Yeah, it’s that time again where I offer a summer reading list of sorts, but also some bonus material in music and movies. Some suggestions for the sweltering months of the year.
In lieu of that crappy title I used last year, I’ve decided to just condense title to “Summer List”, which sounds slightly ridiculous, but who cares. Again, we’ll be having a mix of old and new. Okay, here we go in no particular order:
The Hour of the Star
Trans. Benjamin Moser
This year, New Directions are releasing four new Clarice Lispector books, one of which has never been translated into English before. This makes it an especially great time to revisit what has commonly been called her masterpiece. As if there was ever a not-great time to do so.
Trans. George Szirtes
Probably one of the biggest releases of the year, László Krasznahorkai’s first novel has just been translated into English by George Szirtes. A strange, intoxicating blend of dark humour, flashes of the apocalyptic, and dizzying displays of literary genius.
Sophokles’s Antigone as translated by Anne Carson
Illustrated by Bianca Stone
New Directions (US), Bloodaxe Books (UK)
I’m midway through Anne Carson’s reimagining of Sophocles’s Antigone as I write this. It is a startling sort of thing, thrusting the canonical text into a decidedly less-than-conservative frame through Carson’s fascinating translation and the use of Stone’s illustrations. I am also struck by the physical nature of the text/book (which should not be surprising, given the nature of Carson’s preceding work Nox), especially in terms of the tactility of the pages; the translucent sheets on which the illustrations are printed; the hand-lettered, almost comic-book text; the deliberate arrangement of the words; and so on, particularly as it is juxtaposed against the text’s basic nature as performance.
Oops, my comments have run pretty long so I’m stopping here.
Trans. Richard Howard
Hill and Wang
Yes, more death in summer. Mourning Diary is somewhat a strange book, even for Barthes readers. A collection of short notes written after the death of his mother, it is an assemblage of Barthes’s thought on death, mourning, and grief. It is also the portrait of a man coming to terms with loss without the hope of succeeding. A staggering book.
Juan José Saer
Trans. Steve Dolph
Sometimes people ask: Daryl, what sort of stuff excites you? Well, they don’t really ask that. I was lying. I just wish they would. Then I would have a reason to pull books like these out of my pocket. And I’ve lied again. I don’t keep books in my pocket. But everything else is true.
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Frank Quitely
There are basically two kinds of Grant Morrison-as-writer. In one sort, he goes all-out down the histrionics path. Sometimes this results in a real mess. And sometimes this results in a real fine mess. I love that Grant Morrison. I also love the Grant Morrison that does stuff like All-Star Superman, the one that puts together a classically incredible comic book while also hanging onto his own thematic concerns, but in a subtler fashion. Whenever I’m trying to convince someone how great superhero comics can get, All-Star Superman springs to mind.
Trans. Peter Bush
The simple fact is that more people have to read Quim Monzó. Thankfully, there seems to be a move to translate more of his work into English of late, so that non-Catalan English-language readers (like yours truly) get more and more to cheer about. And for those who have no idea who he is, start here.
Pandora in the Congo
Albert Sánchez Piñol
Trans. Mara Faye Lethem
Are you in the mood for some adventure? Well, even if you aren’t, you have to check out Albert Sánchez Piñol’s wildly imaginative, superbly entertaining, and genre-defying book. It’s a fairly long book, but I remember breezing through the pages because it was all just so entertaining.
The Drop Edge of Yonder
Two Dollar Radio
The Drop Edge of Yonder is the trippiest Western I have ever read. Funny and dark in turns, and sometimes both in the same instant, it exudes a deep absurdity and also betrays a rich imagination. Zebulon lives.
My favourite album thus far this year is by the good people who were responsible for my favourite album of 2010. Beach House’s Bloom is deeply rooted in their preceding work, but somehow manages to take it into new territory, and the result is a quite sublime new album.
Some things take you a bit of time. Last year, I was having difficulty deciding on my favourite album of 2011, but it’s become a lot clearer half a year removed from then. That album is St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy, and there’s never a bad time to revisit this remarkable effort.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Ziggy Stardust is 40 years old. There is an anniversary edition of the record if you’re thus inclined, one in a series of what feels like several anniversary releases, but I suppose it is in a way a testament to the continued relevance of the album. Even to this day, the album thrills and enchants quite like no other.
This is not the best loved of Radiohead-related music. I remember the reviews being somewhat middling when it first came out. Today I’m here to say, who cares about those reviews. This album is great. It’s certainly grown on me since its release, especially in the last couple of years.
The Beach Boys
I don’t think I need to say anything about this. I’m including this especially for the folks who are catching them when they make their trip to Singapore in August. And for those who won’t be able to, because you should treat yourself to some Beach Boys in case you feel left out.
Directed by David Lynch
Of Lynch’s loose trilogy (it is one in my mind) of Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire, Lost Highway has always received the least amount of love from me. I don’t know why that is. I really love the film, but I suspect the later two pictures just became a lot more important to me due to a series of coincidences and so on. That’s why I’m watching it again this summer, and you might feel like doing so too.
Sud Pralad, or Tropical Malady
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Tigers, shamans, romance, what’s not to like?
I had Apichatpong on the list last year, but you can probably never have too much of Apichatpong anyway.
Directed by Sylvain Chomet
I have probably recommended this a few billion times. I don’t even remember if I did so last year in the same feature. Directed by Sylvain Chomet, this delightfully animated film features a script by the late, great Jacques Tati.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock’s arguably underappreciated film stars Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery was recently mentioned in somebody’s “top 10” list on the New Yorker. (I really have a bad memory, especially for things like these.) It made me want to watch it again, so, here it is.
Pierrot le Fou
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Ah yes, let us remember a time when Jean-Luc Godard was not making beautifully-filmed but extremely slow feature films; when the director did not adopt the perfume name of JLG; and when we could still see Anna Karina in the theatres. Man, I wasn’t even born then.
And that’s it. I hope this helps with the summer boredom!