Books read 2009

Paledave did it, so I’ll do it.

Prelims:  I only read 77 books this year, down from 154 in 2008.  Not quite sure why. The list is chronological.

Q– Luther Blissett

Melancholy– John Fosse

Watteau in Venice– Philippe Sollers

The Temple of Iconoclasts– J. Rodolfo Wilcock (reread)

Collected Novellas– Arno Schmidt

Final Exam– Julio Cortazar

The Book of Dead Philosophers– Simon Critchley

Ghosts– Cesar Aira

In Defense of Lost Causes– Slavoj Zizek

The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf– Kathryn Davis

Epitaphs for our Times: The Letters of Edward Dahlberg

Can These Bones Live– Edward Dahlberg

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea– Daniel Dennett

Trans-Atlantyk– Witold Gombrowicz

The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.– George Steiner

The Mystery Guest– Georges Bouillier

Bonsai– Alejandro Zambra

Customer Service– Benoit Duteurte

Duchamp– Calvin Tomkins

The Assault– Reinaldo Arenas

Camera– Jean-Philippe Toussaint

But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz– Geoff Dyer

Notes on Sontag– Phillip Lopate

Autonauts of the Cosmoroute– Julio Cortazar and Carol Dunlop

The Glass Bees– Ernst Junger

Dylan– Sidney Michaels

Yalo– Elias Khoury

George Steiner: At the New Yorker– George Steiner

Around the Day in Eighty Worlds– Julio Cortazar

Diary of Andres Fava– Julio Cortazar (reread)

Against the Grain: The New Criterion on Art and Intellect at the End of The Twentieth Century

Strange Forces– Leopoldo Lugones

The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Barenton Under the Direction of the Marquis De Sade– Peter Weiss

A Mind’s Matter– Stanley L. Jaki

The Obscene Bird of Night– Jose Donoso

The Moviegoer– Walker Percy (reread)

A Strange Commonplace– Gilbert Sorrentino

In the Aftermath: Provocations and Laments– David Bentley Hart

God at the Ritz– Lorenzo Albacete

The Collected Stories of Wolfgang Hildesheimer– Wolgang Hildesheimer

Shroud– John Banville

The Library at Night– Alberto Manguel

Lost in the Cosmos– Walker Percy

Science, Politics, and Gnosticism– Eric Voegelin

The Dalkey Archive– Flann O’Brien

The Last Samurai– Helen Dewitt (reread)

On Hope– Josef Pieper

Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription– William F. Buckley

The Elsewhere Community– Hugh Kenner

The King’s Evil– Will Heinrich (reread)

W., or The Memory of Childhood– Georges Perec

A Certain Lucas– Julio Cortazar

Josef Pieper: An Anthology– Josef Pieper

The Thin Place– Kathryn Davis

Chateau d’Argol– Julien Gracq

The Life of J.K. Huysmans– Robert Baldick

The Christian and Anxiety– Hans Urs Von Balthasar

A Dangerous Encounter– Ernst Junger

Love in the Western World– Denis De Rougemont

Minima Moralia– Theodor Adorno

Peace– Gene Wolfe (reread)

Letter to a Priest– Simone Weil

Wittgenstein’s Nephew– Thomas Bernhard

Paradoxes of Faith– Henri de Lubac

ABC of Reading– Ezra Pound

Anesthesia: Brief Reflection of Contemporary Aesthetics– Tripp York

Life: A User’s Manual– Georges Perec

Introduction to Christianity– Joseph Ratzinger

The Beginning of All Things– Hans Kung

Only A Theory– Kenneth R. Miller

Roberto Bolano: The Last Interview & Other Conversations

The Idiot– Fyodor Dostoevsky

Old Masters Thomas Bernhard

Most Provocative- Love in the Western World, and it isn’t even close.  The Zizek would be a distant second.

Worst Book- Anesthesia, although the Buckley was pretty bad.

Meh- Watteau in Venice, Customer Service, The Thin Place.

Biggest Surprise- Arno Schmidt’s novellas, for a variety of reasons.  They weren’t difficult to read at all (the typographical eccentricities had me spooked), they were weird, erudite, and veered from pastoral/wistful to (Leviathan, for example) the most brutally nihilistic things I’ve read.  He’s major.

Random thoughts- This is the first year since I’ve been a serious reader that I didn’t read a word of Borges.  Hans Kung’s book was shockingly good: bare, measured, honest, and intellectually serious.  If you haven’t read Dewitt’s The Last Samurai, please do so.

The Year In Reading 2009: The Report Card

Author Of The Year
Thomas Pynchon: Inherent Vice (A+) also Book Club: Randi

The Nobelists
Saul Bellow: The Dean’s December (C-)
William Golding: Free Fall (D)
Andre Gide: The Immoralist (B+)
The Pantheon
“The Secret Sharer” And Other Great Stories (B+)
Paul Bowles: The Delicate Prey (A+)
Kobo Abe: The Woman In the Dunes (A)
Willa Cather: Alexander’s Bridge (B+)
G.K. Chesterton: The Scandal Of Father Brown (D)
John Barth: Chimera (A)
Kurt Vonnegut: Deadeye Dick (A)
James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce (A-)
Book Club: Randi
Penelope Fitzgerald: Offshore (A+)
Simon Singh: Fermat’s Enigma (C-)
Muriel Barbery: The Elegance Of The Hedgehog (A+)
Per Petterson: Out Stealing Horses (C+)
Junot Diaz: The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao (A)
Cormac McCarthy: The Road (A)
Jon Krakauer: Into Thin Air (A+)
Book Club: Orbis-Quintus
Norman Thomas Di Giovanni: The Lesson Of The Master (A+)
Pierre Bayard: How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (B)

Graham Greene: Our Man In Havana (A+)
Graham Greene: The Power And The Glory (A+)  also Book Club: Randi
Graham Greene: The Ministry Of Fear (A+)

The Moderns
Jerome Charyn: The Tar Baby (A+)
Carol Shields: The Stone Diaries (A+)
Ethan Canin: Blue River (B)
Richard Yates: Revolutionary Road (A)
Granta: Best New American Novelists (B)
Penelope Fitzgerald: Human Voices (B-)
Susan Sontag: Against Interpretation (F)
Ann Beattie: Love, Always (D)
Ken Follett: A Dangerous Fortune (A)
Stephen King: Everything’s Eventual (B)
Ben Travers: Mischief (B+)
George Saunders: The Brief And Frightening Reign Of Phil (A+)
Brad Leithauser: A Few Corrections (A+)
Holocaust/Jewish Studies
Abigail Pogrebin: Stars Of David (A-)
Cordelia Edvardson: Burned Child Seeks The Fire (A-)
Phyllis McGinley: The Province Of The Heart (B)
Black Lit
James Baldwin: The Devil Finds Work (B)
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: A Midwife’s Tale (C)
John Cornwell: Earth To Earth (B)
Louis J. Weichmann: A True History Of The Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln And Of The Conspiracy Of 1865 (C)
George Cooper: Lost Love (B-)
David McCullough: Brave Companions (B)
Bruce Catton: Reflections On The Civil War (D+)
Sarah Vowell: The Wordy Shipmates (A+)
Jon Ronson: The Men Who Stare At Goats (B)
Mem-wahs/Biographies: Belles-Lettres
John Maxwell Hamilton: Casanova Was A Book Lover (B)
Alastair Cooke: Talk About America 1951-1968 (C+)
David Foster Wallace: A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (B+)
Cynthia Ozick: Quarrel And Quandary (B+)
Patrick Marnham: The Man Who Wasn’t Maigret (C+)
Richard Lederer: The Miracle Of Language (C-)
Bill Buford: Heat (B)
Steve Dublanica: Waiter Rant (B)
Wilfrid Sheed: Essays In Disguise (B)
William Styron: Havanas In Camelot (A)
H. L. Mencken: Prejudices (C-)
Harold Rabinowitz & Rob Kaplan (eds.): A Passion For Books (B-)
Axel Munthe: The Story Of San Michele (B+)
Ammon Shea: Reading The OED (A-)
Mem-wahs/Biographies: Sporting
Stephen Jay Gould: Triumph And Tragedy In Mudville (C+)
Bobby Murcer: Yankee For Life (A+)
Peter Golenbock: Amazin’ (A+)
Joe Queenan: True Believers (C-)
Will Leitch: God Save The Fan (A+)
Michael Shapiro: The Last Good Season (B)
Mem-wahs/Biographies: Show Business
David Hajdu: Positively 4th Street (A)
Ben Hecht: A Child of The Century (D)
Peter Manso: Brando (B+)
Johanna Fiedler: Molto Agitato (C)
David Stenn: Clara Bow (B)
Ray Davies: X-Ray (C-)
Dave Davies: Kink (A-)
Cecil B. DeMille: Autobiography (A-)
Philip Dunne: Take Two (C)
Anthony Curtis (ed.): The Rise And Fall Of The Matinee Idol (B+)
Marianne Faithfull: Faithfull (A-)
Patrick McGilligan: George Cukor—A Double Life (C+)
Eric Lax: Woody Allen (B)
Sidney Lumet: Making Movies (A-)
Leonard J. Leff & Jerold L. Simmons: The Dame In The Kimono (B+)
Jeannette Walls: Dish (B)
Georges Simenon: The Clockmaker (B-)
The Best American Mystery Stories 1997 (C+)
Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason: The Rule Of Four (D)
Qiu Xiaolong: Death Of A Red Heroine (A+)
James Ellroy: Hollywood Nocturnes (A)
Thomas Hauser: The Hawthorne Group (A)
Eric Idle: The Road To Mars (C+)
Richard Rayner: Los Angeles Without A Map (C+)
Classic English Short Stories: Charmed Lives (C)
Max Apple: The Oranging Of America (C+)
Helen Schulman: The Revisionist (C+)
Slavenka Drakulic: S. (C)
Robert Chalmers: Who’s Who In Hell (C)
Robert Grudin: Book (C+)
Mike Nelson: Mind Over Matters (C)
Jean Rouaud: Fields Of Glory (C+)
Theodore H. White: The View From The Fortieth Floor (C+)
Christopher Miller: Sudden Noises From Inanimate Objects (C+)
Writer’s Harvest (B-)
The Best Of TriQuarterly (B)
Giovanni Guareschi: Comrade Don Camillo (B+)
Steven Sherrill: The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break (C-)
Nigel Williams: The Wimbledon Poisoner (B-)
Goffredo Parise: Solitudes (C+)
Alan Lightman: The Diagnosis (B)
Per Olov Enquist: The Royal Physician’s Visit (B+)
Daniel Akst: The Webster Chronicle (B)
The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name
Alice B. Toklas: Staying On Alone: Letters (A-)
John Lahr (ed.): The Orton Diaries (A-)
Francesca Duranti: The House On Moon Lake (D+)
The Time Out Book Of New York Short Stories (F)
Nicholson Baker: Human Smoke (D-)
Tin House 10 (F)
Humberto Costantini: The Gods, The Little Guys, And The Police (D+)
Edward Swift: Splendora (F)
Terence Blacker: Kill Your Darlings (F)
Doug Marlette: The Bridge (D+)
The Worst Book Of the Year
Robert Dessaix: Night Letters (F)

The Known Universe

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

Herzog on Herzog

Interview with Herzog here.  This bit was most interesting:

J.W.: I’ve just been reading your new book, Conquest of the Useless, which is your diary from the making of Fitzcarraldo. Why do you keep coming back to the incredible difficulty of making that film? You’ve had difficulties, perhaps not on that scale, but tremendous difficulties, in many of the other films you’ve made.

W.H.: Well, I ignored the text, I couldn’t read it for a long, long time. So 25 years later, I was finally able to even read it and decipher it. I published it because I thought that was the element that was stronger than everything else I have made in my life. It probably will outlive my films, all of them, and it has more direct substance. It’s probably the piece of work I will be remembered for.

J.W.: Fitzcarraldo?

W.H.: No, Conquest of the Useless, the book. I’m probably a better writer than filmmaker.

I admire Werner Herzog.  I have the box sets.  I’ve watched most of his films.  I think that in many ways he’s the most provocative filmmaker I know of.  I cannot shake, though, the nagging sense of disappointment that I feel after seeing one of his films, as if he had somehow just missed the mark.  I’m not sure I can even explain this sense, so I won’t try.  This admission by Herzog, likely to be read by most as bluster or false modesty, seems quite significant.