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17 Short Books

This was floating around social media yesterday, so I thought I’d share it here. 17 short books I stand behind absolutely.

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Reconsolidation by Janice Lee. One of the most beautiful, touching, and profound lyric essays I’ve read in a long time. An inspiration while I was writing The Surrender.

The Mirror in the Well by Micheline Aharonian Marcom. A the story of an incandescent, doomed love affair. Incredibly passionate, reminiscent of Lispector.

Wittgenstein’s Nephew by Thomas Bernhard. My first Bernhard, a major experience.

Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino. One of a kind short stories about the universe. Read this long, long ago and it opened up a world.

The End of Love by Marcos Giralt Torrente. Four thematically related long stories, close to perfect each. For those who wish there was more Javier Marías in the world.

The Girl with the Golden Eyes by Honore de Balzac. One of my favorite Balzacs. Endlessly limber, gender-bending, sexually risque story.

The Walk by Robert Walser. Walser on fever dream. Like nothing else he wrote.

Água Viva by Clarice Lispector. Not a novel, uncategorizable. The best Lispector.

The Literary Conference by César Aira. Aira trolling Carlos Fuentes and the ideas of greatness and originality. One of his best.

The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse by Ivan Repila. Psychologically horrifying, allegorical tale of two boys stuck at the bottom of a well.

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. A personal foundation, and reputed to have been the inspiration for a movie that revolutionized film. Borges thought this book was pure greatness.

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo. You only need to write one novel when it is limitless and is unlike anything anyone has ever read.

Autoportrait by Edouard Levé. A genius, daring idea, flawlessly executed.

The Pelcari Project by Rodrigo Rey Rosa. This book so desperately needs to be back in print. Rey Rosa channeling Bioy, plus Wittgenstein, with a little Moya. Haunting, in the jungles of Guatemala.

My Two Worlds by Sergio Chejfec. Taut, a high wire act, deep and perplexing.

The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat. Iranian existentialism; evocative, moving, unforgettable.

The Box Man by Kobo Abe. One of the most unstable, bizarre narrators I’ve ever encountered. Beckett, hold on to your hat.



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THE SURRENDER

The Surrender is Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning his lifelong desire to be a woman.


LADY CHATTERLEY'S BROTHER

Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


THE LATIN AMERICAN MIXTAPE

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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