Recommended Reading: Henry Green, Alberto Manguel, Megan Abbott, Werner Herzog, David Constantine


A few things I’ve been recently enjoying, or have been recently released, that I think you all should read.

Caught, Back, and Loving by Henry Green. Although Green has been around for a while, he’s criminally under-read and hard to get a hold of, so NYRB Classics is reissuing everything of his, starting with these three. If you want to know why he’s great, Dan Green’s essay in The Quarterly Conversation is a good place to start. There’s also an appreciation Deborah Eisenberg just wrote for the NYR Blog and an essay in The New Yorker. When heavyweights like Parks and Eisenberg are stumping for Green, you better give him a look.

Reading Pictures by Alberto Manguel. Manguel is a real polymath, kind of like a less flashy but better researched Geoff Dyer. He’s written on all sorts of things, and this 2002 release is him giving deep readings of numerous works of art. Engrossing, filled with all sorts of magnificent research and delightful trivia. This book is such an education, like the art history class I never had mixed with the mass media critiques I learned in college.

Die a Little by Megan Abbott. Another TQC tie-in. Angela Woodward wrote a really smart essay on the feminist noir of Megan Abbott, so I decided to give it a look. Die a Little deserves its own post at some point, but for now I’ll just say that it reinvents the conventions of noir from a female perspective in some really surprising and deep ways. I’ll be reading more Abbott.

Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed by Werner Herzog and Paul Cronin. I’ll say right off the bat, 600 pages of interviews with anyone, let alone Herzog, is going to be a wee bit extreme for some people. I love interview books, and I dig Herzog’s energy, so I loved this book. And I will say, if there’s anyone who could bullshit about himself and his career for 600 pages and keep it fresh and surprising and illuminating the entire time, it’s probably Herzog. Film lovers should definitely check this one out.

The Life-Writer by David Constantine. I first found out about David Constantine while staying in a friend’s apartment. She shoved his stories into my hands and said I had to read them. So I did, and from the very first sentence I knew I was in the presence of a master storyteller. Think Mavis Gallant, Deborah Eisenberg, Alice Munro. So when Constantine’s first novel in 30 years came out, it was a must-read for me. It did not disappoint.

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If you haven’t read Herzog’s Conquest of the Useless, I _highly_ recommend it.

Glad (and somewhat surprised) to see you coming around to Megan Abbott. Don’t read her books in terms of “reinvention” or “transcendence” of the genre though. Her books stand on their own terms.


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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