A Year in Reading: Danielle Dutton

December 15, 2016 | 15 books mentioned 3 2 min read

So much of what I read is for work (editing Dorothy, a publishing project, and teaching at Washington University in St. Louis), but I did manage some stellar outside reading in 2016. These were my favorites of the “freebies:”

cover1. Suzanne Buffam’s A Pillow Book: smart, unpretentious, unclassifiable. With an obvious nod to Sei Shōnagon’s 10th-century The Pillow Book, Buffam’s is a fragmented essay-poem-meditation on insomnia, motherhood, marriage, and other “hateful” things. It’s littered with lists, delightfully funny (or just delightful), such as “Moustaches A-Z,” “Things That Give a Dirty Feeling,” or “Jobs from Hell.” Here’s one:

SOUNDS I DON’T EXPECT TO HEAR

Solar wind.
A rose opening.
Silence on the 4th of July.
The mating cry of the King Island Emu.
Hecklers at the ballet.
Foghorns in the Mare Cognitum.
Melting cheese.
A rich man entering Heaven.
A poor man entering the Senate.
Pure math.

covercovercover2. Renee Gladman’s Calamities: It would be hard to overstate my sense of Gladman’s importance to contemporary American letters. Calamities is a series of short linked essays (or, as I’ve heard her call them, ditties) most of which begin “I began the day …” It’s embodied, subtle, playful, rare.

3. & 4. Barbara Comyns’s Our Spoon’s Came from Woolworth and Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes: Or the Loving Huntsman: The Comyns and the Townsend Warner are reprints somewhat recently published in the U.S. by NYRB. I loved both to an aggressive degree, especially Lolly Willowes, which sneaks up on you with its ferocity, so sharp and erotic and free.

covercoverThis fall I taught a new graduate course on desire, so have been eyeball-deep in amorousness: Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter and Eros the Bittersweet; James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room; James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime; Maggie Nelson’s Bluets; Roland Barthes’s The Pleasure of the Text; T Fleischmann’s Syzygy, Beauty; texts by Anaïs Nin, Roxane Gay, Joanna Walsh, Carl Phillips, William Gass, Catherine Belsey, and Marie Calloway; and, one of my all-time favorites, The Lover by Marguerite Duras.

Finally, my “year in reading” wouldn’t be complete without The Babysitter at Rest by Jen George and Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger (translated from the French by Cécile Menon & Natasha Lehrer). These are the books I spent the most time with, the ones I was able to get seriously and satisfyingly intimate with. Meanwhile, here at Dorothy we’ve begun putting together a book we’re nuts about for Fall 2017: the first ever Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington.

More from A Year in Reading 2016

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Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

's most recent book is the novel Margaret the First (Catapult, 2016). She is the editor of Dorothy, a publishing project, and a professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

3 comments:

  1. Anne Carson is so wonderful, shining a light like that on the sophistication of the Sapphic fragments. And they tried to tell us that the ancients can teach us nothing. “If Not, Winter” is a book you can read in about 35 minutes, but somehow takes days. You get my vote for the quirkiest YiR yet…so, thanks!

  2. Anne Carson is stunning, brilliant, and her erudition unassailable. Any impression that I may have left that she is also “ancient” is a grammatical regret that it will take a while for me to live down.

    Read her treatment of Sappho – whose work is, demonstrably, ancient. You won’t regret it.

  3. Keep doing the amazing work at Dorothy. I loved Babysitter at Rest and look forward to what you publish in the future.

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