Wednesday, November 28, 2012

His Books of the Year

This is the part of a books of the year entry you don’t read because you’re scanning to find the titles this writer has chosen. You haven't noticed his name but you'll check it once your own good judgement has been confirmed.

The first is Karl O. Knausgaard’s My Struggle, a popular one this year – you’ve registered the title already because he was chosen in that other list in that other place by that other guy – who was it? Visceral realism blah scandal in Norway blah full of profound insights blah. Oh look, there are the names of Marcel Proust and Thomas Bernhard again, the authors Knausgaard is already being compared to, neither of which you’ve read, though you keep meaning to. It makes you feel alienated and demoralised. Look, there are so many translations and editions of Proust to choose from. What was the title again? And which Thomas Bernhard novel is a good place to start?

You see there are still three paragraphs to go and you’re thinking: enough with the summaries already! You relax a little because the next choice is Enrique Vila-Matas’ Dublinesque. The title is so warm and attractive. You see that it’s set around Bloomsday, which is something you’ve wanted to attend for years. Admittedly, you tried and failed to read Ulysses for a university course, but you prefer Radio 4’s dramatisation because it cut through all the verbiage and made the book accessible. Anyway, the novel is about Dublin isn’t it? That should be enough. You had a city break there a few years back and had such a good time in the pubs. Everyone is so friendly! But what’s that he’s saying? It’s about the end of the Gutenberg Era, the end of literature as we know it? What nonsense: has he seen my shelf of Ian Rankin first editions?

You skip the third paragraph because he’s chosen Quentin Meillassoux’s The Number and the Siren, a book by a French philosopher about a French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, specifically his poem Un Coup de Dés, which you’ve never heard of let alone read. It’s in French! What if it is a revelation and not what you might expect – a momentous study of the place and meaning of poetry in post-religious society? That’s just pretentious.

The final paragraph intrigues you and is the only one that you read in full because it is the shortest and the chooser is obviously passionate about Infinity: The Story of a Moment, Gabriel Josipovici’s novel based on the life of a real composer. That sounds more your kind of thing: you like biographies.

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