Monday, July 28, 2014

BOOKS, Recommended by Friends

It’s almost August.  In New York you can just feel it crawling towards us.  It is the month when things stretch out.  Things get quieter, schedules more impromptu and the heat makes you laze about and stare off more.  August, for me, also starts that summer reading itch.  All this relaxing has the brain searching for other stimulants that are usually satiated by the tremendously busy lives we have procured.

With this in mind, I reached out to some friends and art world peers and asked them to send me up to three recommendations of books, essays, etc. that they have in the past or recently read that they enjoyed.

Thank you so-so-so much to the below participants.  I am sure to read most if not all of the below and I hope you dear reader find a title or two that peaks your curiosities.

Adam Humphreys

1. Pirates and Farmers - Dave Hickey

A salve for caustic, embattled temperaments.

2. Western Beefs of North America

A nice concept with some good prose and poetry from people who are probably reading this ;)

3. Harpers Magazine Story about The End of Retirement

You think it would be about policy, but it's not. It's about a community of senior citizens who tour around the USA in RV campers doing temporary jobs. In the off season they all "boondock" in a small town in Arizona, like 100,000 of them. Honestly more appealing to me than more traditional idea of retirement. A salve for people who aren't making RRSP contributions.

Alex Ito

Cinema 2: The Time-Image by Gilles Deleuze - Not only does Deleuze produce a groundbreaking analysis of post-war cinema, he also shatters the foundation of how space and images can be perceived through a constantly fluctuating lens. The reader is asked to abandon reason and walk through a labyrinth of images to confront the "false". 

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa - Written in a series of short theses, The Book of Disquiet is a tragically poetic expression of absurdity and emptiness. It is a celebration of life and all of its tyrannies and unheard voices. Pessoa challenges history and language to liberate the weary daydreamer inside of us. 

The Theatre and Its Double by Antonin Artaud - The Theatre and Its Double is Artaud's cry for life to return to theatre and to escape the trivialities of passive decadence. Through passion, violence and consciousness Artaud moves the reader to his proposed future- a Theatre of Cruelty. 

Alex Ross

Kate Durbin: E! Entertainment The closest you can come to watching reality tv in a language you don't understand while reading in English. Lobotamous, lovely.

Tom McCarthy: Remainder The novel that Omer Fast never wrote. Soon to be a feature-length film directed by Omer Fast.

Andrew Russeth

Margot and Rudolf Wittkower, Born Under Saturn: The Character and Conduct of Artists, 1963

The Wittkowers trace and dissect all sorts of ideas and myths about Western artists, from antiquity through the French Revolution, revealing how they really behave and how they achieved success. Besides being fascinating reading for anyone in the art game, it’s overflowing with great stories about Titian (lied on his taxes and lovingly harassed the hell out of anyone who owed him money, even after he was quite wealthy), Joshua Reynolds (loved his iced out carriage, much to the consternation of his sister), Dürer (who joked, frat-guy style, to one of his patrons in a letter, “You stink so of whores that I can smell it over here”), and more. Extremely funny, insightful, and well researched.

A. J. Liebling, Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris, 1959

A crisp, rollicking memoir about eating and drinking vigorously in prewar Paris as a young man on a budget and as a more flush adult. Filled with tales of epic meals (one involving two orders of cassoulet offered up by an adoring restaurateur, followed by steak topped with bone marrow and a dozen oysters, “which offered no problem, since they present no bulk”), it’s a more culinary minded (and slightly sloppier) version of A Moveable Feast. A thoroughly Epicurean guide to enjoying life.

Andrew James Weatherhead

"Still, Then" by David Fishkind

"Collected Poems and Stories" by Mallory Whitten

"Correction" by Thomas Bernhard

Christopher Schreck

1. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

Regardless of medium, I'm always a sucker for an economy of form, so naturally, Davis is a personal favorite. Every element here is precise and purposeful - even those portions left unsaid occupy meaningful space - and one can't help but admire both her taste in language and considerable sense of restraint. She's often described as a classic "writer's writer," or whatever, and sure, there's pleasure to be had in that alone, but what makes her great is how her formal ingenuity always functions in service of her content, which is perceptive, relatable, and highly readable. That's the crucial balance, and Davis strikes it masterfully, consistently. 

2. Sound Pages: John Cage's Publications - ed. Giorgio Maffei & Fabio Carboni

A comprehensive anthology of Cage's published works, which are as varied and thoughtfully designed as any of his less tangible offerings. Divided into four sections - books, scores, records, and documents - with covers, interior shots, and accompanying texts offered for each given item, it's a fantastic resource for anyone interested in his work. 

Lyrical reviews of commercial fragrances, co-composed by my friends <a href=""> Laurel </a> and <a href="">Sydney</a>. The writing offsets intelligence with humor in a way that's characteristic of both of their respective practices, and the topic happens to be relevant to my interests, as I've been studying up and experimenting recently with creating custom scents. Their first collected volume is available for download on their site - well worth a look. 

Cody Reis

1. Christopher Isherwood’s Christopher and His Kind (1976):

Some memories of the visit: Wystan writing indoors with the curtains drawn; Christopher writing out in the garden, with his shirt off in the sunshine… Wystan insisting on scrambling up a steep part of the Sintra hills, saying that they must get themselves into the mood of the mountaineers in their play; this was accompanied by laughter, lost footings, slitherings, and screams… Christopher and Heinz taking Wystan to see the horrible old afternoon gamblers at Estoril, thus inspiring him to write “Casino” (“Only their hands are living—“)… Wystan and Christopher sitting side by side on a sofa, posing for Heinz’s camera, as Wystan murmured a quotation from Yeats: “Both beautiful, one a gazelle.”

2. George Herbert’s “Prayer 1” (1633):

Prayer the church's banquet, angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth,
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tow'r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.

David Fishkind

The Recognitions by William Gaddis (1955) - Over the three weeks I read it, two summers ago, laughing and crying and experiencing a new excitement I didn't know I could feel toward literature, The Recognitions changed my life. I can recommend all of Gaddis's novels with zeal, but the extremes of sanctity and bullshit he exposes re God, art, language and intimate and business relationships alike are unrelenting, and leave me still incomparably moved and inspired. Traversing New York, Central America and much of Europe, it's a truly radical epic that deserves the status of Moby-Dick and Ulysses.

Springer's Progress by David Markson (1977) - I love Springer's Progress because it is both deceivingly dense and simplistic. It's Markson's last book with more than a shred of plot (to reduce it, about writer's block and adultery), and it's his first that is ready to immolate all that in favor of obsessive, shifty [self-]reference. It also largely takes place in a Greenwich Village bar.

The Rabbit novels by John Updike (1960-1990) - Here I'll employ my friend's descriptor of the tetralogy's protagonist, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, as a mirror for the reader; one of endless restlessness, angst and rumination sans enlightenment. I'll admit I've yet to finish Rabbit at Rest, but Updike's sheer, almost beachy readability helped me blow through the first three this summer and learn to love the rich mediocrity of Diamond County, PA. Between each installment our hero, and America, ages a decade, which, in lieu of having been able to experience that slow unfolding in real time, I think is pretty fun.

Drew Olivio

Forest Nash

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, because it continues to resonate with my life and thinking, especially with respect to beauty and the idealization of objects and concepts.

Ficciones, for example, by Borges, because even though everyone already knows and appreciates him and it's a cliche to recommend him, at least for me it's more valuable to read one of his stories again than just about anything else.

Francisco Codero-Oceguera

Roland Barthes, The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies.
From here I specifically recommend the Eiffel Tower essay. I read this early on in college and never once have I stopped bringing it up in conversations and arguments.

Roberto Bolaño, Una novelita lumpen
A woman, Bianca, recalls her life after the death of her parents at young age.
Of course I have to also mention Los detectives salvajes. Bolaño has been crucial for my understanding of naïve and seemingly unimportant gestures/actions as genuine and of worth.

Werner Herzog,
Conquest of the Useless
"At the market I ate a grilled monkey,- it looked like a naked child"

Jeff Baij

ursula k le guin: left hand of darkness

beautiful and impressionistic. sort of a science fiction thing insofar as we are on an alien planet and theres a space ship at one point but really its a wacked out road trip novel. 

joseph conrad: lord jim

classic joe ie: high seas adventure and jungle depths and lots of nested narratives about the dark souls of people well out of their depth etc. if u like perfect sentences this ur book.

martha stewarts cooking school

basically food boot camp. martha is da god and this book is the proof. dunno if u knew this but martha has been hit by lightning 3 times (look it up).

Nicole Spector

I just finished Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys and I really liked it/felt emotional after reading.

Although it's pretty dark, I recommend it because it's a short unforgiving story of a woman's absolute loneliness, self-loathing and aimlessness that I think everyone can relate to at times. It has a weird mix of nostalgia, alcohol induced confusion and constant internal monologue which makes for a very effective and crazy reading experience. 

Martine Syms

Barbara Demick, Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Nothing To Envy follows the story of six North Koreans and their families from the 1950s to the early aughts. Demick captures the everyday in precise, affecting language that helped me imagine unthinkable violence. My favorite part of the book is a passage about a sort-of couple and their long, late night walks in silence. It's one of the most heart-breaking scenes I've ever read. 

William Gibson, Count Zero
I'm having my Gibson phase later in life. Count Zero is the second book in his so-called "Sprawl Trilogy," which chronicles gangsters in nearish future America and their exploits in a metropolis that covers modern day New York to Atlanta. Gibson's cowboys come to life in cyberspace and his envisioning of that shared hallucination is still one of the best. 

Joshua Ferris, And Then We Came To The End
This is a book for creative creatives who spends most of their time creating creative creative. Ferris' hilarious novel, written in the collective first-person, outlines the day-to-day ennui of the Creative Class at a failing ad agency. It's a bitter workplace comedy that will make you want to quit your cool dayjob. 

Paul Forney

The White Album, Joan Didion
Hadn't read it until this summer. So good. Especially the pieces on moving water, traffic, and the Getty villa.

Marius the Epicurean, Walter Pater
Actually only read one chapter that was in another book - but it made me want to read the whole thing. Crazy perspective on early christianity and very romantic.

Anything by Christopher Glazek

Also just started rereading Glamorama. Feels especially stylish right now. Wish I talked like everyone in the book. 

Ryder Ripps

Cavet emptor is a good book tho

So is trumps secrets to success, collection of short essays by various entrepreneurs

Spencer Longo

Columbine by David Cullen

- Columbine came out 10 years after the actual shooting (which is revealed was actually a failed bombing attempt) and is the most extensive, detailed and thoughtful approach to the tragedy, its misrepresentations, and the effects it has had since. The second-by-second details of the actual shooting and the extensive character profiles of Dylan and Eric give a very tangible form to what was a much more abstract event when it occurred. I started reading this after reading Elliot Rodger's 'My Twisted World' manifesto.

Fischli and Weiss: The Way Things Go by Jeremy Millar

- Everyone already knows this work, but this book comes from the One Work series, a series published by Afterall books where one writer would explore a single work in depth. Jeremy MIllar's disparate influences and straightforward writing style are what makes this book great. He goes on tangents (and relates going on tangents to how The Way Things Go goes on tangents) quotes comedian Steven Wright, and generally brings in connections from every level of culture. Millar makes an already great work even more enjoyable.

Welcome to Calabasas: Home of Drake and the Kardashians, and Cradle of Reality-TV Culture by Molly Lambert
- A great article by Molly Lambert on the geography of celebrity post-housing crisis and the rise of the 'generic' as the new face of fame. 'Beige'-ness, faux-Mediterranean outdoor malls and the corporate headquarters of The Cheesecake Factory aesthetically embody the new hyper-normalcy.

Sydney Shen

La Maison de Rendez-Vous by Alain Robbe-Grillet

Short, sordid, meta-textual murder mystery set in British Colonial Hong Kong. Nothing makes sense in this Surreal Orientalist dreamscape complete with an erotic tiger mauling and cannibal banquet. In typical Robbe-Grillet fashion this book is non-linearly narrated by a completely unreliable character that is either amnesiac or under the influence of opium.

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

There we wer then in amongst the broakin stoans the grean rot and the number creaper with the rain all drenching down and peltering on them dead stoans stumps and stannings. Spattering on crumbelt conkreat and bustit birk and durdling in the puddls gurgling down the runnels of the dead town. Dog pong as wel a black smel in the grey rain. It wernt til then I even give a thot to why the kid mytve ben in the hoal. It wer like I jus ben progammit to go there and get him out. Now that wer done I wunnert what it wer all about. I said to him, "Whyd they have you in that hoal?"

I recommend this book to everyone! The titular character is a 12 year old boy who is exiled from his village and roams a post-apocalyptic landscape with wild dogs, while evading the corrupt Pry Mincer and his henchmen, who are on a quest for the technology to build a bomb. The characters fundamentally misunderstand human history in a way that is hilarious and disturbing. It's written in a unique vernacular English kind of like Nadsat from A Clockwork Orange but even bawdier and way looser.

Containing Uncertainty: Design for Infinite Quarantine by Jamie Kruse and Elisabeth Ellsworth

I had to read this short essay for a residency I just attended. It's about deep geologic repositories, which are massive dumping grounds meant to safely contain lethal waste for monumental amounts of time... like 100,000—1 million years. Humans have only been around for about 200,000 years. And who knows how much longer the species will exist. So how do we begin to conceive of and relate to what exceeds us? I think this essay is a very interesting introduction to thinking about the post-anthropocene and that kinda stuff that artists have been into lately :P

Wojciech Kosma

you should read my brilliant friend by elena ferrante

Zachary German

miranda july - it chooses you

on my day off i waited alone at my girlfriend's apartment for the Verizon guy to come set up her internet. her roommate had a copy of 'it chooses you.' i read it all in one sitting and was surprised and very moved

P.S. here are my three:

Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan - For those who like Games of Thrones and other such fantasy worlds this fourteen, (yes fourteen!) book series is fantasy dork heaven.  I am on book eleven and it’s like book crack candy.  When I read it I think my brain is shrinking due to the remedial sentence structure but I also feel like I am in a far away land full of the One Power, Aes Sedai and Trollocs.

Delta of Venus, Erotica by Anais Nin - Nin wrote erotica for a patron back in the 1940s for one dollar a page.  This is a compilation of these stories. It is not very good per se but it is stimulating in one-way or another.  Mostly it is interesting to see language used as a purposed tool, for sexual stimulation and also to think of how language as form and as art adjusts and or disappears as need and technology arise.

Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill - I read this a few months ago and it is still the last book I read that really moved me and made me slightly obsessive about reading as many works by O’Neill as possible.  It is delicate, deeply sad and drenched with physic energy.  It is one of those things that feel just about perfect and that is a rare and wonderful feeling.