All the Books

Normally I read at most 3 or maybe 4 books at a time (a book of poetry, a book of fiction, a nonfiction book usually about Buddhism and/or some kind of comics), but recently things have gotten out of hand. I’m jumping back and forth so much that I don’t really have a post’s worth to say about any one of them. So instead, here’s a list of all the books I’m reading or “reading” (i.e., about to read/probably giving up on reading), with some commentary on each.

Essential Wolverine, Vol. 1 – My current morning reading. Surprisingly uneven for the all-star creative teams it has (Chris Claremont, John Buscema, Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Peter David, John Byrne, and others), but good enough to be an antidote to that awful X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie I finally watched recently, which is why I bought it. I’ve felt tempted to write an arc-by-arc review of it sometime, but apparently I’m afraid of diluting my brand or something by talking about superheroes here anymore. I should really do it anyway, I’m pretty sure “not having a brand” or at least “bad brand-management” is part of my brand.

Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing, edited by Kenneth Goldsmith and Craig Dworkin – This book is sort of annoying me so far. The editors’ introductions present conceptual writing as a contemporary, reasonably bounded movement inspired by the internet (Goldsmith) or conceptual art (Dworkin), but in choosing what to include they seem to be out to appropriate all of the hipper reaches of modernism. Duchamp and Warhol are theirs already, but Beckett and Acker? When they try to walk off with a contemporary poet like Ariana Reines—who no one has ever called conceptualist, and whose writing might be the best case going for expression—it starts to look like some kind of kleptomania.

But maybe for a book of conceptual writing, a spirit of appropriation is only appropriate? The only problem is, the book is so crowded that no one gets much more than a few pages, which is particularly bad because so much conceptual writing depends on bulk and repetition. Maybe I should give up on reading this one, at least for a while.

Pop Serial, no. 2, winter 2010 – I haven’t started this yet but I look forward to it. No other journal I know of does such a good job of getting almost literally every writer I care about within a certain subfield of literature all in one place (Tao Lin, Steve Roggenbuck, Kendra Grant Malone, Daniel Bailey, Brandon Scott Gorrell, Megan Boyle, more).

A note in case anyone ever actually comes across this post again: In 2018 Steve Roggenbuck was outed as having groomed multiple younger, often underage girls and trans people for sexual relationships over the course of his public career, as well as having treated his partners in manipulative and coercive ways. Stephen Tully Dierks, editor of Pop Serial, was also accused of multiple assaults, and Tao Lin had an acknowledged, arguably abusive relationship with a much younger person.

Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill – I’ve been meaning to read the story “Secretary” ever since I saw the movie last year. Then a friend was recommending Gaitskill recently. This will probably be my morning reading once I wrap up Essential Wolverine.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami – I wanted some fiction to start reading and nothing I wanted was in at the library, so I went on a little bit of a recall rampage thinking maybe just one of the things I recalled would actually come in anytime soon. Instead I got the Gaitskill and this. Much thicker than I expected, not sure how this is going to fit into things. I probably shouldn’t even list it here, since I doubt I’ll be reading it for a while. Sorry to whoever I recalled it from, hope you had time to finish.

The Wasteland, Martin Rowson – A noir-style, comic book adaptation/parody of Eliot’s The Wasteland. I’ve had this forever and only started reading it once, a while ago. It seemed like something I needed to have when I first heard about it. I’m sure I’ll read it eventually.

The Zen Koan, Isshū Miura and Ruth Fuller Sasaki – I might give up on this, except I’ve just gotten through the Fuller Sasaki part, which is a scholarly introduction written in an annoyingly voice-of-authority tone (it was written in the ’60s, everyone wrote like that). If I stuck with it I’d be starting on the second part by the actual “Zen master” Isshū, and I have no idea what that’ll be like, it might be good.

Snow Crash, Neal Stehpenson – My girlfriend recommended/bought me this book. She just got it for me yesterday. I read like a page or two and thought it was really funny; apparently it doesn’t stay comedic though.

Chomp Away, Drew Gardner – I’ve been carrying this around for maybe a week as the next book of poetry I’m going to read. Petroleum Hat is one of my favorite books of Flarf, so I have that excited to read it/nervous it’ll be disappointing thing going. Plus, if I feel like it I might try to review it for some place, and it has a really awesome cover. Those things always raise expectations and make me afraid to actually sit down and actually read a book, too.

The World as Phone Bill, Stan Apps – A collection of essays on poetry, Flarf, and American culture. Great title, even better book design. My favorite essays in it are the ones that strike a tone where it seems like Apps can’t possibly mean what he’s saying, but also can’t quite not mean it. They don’t tell you anything except something about how it’s so difficult to actually tell you anything, and something about this: “Under the Trojan of ostensibly positive values, the real message of selfhood is that we are disgusting because we are too varied and polymorphous, too inspecific.” They’re sort of poems, really Flarfy poems, hiding in the shapes of essays. They’re also relentlessly dark and cynical; reading this book is making me depressed, I think, even though I like it a lot.

That’s it. Let me know, anyone, if you want to hear more about one of these later on.