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December 30, 2022

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Zack Handlen

JR is one of those books that sticks with me even if I don't know how much I actually like it--Gaddis in general has that effect on me. The Recognitions has some of the most gorgeous, evocative prose I've ever encountered, but it's also so damn long that I lose track of it in places; JR just sort of overwhelms me, to the point where I'm not sure if what I'm getting from it is at all intended. (Like, I was extremely upset by a certain character's death, but am I taking it all too seriously?) I started the audiobook a year or so ago, and it's incredible (just one guy doing all the voices, and he nails it), but exhaustive nature of the text is hard to push through on audio; the unattributed dialogue, which you just sort of drown in on the page, starts to feel a bit one note when performed. But I'd like to revisit it someday, and the Recognitions as well. (Gravity's Rainbow is one of my all time favorites, in contrast, and I absolutely get lost in the back quarter. But the cumulative effect still stuns me.)

Tom B.

The audiobook of Gravity's Rainbow, read by George Guidall, is terrific.

george

I read all the Lew Archer novels this year. The underrated Sleeping Beauty (1973) was a favorite.

Also read a lot of early John D. McDonald books: The Brass Cupcake, Border Girl, The Damned, The Neon Jungle, The Executioners (aka Cape Fear), Slam the Big Door, The Drowner. All classic noir. Plan to read Travis McGee in '23.

I recommend Geoffrey O'Brien's book Hardboiled America as a guide to this territory.

george

I just read The Philosophy of Modern Song. Dylan has some smart comments about movies in the chapter on the Drifters' "Saturday Night at the Movies."

"People keep talking about making America great again. Maybe they should start with the movies."

Aden Jordan

This is quite an eclectic list. I read “The Octopus” by Frank Norris (don’t remember much about it other than the allegory) about five years ago and haven’t checked out “McTeague.”

Rand Careaga

I just completed the “Cambridge Centenary” edition of Ulysses, a novel I first struggled through half a century ago this summer. At twenty-one, I hadn’t anything like the cultural substrate I would have required for it to stick to my ribs. This massive Cambridge edition (seven pounds, with the surface area of a nightstand), reproduces the 1922 edition and comes with footnotes, marginalia and introductory essays to each chapter. Some of the essays are written in a style—or, perhaps I should say, they hew to a set of conventions—uncongenial to me. None of the critics I cut my teeth on in college would have written a passage like “Gerty’s identity as a disabled woman affords her critical distance from the all-consuming project of commodified, standardized femininity…Gerty’s stigma aligns her with Bloom, who is also stigmatized, carving out a critical space within Ulysses where critiques of compulsory normativity can, and must, be lodged in the face of ideologies of body perfectibility.” Fuck me. The exhaustive footnotes were helpful, if perhaps overabundant: if, say, a Dublin milliner is mentioned in the text, I don’t really need to know that it was a going concern at thus-and-such addresses between 1880 and 1912. All that said, I generally enjoyed the project.

I took in, variously reading or rereading, Pynchon’s entire œuvre following my retirement five years ago, and was gobsmacked returning to Gravity’s Rainbow after forty years. What an extraordinarily gifted prose stylist the man could be! Also recommended: Mason & Dixon, Against the Day, and Bleeding Edge—the latter is now my recommended “gateway drug” for Pynchon newbies.

Laid up with covid last June I went through nine Iris Murdoch novels in a dozen days—none of them, oddly, from Glenn’s list.

Glenn Kenny

There's a LOT of Murdoch to read, to be sure.

I was considering the Cambridge "Ulysses" but it's a definite space issue...I've read all of Pynchon (I'm one of the relative few who's very fond of "Against the Day") except for "Mason and Dixon," which I'll get to...after conquering the re-read of "Rainbow."

Rand Careaga

Yeah, “Against the Day” was exhilarating. I expected to be put off by the faux-XVIII century narrative style of “Mason & Dixon” and was gratified at how easily it went down in the event.

Of the Murdochs from last June, I reread “A Severed Head” (the only book of hers I’d taken in previously, in the mid-eighties), going on to “Under the Net,” “The Sea, the Sea,” “The Sandcastle,” “The Bell,” “The Italian Girl,” “The Red and the Black,” “A Fairly Honourable Defeat” and “The Black Prince.” Of these, “The Italian Girl” struck me as an outright misfire, and had I read “The Black Prince” earlier in the sequence I might not have felt myself losing patience with the appearance of one more obsessed narrator chasing after young girls or their phantoms. However, I have another half dozen titles still unread on the shelf, and will probably get to these during the coming quarter or two.

Joe

Highly recommend the podcast Death is Just Around the Corner. Several episodes cover GR in great detail.

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