Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Paul West, Caliban's Filibuster (1971)

God, that title! Whatever else you may say about this book, it doesn't get much better than this, titlewise. Damn.

West (1930-2015) was a prolific novelist. His books are inconsistently in-print; some have been reprinted in recent years, and others remain resolutely out-of. This particular title was published by this great small press I discovered called Verbivoracious, that's devoted to publishing mainly reprints of avant-garde and experimental fiction that lacks the commercial wherewithal to remain available on economic grounds. So a (much) smaller Dalkey Archive with a more limited focus. They've reprinted all kinds of cool stuff that I'd like to explore. Earlier this year, they reprinted The Exagggerations of Peter Prince, which--when I read it, I expressed surprise hadn't happened already. Though I note that their version appears to be in a normal rectangular format, which makes one wonder--given how much that book relied on its square shape for so much of its typographical devilment, it's hard to see how this works. Anyway. I should probably shut up. It's not very disciplined of me to have inserted this barely-relevant tangent in this review. But I did!  I think in a review of this--of all books--a lack of discipline can be forgiven and is in fact thematically relevant.
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Saturday, November 25, 2017

David Markson, Wittgenstein's Mistress (1988)

This is one of those books that constantly comes up in amazon recommendations and whatnot, but not 'til now did I find the wherewithal to read it. This is that unusual thing: a Dalkey Archive original. Usually they either publish translations or reprints of American literature that doesn't have the clout to stay in print otherwise, but occasionally they'll also put out something for the first time! I know a number of Gilbert Sorrentino novels were also thus published. But this, I think, is their most well-known. So.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Herman Melville, The Piazza Tales (1856)

My feeling is that when it comes to Melville, most people start and stop with Moby-Dick, and given what a visionary writer he is, that is NOT ENOUGH. So I read this, which contains his best-known short works. And also some not. Anyway, I think it was a good choice.
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Anthony Trollope, Phineas Finn/The Irish Member (1869)

We GOTTA have that alternate title, 'cause otherwise you'd never know he was Irish, what with that extremely subtle name Trollope has given him.
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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Harry Mathews, The Conversions (1962)

Here's the coolest thing that happened reading this novel: I came across a story about a guy travelling across Africa trading cowry shells to different tribes for different cowry shells with the ultimate goal of making a profit, and I had the damnedest sense of deja vu: why do I have this nagging feeling that I've read this before? I know this is my first time reading this book. THIS IS WEIRD ARGH. Then I realized: Mathews was the first (and for a long time only) American member of Oulipo, and he and Georges Perec were friends and mutual admirers. Life a User's Manual contains sundry tributes and references to other writers, some of which I got and some not, and BAM: I retroactively realized that one of them was to this very book. COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Saturday, September 02, 2017

John Barth, LETTERS (1979)

Aargh, you want me to summarize LETTERS? Okay, but this is going to be the most ungainly thing possible. I'm not convinced there's an elegant way to do it.
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Monday, August 07, 2017

John Barth, Chimera (1972)

This book is actually three novellas--or if we want to be a bit finer with out classifications, a long short story, a novella, and a short novel, all on mythological themes. Only the final story, "Bellerephoniad," is published here for the first time; "Dunyazadiad" and "Perseid" had previously appeared in Esquire and Harper's respectively. They're sufficiently thematically unified that gathering them all together makes sense, however.
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