I made a concerted effort to read this year, and it’s been interesting. The definite highlight was finally finishing William Gaddis’s JR which was a borderline-absurdist masterpiece in a critique of postwar capitalism and conformist culture. I had attempted this book for decades and finally got through the pages of mostly unattributed dialogue.
The most haunting book I read was Adam Lehrer’s Communions, an exercise in exploring the final days of various artists who died of opiate addiction. Each chapter focuses on a different artist, and it’s hard to decipher whether it is speculative fiction, a biography, art criticism or whatever. In the end it doesn’t matter because it is written so compellingly you just fall into the narrative and take it wherever it leads you.
The strangest book was by far Ivan Boris’s My Week without Gérard, a drug-laced detective mystery about a reporter who is searching for a vanished superstar French philosopher in Paris. Coffin sex, tons of different drugs, shitty magazine editors, Surrealism, mind control, secret societies and conspiracy theories. Imagine if Foucault’s Pendulum took more acid, hated everyone and just didn’t give a fuck. There is a reason why “Ivan Boris” is a pen name.
The book that angered me the most was Al Burian’s No Apocalypse because of sheer jealousy. I’ve always loved how he wrote through his Burn Collector zines and columns in the dearly departed Punk Planet magazine. I mean sure, he made some great music with Milemarker, but his sharp observations always made me jealous.
Everything else was pretty okay. They kept me entertained enough.
I hope in the next year to be a better reader. I do have some ambitions and hopefully will get through them. One of the things I hope to do is to read more subversive literature because fuck these right-wing Nazis who want to ban books, demonize drag queens who just want to help with children’s literacy and just be an obstacle to kids who want to escape their oppression of ignorance and parochial repression.
In high school I knew that reading could be subversive hence reading stuff like Aleister Crowley’s Diary of a Drug Fiend and other decidedly non-curricular books. But never once did I think I would be stopped from reading those things because I thought that adults were so clueless as to only see the act of reading and the nerdiness involved in that and not so much as to what I was reading. If anyone tried to get between me and my books then, I would have fought tooth and nail. Ah, the days when I had energy for that shit.