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2013 Book Roundup

Started off the year doing something I don't know that I've done before, reading through an author's body of work, then reading their biography. Richard Brautigan isn't someone I've ever had a particular interest in, but William Hjortsberg's biography of him intrigued me, and I'm not inclined to read a literary biography without first being familiar with the author's work. Brautigan certainly didn't become one of my favorites, and the biography came from a questionable angle (given that Hjortsberg was a friend of Brautigan's, he inevitably shows up in the narrative and refers to himself in third person), but the whole thing overall was a fun ride. There's always a greater sense of completion when you read not just the author's work, but their life story and how their famous projects came together.

Elsewhere in my fiction pursuits, I attempted a lot of "series" type things, which seems like a bad idea, given my aversion to multiple books about the same characters/stories. I enjoy Game of Thrones on TV well enough, but the books are atrociously written, and if I have to see Martin's laughably ridiculous, "I've always considered women to be people," quote one more time, I might bash my head open on a sharp rock. I believe the line you're looking for, Mr. Martin, is, "I've always considered women to be cleanly-stenciled, irritating archetypes."

I attempted to finish out Margaret Atwood's post-apocalyptic trilogy with MaddAddam and, sadly, just couldn't do it. She remains a favorite writer of mine, but I'm just not as into her science fiction as I am her other writing. My big project was Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I'm one volume in and loving it, just having trouble creating an atmosphere of little distraction in which to read and absorb it.

On the poetry side of things, I dug through a few collected works, the heaviest being John Ashbery's, though it was immensely fulfilling, both from a reader's and writer's standpoint. There are endless things to learn about the craft of poetry from reading and rereading Ashbery, as well as Louise Gluck and Seamus Heaney. I also discovered some great poets I'd never read before, like Andrea Cohen, Jim Daniels, Joshua Corey, and Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, who wrote my favorite book of this year, Hello, The Roses. It isn't widely read, but I love that there continues to be an endless supply of great poetry in the world, and I look forward to discovering even more of it, next year.

Below is my "Read In 2013" list. It was a pretty sparse reading year, for me, compared, at least, to the previous year. Additionally, I'm not too happy about the lack of diversity in form, as I seem to have unintentionally stuck mostly to fiction and poetry. My 2014 goals include stirring more nonfiction into the pot, probably in the form of literary biographies. I've had Dostoyevsky's staring at me for a while, and I've recently acquired a few others that look promising, but, as my style is to read the author's work first, any of them would be a time-consuming project to take on. I fully intend to commit to finishing the Proust volumes (another time-eating monster - noticing a pattern, much?). I took a break from poetry towards the end of this year, and I need to get back into reading that regularly, especially as it tends to jump start my writing (and my writing progress/goals is a whole other entry I won't even go into). The only graphic novels I may make time for next year are The Walking Dead Compendiums (I've read the first one, but definitely need to reread it), and I really haven't been in the mood for plays or chapbooks, so we'll see if my interest in those picks up.

To a productive, stimulating, and literary 2014. B)

Fiction

The Abortion – Richard Brautigan
Revenge of the Lawn – Richard Brautigan
The Hawkline Monster – Richard Brautigan
Dreaming of Babylon – Richard Brautigan
Tenth of December – George Saunders
Chrome Yellow – Aldous Huxley
Good Bones and Simple Murders – Margaret Atwood
The Night Trilogy – Elie Wiesel
A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
A Clash of Kings – George R.R. Martin
Ada – Vladimir Nabokov
Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
Swann’s Way – Marcel Proust
The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
MaddAddam – Margaret Atwood (unfinished)
Light Boxes – Shane Jones

Poetry

Wait – C.K. Williams
Collected Poems – Louise Gluck
Collected Poems 1956 – 1987 – John Ashbery
Notes From the Air: Selected Later Poems – John Asbery
Plainsphere – John Ashbery
Begging For It – Alex Dimitrov (twice)
Quick Question: New Poems – John Ashbery
A Crash of Rhinos – Paisley Rekdal
Autobiography of Red – Anne Carson
Red Doc > - Anne Carson
The Apple Trees at Olema – Robert Hass
Different Hours – Stephen Dunn
Long Division – Andrea Cohen
Kentucky Derby – Andrea Cohen
The Hundred Grasses – Leila Wilson
The Year of the Rooster – Noah Eli Gordon
Slow Lightning – Eduardo C. Corral
What Is Amazing – Heather Christie
In A Beautiful Country – Kevin Prufer
Life on Mars – Tracy K. Smith
Fragile Acts – Allan Peterson
Show and Tell – Jim Daniels
Having A Little Talk with Capital P Poetry – Jim Daniels
Severance Songs – Joshua Corey
Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 – Seamus Heaney
District Circle – Seamus Heaney
Hello, The Roses – Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge
The Unknown University – Roberto Bolano

Non Fiction

Jubilee Hitchhiker – William Hjortsberg
Notes of a Native Son – James Baldwin
The Language Instinct – Steven Pinker
Proust’s Overcoat – Lorenza Foschini
The Reason I Jump
I Am Malala – Malala
Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books – Nick Hornby

Graphic Novels

Building Stories – Chris Ware

Chapbooks

Then – David Greenspan (Turtleneck Press)
Americans, Guests, or Us – Caren Beilin (New Michigan Press)
The Flung You – Lucy Anderton (New Michigan Press)
No – Ocean Vuong (Yes Yes Books)

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