A Year in Reading: Danzy Senna

December 7, 2017 | 7 books mentioned 1 2 min read

Reading books rather than trawling social media makes me feel connected—the act of entering a perspective and narrative other than my own. This year especially reading felt like an act of resistance. I read works that reminded me to prize complexity and depth over their opposites.

One of my favorite reads this year was After Kathy Acker by Chris Kraus. It’s about Acker’s life and work but is also, and perhaps more so, a social history of the counterculture, punk, avant garde poetry world of the 1980s. It’s furthermore a meditation on the particular struggles of a female rebel in the literary world. I’m not that wild about Kathy Acker’s writing, but I am a huge fan of Chris Kraus—and her lucid, intelligent mind was for me the real pleasure of this book.

covercovercoverOn an airplane over somewhere I discovered an incredible short novel called Class Trip by Emmanuel Carrère, a French writer I have long admired. It’s a realistic horror story told from a child’s point of view, and is coldly writtenwithout a word out of place. I was aware reading it that I was in the hands of a literary master. The book ends in the most stunning, disturbing place.

Speaking of short novels, I also read and adored Rachel Cusk’s Outline and Transit and then went on to read her memoir, Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation. Her writing has the same quiet hilarity as Ben Lerner and Lydia Davis. I’m fascinated by what she does with identity and the oddly hidden first person voice.

coverThis year I also got to go back in time to a kind of Afrofuturism of the past. That is, George Schuyler’s  1934 satirical novel, Black No MoreI was asked to write an introduction for the new Penguin Classics edition of the book. I hadn’t read it since my college class on the Harlem Renaissance. I was stunned, re-reading it now, by how shocking and ahead of its time the work still feels. Schuyler’s wicked and bold satire leaves nobody sacred. It gave me a chance to think about comedy and iconoclasm in the black literary tradition. It also reminded me to be fearless when writing.

coverFinally, I found time to read some short stories by two of my favorite Los Angeles writers: Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum’s published two new stories in The New Yorker, “Likes,” and “The Burglar,” which were exceptional, and Dana Johnson published a brilliant story, “She Deserves Everything She Gets,” in The Paris Review, from her equally excellent collection, In the Not Quite Dark.

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Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

's most recent novel, New People, was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2017 by The New York Times. The winner of the Whiting Writers Award and the Dos Passos Prize for Literature, she lives in Los Angeles, where she is a professor of creative writing at the University of Southern California.

One comment:

  1. Danzy, your book made my best of list, along with Margaret Drabble and Katie Kitamura. Carrere’s stories are crazy chilling – I read The Mustache years ago and still shiver with revulsion and vicarious pain at the ending.

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