2016 has been hell but I don’t need to tell you that. I don’t need to tell you reading has been hard – everything has been hard: pulling your socks up in hell is difficult. And it’s not like social media or TV shows have had my attention instead. Twitter is my only social medium and I’m on it less and less. I fell asleep in the middle of episode two — or maybe it was three — of Narcos. I watched 20 minutes into the second episode of Stranger Things and went to the pub. I watched half an hour of Black Mirror and wanted to scream. I thought about reading, and writing, but that isn’t the same, is it. I ran a lot, the most I’ve ever run. Maybe it isn’t a coincidence.
I’m bad at reading books the year they’re released. What’s the rush, I think. Still, these things are supposed to be about that and that’s what I want to focus on: books released in 2016, or near enough. But I have some other things I want to say, so I’ll get that out of the way first. I read The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt over a few days in January. I was on holidays from work and it was raining; I wish I could return to that time. I didn’t even especially enjoy the reading experience, but it has stayed with me – I think about it often. Glyph, by Percival Everett, was also a fun, striking novel I read early in the year. The two could almost arrive as a couple – do read them. In K, Roberto Calasso unpacks what you would expect Calasso to unpack in a book of that name. Like everything Calasso has written, it is very much worth the time. And if you don’t read Calasso on Kafka, read Kafka and keep reading until the apocalypse comes.
On to this bastard year.
I am a big, big fan of DeLillo’s writing but I gave the release of Zero K a sidelong glance. Of course I was excited, but Don’s late output hasn’t reached the heights of his mid-career work. When I finally read it, I was compelled to write on it. Maybe the best thing to come of Zero K‘s release, and my subsequent writing on it, was that it prompted me to return to some of his books and to crack open The Names, which I hadn’t read before. It really is excellent, one of DeLillo’s best, and I’m so, so glad I spent some time with it – another reading experience I’d return to were it possible.
I also read and wrote about Kyle Coma-Thompson’s Night in the Sun. He impressed me with his ability to write unorthodox stories that are attuned to the mood of middle America, which is quite possibly also the mood of much of the West. And look what that mood has done.
Portraits by John Berger was a revelation for me. I’d not read Berger before, but I’m so pleased I did; I found his lucid yet often unconventional approach to art writing enviable, and his essay on Théodore Géricault is worth the cover price alone.
The literary galaxy that is Nocilla Dream was a real pleasure.
I picked up Penguin Modern Poets 1 because I felt like reading some poetry and it included Anne Carson and I wanted to support the return of the series. Carson is always excellent – you know what you’re getting, and I got what I knew I was getting. But the highlight of the collection was Emily Berry’s poetry, ‘The Numbers Game’ being the clincher. Maybe it was a case of right poet, right time, but I’ve since read her debut collection from a few years ago, Dear Boy, and I wished I’d read her irreverent yet poignant poetry earlier because it is magic.
The last thing I read before I filed this is Fine Fine Fine Fine Fine by Diane Williams. Finished it late this afternoon on the balcony. Funny title – because everything is not fine, is it. Williams’ stories are brief but electric but poised. “And after the last years were over we were dead.”
I write this in bed; the light just blew — seems about right. I think that’s at least ten books. I’m sorry I don’t have more for you. Next year, I want to read more by Australian writers. I want to read more by women. I want to read more.
Tristan Foster is reviews and nonfiction editor at 3:AM Magazine.
First posted: Thursday, December 15th, 2016.There are currently 2 comments on this post. You can follow all the comments on this post through this RSS feed.