A Year in Reading: Jesse Ball

December 4, 2009 | 15 books mentioned 3 2 min read

covercovercoverLuckily, I have been keeping a list. I began the year with Tom Hodgkinson’s lovely How to be Idle, which is a very very good way to begin a year of reading. Immediately then to The Twelve Terrors of Christmas (Updike / Gorey). Thereafter, Kicking the Leaves, an old favorite. This is in my opinion, Donald Hall’s best volume of poetry. I have read it dozens of times. Then a short travel with a writer I had never read, Gyula Krudy, whose Sunflower, courtesy of NYRB was enormously pleasing and atmospheric. Then Botvinnik: 100 Selected Games, for those of you who read chess-notation with joy and pleasure. That old Soviet master had a fearsome will. Then Last Days by Brian Evenson, Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler, Life of Johnson by Boswell (wonderful — even the ambition of reading it and carrying it about with one is wonderful). Then Fowles, The Collector, and Out by the very resourceful Matsuo Kirino. Read Out if you, like myself and also the previously mentioned Evenson, spend time thinking about how bodies ought to be disposed of. At this point, I went to another old favorite, Robert Walser’s Selected Stories. If you must read something, please forget about what anyone else has to say and read Walser’s selected stories. There’s a lot of posturing about contemporary writing, but the truth is — most of it isn’t any good. That’s where Walser comes in, from the first quarter of the last century, riding the wagon from his Swiss sanatorium. He’ll fix your modern day ills with ease.

covercovercoverI went to Leonard Gardner next, and his Fat City, which I read in one sitting. Delicious! Do you like prize-fighting? I do. Then Zen Antics courtesy of Cleary, and Lolita while on a train to Michigan, and Hass’s Field Guide (not an actual field guide).

At this point we are partway through the year, and I am considering the class I will teach in the fall, a class on derive, which sends us into: Society of the Spectacle by Debord, Revolution of Everyday Life by Vaneigem, Nadja by Breton, The Character of Physical Law by Feynman, A Pattern Language by Alexander, Ishikawa, Silverstein, and Koolhaus’s Delirious New York.

I will leave you then, there with me in the summertime. Of later books, I will mention but one:

Bears: A Brief History by Brunner (a remarkable book). Do you like bears?

More from A Year in Reading

is an American poet and novelist. He is the author of Samedi the Deafness, shortlisted for the 2007 Believer Book Award, The Way Through Doors, and the forthcoming The Village on Horseback (Milkweed, 2010) and A Ladder of Rain and the Roof Beyond (Vintage Books, 2011). He is an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

3 comments:

  1. Funny world. A friend of mine in Cal writes to suggest I read
    a book of yours, which he admires. I look up your website.and there I find FAT CITY by Leonard Gardner…this afternoon I’d been thinking of LG and wondering why he didn’t produce more. I was his editor on Fat City when I lived in London. Connections everywhere,
    (Did you ever read Rober Helehnga’s lovely Fall of a Sparrow?)

    So now I must venture forth and find your book.
    Best wishes, Campbell Armstrong

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