Yearly Archives: 2012

TQC Favorites of 2012: K.T. Kahn

K.T. Kahn reviewed Inland by Gerald Murnane in our fall 2012 issue.

1. Ice by Anna Kavan
Kavan creates a world that is the stuff of nightmares, blending reality, dreams, and fantasy in an uncanny, unsettling way. Kavan certainly deserves a much wider audience.

2. Zazen by Vanessa Veselka
A truly prescient novel that taps into many political, social, and personal anxieties prevalent in America today. Veselka’s prose is raw, unflinching, poetic: Zazen is a truly remarkable debut novel. Veselka has said that Zazen arose from her inability to process the 2004 school hostage crisis in Beslan; as an analysis of our culture of violence, her novel is eerily relevant and a necessary read in the wake of the recent Newtown, CT tragedy.

3. Satantango by Laszlo Krasznahorkai
A maddening, prophetic book: Krasznahorkai is a master at plumbing the depths of humanity as well as despair. See my review of Satantango in the LARB:

4. The Walk by Robert Walser
W. G. Sebald called Walser “a clairvoyant of the small,” and The Walk is a tremendous, wide-ranging meditation on life in microcosmic scenes.

5. The Plains by Gerald Murnane
Both ars poetica and an analysis of cultural identity, Murnane’s The Plains is perhaps the best place to begin with this enigmatic and often elusive author.

TQC Favorites of 2012: Scott Bryan Wilson

Scott Bryan Wilson is a contributing editor to The Quarterly Conversation.

*Death of a Hero (1929) – Richard Aldington – Penguin Classics is issuing a new edition of this next year; think Stoner-level bleak/intense about war

*The Keys to Tulsa (1991) – Brian Fair Berkey – the author completed this one novel before dying of a brain tumor; it’s incredibly funny and sharply written

*Crime and Punishment (1866) – Fyodor Dostoyevsky – you see, this guy commits a senseless murder OKAY I KNOW I KNOW I should have read this years ago

*Fathers and Sons (1862) – Ivan Turgenev – see above, except for the murder part

*The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia (1759) – Samuel Johnson – a weird fucking book

*Satantango (1985) – Laszlo Krasznahorkai – heresy alert: I like the film better; also, I really wish New Directions had had it proofread

*Charles Olson: Allegory of a Poet’s Life (2000) – Tom Clark – an excellent biography of the great poet; Clark is really fighting to hide his dismay with Olson toward the end of the book

*Herman Melville: A Biography (2 volumes – 1996 & 2002) – Hershel Parker – 2000+ pages of awesome minutiae on the master

*The City and the Mountains (1901) – Eca de Queiros – about a rich, young, bored Peruvian living in Paris and it’s still awesome

*Pamela (1740) – Samuel Richardson – jesus christ

TQC Favorites of 2012: Jeff Bursey

Jeff Bursey’s most recent review for The Quarterly Conversation was of My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard in the Winter 2013 issue.

#1: My Struggle, by Karl Ove Knausgaard. This hit me where I write and in what I think of family relations. To the first: the play of ideas mixed with the recitation of events is powerful. Too few writers think that ideas can be exciting, and they belabour plot and character instead. To the second: the re-appraisal of family relations means more to me now than it might have five years go, for example, and how Knausgaard approaches that topic, with reservations and with something bordering on the heedless is incredibly engaging. Intellectually appealing and emotionally rewarding.

#2: Infinity: the story of a moment, by Gabriel Josipovici. Yet another book by this masterful writer that makes you question the solidity of just about everything. Nothing is the same inside me by the time I get to the end of his fictions. I should be used to the way he handles dialogues and monologues, yet it always delights. He surprises by being an adventurer. Why he isn’t read more is baffling. His humanity and his graceful prose are there for everyone to enjoy.

#3: Reticence, by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, and Autotportrait, by Edouard Levé. Is it cheating to combine two? Two compact French novels that offer new ways of telling stories, while containing unchecked paranoia and mortality, that also allow for amusement, disquiet, and investment.

#4: In Red, by Magdalena Tulli. Short, visionary and ominous, with no real interest in character but with a deep look into humanity.

#5: A Struggle for Life, by Llewellyn Powys. This collection of essays takes a reader back to the end of the 19th century and up to the Second World War. His control of language combines with a considered view, perhaps formed by his illness from TB, of what life offers everyone right now, from birds and lions to human interactions, if we just turn outwards. A good corrective for when I forget the value and purpose of the senses or the importance of contact with human and non-human animals.

Calling All Laszlo Krasznahorkai Fans

If you are a serious reader of Laszlo Krasznahorkai, you must get a copy of Music and Literature Issue 2, publishing this spring. There is simply no other way to put it. Issue 2 will cover Krasznahorkai, Max Neumann (whom Krasznahorkai collaborated with for AnimalInside), and Bela Tarr (whom he collaborated with for films).

Among the writers featured in M&L 2 will be David Auerbach, Sergio Chejfec, George Szirtes, Dan Gunn, Sandor Radnoti, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Justin Beplate, and Paul Kerschen. It will also include a lengthy essay by myself on Krasznahorkai, as well as my interview with Seiobo’s translator Ottilie Mulzet (I think the interview is in the range of 8,000 words; Ottilie says some amazingly insightful things).

Needless to say, there will be art by Neumann, photographs from the set of Tarr’s Satantango, and, oh yes, previously untranslated fiction by Krasznahorkai.

Do I need to say anything more? Get it.

TQC Favorites of 2012: Erica Mena

Here are the 5 picks from TQC Poetry Editor Erica Mena.

1. The Keep by Emily Wilson
This book demands to be consumed slowly, word by word. Each poem a dense wordscape that must be read and reread, immersed in and languished over. Its rich and lush and slow. Luxurious.

2. Voyager by Srikanth Reddy
An immense work. Haunting, lyric, and perhaps the most successful erasure I’ve ever read. The three erasures construct three different takes on the horrors and strangeness of the twentieth century. The third, the bulk of the book, moves the fastest for me and is the most narrative, telling a surreal story embedded in the nightmare-scape of a world confronted with its own capacity for destruction. Still, it avoids the angst and irony so much of contemporary writing turns to to engage with the legacy of violence left for us by the past century of mechanized warfare. And finds a kind of faith despite it all, in the very ability to relinquish faith. Stunning.

3. Unoriginal Genius by Marjorie Perloff
Required reading for anyone engaged in contemporary poetry.

4. I’ll Drown My Book ed. Caroline Bergvall, Laynie Browne, Teresa Carmody, and Vanessa Place
An impressive anthology of conceptual women writers.

5. The Whole of Poetry Is Preposition by Claude Royet-Journoud, translated by Keith Waldrop
Like so many reflections on writing, this is highly personal. We learn about the author through his subject, always, but there is an autobiographic impulse at work here. He writes about his process, his preferences for solidity over surrealism, how italics seem phallic to him, his fear. It’s intimate and revealing in a way that actual autobiography and even memoir can’t be. It’s revealing of detail with chronology. Without plot, which as he says, “is the tissue that separates and realigns four or five character-words” (18). And this seems much more indicative of a living mind to me – the scattered and yet linked thinking about oneself, reflecting on the very act you’re engaged in. In some ways the book is a record of the writing of the book, while insisting that it isn’t: “No manuscript shows any real state of the text in process of becoming.”

Naked Singularity Hits WSJ Year-Best List

Congrats to self-published author Sergio De La Pava for having his A Naked Singularity appear among the Wall Street Journal’s best books of 2012.

Here is our Naked Singularity reading group from this past summer.

And Scott Bryan Wilson’s Quarterly Conversation review of the book, which played a key role in making this happen.

TQC Favorites of 2012: Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson reviewed The Planets by Sergio Chejfec in the Winter 2013 issue.

The first volume of Stach’s three-volume biography is already one of the finest I’ve read in years. Here is a portrait of an artist at work, in love, and in strife. Highly recommended not only readers of modernity’s master, but for those who want to see what one can do through the art of biography.

Sergio Chejfec, MY TWO WORLDS
The inner world spilling into the outer, and the outer crowding its way into the world, Chejfec turns a short afternoon’s walk in a foreign city (not to mention short novel) into a philosophical epic.

My favorite of New Directions’ 2012 retranslations. As much a description as an evocation of a mystical experience for the modern, unbelieving age.

Ruefle’s lectures on poetry are a marvel and are as stirring as her best poetry. The breadth of her reading and reference alone are something to behold. With wit and humility, she inhabits poetry as a kind of possibility.

Karl Ove Knausgaard, MY STRUGGLE
I devoured Knausgaard’s novel/memoir in two cross-country plane rides. I do not know if he can possibly maintain in the subsequent five volumes, but I’ve never been so eager to find out. With a painstaking (& often painful) eye for minute detail, Knausgaard’s retelling of even the mundane shimmers. Playful, frank, and heartbreaking, his self-revelations are apt to render the reader all the more exposed.

TQC Favorites of 2012

We’ve polled a number of editors and contributors to The Quarterly Conversation for the favorite reads of the year, and we will be rolling them out over the rest of the year, starting today. So, enjoy.

The End of Oulipo?

Just printed out a copy of The End of Oulipo? to give to the great translator of Georges Perec and author of Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, David Bellos.

It’s publishing in 1 month, so if you want it, head to Amazon or B&

The White Review Issue 6

Contains my essay “The Literary Ouroboros,” plus lots of other stuff that looks excellent (and no doubt will be proven excellent once my copy arrives. So buy it.

You can read Rose McLaren’s essay on the films of Bela Tarr, plus select other items, for free online.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


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 . . .


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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