Monday, December 26, 2011

Best Books of 2011- Nos 6-10

6-Unoriginal Genius by Marjorie Perloff,University of Chicago Press. Famed Professor of Poetics Perloff(Professor Emerita at Stamford U) takes us on a journey through the poetics of copying, citation, and constraint based writing. Landmarks along the way include Walter Benjamin's Arcade Project, Charles Bernstein's opera, Susan Howe's the Midnight, the Oulipo and Kenneth Goldsmith's summary of CBS am traffic reports. The one volume that will get you up to speed on how to read and enjoy the new poetics.

7-El Narco, Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency by Ioan Grillo(Bloomsbury Press)British journalist Grillo's dazzling report from on the scene about how the cartels have been transformed into a major criminal insurgency, with due consequences for the US. Based on interviews and on the scene coverage by this ourstanding journalist now residing in Mexico City. Chilling.

8--Romain Gary- A Tall Story by David Bellos(Harvill Secker UK). Bellos, Professor of French and Comparative Lit,Princeton U.,is already well known form his brilliant biographies, including of Georges Perec, the Oulipo master, as well as translating much of Perec's work, including Life: A User's Manual and a recent text on the nature of translation.Here (in a book shamefully not yet published in the US) he gives us the biography of Romain Gary,whose life moved from Vilna to immigrant status ,to airman in UK with the French resistance, diplomat(French Consul General in Los Angeles),celebrity spouse(Jean Seberg) to best - selling author, the only man to win the French Goncourt Prize twice. This, included the creation of a fake identity- that of Emile Ajar, under which he avoided the requirement that the prize could only be won once by an author.And it eventually earned Gary the scorn of critics.
The many lives of a most unusual man-and the role that deception plays in our own self-constructed lives.Wonderfully written and a fascinating study in the nature of identity in this world.

9-This is Madness by Darian Leader(Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Books,UK). An absolutely riveting book by a psychoanalyst on the nature of psychosis- and how those afflicted use delusions and other seeming badges of lunacy to construct their way through their own conditions to a kind of mental equilibrium. Replete with Lacanian analysis beautifully explained ( for a change) and lots of examples from practice and history.With special chapters om Aimee(Lacan's famous patient who stabbed well-known French actress Huguette Duflos outside a French theatre), The Wolf Man, and Dr Harold Shipman,who put to death in excess of 250 persons by morphine injections. An enriching study on what triggers psychotic outbreaks and what can remedy psychosis.A plea for individual- centered treatment in an age of compulsory drugs and uniformity.

10-Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas- A long,demanding but brilliant masterpiece from the author of A Book of Memories, called the most important novel since WWII by Susan Sontag. Published to mixed reviews by a bunch of Anglo- Saxon reviewers who by and large have neither the time nor the temperament to enjoy a book so heavily based on the politique of the body,nor willing to read a novel whose transcription chapter by chapter does not flow with the ease of reading expected by some, this is yet the one novel where the politics and aesthetics of sex interfaces with the history of Hungary and Central Europe from the years of World War 2 through the Hungarian Revolution to the dismantling of Communism.The beastly self in all its turgid glory,in juxtaposition to the rational and socially acceptable self- a rambling tour through espionage, duplicity, repression and death and the emotionally tangled lives of the many characters who step in and out of its pages.Not to be missed, especially for its epic descriptions of marathon sex and its relation to our emotional lives. Called an example of bad sex writing by a few critics. some may yet find it the ultimate in sticky fingers and slippery epiphanies.

These books should be available from, or the publishers directly

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