Angels, Denis Johnson: This is a great (and probably under-appreciated) novel. I knew I was going to get a dark portrayal of some folks on the outs, but I wasn’t expecting the language. Every time I read Johnson I feel like I need to go back and re-learn English.
The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts: I read this on a plane to California in January. I’m still not sure I’ve finished processing it, but it’s short enough that I might read it again the next time I fly.
Carpenter’s Gothic, William Gaddis: Certainly a “minor” work for Gaddis, but there’s so much rage here, so much disdain for the fast-talking Americans pushing each other out of the way. I only felt sympathy for the dead bird at the beginning, and I have to think that’s what Gaddis meant.
Last Days, Brian Evenson: Evenson’s a great writer, and the way he tangles with religion is never not interesting. This one’s about a fight between two amputee cults.
The Faith of the Heretic, Walter Kaufmann: Kaufmann made me love reading the prophets of the Old Testament more than I already did, which is no mean feat. I learned a lot about moral courage from this book.
Necropolis, Santiago Gamboa: This was a reread, somewhere right after the election when my brain was still scattered. It’s just as scattered, in its way, a story that tells itself. Like it’s from some oral tradition. Definitely a book I need to read again.
A Coney Island of the Mind, Lawrence Ferlinghetti: I spent a big part of a day at City Lights in San Francisco earlier in 2016, but I didn’t get around to reading this until this fall. I’m not sure it’s aged very well, but reading it was a reminder of the things that I love about the Beats, almost all of them.
Three Days Before the Shooting, Ralph Ellison: I didn’t read all of this, but I read a lot of it. More than anything this book put The Fear in me about how hard you can work on something without finishing it, but when Ellison is on, there are few who can keep up with him at the sentence level.
The Coming Insurrection, The Invisible Committee: I’ll just quote from this one, published in 2008 or so in France. I’ve read it a few times.
It’s useless to wait-for a breakthrough, for the revolution, the nuclear apocalypse or a social movement. To go on waiting is madness. The catastrophe is not coming, it is here. We are already situated within the collapse of a civilization. It is within this reality that we must choose sides.
The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolaño: I wrote about this one when I finished it, but it resonates differently with me now, as we enter a new America in which writers might have to go into exile again… or, more likely, I’m pretending that writers still matter that much.