I’m sharing some of my favorite reads of 2016. See them all here.
It’s been a hectic week, and I’ve missed a few days of this, so to catch up:
I’ve know of Lorrie Moore for forever, but never read her till this year. It was a great read. If you want to know why, read my take here.
NYRB Classics is reissuing all of Henry Green, so I decided to finally get into him. Glad I did. He’s so major. Here’s a bit of Daniel Medin and Edwin Frank talking about what makes Green so special.
DM: So the selection in this volume contains newly commissioned translations [by Kingsbury] before and after a story translated by Chang. . . . Another author I want to turn to is British novelist Henry Green. There are three titles newly out, and with them New York Review is going to inaugurate a year or so of nine books.
EF: All of the novels will be brought out in new editions. What a publisher can do is to try and gain a public for an author. Green is an extraordinary writer, one I came to as a middle-aged convert. I first read him in college and found it terribly affected, I didn’t get it. So it took me quite a while to get to the book that made me a convert, Back. The core of Green’s work is really the war, without being in any way conventional war novels. Nothing he ever did was conventional. He works with words the way a painter might use colors, and he does so with an incredible ear for spoken language. He catches people saying really awkward things that are really beautiful. The variety of effects he pulls out of spoken language is really astonishing. He makes conversation a kind of color. Back is this really moving book about this guy who comes back from being shattered as a POW in the Second World War, and he comes back to an English that is still at war. He’d been in love with a married woman who died, and he becomes completely convinced that this other woman is that woman. He pursues her. It’s a picture of a shattered mind, and a really forgiving book.
DM: The beauty is there’s no condescension in Green’s irony, and he’s able to walk between the classes and do extraordinary dialogue that feels so alive and vital.
EF: He was a huge influence on Nathalie Sarraute. And Green loved Céline, he was very, very taken with that kind of idiomatic voice. And they may have shared that mania for the ballet, Céline always wanted to be known as a choreographer. And Green’s novel, Back, he thought of it first as a dance. It should also be said that Green was a tremendous alcoholic, and he has like Joseph Roth, he had a particular ability to fall asleep at the beginning of the sentence and wake up at a very interesting place at the end.
Schutt’s novel of a women’s high school left me feeling aesthetically blessed in that “Virginia Woolf” way. I gave it some tribute here.
Raul Ruiz was an essential filmmaker (The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting is required viewing), and he was also quite a profound film theorist. This book is incredibly provocative and thoughtful.
This year saw the emergence (in English) of a major Hungarian talent. His novel The Dispossessed and his poems changed my reading year in a Krasznahorkai kind of way. And he’s blessed with one of the best translators, Ottilie Mulzet.