Saturday, September 23, 2006

recent reading: september

Writeups of a few books I've finished recently:

The Totality for Kids by Joshua Clover
Arch little poems and hypercondensed travelogues ambiguously regarding the waning of Europe, modernism, and theory and the concomitant rise of America, pop, and capital. Occasionally exuberant, but only in a way that suggests deep and abiding sorrow.

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell
It's kind of amazing that a story cycle containing so many different hot-button global elements (art thieves! disembodied souls! apocalyptic cults! artificial intelligences!) can end up feeling so oddly understated. The end result is something like one of Warren Ellis' Global Frequency trades, only four times the length and lacking most of the kinetic energy. Interesting enough to be worth finishing, but I would have preferred the faster, denser book that the subject matter suggests.

Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary Theory by Franco Moretti
I'm interested in diagrams and info visualization at least as much as I'm interested in literary history, so when Moretti argues that the former can be used as a tool to learn more about the latter, I don't find it particularly controversial. But the examples he uses to prove the utility of his method are startling in their clarity and force. Recommended.

This Is Not A Novel by David Markson
Novelist attempts to write an anti-novel, seeing what survives when you reduce narrative to a cascade of facts (literary anecdotes and gossip, mostly). The experiment yields its most interesting results over the first 40 pages or so, so the remaining 150 serve primarily as feeble inquiries into the effects of perserverance and duration, effects explored more intriguingly elsewhere.


I've also read the first three volumes of the Seven Soliders of Victory trade paperbacks, which represent the newest comics work by Grant Morrison: I have some things to say about this series but will probably wait until I've read the fourth and final volume.

I'm also still working on writing up some thoughts on David Foster Wallace's new[est] book of essays, Consider the Lobster. The book is complicated, and my thoughts on it are thorny, but I can probably say that it has been the best book I've read so far in 2006.