Susan Sontag “Against Interpretation” – Georges Rodenbach “Bruges-La-Morte” – Philippe Soupault “Last Nights of Paris”

“Once upon a time (a time when high art was scarce), it must have been a revolutionary and creative move to interpret works of art. Now it is not. What we decidedly do not need now is further to assimilate Art into Thought, or (worse yet) Art into Culture.” – Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation” InContinue reading “Susan Sontag “Against Interpretation” – Georges Rodenbach “Bruges-La-Morte” – Philippe Soupault “Last Nights of Paris””

Jackie Ess “Darryl” – Eve Babitz “Black Swans” – Roberto Bolaño “The Savage Detectives” “Amulet” Amit Chaudhuri – “Finding the Raga” – Roberto Calasso “K.”

Darryl is a wonderfully funny and big-hearted novel about a Taoist cuck. Darryl, the protagonist, gets turned on when he watches men have sex with his wife – but he starts to wonder if the cuck lifestyle is really for him. The novel is a classic journey of self-discovery, of an unhappy man searching forContinue reading “Jackie Ess “Darryl” – Eve Babitz “Black Swans” – Roberto Bolaño “The Savage Detectives” “Amulet” Amit Chaudhuri – “Finding the Raga” – Roberto Calasso “K.””

Franz Kafka “The Trial” – Heraclitus “Fragments” – Du Fu “A Life in Poetry” – Charles Baudelaire “Paris Spleen”

Heraclitus on Kafka: “The oneness of all wisdom may be found, or not, under the name of God.” In this fragment, Heraclitus comments on K’s belief that inside the castle, there is an authority that he will answer to, an authority that he can hold to account. K. endlessly strives to make contact with thisContinue reading “Franz Kafka “The Trial” – Heraclitus “Fragments” – Du Fu “A Life in Poetry” – Charles Baudelaire “Paris Spleen””

Olga Ravn “The Employees” – PD James “A Certain Justice” – Sylvia Townsend Warner “The Corner that Held Them” – Diana Souhami “No Modernism without Lesbians” – Leonora Carrington “The Hearing Trumpet”

Five novels about communities: The employees of an interstellar startup. The barristers and employees of a British legal chambers. The nuns of a medieval convent. The lesbian artists and patrons who created modernism. The residents of a nursing home. The darkest of these novels are the most conventional (A Certain Justice) and the most experimentalContinue reading “Olga Ravn “The Employees” – PD James “A Certain Justice” – Sylvia Townsend Warner “The Corner that Held Them” – Diana Souhami “No Modernism without Lesbians” – Leonora Carrington “The Hearing Trumpet””

Brian Evenson “The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell” – Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca “Chronicle of the Narváez Expedition” – Joy Williams “Breaking & Entering” – Jorge Luis Borges “A Course on English Literature”

In Evenson’s stories, it always feels like something is missing, like the characters need to recover what they haven’t realized is gone. His settings are empty landscapes, undescribed except to mention objects that advance or impede narrative progress. At the dawn of Spanish imperialism in the Americas, Cabeza de Vaca also wrote about desolate places.Continue reading “Brian Evenson “The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell” – Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca “Chronicle of the Narváez Expedition” – Joy Williams “Breaking & Entering” – Jorge Luis Borges “A Course on English Literature””

Julio Cortázar “All Fires the Fire” – Roberto Calasso “The Celestial Hunter” – Deirdre Madden “Molly Fox’s Birthday” – Sam Riviere “Dead Souls”

Many of Cortázar’s stories share the same form: two separate narratives (separated by time, by species, by distance) slowly become more similar, until they reveal they’ve always been the same narrative, pushing the reader into vertigo. They’re double narratives that hunt each other and both catch their prey. Calasso also writes about hunters who becomeContinue reading “Julio Cortázar “All Fires the Fire” – Roberto Calasso “The Celestial Hunter” – Deirdre Madden “Molly Fox’s Birthday” – Sam Riviere “Dead Souls””

E.T.A. Hoffman “Tales of Hoffmann” – Mark Fisher “The Weird and the Eerie” – Paul Scheerbart “Glass! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!!”

ETA Hoffmann’s gothic romances are full of implausible events and coincidences, but what makes his tales feel so unreal to a contemporary reader is the characters’ emotions. They’re never suspicious of their feelings – they immediately act in whatever way their heart tells them to. In contemporary novels, characters mistrust and analyze and interrogate theirContinue reading “E.T.A. Hoffman “Tales of Hoffmann” – Mark Fisher “The Weird and the Eerie” – Paul Scheerbart “Glass! Love!! Perpetual Motion!!!””