were this ambitious.
17. Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges. This is an infinite library.
18. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. The funniest book I’ve ever read.
19. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. Teaches you what the world should be and what it shouldn’t.
20. The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry. The book I quote more than any other.
21. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Gives religion legs and heart.
22. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. The sheer force of language makes me feel inadequate as a writer.
23. The Castle by Franz Kafka. We live in Kafka’s world.
24. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
25. Moby Dick by Melville. The archetypal “large, loose baggy monster.”
26. The Stranger by Albert Camus.
27. Miracle Boy by Pinckney Benedict. He writes the stories I want to write.
28. Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser.
29. Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
30. Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen.
31. Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy. I’m a sucker for languages. Especially imaginary ones.
32. If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino.Ah, the structural possibilities of narrative.
33. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. The book that made me become a writer.
34. Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson. Naked hang-glider. Need I say more?
35. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The power of this novella is that its meaning always lies just beyond my grasp.
36. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. In my experience of reading, the first marriage of philosophy and literature.
37. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. The second marriage.
38. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee.
39. Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet. He upended all my novelistic rules.
40. The Winners by Julio Cortazar. I usually dislike the amount of dialogue in his work, but the premise of this mystery cruise carried me through.
41. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. Immaculate premise, immaculate execution.
42. The Old Testament. “Where we find men, things, and words in a style so grandiose that the Latin and Greek literatures have nothing to lay upon it.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
43. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche taught me how to think.
44. Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard. Since I’m going to be a father of twins in the next few weeks, the father/son relationship haunts me.
45. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. How to think about the progress of science.
46. Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia. Defined my notions of gender and sex.
47. Socratic Memorabilia by Johann Hamann. Philosophical lit that’s both beautiful and mysterious.
48. America by Jean Baudrillard. Love the Disneyland bits, with the preference for the fake over the real. Also, check out Simulacra and Simulation.
49. The Dialogic Imagination by M.M. Bakhtin. Wonderful insight on Dostoevsky and the novel.
50. Lonely Planet Guides. The travel guide to every country on earth, because travel has fed my imagination.

Dawn Raffel

These disparate pillars (fiction, nonfiction, plays, poetry) might well support a funhouse, which is how I like it. I’ve deliberately left off books by anyone who was/is my teacher, mentor, colleague, or friend—even if only on Facebook.
1. Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales
2. Bullfinch’s Mythology
3. Ovid’s Metamorphoses
4. The Uses of Enchantment, Bettelheim
5. War & Peace (Here come the Russians. If I were allowed to possess only one book for the rest of my life, Tolstoy’s masterpiece would be it.)
6. Anna Karenina, Tolstoy
7. The Death of Ivan Ilych, Tolstoy
8. Fathers and Sons, Turgenov
9. Dead Souls, Gogol
10. The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky
11. Crime and Punishment, Dostoevksy
12. The Idiot, Dostoevsky
13. The Captain’s Daughter and Other Stories, Pushkin
14. Complete Stories of Anton Chekhov
15. The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov (and here follow plays that have affected me as much as any novel)
16. Three Sisters, Chekhov
17. The Glass Menagerie, Williams
18. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? Albee
19. The Homecoming, Pinter
20. The Berlin Stories, Isherwood
21. My Guru and His Disciple, Isherwood
22. The Snow Leopard, Mathiessen (if you were my friend when I was in my twenties, you received a copy of this book from me)
23. Bliss and Other Stories, Mansfield
24. A Good Man is Hard to Find, O’Conner
25. The Violent Bear it Away, O’Conner (This short novel deserves wider recognition)
26. Tell Me a Riddle, Olsen
27. Nine Stories, Salinger
28. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, Paley
29. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? Carver
30. 18 Stories by Heinrich Boll
31. Lost in the Funhouse, Barth
32. The Floating Opera, Barth
33. The Things They Carried, O’Brien (as perfect a collection as has been written)
34. The Norton Anthology of Short Stories
35. Four Minute Fictions, Wilson, editor (my first jolt of what are now called micro-fictions; this anthology issued from The North American Review)
36. The Public Burning, Coover
37. Invisible Cities, Calvino
38. 100 Years of Solitude, Marquez
39. Going Native, Wright
40. Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge, Connell  
41. Suttree, McCarthy
42. Blood Meridian, McCarthy
43. Ulysses, Joyce
44. Dubliners, Joyce
45. A River Runs Through It, Maclean
46. Warrenpoint, Donoghue
47. Surprised by Joy, CS Lewis (for elegance of both thought and prose)
48. Soul Clap Hands and Sing, Marshall
49 The Half-Inch Himalayas, Ali (I met the late poet when he was selling chapbooks out of the back of his car. The work blew me away—and still does)
50. The Great Fires, Gilbert

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