City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Month: December, 2018

Books I read in 2018

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Books I read in 2018 were mostly novels, meaning that I probably did not read enough books in 2018, because I do not read many novels.

In order (January-December):
SHADOWBAHN, Steve Erickson (I have read all 10 of his novels, his two nonfiction books and probably everything else he has written and not burned or otherwise destroyed since 1985, and SHADOWBAHN is arguably my second-favorite Steve Erickson (THE SEA CAME IN AT MIDNIGHT) with less arguably his best soundtrack (true story: I first heard about this book from the Mekons’ Facebook page)–the greatest living unknown novelist in and of America, in my opinion, despite killing himself off in at least two novels so far and hopefully not for the last time)
BLACK WAVE, Michelle Tea (in which the world begins in San Francisco and ends in LA, in the words (almost) of Phil Ochs; also, Matt Dillon is in this book, as is Bourgeois Pig, which I went to before it was known to be so cool that it is no longer cool in this novel)
WAR PORN, Roy Scranton (disturbing, repeatedly and intentionally)
THE ALGIERS MOTEL INCIDENT, John Hersey (a 2017 movie that I have not seen)
THE WAGES OF WHITENESS: RACE & THE MAKING OF THE AMERICAN WORKING CLASS, David Roediger (I love David Roediger, and not only because he responded, thoughtfully, to my December 2016 email about his sundown towns article in CounterPunch; Noel Ignatiev’s related How the Irish Became White may be on my reading list for 2019 but based on my small sample sizes, Roediger is a better writer)
FREEDOM’S ORATOR: MARIO SAVIO AND THE RADICAL LEGACY OF THE 1960s, Robert Cohen (I never knew Mario Savio was a stutterer, or how he used the Socratic method, or where he went after the Machine Speech–fascinating, if you are fascinated by such things)
DHALGREN, Samuel Delany (it only took me 22 years–meaning in this case I began reading DHALGREN in 1996, no, seriously; I never realized this book was an extended allegory on what happened to everyone who didn’t belong–outcasts in any sense–when the 60s as such were over–whether it took the form of communes, riots, self-destruction (whether cultural, literal, sexual) and the impermanence of it all; Delany’s more obscure true life sequel may be on my list for 2019)
HUBCAP DIAMONDSTAR HALO, Camden Joy (nonessential reading by the author of a 90s novel I loved, THE LAST ROCK STAR BOOK, OR LIZ PHAIR, A RANT)
JERUSALEM: ONE CITY, THREE FAITHS, Karen Armstrong (this book ends in 1996, and doesn’t)
AMONG THE BLACKS, Raymond Roussel & Ron Padgett (two authors, one title)
A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, John Kennedy Toole (how can you not love writing like “The siren, a cacophony of twelve crazed bobcats, was enough to make suspicious characters within a half-mile radius defecate in panic and rush for cover. Patrolman Mancuso’s love for the motorcycle was platonically intense”?)
THE QUIET AMERICAN, Graham Greene (a 1958 and 2002 movie I have not seen (Brendan Fraser as Pyle? really?)

Bonus films I saw in 2018:
ISLE OF DOGS (Yoko Ono!)
BLACK PANTHER (now I get it)
THE LAST JEDI (porgs!)
R.B.G. (she is amazing, but Sotomayor is still my favorite justice)
FIRST REFORMED (the best 1970s film of 2018, and probably the best film of 2018, period)
SICARIO 2: DAY OF THE SOLDADO (I don’t get the gratuitous Isis thing at the beginning, other than it’s 2018 and Hollywood can’t not do Islamophobia in a nominally progressive film)
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (read the Jacobin article, see the film; it almost lost me with the horses, but, you know, wild horses couldn’t …)
BLACKKKLANSMAN (this is true, but also Washington and Driver are great, and the Belafonte scene alone is worth the price of admission)
AT ETERNITY’S GATE (63 year old Willem Dafoe as 35 year old Vincent Van Gogh, which works because Willem Dafoe has never not looked 63 years old)

Top ten albums of 2018 (maybe)
Earl Sweatshirt, MORE RAP SONGS
Phosphorescent, C’EST LA VIE
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, SPARKLE HARD
Low Cut Connie, DIRTY PICTURES (Part 2)
Alejandro Escovedo, THE CROSSING



Books I read in 2017

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Not a typo; I missed a year last year.  (2018 is now in process.)
I would try to categorize these, but no obvious themes occur to me other than Books Trump Will Not Read.  The other common theme is that they were all print books.
Also: I went to the Strand in the East Village last night for the first time in about 12 years.  Depressingly, they have more of everything than I remembered except actual books.  (I have seen the global village …)

In order (January-December):
TYRANT MEMORY, Horacio Castellanos Moya (worth it for the epilogue) (note: this link is not about the epilogue, but it’s a good summary of the book, which I don’t remember in detail now that it’s almost 2019)
ROAD TO WIGAN PIER, George Orwell (Orwell’s socialism book, appropriately free from–sharing is caring)
THE ARGONAUTS, Maggie Nelson (what I hoped it would be from reading this, only better–possibly this generation’s version of I LOVE DICK, a personal 90s favorite)
DEEP SOUTH, Paul Theroux (more thoughtful than a Cletus safari but no more fulfilling, and at times outright uncomfortable; worth reading because it’s Theroux but–)
THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS, Arundhati Roy (it only took me 20 years to read, as long as it took her to write the followup, which is on my list for 2019)
GOING HOME, Doris Lessing (I want to read more about apartheid South Africa, because I know far less than I feel like I should–this memoir of sorts is non-essential for that purpose as well as non-essential Lessing, but it’s a decent read)
WHITE TEETH, Zadie Smith (it only took me 17 years to read this, or any Zadie Smith other than the occasional New Yorker column)
STAYIN’ ALIVE: THE 1970s AND THE LAST DAYS OF THE WORKING CLASS, Jefferson Cowie (I probably heard about thishere or here–thanks, Erik Loomis)
BROKEN CONTRACT: A MEMOIR OF HARVARD LAW SCHOOL, Richard D. Kahlenberg (remember when law schools–at least the “elite” ones–actually taught Critical Legal Studies, and it was debatable enough to be teachable that the indeterminacy of legal doctrine masked the ways in which law favored the wealthy and powerful?)
DOSTOEVSKY: A WRITER IN HIS TIME, Joseph Frank (a worthy biography; also enormous)
THE RED PARTS: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A TRIAL, Maggie Nelson (a true crime book about the crime of autobiography)
RECONSTRUCTION: AMERICA’S UNFINISHED REVOLUTION, 1863-1877, Eric Foner (still unfinished–I mean Reconstruction; I finished the book)

Also, films I saw in 2017:
LION (train stations in India, and Nicole Kidman acting Australian)
PATERSON (Adam Driver as William Carlos Williams’s #1 fan, directed by Jim Jarmusch–I like this film better in retrospect; I remember nothing happening in it but maybe something happened that I don’t remember)
KEDI (street cats of Istanbul–I will be moving to Istanbul)
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (remake; Johnny Depp; everyone did it (sorry))