1) Lost in the Funhouse, John Barth
The second half; I started it right after Christmas 2015. I liked the Ambrose stories way better than the mythology stories.
2) Ezra Pound: Poet, Vol. I, A. David Moody
Detailed, a little stodgy, very partisan, which aspect I infer will get more interesting as Our Hero's behavior worsens in subsequent years. Worthwhile.
3) The Fugitives, Christopher Sorrentino
I'm friendly with Christopher and I'll still say I can objectively call this a superb novel.
4) Fifty-Two Pickup, Elmore Leonard
Primary motivation for reading was research for an audio commentary on the movie, but a genuine pleasure.
5) Black Wings Has My Angel, Elliott Chaze
First rate girl-gun-grief-guilt stuff. One of the better armored-car heist sequences ever set on paper.
6) The Ivory Grin, Ross Macdonald
My first Lew Archer. Wasn't entirely crazy about it.
7) Giles Goat-Boy, John Barth
I was crazy about The Sot-Weed Factor when I read it in 2015, so much so that I was very eager to tackle this, and my oh my was I disappointed. I have to give Barth credit: when he woolgathers, he does it on an epic level. But imagining the gargantuan campus that he was then employed by as the metaphor-laden locale for an allegory of the American Experiment in Oppression was maybe not the best way to go with his fancies.
8) Better Living Through Criticism, A.O. Scott
I gather a lot of people were irritated by my colleague's disinclination to dictate definitive answers to the questions he raises herein, instead building varied dialectical structures around them. I enjoyed the whole thing and continue to be stimulated/challenged by it.
9) High Rise, J.G. Ballard
Essential then, essential now.
10) Apostle, Tom Bissell
Tom's book is written in a conversational style that sometimes seems a little at odds with the philosophical and informational density he brings to bear on his stories of visiting the supposed resting places of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. Many years in the making, worth the wait.
11) The Deep Blue Good-By, John D. Macdonald
My first Travis McGee. I was not impressed. Indifferent "realistic" plotting, poor fun-to-squalor ratio, too heavy on the self-infatuated sexism. Someone tells me when this series gets better than this.
12) Petersburg, Andrei Bely
I guess if I'd read this when I was 24 and had Vladimir Nabokov's raves about it fresh in my head, I might have been blown away. Instead I waited until now and found it a bit of a slog, its innovations having been adopted and refined in subsequent modernist works I like a lot better.
13) My Antonia, Willa Cather
My first Cather. All killer, no filler. Eager for more.
14) Norwood, Charles Portis
One of two Portises I've been sitting on because I don't want to be done with his novels so soon. (Norwood is his first novel, the other one I'm sitting on, Gringos, is his most recent.) Anyway, it's perfect. As I expected.
15) Zero K, Don DeLillo
Really strong. Prime DeLillo. Guy's still got it.
16) The Way Some People Die, Ross Macdonald
My second Lew Archer. Liked it pretty much just fine.
17) Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner
Wound up finding this very worthwhile despite the exceptional punchworthiness of the lead character.
18) Gaza Wyoming, Seth Colter Walls
This funny, astute, sometimes Pynchonesque novel by my fellow critic and friend is worth seeking out.
19) Ratner's Star, Don DeLillo
Its sometimes frustrating obliqueness is of course entirely deliberate. Very strong and unsettling.
20) Paths of Glory, Humphrey Cobb
I was asked to write a booklet essay for the Eureka!/Masters of Cinema Blu-ray edition of the Kubrick picture. After accepting, it occurred to me that it would be very difficult to write anything new about the movie. I went to the novel looking for a possible angle. It's a really good book. And it was useful for my work.
21) Cosmos, Witold Gombrowicz
Re-read this work of genius the better to write about Zulawski's film but there's no bad time for this.
22) Eric Rohmer: A Biography, Antoine de Baecque and Noel Herpe
23) The Lost Weekend, Charles R. Jackson
24) Lock No. 1, Georges Simenon
A good Maigret-versus-some-cranky-bastard tale.
25) Driver's Seat, Muriel Spark
Good thing a woman wrote this rather than a young Martin Amis, because oh boy. This is not your Miss Jean Brodie's Muriel Spark, although of course it kind of it.
26) The Siege of Krishnapur, J.G. Farrell
Pretty vivid and mordantly funny slab of Colonialism And Its Discontents action.
27) The Dalkey Archive, Flann O'Brien
28) Havana Blues, Leonardo Padura
Of interest for a number of reasons, particularly for its view of ordinary boomer life in Castro's Cuba. I wanted more genre elements though.
29) Still Life, Louise Penny
Recommended by a family member; first in a series of village mysteries starring the unambiguously good and wise Inspector Gamache. Penny is smart and a diabolical plotter. Also a bit of an over-writer. If I were her editor all three of the books of hers I've read this year would be at least 20 pages shorter. Then again, I've read three and intend to continue, so...
30) Stoner, John Williams
Williams' Augustus was my icebreaker. And yeah this is everything everybody says it is.
31) Caught Stealing, Charlie Huston
Frantic, funny, well-constructed, it gets more absorbing as it gets more ridiculous. And it gets REALLY ridiculous.
32) The Death of Napoleon, Simon Leys
A droll parable.
33) Book of Numbers, Joshua Cohen
Huge talent, sometimes bad judgment, best when dealing with death.
34) Alice James: A Biography, Jean Strouse
Spectacular, read it.
35) Butcher's Crossing, John Williams
Spectacular, read it.
36) The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
See 34 and 35.
37) The First Administration of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 1, Henry Adams
A bit laborious but largely fascinating, not least for Adams' unabashed love for TJ.
38) The Skin of Dreams, Raymond Queneau
A short, piquant, satisfying Queneau
39) The Sunday of Life, Raymond Queneau
40) Actress in the House, Joseph McElroy
Not so much stream of consciousness as fractals of consciousness. Indescribably dense and sometimes maddeningly frustrating. A remarkable thing in any event.
41) The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, Brian Moore
You'll never guess. Okay, maybe you will. Scruplously bleak.
42) The Last of the Clan McDuck, Don Rosa
Great Duck stuff.
43) American Pastoral, Philip Roth
I'd read all of the late Roth except this, for whatever reason, so when a publicist jammed up my ability to see the movie for a week, I thought I'd fix that issue. I think I would have loathed the movie even without having read the book, which I was both dazzled and a bit flummoxed by, but reading the book sure helped me particularize my complaints about the movie.
44) Dog Eat Dog, Edward Bunker
Another reading-in-preparation for a film review. I knew of Bunker, and I knew what a hit-or-severely-miss proposition a real-life-felon-writes-crime-novel move can be, so I was pleasantly surprised at what a knockout this book is. Added value is its genuine soulfulness, which the movie adaptation decided to jettison.
45) A Fatal Grace, Louise Penny
See 29. The second in the series.
46) Hellfire, Nick Tosches
This is another case of me depriving myself of a legendary book until whenever, and so whenever came and I read the legendary book and lo, it was pretty great.
47) My Struggle Book 1, Karl Ove Knausgaard
Very good, liked the second half (cleaning up after dead alcoholic father) better than the first, still in all I'm somehow less than eager to tackle the second book which I'm told is him mooning over wife the second at inordinate page count.
48) Troubles, J.G. Farrell
A quite unusual historical novel, this one set in Northern Ireland, which I did not like nearly as much as Seige of Krishnapur.
49) Notes on the Cinematographer, Robert Bresson
50) Bresson on Bresson, edited by Mylene Bresson
...are reviewed here.
51) The Jewish Question, Jean Paul Sartre (translated as Anti-Semite and Jew)
Essential reading for 2017, for obvious reasons; see also my thoughts on it here.
52) The Strangers in the House, Georges Simenon
I've read a lot of Simenon and it's still just a fraction of his output so I'm not qualified to say this is the closest thing to a redemption story in his oeuvre, but it's the closest to a redemption story that I've read.
53) The Cruelest Month, Louise Penny
See 29 and 45. Third in the series.
54) Wolf Pupy Storys, "Wolf Pupy"
Purports to be stories by a five-week-old wolf puppy and who am I to argue.
55) The Life And Legend of Wallace Wood, Vol. 1, edited by Bhob Stewart
I'm a sucker for chain-smoking alcoholci genius comic artists so yeah. Lotsa good pictures.
56) Home, Marilynne Robinson
An unspeakably beautiful book.
57) The Plague, Albert Camus
More prepping for 2017. About halfway through now...
Happy New Year to all readers everywhere.