Saturday, December 05, 2015

Years of the Book

All this began in November 2000, so think about that: fifteen years of blogging about books, eleven in this particular fortress, this particular prison house. My reading list of that first year includes books by Borges, Bernhard, Blanchot, Bellow, Teodolinda Barolini, Nicholson Baker and BS Johnson, while this year's list adds only Beckett to that odd focus; volume three of his letters. This year has been dominated by two other letters: Jen Craig, Rachel Cusk, Jill Stauffer, S.D. Chrostowska, Jeff Fort, Gabriel Josipovici, Todd Colby and Cormac McCarthy; volume one of the Border Trilogy. Next year I hope to explore other letters.

Two of the authors mentioned above affected the way I think about reading and writing to a disconcerting degree, as if nothing could ever be the same again. So, for what it's worth, my books of the year are Jeff Fort's The Imperative to Write and Josipovici's Migrations, the latter a novel published in 1977 and deserving of a reissue. Rather than repeat what I wrote at the time, please check the hyperlinks. You can also read about Migrations in Josipovici's new and exceptional interview with Victoria Best.

It's notable that in response to Best's comment about the "extraordinary elasticity" of his narratives – Migrations in particular, – and how "they open up new spaces in my mind", Josipovici says that "our bodies know more than we do" and "the task of art is to find forms and words that will allow the body to speak"; books "have a physically, not just emotionally or intellectually, restorative effect on the reader". It's notable because, in a strange contrast, despite summoning very similar feelings in me, the first of my two books of the year took months to read and write about while the second took only a few hours, suggesting that what they have in common exceeds regular critical reception, whose purpose might be to keep everything the same as ever, and to write about them is betray those feelings. How then to satisfy the need to speak about these books without resorting to gatekeeper clichés and rhetoric or the dead hand of Theory?

What recommends itself is a certain faith towards this excess, which might mean a faith in silence and indirection. Stumble forward This Space of Writing, a selection from ten years of this writing that is published this week with an introduction by Lars Iyer. A book for all these years.


Please email me at steve dot mitchelmore at gmail dot com.

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