(Scott Bryan Wilson is a contributing editor to The Quarterly Conversation. He most recently reviewed Tranquility by Attila Bartis.)
See all of TQC’s Reading Resolutions here.
According to my stats on Goodreads, by mid-December 2008, I read 132 books for the year. Granted, probably 30 of those were poetry chapbooks, but there were enough 2666s & Easy Chains & Omega Minors & Executioner’s Songs & Darkmans to balance that out. So I am setting out a pretty bold list of stuff to get to in 2009.
Aside from next year’s big books which I’m looking forward to—Vollmann’s Imperial, Littell’s The Kindly Ones, Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, etc—and all the new books by writers I follow or whose first books I’m excited about—Bolano, Jack Gilbert, Javier Marias, Guillermo Rosales—I’m planning out a hefty number of things I’d like to read. The great thing about these lists is that I make them every year, get to maybe 50% of the books on them, get sidetracked by all the other great books that come along or are recommended or which I discover or which I review, so I read a huge amount in the end anyway. It’s very exciting. Anyway:
Clarel, by Herman Melville—this is finally out in an affordable paperback, and I’m really excited to read this, which has to this point been one of the rarest (and the longest!) of Melville’s works. (As a side-note, if you’re interested in Melville or Moby-Dick at all, I cannot recommend highly enough poet Dan Beachy-Quick’s A Whaler’s Dictionary. It’s one of the most illuminating and poetic and powerful works about Moby-Dick, and one of the best books I read in 2008.)
Richard Powers—Given that I’ve read all pretty much everything by all the major postmodernists (or the writers who are routinely lumped together in that category)—Gaddis, Pynchon, Wallace, etc—I’m slightly shamed that I’ve never read Powers. (Well, maybe I’ve read Powers—there’s lots of online speculation that Mr. Powers is Evan Dara, and I love Dara’s two novels, so who knows. At any rate if Powers is half as good as Dara then I’m sure I’ll be quite happy with him.)
Re-read Gaddis’s J R: It’s my favorite novel, and I’ve read it twice, but I want to go back through it this year, since it’s been a while. The only book which has ever made me laugh out loud at least once a page; not a small feat given that it’s 726 pages long . . .
Ancient History: A Paraphase by Joseph McElroy—the only novel I’ve not read by McElroy (one of those big-book postmodernists) is one of the hardest to find (at least in an affordable edition), since it never came out in paperback. Luckily I scored mine at one of Skyline Books’ 30% off sales last year so I have no excuse at this point.
The Dead of the House by Hannah Green: Her only novel, and apparently it’s phenomenal. It’s been sitting by my reading chair for three months now. It’s not even that long. It’s being crushed by the other to-be-read-now! books on top of it.
War and Peace/Big Russian Novels: This one’s been on my last three lists. It’s been sitting on my shelf taunting me for longer than that. And as far as big Russian novels go, I’m woefully underread in them, so maybe I can rectify that this year as well, or at least get a little less underread.
Gathering Evidence: it’s the only Bernhard book available in English which I haven’t read, so if I don’t get to this one before the end of the year, I’ll read it in 2009, for sure.
There are plenty of writers from whom I’ve read one or two works and whose other books I would like to read as well (Lydia Millet, Nicola Barker), lots of last-man-standing novels in big oeuvres which I’d like to read to complete them all (Americana, Fathers and Crows, Frog), and I’m sure plenty of others will come along to keep me from getting bored.
ADDENDUM (2 January):
I finished The Dead of the House before this was posted; if it doesn’t squeeze its way into my end-of-2009 top-ten list, I’ll be surprised. Very beautiful and elegant and moving and perfect. Looks like Turtle Point Press has just re-issued it in paperback. Furthermore, the following books are now on my to-be-read-in-2009 list, having been ordered after receiving a flurry of xmas gift cards:
Pigeon Post – Dumitru Tsepeneag
The Discovery of Heaven – Harry Mulisch
The Sleepwalkers – Hermann Broch
The House of Breath – William Goyen
The Aesthetics of Resistance Volume 1: A Novel – Peter Weiss
Girl Factory – Jim Krusoe (see our review)
Smile as They Bow – Nu Nu Yi
The Interrogation – JMG Le Clezio
Log of the SS Mrs Unguentine – Stanley Crawford
Arbitrary Tales – Daniel Borzutzky
Darklight – Toby Olson
god’s livestock policy – Stan Apps
How to Laugh – Miles Champion
The Dance Most of All – Jack Gilbert (oh hell yes)
This Nest, Swift Passerine – Dan Beachy-Quick
Sarah Kane: Complete Plays
true crime (a nonguilty pleasure, though these are a bit more highbrow than the seedy ones I usually read):
True Crime: An American Anthology – ed. Harold Schechter
The Onion Field – Joseph Wambaugh
Fatal Vision – Joe McGinness