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22/07/14: summer reading: Samuel Stolton

By Samuel Stolton, Editor

@SamuelStolton 

This summer’s reading pool, fattened by the inclusion of a number of works determined by my recent travels, has been disposed to a broad and expansive character. So much so, that I believe it to be may be one of my most nauseous reading lists, a dizzying circus-market of philosophy, anarchist theology, poetry and critical theory.  Posited on the underside of my mind are the rots of Blago Blung Blago Bunga collection of some of the founding texts of Dadaism, Hugo Ball’s Tenderenda the Fantast, Richard Huelsenbeck’s poetic fragmentations Fantastic Prayers, and Walter Serner’s Last Loosening – a manifesto of which provoked a symphony of voracious affrays when read at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich – needless to say my own venture to the venue this summer resulted in nothing more than the sight of proto-hipster baristas, ironic post-dada semiotics, overpriced coffee and sardonic monocles.

Zurich’s slap back into the 21st century was consequentially accompanied by a reading of Tiziana Terranova’s Network Culture: Politics for the Digital Agea book I’ve been meaning to read for nearly ten years now, and such has satisfied my academic impulse for the time being.  To calm such a brutal viaduct between academic political theory and fiction, a copy of Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials presented itself as one of the most apt of suitors to such a segue.  Hailed as of cardinal significance when tracing the contours of Iranian philosophical sci-fi horror, Negarestani’s narrative – an incestuous tribrid of hyper-occultist theological discourse, abstract demonology and geopolitical schizophrenia, provided me with an appropriate conduit from a certain Hegelian speculative logic into my next course of contemplation. That was to be attributed to Hegel’s The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline, originally published in 1817, that travelled with me on my journey to Heidelberg University in Baden-Württemberg, south-west Germany.  Hegel penned this work for his students while an academic at the University, incredibly evident as such, as he unscrambles the oft distorted Hegelian storyboard to form a more widely accessible theorem.

The positing of a Dadaist bacterium in Zurich had left me with an appetite to be re-afflicted by abstractism.  For this cause I turned to Yi Sang’s The WingsNot much has been written about Korea’s most prominent Dadaist exponent, and the short stories in the collection as well as The Wings – Encounters and Departures and Deathly Child, can provide perhaps one of the most distinct insights into the troubled man.  A master of autobiographical exploitation, Yi Sang mutates elements of his forlorn existence into an conceptual abjectionist narration, administering variants of his worldly experience as a means to prize into the public domain the ambiguous introspections of an schizotypalist bent on the pursuance of the absurd, the nonsensical chatterings of the midnight rambler, the lilt from the flirting shadow behind the curtain of solitude.

Travelling through the vineyards of Burgundy, I decided to further my Korean enterprise with a more modern title.  For some reason the antithesis between the two polar industries of French Wine and Korean Literature appealed to me. Kim Hyesoon’s poetic collection, I’m OK, I’m Pig, catered for this want.  The revolutionary twist in her postcolonial tongue is evident throughout the work, as is the brutal venture into body-politics and gender relations, that resists, as fellow south Korean poet Don Mee Choi observes, a feminism categorized by a passive and genteel taste, what is referred to as ‘yoryusi’.  On the contrary, Hyesoon’s lexicon is a violent and uncompromising dialect, applying language as a means to subvert a traditionalist discourse taut to the pursuance of establishing patriarchal hierarchies and administering the stereotypical parameters of gender relations.

Later this month, I shall also compliment the summer’s poetic stock with two new titles from New Directions Books, A Musical Hell by Alejandra Pizarnik, and The Helens of Troy, NY by Bernadette Mayer.  From one Bernadette to another, the Bernadette Corporation’s poetic elegy to New York City, The Complete Poem stitched a multifariously colourful drapery to dress in this summer (the metaphor not unfounded as the corporation is both an art and fashion collective). Their epic poem uprooting from the depths of the subways a patchwork of underground oratorios, a clandestine derive through the sullied words of the City, where ‘every day is a dirty secret you never speak of.’

Under the recommendation of a friend, I have also begun Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society, originally published in French in 1954.  A most prophetic title, preempting the metaphysical ascendancy of technology from the mere habitations of utility into the echelons of social governance.  Ellul’s dialectic is one that becomes ever potent with age, a fine wine, apt as the commencement of this book paralleled with my departure from Mâcon’s vineyards.

Why are Animals Funny by the Everyday Analysis Collective concluded my summer reading thus far.  A concise application of critical theory to an array of elemental quotidian productions, from mobile phone covers to Old Spice adverts to the death of James Gandolfini, the group bleed out radical perspectives from the body of popular culture and burn a philosopher’s fire from the residue – an insightful and astute blaze.  I have followed the EDA Collective from the early blogging days, and Zero Books’ publication of their corpus has been a characteristically bold and bright move, I’m very much looking forward to volume two, it could very well be on next year’s summer reading list.

 

08/07/14: summer reading: callie hitchcock

By Callie Hitchcock, Intern

 

Stepping into Anaïs Nin’s world has been interesting to say the least. Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diaries 1939-1947 chronicles the emotional fluctuations of a life drunk on love and writing. And who wouldn’t want that? Then, I am inhabiting the more private world of Sara Maitland in her book How to be Alone. Hopefully after reading the two at the same time I will come to some zen understanding of how life is meant to be lived.

Next up is One Hundred Years of Solitude, apparently continuing the theme of autonomy. Márquez has this hypnotic prose that dredges up a primordial desire for story telling. And as I write this from Granada, my Federico García Lorca senses are tingling so I will be revisiting his poetry as well.

Taipei by Tao Lin will be ravenously devoured as soon as it comes in from the library. No one can parallel is delicious absurdity. Check out his NYU graduation speech and accompanying mandalas if you wish to fall down the rabbit hole.

As my back-of-the-used-bookstore-find goes, a 1980′s edition of The Vivisector is up next and will fulfill my tortured artist quota for the summer. 

My hard hitters for the dead heat and end of summer are Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and of course Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov as my pilgrimage through the canon continues.

07/07/14: summer reading: anna aslanyan

By Anna Aslanyan, Reviewer
@anna_aslanyan

Earlier this summer, talking to fellow reviewers about books we pretend to have read, I promised, rather unwittingly, to read The Man Without Qualities. Although Robert Musil never finished his trilogy, I feel bound by my word to read it from cover to cover. The only choice left is the language in which to read it. Tackling the original would be a lifelong project, but I have a Russian edition handy. Translated by the late Solomon Apt, one of the best translators from German, it comes in two volumes, one over 800 pages long, the other just under 600. That’s most of my summer taken care of.

If reading in German is a project for another summer, I have no excuse to postpone reading Curzio Malaparte in Italian. I first learnt about the author of Kaputt, born Kurt Erich Suckert, from Bruce Chatwin’s collection What Am I Doing Here (which I might, by the way, reread this summer too, along with Under the Sun, Chatwin’s letters selected and edited by his widow, Elizabeth Chatwin, and his biographer, Nicholas Shakespeare). Viva Caporetto! La rivolta dei santi maledetti, sitting on my shelf, opens with the sentence “Not everyone will be able to read this book”, making me even more determined to find out what the revolt of those damned saints was about, and why the book, first published in 1921, caused a scandal in Mussolini’s Italy.

Before embarking on European literature, I have to read The Silent History by American authors Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett. It started as an app “written and designed specially for iPad and iPhone”, which “uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children — born without the ability to create or comprehend language”. The printed book is different from its e-version, which includes “Testimonials” and “Field Reports”, the latter being site-specific and only available once you’re within 10 metres of the specified location. My hardback copy (513 pages) is quite heavy, but at least I can read it on a train anywhere – for instance, to Edinburgh, where I’m going in August. The main theme of this year’s festival programme is, naturally, WWI, so I’ll probably end up rereading some related novels (Front, a multilingual production I’m planning to see, is based on Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front) as well as Wilfred Owen’s poetry, since the shows I’ve earmarked for reviewing include Anthem for Doomed Youth.

My summer reading usually culminates in an equinox frenzy, and this year the most exciting September titles on my list are Samantha Harvey’s Dear Thief (I was impressed by her first two novels, The Wilderness and All Is Song) and Wittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyer, an author whose new book no 3:AM contributor – or reader, for that matter – would want to miss. I could go on and list a few more, but my earlier promise hangs over me, all 1400 pages of it.

06/07/14: summer reading: steven j. fowler

By Steven J. Fowler, Poetry Editor
@stevenjfowler

Poetry:

Stephen Emmerson’s Comfortable Knives

Colin Herd’s Glovebox

Tim Allen’s Tattered by Magnets

James Davies’s Two Fat Boys

Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water

Tom Jenks’s On Liberty, Repressed and Crabtree

Anna McKerrow’s Regressive Poetics

Tom Chivers’s Flood Drain

Chris McCabe’s in the catacombs 

Essays 

Tom Chivers & Martin Kratz’s Mount London

 

Fiction

Tomaz Gonzalez’s In the Beginning was the Sea

 

05/07/14: summer reading: joanna walsh

By Joanna Walsh, Fiction Editor
@baudade

This summer I’ll be in Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Zagreb, Trieste, Paris, London, and Oxford. That’s a lot of train reading. Summer seems a good time to read thick books. A thick book, when you’re travelling, gives you a place to be. I’ve already started on the proof of Elena Ferrante’s third Neapolitan novel, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. You might like to read the first two, My Brilliant Friend and Story of a New Name, over the summer in preparation for the third, which will be published in September by Europa Editions. If you don’t already know about this brilliant Italian writer, here’s a short piece I wrote about her for The Guardian.

I’ve just been writing on contemporary art as a battle over place, and have started reading Chris Kraus’s Where Art Belongs. Seems appropriate to read about place while travelling too. Her short essay, “Kelly Lake Store,” nails some of the issues.

Agota Kristof’s The Notebook has been recommended to me so many times by so many people. Chista Wolf’s Cassandra also comes into this category. Too much misery? Denise Riley’s Time Lived Without its Flow should just about finish me off.

For something more playful I’d like to read Tristano by Nanni Balestrini. Each copy unique, and there are more than 109,027,350,432,000 possible editions. Winter Journeys seem appropriate for a summer journey, so I’ll be reading Atlas Press’s edition of The Oulipo’s works around a short story by Georges Perec. I wrote something for Narrative Magazine that links to the tradition.

I love Sylph Editions’ Cahiers series—collaborations in translation (sometimes part-posthumous) between writers. I’d like to read their latest, Clarice: The Visitor, by American poet Idra Novey.

I’d also like to read of French-Algerian writer, Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal, written in prison. Here’s Patti Smith, who wrote the introduction to Serpent’s Tail’s new edition, on why she loves the book.

Wish I could read it already: Nell Zink’s Mislaid (forthcoming from 4th Estate). I discovered her work at n+1 Magazine. She’s pretty amazing.

Landing back in the UK, this autumn I’m looking forward to Deborah Levy’s An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell.

 

04/07/14: summer reading: fernando sdrigotti

By Fernando Sdrigotti, Contributing Editor
@f_sd

I am a chaotic reader and I tend to read anything up to ten books at a time. I generally mix genres and languages and I don’t follow any clear logic when it comes to choosing books. I’m happy to drop a book after a few pages if it turns out that I don’t get hooked by it – I have only one life to live and I rather do something more interesting than struggling to finish a boring title. I’m still working my way through a backlog of stuff that I’ve been reading over the past months (mostly North American literature and philosophy). But I’ve already separated some new titles to read over the coming months.

I’m quite exited about a gem called In Spite of Blasphemy, an autobiography by Michel Mourre. Mourre was one of the proto-Lettrists who got involved in the Notre Dame affair. After doing some time in mental institutions he became a priest – a fascinating and coherent journey that I hope this book will open up for me. I miraculously bumped into an English first-edition of this title in a charity shop in Paris, of all places. Somehow linked to this one, through the Situationist connexion, I’ve got lined up a copy of Young Adam by Alexander Trocchi. I’ve never read any of Trocchi’s work before, but I’ve heard great things about this one and Cain’s Book. Some heroin addicts write good literature. But it isn’t advisable to get into skag just to write good books.

Another one I’m really looking forward to reading is Stupidity by Avital Ronell. This is a philosophical text that traces the history and evolution of this quite commonsensical – and therefore unexplored – idea. We tend to use the term “stupidity” a lot, but it’s very hard to pin down what it means from a philosophical point of view. I’m interested about the idea of stupidity for many reasons and I thought this book would be a perfect read for this World Cup summer.

As I write a lot about urban space I generally end up reading about cities/place. Enters Nights in the Big City by Joachim Schlör. This book is part of one of my favourite collections, Topographics, by one of my favourite publishers, Reaktion Books. Nights in the the Big City explores our perception of nocturnal London, Berlin, and Paris. Another one of my favourite publishers, Influx Press, kindly sent me a copy of their Acquired for Development By… A Hackney Anthology. It will come really handy to help me understand why the borough in which I’ve spent the last 12 years of my life is doing everything in its hands to expel me. Total gentrification of the heart…

I am also looking forward to reading a few titles in Spanish. Although I’ve already read all of Cortázar’s work, and although it’s a cliché for Argentine “intellectuals” to defenestrate him, I’m anxious to start reading his Papeles inesperados, a compilation of unedited manuscripts and notes. Also by an Argentine writer, I’ve got a copy of the recently edited Aguafuertes cariocas, by Roberto Artl. This book is a collection of the chronicles that Artl wrote about Rio de Janeiro in the 1930s. One last book in Spanish: Néstor Sanchez’s El amhor, los orsinis y la muerte. Sánchez was one of the most promising Argentine writers of the 1960s, then he disappeared from the scene, became a tramp in New York, and died in poverty in Buenos Aires in 2003. His prose is very hard to crack, and his ideas very complex, sometimes borderline esoteric, or just very odd.

One final book in this summer reading list is The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño. Yes, I could read it in Spanish but I’ve decided to read it in English, mainly to be able to chat about it with a couple of English friends who are reading it right now. Bolaño is one of Chile’s most fascinating exports. The Savage Detectives is a Latin American experiment a la Sebald, with narrative providing the excuse to write mostly about everything, from literature to political history. I haven’t read it yet, so don’t expect me to write coherently about it. If I like it in English I will read it in Spanish next summer. Or not. Maybe I’ll read it in Portuguese.

03/07/14: summer reading: k. thomas kahn

By K. Thomas Kahn, Contributing Editor
@proustitute

Still from Robert Bresson’s Four Nights of a Dreamer, 1971

This summer, I’ll be juggling several projects, so some of my lofty reading plans—like re-reading all of George Eliot’s work(!)—have been put aside for the time being; however, it will be a summer of a lot of re-reading and revisiting. One project involves Anne Carson, so I will be revisiting most of her work this summer. Plainwater (Vintage) might well be the title of hers that I’m most excited about re-reading this summer: not only has it been a while, but it was also the first Carson I read. I was blown away. I’m also looking forward to revisiting the dark world of Nox (New Directions), Carson’s eulogy to her brother. New Directions really did an astounding job with this book, which, physically, is a book like no other I have yet encountered: a truly passionate encomium; a harrowing journey through grief and the process of mourning.

One of the longer projects I’ve been working on for some time now deals with psychoanalysis, so I have been revisiting some texts and looking into new ones as I stumble upon them. Adam Phillip’s new biography of Freud, Becoming Freud (Yale University Press), is therefore timely; as a huge admirer of Phillips’s work to begin with, I think the analytic and literary critical communities have both him and Bruce Fink to thank for carrying Freud’s and Lacan‘s work forward, so I can’t imagine anyone who is more capable of writing such a book about the father of psychoanalysis.

Janet Malcolm’s Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (Vintage) was an astonishing work I read recently, in preparation for revisiting her classic In the Freud Archives (New York Review of Books). I’d like to find time this summer for more of Malcolm’s work—likely The Journalist and the Murderer (Vintage) and her recent Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)—as I truly think all writers can learn something from her style, as does this brief portfolio on NYU’s journalism website. Malcolm has a knack for letting her subjects speak for themselves, the sort of journalistic equivalent of a Henry James or an Ivy Compton-Burnett, and for employing a very tactful sense of juxtaposition to convey her opinion or stance without ever explicitly stating it. Writers can learn from Malcolm here about subtlety and authorial presence, but also, of course, from the many writers to whom her work alludes—figures like James and Proust, especially.

Speaking of James, after recently finishing and writing a piece for The Quarterly Conversation on Gerald Murnane’s latest work of fiction, A Million Windows (Giramondo), I feel it’s high time I revisited James’s The Portrait of a Lady. While “proustitute” is the moniker I chose for myself some years back on Tumblr and then Twitter, and while I am obviously a huge fan of Proust’s work (having successfully organized and moderated a year-long read of In Search of Lost Time in 2013), James is actually my favorite author if I were forced to choose one. With that said, though, I tend to prefer his later work, his more “dense” work—work from what is usually called his “major phase” after he began dictating to an amanuensis. Portrait, then, is an earlier work I tend to ignore when I re-read James (tending more toward his shorter work these days, “the beautiful and blessed nouvelle,” as he phrased it), but it’s obviously a seminal work of fiction as Michael Gorra’s Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece (Norton) demonstrates very astutely—and, I would argue, not only for American literature, but world literature more broadly. James’s influence, like Proust’s, can be felt everywhere. Murnane takes the title of A Million Windows from James’s New York Edition preface to Portrait, and James himself figures largely in Murnane’s meditation on writing, the role of the author, and what he calls “the ideal reader.” Like Malcolm’s immense importance to writers and thinkers, I think Murnane makes a good case in A Million Windows for why James is called “the Master”: one book I will be dipping into yet again this summer on top of Portrait will be The Art of the Novel (University of Chicago), a collection of all the prefaces James wrote for his authoritative New York Edition: essential reading for writers, for readers, for thinkers, and for those who want advice, straight from the Master’s mouth.

Two Lines Press is a wonderful press specializing in literature in translation, and their forthcoming short story collection by Naja Marie Aidt, Baboon, sounds amazing: the first by this author in an English translation, too. I have it here staring me in the face, and I hope to get to it soon and perhaps write something on it as time allows. In the past year, I have very much enjoyed devouring their editions of Marie NDiaye’s collection All My Friends ands Jonathan Littell’s Fata Morgana Books—and I look forward to their future ventures with eagerness.

I’m also very much looking forward to reading Shane Jones’s new book, Crystal Eaters (Two Dollar Radio), as well as a curiously decadent-sounding book by Brian O’Doherty, The Crossdresser’s Secret (Sternberg Press) that promises to fuse literary and cultural inquiry with gender, art, and aesthetics—a historical fictional endeavor about the “Chevalier d’Eon, who lived as both man and woman, French spy and European celebrity,” d’Eon being at least a partial influence on one of my favorite gender-bending novels from early-nineteenth century France, Théophile Gautier‘s Mademoiselle de Maupin.

02/07/14: summer reading: andrew hodgson

By Andrew Hodgson, Contributing Editor
@andhodgson

Stumbling into the home stretch of the PhD, I gather it might be best to stack all the books out of arm’s reach, as is the tendency of the researcher to read too much and write too little, or maybe I have that the wrong way. Either one, being an arch-procrastinator, there is a modest pile I perpetually intend to get around. Today I am reading Pol Bury’s Les petits moutons blancs qui sortent en rang du lavoir, which is accompanied by eight illustrations of Chairman Mao slowly turning into a potato. In a similar vein I found a collection of what Michel Thévoz terms ‘écrits bruts’ at the Halle Saint Pierre bookshop, taken from Jean Dubuffet’s vast repository of Art Brut down in Lausanne. It is one of several collections by Thévoz of experimental texts written by clinically institutionalised artists and writers, the pieces are often signed simply by a first name, written on scraps of paper and napkins. There is a handmade and private air to the texts, the writers often take concepts akin to Queneau’s ‘doukipudonktan’, or Hains and Villeglé’s Hepérile eclaté to interesting extremes. Hopefully this summer I can find the time to get down to Lausanne for a better look.

Some time ago I read Jacques Yonnet’s Rue des Maléfices (in English rendered Paris Noir), which is an amazing book where urban myth and history collapse into each other and feed an account of Yonnet’s activity as a hitman in the resistance during the war. Though he was most famous for his newspaper work, in particular an article in Résistance in which he managed to incite the arrest of a Parisian doctor, too a decorated hero of the resistance, who claimed to have helped hundreds of Jews escape to Argentina. Yonnet accused him of murdering them, and, when the police raided the doctor’s house they found a homemade gas chamber, crematorium, and piles and piles of luggage, including baby clothes, filling the doctor’s basement. For which the doctor was executed.

Yonnet’s writing documents his life laying low amongst the rag pickers and homeless in the bars around the Rue de Bièvre with other figures whose books are looking at me now from the bookshelf, who I promise daily I’ll get to. Bob Giraud’s Le vin des rues is a similar conceit, he was also apparently the first to record and define Parisian argot, too Jean-Paul Clébert with Paris insolite, and the photographer Robert Doisneau made observing the grey hues in the dark underbelly their lifework (it is also, arguably, Doisneau’s fault that the bridges in Paris are now falling into the river).

Largely unconnected to my research but borne out of boredom with a perceived repeated critical reliance on Kafka I too intend to properly get to grips with Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, whose collections Autobiography of a Corpse, The Letter Killers Club and Memories of the Future (relatively) recently came out on NYRB. I would pitch (to cast just such a comparative reduction to Franz) the writing as a meeting of the narrative mechanisms of Kafka, and the humour and resignation of Dostoevsky’s promethean man, or The Master and Margarita. Krzhizhanovsky’s shrugging cynicism is refreshing.

Along with piles of photocopied (fair use!) articles by/on Gustav Metzger and the collection by him/on him damaged nature, auto-destructive art, which looks like it might be of use in connection with contemporaneous British novel disintegrators, this should all just about fill my summer. As well as, of course, those 60,000 words missing from the next word document over from this. Wish me luck.

 

01/07/14: summer reading: susan tomaselli

By Susan Tomaselli, 3:AM Editor-at-Large; Founder and Editor of gorse
@STomaselli


I’m grappling with an essay on Antonin Artaud’s disastrous 1937 trip to Ireland for gorse no. 2, so I’m reading my way through as much of his work as I can stand, leaning heavily on the Susan Sontag edited Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings. A book I stumbled on by chance (I’m refracting Artaud’s shenanigans through their portrayal in film, as pictured above), and can’t recommend highly enough, is Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning, a fascinating work that takes in Artaud, Francis Bacon, Marina Abramović, Sylvia Plath, Brian Evenson, Mary Gaitskill et al. For pleasure (and let’s be honest, Artaud, though good fun, is certainly not pleasurable) I’ll be reading Galley Beggar Press‘ latest novel: Randall, or, the Painted Grape by Jonathan Gibbs. I’ve also got my eye on Lee Rourke’s Vulgar Things and Javier CercasOutlaws (I heard him discuss it last month in Dublin and can’t wait to get stuck in). This might be cheating a little as I’ve already read it, but Rob Doyle’s Here Are the Young Men is probably the Irish book of the summer, if not the year, and though I started this a few weeks ago, no summer vacation should be complete without a visit to Mount London: Ascents in the Vertical City, published by the brilliantly innovative Penned in the Margins. It’s not due out until the end of the summer, but I’m looking forward to Karl Whitney’s Hidden City: Adventures and Explorations in Dublin, though from the bits and pieces I’ve read in the Dublin Review, it promises to be a good one. Lastly, and I’m a little ashamed to say this, there’s an unread Ben Marcus (Leaving the Sea: Stories) in the house; I hope to rectify that soon.

30/06/14: summer reading: david winters

By David Winters, Co-Editor-in-Chief
@davidcwinters

It’s that time of year again: over the next week or so, we’ll be running a series of posts detailing what 3:AM’s editorial team are reading over the summer. We’ve recently recruited some brilliant new editors, including Joanna Walsh and K. Thomas Kahn, so you’ll be hearing from them, as well as from other 3:AM regulars. I’ll kick off the series (and being as I’m mainly reading academic books at the moment, I hope this won’t be too boring!)

Right now I’m halfway through Knox Peden’s Spinoza Contra Phenomenology (Stanford), a bold reinterpretation of the intellectual history of postwar French philosophy. Peden’s project is a little like that of Tom Eyers‘ last book, at least insofar as both are concerned to reconstruct the neglected legacy of rationalism in recent French thought.

Raymond Geuss’s latest essay collection, A World Without Why (Princeton) is as excellent as his others, and often bleakly witty (for a brief taste of that, watch this video clip.) If you’ve never read Geuss, his demolition of Rawls in Philosophy and Real Politics is well worth your time. And his undergraduate lectures on Nietzsche recently went online.

I’ve also been dipping into Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi’s Holes (MIT), an exploration of the philosophical problems raised by, as the authors put it, “absences, nonentities, nothingnesses, things that are not there.” I bought this as a result of my research into Gordon Lish–it’s one of many interesting texts he recommended to his students.

Perhaps predictably, binge-watching True Detective led me to look into the German neurophilosopher Thomas Metzinger; I’ve just finished his The Ego Tunnel (Basic Books), and would like to find the time to try his much-discussed magnum opus, Being No One (MIT), though I doubt I’ll understand it…

I also want to point people toward Peter Lamarque‘s The Opacity of Narrative (Rowman & Littlefield), a characteristically lucid and incisive read, from one of the more interesting analytic philosophers of art. While I’m at it, do read the lovely essay on Eric Rohmer that Lamarque co-wrote with Peter Goldie.

Earlier in the summer I re-read Peter de Bolla’s Art Matters (Harvard), which was so good that I’ve now ordered his new book, The Architecture of Concepts (Fordham), on the conceptual history of human rights. I’ll probably complement that with Samuel Moyn’s new essay collection, Human Rights and the Uses of History (Verso).

Several friends have recommended Howard Eiland and Michael JenningsWalter Benjamin: A Critical Life (Harvard) so, time permitting, that’s near the top of my “to read” list. I try to keep up with the best books on Benjamin; Eli Friedlander‘s last one was a recent favourite of mine.

Over the last few years I’ve also become increasingly interested in the sociological and institutional contexts of contemporary writing, so I’m keen to read Sarah Brouillette‘s new book, Literature and the Creative Economy (Stanford).

Fiction-wise, I enjoyed reading Marcos Girralt Torrente’s Paris (Hispabooks), and I’m looking forward to getting lost in Gerald Murnane’s A Million Windows (Giramondo). Barton Midwood‘s almost completely forgotten short story collection Phantoms (Dutton, 1970) was a lot of fun, and May-Lan Tan‘s new collection, Things to Make and Break (CB Editions) was very impressive indeed.

Finally, I hear at some point there’ll be a reissue of Jason Schwartz‘s extraordinary debut, A German Picturesque (Knopf, 1998), with a new foreword by Ben Marcus. That’s one to watch out for: a modern classic.