We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from K. Thomas Kahn, whose most recent contribution to The Quarterly Conversation is an essay on Robert Walser centering around the recent books A Little Ramble: In the Spirit of Robert Walser and Her Not All Her by Elfriede Jelinek.
To read all entries in this series, click here.
Perhaps an obvious choice given my “proustitute” moniker, and also that 2013 marked the one hundredth year birthday of Swann’s Way, the first volume, and prompting a group re-read for me. An impressive 1,500 people worldwide joined in for a year-long read of Proust’s seven-volume novel at Goodreads, and it’s my hope that the discussion board there—which enriched many of our reads and re-reads of his work with historical, aesthetic, visual, aural, biographical, and other topics—will serve as a framework for future readers of In Search of Lost Time for many years to come.
A horrifying, heartbreaking, mindfuck of a book—a book unlike anything you will ever read. Schwartz has a unique stylistic approach that uses repetition, disorientation, and a kind of confessional alienation to map interior spaces’ topologies, causing rooms to speak, bringing colonial homes’ blueprints and the imagined people that populated their rooms to a bloody sort of life. Read my review of this brilliant, bewildering book in 3:AM Magazine: http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/begin-with-the-scars-at-the-bottom/
Müller’s unnamed narrator journeys on a tram to make an appointment set for ten o’clock sharp; this is not the first time that she has been summoned, and, in Ceausescu’s Romania, there is no telling when the interrogations will cease or to whom she can turn. On her way, the narrator recounts her life under communism, where intimacy and betrayal, sex and power, and truth and lies inform the individual’s relationship to state, self, and other.
Love is perhaps one of the most hackneyed subjects, one to which writers turn again and again, often in redundant and cliched ways. Mosley, on the other hand, creates a fragmented world that overlaps another world: one that is interiorized and split, one that arches across multiple characters and yet which also causes them to be read as continuations of each other. An intriguing experiment in how a text can evade a definition or genre—is it a group of interrelated stories, or is it a novel?—Mosley covers the gamut of love’s narcissism, masochism, its highs, its lows, all with a minimal compression that encompasses all of humanity just as much as it focuses on two people in and out of time.
Perhaps slightly similar to Mosley’s Impossible Object, if only as it concerns two individuals whose stories are linked across temporal borders; however, Ollier’s searing consideration of war in Disconnection is a prescient and important book for our times, one that asks critical questions about complicity in the face of war. Here, there are three world wars: one that is remembered, one that is lived through in a “present” narrative during the Second World War, and another that is lived through in an overlapping “present” during the text’s own present. Does war and trauma link us across temporal and national borders? Disconnection is both a nightmare and a revelation.
Michel’s prose is difficult to fully grasp: there is a rhythm here, but then the rhythm refuses the reader; it begins to morph and change, almost symphonically, and one must tread along, wandering where our narrator—Lincoln Dahl, senior (and junior to his own father)—journeys over the course of one ordinary day, but also an extraordinary one as it is the day his son turns five. A meditation on fatherhood, intimacy, guilt, and regret, Michel proves himself a master of style while rendering an age-old tale magical, bewitching, and at times perplexingly opulent with his desert prose.
Martín Adán’s The Cardboard House; Gerbrand Bakker’s The Detour; Philippe Claudel’s Brodeck; Pia Juul’s The Murder of Halland; J.M. Ledgard’s Submergence; Xavier de Maistre’s A Journey Around My Room; and Marie NDiaye’s All My Friends.
More from Conversational Reading:
- TQC Favorite Reads of 2013: Steve Donoghue We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from Steve Donoghue, whose most recent contributions to The Quarterly...
- TQC Favorite Reads of 2013: Greg Gerke We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from Greg Gerke, whose most recent contribution to The Quarterly...
- TQC Favorite Reads of 2013: Dan Green We are running down favorite reads of 2013 from Quarterly Conversation contributors. This list comes from Dan Green, whose most recent contribution to The Quarterly...
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- Favorite Reads of 2010: Prose by Thomas Bernhard If you come to my house and look at my bookshelves, you can very quickly and easily distinguish the gods from the demigods and lesser...
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