Shelf Life: November 2012

Lots of review stuff this month. I’m going to leave it very short, as I’m very behind.

143. The Grotesque in Art and Literature, by Wolfgang Johannes Kayser
(McGraw-Hill, 1963)

A collection of essays discussing the origins and evolution of the grotesque in art and literature. It was dry, and I felt left out – I hadn’t read many of the books in question, so I couldn’t follow the points he was trying to develop. It may fare better on rereading it at a later date.

144. Probably Inevitable, by Matthew Tierney
(Coach House Books, 2012)

Toronto-based Matthew Tierney’s third poetry collection. Review forthcoming in Broken Pencil.

145. The Politics of Knives, by Jonathan Ball
(Coach House Books, 2012)

Ball’s third book. Review forthcoming in Broken Pencil.

146. Milosz, by Cordelia Strube
(Coach House Books, 2012)

The recently dumped Milo, an underemployed actor, has moved into his childhood home to look after his argumentative and verbally abusive father.  He likes the idea of playing the “long-suffering, despised adult son caring for his elderly father,” but now his father has disappeared, and, after weeks of searching, Milo’s given up. On pretty much everything and everyone.

Full review forthcoming in Broken Pencil.

147. How I Wrote Certain of My Books, by George Bowering
(Mansfield Press, 2011)

Essays on a select few of the zillions of books, chapbooks and other miscellanea Bowering’s published over the years. The essays are brief, often funny, and always insightful, even when I hadn’t read the text in question — which, unfortunately, was a lot of them.

I need to read more Bowering.

148. You Can’t Get There from Here, by Martin Hazelbower
(Self-Published, 2012)

There’s a violence to these poems, over which an ambiguous threat seems to hang, sometimes abstract, sometimes in the form of an impending zombie apocalypse. Other poems are Zen-infused, taking inspiration from Buddhist koans and stories. In “stop at nothing,” an epigraph about killing the Buddha is reduced to a “Zen cliché.”

Full review forthcoming in Broken Pencil.

149. Advanced Sex Magic, by Maria de Naglowska
(Inner Traditions, 2011)

Originally published in French in a limited edition of 500, this is the second book in a four book series translated, introduced and annotated by Donald Traxler. These texts outline the mysteries and initiation system of the order founded by Maria de Naglowska (1883 – 1936), the Brotherhood of the Golden Arrow.

Full review published on Spiral Nature.

150. Psyche as Hero, by Lee R Edwards
(Wesleyan, 1987)

A retrospective of female protagonists in literature, and how they are portrayed. Each chapter compares the actions of the main characters between two or three novels. Where I haven’t read the novels, but only had a passing familiarity with the plot I felt a little lost, and those I had I read, I fared little better. Unfortunately, it was incredibly dry, and for all that, not terribly illuminating. I’d hoped for more.

I don’t know if the book I want to read about how women have been portrayed in classic literature has been written yet. If it has, I haven’t been able to find it.

151. Cockroach, by Rawi Hage
(House of Anansi, 2008)

I loved Hage’s first book, De Niro’s Game, and I was hoping to love this one too, and I did enjoy it, though quite not as much.

Cockroach is what you’d get if you crossed Kafka’s Gregor with with Dostoevsky’s nameless narrator in Notes from Underground and set him up in Montreal. It’s a fascinating character study, but also more than a little disturbing.

152. Inside, by Alix Ohlin
(Knopf, 2012)

A book club pick we decided upon because of the infamous overly insulting review it received in the New York Times.

I had hoped the reviewer was way off base, because he writes like an asshole. Unfortunately, I also encountered problems with believability, and yes, it did lack for something in terms of style. It’s not for everyone, but it was shortlisted for the Giller, so obviously there is a market for it.

153. Ru, by Kim Thuy
(Vintage, 2012)

Another book short listed for the Giller, and another book we picked this for book club, though we didn’t have a chance to meet until recently. It was an excellent book, beautifully told.