Category Archives: BSRAYDEKWTDWT

“We are ranking the great shipwrecks”: Books Read in 2019


Yesterday, I finished Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds and I’ve been slowly moseying my way through this collection of essays about Elizabeth Bishop. So here’s my breakdown of my reading for 2019:

Books read in 2019: 170
Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 42
Books of poetry included in reading total: 8
Books reread included in reading total: 5
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 15
YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 26
Roleplaying Game-related books (rules, modules, settings – related to this research): 3 [I’m mainly writing up findings from this work now; unless something substantial changes next year, I’ll stop tracking these texts at this point.]

Some thoughts (as usual, here are my posts on books read in 201820172016201520142013201220112010, and 2009):

Rather than bury the lede, I’ll share that Ally and I welcomed twins into our family in July. They are (usually) great! I’ll be referring to them by their middle names on this blog moving forward: Luna and Max.

Okay. So, the first half of the year was taken up with a lot of pregnancy-related books, most of which offered conflicting advice. (As parents might predict, the summer was filled with books related to baby sleep habits. These, too, largely offered competing and unhelpful advice; yes, I changed them and fed them and swaddled the hell out of them already.) The world of publishing around pregnancy and twins/multiples is much more limited and I found bits and pieces of these books useful in reducing some of the stress we felt in the first two trimesters; but I thought these were also pretty bad for the most part. (I may go more in depth on the pregnancy/parenting book genre in a longer post because I have #feelings about these texts, the market for literally the most mundane yet precious aspect of human culture, and the pedagogical expectations of mainstream books.) On the off chance that any readers are expecting twins in the near future (congrats!), feel free to get in touch–I’m happy to share some specific recommendations.

Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir, In the Dream Housewas the best book I read this year. Intentionally unsettling, Machado pushes on the boundaries of form and genre while excavating trauma and abuse in a book that’s unlike anything else I’ve come across. It’s definitely a BSRAYDEKWTDWT-contender and, considering how much I liked Her Body and Other Parties, Machado is a new favorite writer. 

And while I realize it got a ton of press, I would universally recommend Chanel Miller’s Know My Name. It’s not a pleasant read but I am grateful to have gotten to learn from Miller’s words.

Though eight doesn’t look like much in comparison to other kinds of books account for, I read a lot more poetry than in recent years. I’m going to shoot for one collection per month in 2020.To be honest, I was kicked back into a poetry mood as I ruminated on the loss of musician and poet David Berman earlier this year. Rereading his collection, Actual Air, was a painful reminder of Berman’s genius and humor, the title of this post comes from this collection. Likewise, I’ve been regularly coming back to Zadie Smith’s reading of Frank O’Hara’s “Animals.” The text has crept into a couple of my academic talks and part of it serves as an epigraph for a short essay coming out in 2020.

Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon was the weird, overly long sci-fi novel I had fun getting sucked into. It feels like only due to largesse did Ted Chiang release a new collection of stories this year. It is, of course, impeccable.

In terms of comics, Tom King’s Mister Miracle is a refreshing take on the superhero genre (and maybe a spiritual sequel to his Vision run). Not unlike In The Dream House, it’s a stunning mix of fitting within the confines of genre and form while also channeling pathos through every page. I also found the diary-style comics of Keiler Roberts to be exactly the sense of humor and reflection to take me through a sleep-deprived fall. Her most recent, Rat Time, is as good a place to start as any.

For a year and a half now, a couple colleagues and I have been systematically reading select YA books published across the past two decades. As a result, I read a lot of YA I didn’t like this year. I’ll note that—as frustrating and #problematic as I found the series—the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants offers some interesting ideas around multimodal literacies. (Years too late to be any kind of warning, I’ll also note that the final book in the series is infuriating.) Also surprising, I found Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen was an intriguing book for thinking about trauma, romance, and multimodal composition. I guess you could probably say that about 70% of YA books, but how many of them feature a corded house phone, a parental car phone, and a cell phone all at the same time? It’s a pretty revelatory reflection of now-discarded social uses of technology from just a decade ago. As a recent book, Jason Reynolds’ novelization of Miles Morales: Spider-Man hit the comic’s tone perfectly while still hitting the same emotional and critical notes that I’ve come to consistently appreciate in Reynolds’ books.


In terms of music, I’ve been trying to play only female artists around the house to orient around dominant voices my kids hear singing as they grow up. We have a Luna and Max playlist that is bratty and whiny and loud. I try to cycle through that as much as I can. I’m thinking of collecting the scrapbook pieces of media—on that playlist or otherwise—and sharing sporadically on this blog in the future.

FKA twigs’ Magdalene was my favorite album of the year.

For being my least favorite album that they’ve put out, I really like Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride.

I did a lot of writing, in equal measure to Colleen Green’s album length cover of Blink 182’s Dude Ranch and to Sunn O)))’s Pyroclasts.

Synth-y, gloomy pop feels like the right vibe for 2019 in terms of national malaise. I’ve been listening to the new Black Marble album a bunch lately. 

Lastly, six years ago I closed my year-end post noting that I’d been listening to this live version of Yo La Tengo’s song “Nowhere Near.” We use the album version as the song we play during Luna and Max’s bedtime routine, so—by sheer repetition—it’s the song I probably heard the most in 2019 and that’s great. Here’s the album version to help you put your year to rest.

“Gnawing my way back home”: Books Read in 2015


I’m currently halfway through Paul Murray’s The Mark and the Void and not likely to finish it before 2015 is over. For the 7th year in a row, here’s my breakdown of books read over the past year:

Books read in 2015: 162
Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 28
Books of poetry included in reading total: 3
Books reread included in reading total: 4
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 45
YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 13
Roleplaying Game-related books (rules, modules, settings – related to this research work): 22

A few thoughts (As usual, here are my posts on books read in 2014,  2013201220112010, and 2009):

Two different sci-fi novels – perhaps thematically related – were highlights of the fiction I read this year: Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora were robust with ideas, questions, and plot hooks that I continue to ponder nuances from them. I also really liked Station Eleveneven if I wasn’t in search of another post-apocalyptic yarn it was an unputdownable book.

It’s been a while, but volumes one and two of Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar were the enticing reads that returned me to the BSRAYDEKWTDWT genre.

Three different music related books I can recommend:The memoirs by Kim Gordon and by Carrie Brownstein were unflinching and feminist looks inside two tumultuous rock bands I’ve spent a lot of time listening to. And unrelated but Leon Neyfakh’s The Next Next Level was the music biography about a musician I didn’t know that I didn’t know I needed to read. (I would encourage curious readers to listen to the two podcast episodes of No Effects with Jesse Cohen where he talks with the author of the book and with the musician Juiceboxxx.)

In terms of non-fiction, there was no book more important or more affecting this year than Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. Enough has been written about this book that you don’t really have an excuse for not reading it at this point. Do it.

Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation is a book that I’ve been chewing on and thinking about over the past two months.

In terms of more popular non-fiction, Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed was the book that created some of the more entertaining conversations and arguments with friends. Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance was the book you give to a friend because it looks like another comedian’s memoir but ends up actually being a pretty impressive empirical, social science study.

In terms of other media consumption in 2015, there was no better live music experience this year than seeing Kamasi Washington with family and friends play a flawless and touching (and nearly three hour long) set. Epic indeed.

I listened to the Lady Lamb and the Beekeeper album a bunch (yes, that’s really her name and yeah, I know). The track “Billions of Eyes” lends a lyric as the title of this year’s post.

Other albums I listened to a lot were Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly, the Hamilton Broadway Cast Recording, Miguel’s Wildheart, and Chance the Rapper’s collaborative album with the jazz group the Social Experiment. (Check out Chance’s performance on SNL from earlier this month:)

When it comes to writing, I’ve been regularly listening to this Four Tet album, the titular Viet Cong record, and Jaime XX. (Did I mention, I published two books this year? It was an intense year for writing.)

What did you read and listen to in 2015? What are you looking forward to in the new year?

“sung from the grave by a ghost who doesn’t know he’s dead”: Books Read in 2012

Another year in reading and I’m left tallying and questioning. Much of my research lately focuses on what counts as reading. A healthy portion of the books included here are audiobooks (I’ve mentioned previously they are usually listened to at double speed). Is that reading? As one of my students noted, it’s more like “like reading.” Similarly, the seemingly random line between what’s tallied and what’s not is problematic. My list favors the bound not the stapled. Early in 2012 I read Who Is Jake Ellis as a trade paperback collection of comic books. I am currently reading the second arc of this story, Where is Jake Ellis in serialized form, one issue each month as they are released. When this is done, these comics (and the many, many more that I’ll read) won’t be tallied here. Nor will the single chapters of books or many journal articles I’ll dive into. Nor will the hundreds of blog posts I’ll swim through. Or the Youtube comments or cooking recipes or the or the ortheorthe. I only catalog so much of my life and, at least for this annual post, I’ve decided it’s going to be things that are bound and things that typically have isbns. Further, as the number of YA texts I read continues to increase, I am interested in what is typically considered “academic.” For example, I guarantee you that reading Gossip Girl this year was a purely academic effort, despite the fact that it’s not counted as such in this year’s list. All that ranting being ranted, here’s the list:

Books read in 2012: 121
Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 23
Books of poetry included in reading total: 2
Books reread included in reading total: 7
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 21
YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 32

A few thoughts and highlights (and here are my posts on books read in 20112010, and 2009):

In terms of fiction, I find myself thinking back most frequently to Steve Erickson’s These Dreams of You. There is a longer discussion of race, representation, and privilege within the book that I think Erickson somewhat glides beyond. However, it’s a book that I really enjoyed and was generally overlooked this year.

I spent more time this year with 1Q84 than any other book. It was a text that dragged me slowly and resistantly into its long and patient world. I found it stereotypical and misogynistic to begin with only to be pulled into the surreal double-mooned realm of Murakami’s latest off-kilter universe.

Not a whole lot, again, in terms of BSRAYDEKWTDWT (that is: Books So Ridiculously Awesome You Don’t Even Know What To Do With Them). However, Chris Ware’s Building Stories is such a great example of the genre that I’m reserving discussion of it for a future post on literacies, archiving, geography and exploration. Suffice to say that Ware’s work is so universally acclaimed that one has to just throw a digital rock and you’ll hit a link or two or three or four praising the book.

I really liked Many Subtle Channels by Daniel Levin Becker. Essentially an insider’s history of the Oulipo, the book is neither overly academic nor entirely focused on the landscape of experimental literature. Instead the unique personalities, voices, and movements of a group of writers emerge in a compellingly readable book. Anyone interested even remotely in the idea of “experimental” or playful literature should take a look at Becker’s book.

In terms of comics, I finally tackled Duncan the Wonder Dog and feel it deserves the smattering of acclaim it’s garnered from a generally small readership. A page from the book is at the top of the post and with nearly every page of the book as intricately labored upon as this one, the book’s depth and design match the complex ethical exploration of the relationship between animals and human.

Gabrielle Bell’s collection of comic diaries The Voyeurs was also a powerful image-based book I appreciated and continued to reflect upon this year. It reminded me of a hyper-verbal version of Lewis Trondheim’s Little Nothings series. The sequence detailing Bell’s experiences at the San Diego Comic Con were particularly entertaining to view.

Like his documentary films, I found Errol Morris’ Believing is Seeing engrossing and challenging. The questions about truth and image and representation reminded me of the best of some of Weschler’s book length profiles. Morris is deliberate in how he makes and develops a thesis and I can imagine each of the essays in the book acting as useful examplars for multimodal argumentation.

Finally, I concluded this year by tackling Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. All of them. I’m still reflecting over the relationship between the series and a certain boy wizard with a lightning bolt on his head. I’m also interested in the linguistic development of the book, particularly Sunny’s developing babble over the thirteen books and the way it exhibits a kind of double consciousness (if anyone has any academic texts related to the Snicket series, the are appreciated).

As 2013 approaches, I am halfway through Sergio de la Pava’s A Naked Singularity. The book’s frenetic jumps from courtrooms to meetings with clients to bitching about said clients to family gatherings to insane neighbors and more than a few encounters between the protagonist and Uncle Sam and a Chimpanzee make the book one I’m enjoying at a slow, winter’s pace.

Fact Vs. Truth: About that Whole This American Life Retraction Thing

Mike Daisey: We have different world views on some of these things. I agree with you truth is really important.

Ira Glass: I know but I feel like I have the normal worldview. The normal worldview is somebody stands on stage and says ‘this happened to me,’ I think it happened to them, unless it’s clearly labeled as ‘here’s a work of fiction.’

The recent hubbub over This American Life’s retraction of their recent-ish episode, “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory” has been thrilling to watch over the 24 hours of the announcement.

As someone that reacted strongly to the original episode and appreciated what seemed like a rise in investigation into the labor conditions of the devices I surround myself with, I felt like this was a necessary work in the same way that TAL’s “Giant Pool of Money” basically made clear the whole financial fiasco of the past few years in less than an hour. At its best, This American Life allows listeners to feel and empathize with big (sometimes confusing) ideas. It also  allows listeners to connect with people whose lives are nothing like their own. I felt kinship with Chik-Fil-A fanatics, prison inmates, and a mom with a certain contempt for the Little Mermaid.

Which all makes me wonder just how necessary “fact” is in my learning “truth” from episodes of This American Life.

Last month, while stuck in the middle seat of an airplane, I read The Lifespan of a Fact. It (like The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet) is one of those books I immediately felt the need to buy numerous copies so I could hand it to friends, strangers, anyone(!) and say, “Here, read this, please, it’s incredible just open it up and look at it!”

I mean seriously, look at this book:

The heated exchanges between an author and fact-checker surround the original, submitted manuscript. It is an initially confusing text to dive into and it is a worthwhile addition to BSRAYDEKWTDWT.

At the end of the day, The Lifespan of a Fact asks the same question that rears its head in the current This American Life retraction. Namely: what is the role of truth in advocacy, in journalism, in connecting human empathy with human crisis.*

My overall feeling sides with Ira and Co. and the browbeaten copy-editor, Jim Fingal. I tend to think that fact triumphs artistic revelry. Even when the writer or artist or media producer is really really good. At the same time, Daisey’s performance shed light on issues in a style that connected with people across the country. John D’Agata’s article on depression and suicide and Las Vegas gave me an insight into the town that now challenges how I see the city.

I doubt that anyone fact checks David Sedaris. And when Jonathan Franzen suggested that David Foster Wallace made up accounts for his non-fiction works, most people tended to think Franzen was a jerk.

We derive truth less from statistics and dates and transcribed quotes than from the nuanced tacit knowledge of being, exploring, and feeling. Though this is not a defense of Daisey (I suspect he, like Franzen, is also a bit of a jerk), I do wonder what is the role fact when I think people tend to listen to This American Life for truth.


*and lest you think that this book is a factual representation of author and fact-checker locked in a timeless tussle … again truth trumps fact.

“I remember downcast eyes and secret whims”: Books Read in 2010

Seeing how I’m only pages into the 1000+ page novel The Instructions and likely won’t be finished anytime soon, now seems like an appropriate time to review my year in reading. Again, discounting the many articles and chapter selections that have been thumbed, read, and annotated, here’s a breakdown of what my reading time was spent with:

Books read in 2010: 108

Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 17

Books of poetry included in reading total: 

Books reread included in reading total: 3

Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 23

YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 19

A few thoughts and highlights (maybe you wan’t to compare them to last year’s):

The single best short story collection I’ve read in a long, long time is Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. If you take no other recommendations, I strongly recommend seeking this one out.

In terms of highlights, my year ended with a run of rather fantastic fiction that came out this year. In particular, Skippy Dies and Room were tremendously fun reads I can’t imagine anyone disliking. Enough praise (and criticism) has been heaped on Freedom to make anything else here seem like hyperbole. Be that as it may, I struggled getting through the first third or so of this book before it completely enveloped me and left me just awed by the end – the last sentence perhaps the apotheosis of a stellar text. Along the lines of popular novels, I am left wanting to know Larson’s larger plot arc for the Millennium series. As formulaic as the texts were, I’ll admit to having been caught up in all three when reading them.

A fitting addition to the BSRAYDEKWTDWT collection, Tree of Codes is as beautiful as it is perplexing a read. The process of creation (both by the author and the publisher) is thrilling and the end result is as much art-ifact as it is poetic narrative. This post’s title and image are representative of the lucid wakefulness that is evoked through the cobweb-like pages that stick and pull from each other.

I also spent a significant chunk of reading time on YA and junior fiction, which is probably one of the best tips I can give to newer teachers; having a handful of tomes you can book talk to the most wayward of readers will go miles in keeping reading sustained throughout the year. As much as I flew through popular works like the Hunger Games Trilogy, I Am Number Four*, and the Uglies, I would point to Looking For Alaska as the title I keep coming back to. Just a great read as a whole and I can’t say that John Green’s other works have disappointed both in the classroom and as leisure reading. Going Bovine is also a quick read, despite its heft. For a slightly younger audience, Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me is great. The ending felt telegraphed from the opening chapters and yet I still felt myself caught up emotionally in the way Marino pulls the plot together nicely in the concluding pages.

Essex County is a great graphic novel – so different from Lemire’s current series, Sweet Tooth. I recommend both as entry points for people that don’t consider themselves comic book readers.

Oh, I’m pretty sure that Stoner is heaped with praise annually by anyone that encounters it. That being said, it is just incredible. If you don’t believe me, the singer of the band that put out my favorite album of the year also agrees [music of 2010 post to follow shortly].

* The story behind this series, its author, and his marketing plan are a pretty fun (if somewhat infuriating) read too.

An Anecdoted Typography of Chance: BSRAYDEKWTDWT

“And besides, it’s a kind of game, a kind of game like dice. You ask what’s this? No. 15? You never or only rarely will you know what it is, because for example when you think … well here, there are twenty or so bottles, and …”

– Daniel Spoerri

Last week I finished reading Daniel Spoerri’s An Anecdoted Typography of Chance. It is a worthy addition to the series of BSRAYDEKWTDWT (as defined – by me – in this post as Books So Ridiculously Awesome You Don’t Even Know What To Do With Them).  I don’t remember in what context, but I know that this book was recommended by friend and all around recommendor of awesome things, Tosh. I encourage everyone to check out the books he publishes as creator of Tam Tam Books.

In any case, the description on the back of the book will best explain how the Typography functions:

What is the Topography? Hard to explain an idea so simple yet so brilliantly executed. Following a rambling conversation with his dear friend Robert Filliou, Daniel Spoerri one day mapped the objects lying at random on the table of his room, adding a rigorously scientific decription of each. These objects subsequently evoked associations, memories, anecdotes; not only from the original author, but from his friends as well: a beguiling creation was born. Many of the principal participants of FLUXUS make an appearance (and texts by Higgins, Jouffroy, Kaprow, Restany, and Tinguely are included, among others). It is a novel of digressions in the manner of Tristram Shandy or Robbe-Grillet; it’s a game, a poem, an encyclopaedia, a cabinet of wonders: a celebration of friendship and creativity.

The map of the table-top has been reproduced as a fold-out at the back of the book.

As Spoerri writes, “Without the outline the Typography wouldn’t make any sense, and without the text the outline wouldn’t make sense.”

It’s not really a secret that I’ve long been a fan of experimental literature and the way folks like the Oulipo play with form. What I liked here was the way this single momentary unit of items functions as a portal into stories. As one object refers to another, we are chased down one rabbit hole of story to another. We twist into etymology and are thrown back to autobiography with a tube of glue or an inauspicious collection of bread crumbs. Though Spoerri’s credited as the author, the interplay between the other contributors both across translations and across time elucidates the way stories unfold unexpectedly based on the personal stances we take towards objects.

It doesn’t look like there are any cheap copies of this floating around online – I’m not really sure where or how I acquired my copy, but it is the same version as the link at the beginning of this post. In any case, I can imagine students creating their own Typographies of Chance as a useful means of telling concrete stories. I can imagine entire constellations of student typographies overlapping haphazardly and inculcating the youth in a network of authorship.


I’ll stand rank-in-file with other bibliophiles about the graceful perfection that is a book’s form. It – in its compact design and wealth of stored, permanent (read-only) memory – is a supreme and methuselah-istic technology.

That being said, the playful aspects of experimental literature are provoking in the way they push this form beyond the typical confines of the bound novel. Yes, the plethora of electronic literature is where most people suspect literature to move toward (Hayles’ latest book – both bound and digital –  likely the best source for work on this). However, there’s something to be said for the tangible nature of the occasional experimental text. As such, here are two recent works that I’ve been fascinated by:

The Unfortunates by B. S. Johnson arrives in a box, though it looks unremarkable on the shelf (the side of the box acting as spine of a “regular” novel). However, upon opening the “book” the contents and their instructions are revealed:

[Note: This novel has twenty-seven sections, temporarily held together by a removable wrapper. Apart from the first and last sections (which are marked as such) the other twenty-five sections are intended to be read in random order. If readers prefer not to accept the random order in which they receive the novel, then they may re-arrange the sections into any other order before reading.]

After reading Johnson’s novel, I’ll say I was underwhelmed only by the fact that the book did exactly what I hoped it would; I felt like I was thrown into the random, haphazard way that memory unfolds and takes hold. I could empathize with the method but still felt like the story itself was secondary to the experiment. Regardless, there’s a wonderful bio on Johnson that I’ve been plotting to read sooner than later.

On the opposite end of the extreme, Correspondences by Ben Greenman is such a lavishly letter-pressed trinket of a box that I fret doing the kind of serious reading that has crippled many a text that has come across my path.

Correspondences next to Greaser Duck and another book for size comparison.

Apparently limited (mine being numbered 151 of 250), Correspondences includes several stories printed on the text as well as folded on pamphlets. Unlike Johnson’s text, Greenman’s makes you aware of the object as you relate to its contents. I think this combination is what I find as a portal toward more organic experimental literature (I think, for instance, of the way House of Leaves, by the simple dimensions of its cover is literally a text that does not fit within the bound book – a realization you make by holding the paperback).

And while it sounds like future editions of Correspondences will be printed (likely in a more traditional form), that version’s text is in our hands (figuratively … and maybe literally). The story “What He’s Poised To Do” is an incomplete text. A series of postcards help build the links between the elements of Greenman’s text. However, these postcards need to still be written … by us! Though the Correspondences box comes with its own sample postcards, we are invited to add to the fiction that Greenman has started. I’m interested in using this in my classroom. Maybe Greenman has a few collaborators? Maybe one of them is you?

Yes, I realize that McSweeney’s has done several issues of their Quarterly in boxes and other shapes, including something along the lines of the way Johnson incorporates chance into his work. However, I feel the above two texts are exemplary. There’s a feeling of commitment by the author when presented with an entire work by an author in an otherwise unusual form. Worthwhile additions to the growing shelf of BSRAYDEKWTDWT.


At the Comic-Con this year, had the pleasure of randomly stumbling across the Igloo Tornado booth. Last year, I bought the awesome Tom Neely book, The Blot, and have enjoyed some great mailing list fodder as a result.

This year, I was excited to discover that Jason Shiga was perched at the booth. Shiga’s Bookhunter is easily one of the funniest, most entertaining books I’ve read. A detective action thriller, Bookhunter follows a determined agent on the lookout for library related chicanery.

Based on this book alone, I pretty much bought the other Shiga titles on the table. Including this:

It wasn’t until looking through the book, later, that I realized that this is easily a contender in my newly created genre: Books So Ridiculously Awesome You Don’t Even Know What To Do With Them (BSRAYDEKWTDWT). Really, look at this book. It looks awesome and you won’t know how to read it (the book will in fact chastise you if you program it incorrectly).

See, the book is divided into two smaller sections. As a result, the book is a programmable comic story run by a “paper engine.” The directions are intuitive and fun. The result is a surprisingly difficult set of puzzle adventures.

I went back the next day to buy as many copies of Hello World as I could afford for friends. Unfortunately, that only meant two more. Self published, printed, and bound, Hello World can’t be the easiest book to produce on a large scale. However, considering the amount of complex thought that has gone into revving up this engine, I’d hope more people will get to see this at some point.

Well done, Shiga.

Books for Perusing and the Introduction of a new Genre: BSRAYDEKWTDWT

As usual, I’m juggling 4 long-ish books at the moment (and the unyielding commitment to finish Infinite Jest, even if it’s only at a 2-3 page-a-day pace).

However, I’ve also been regularly thumbing my way through a handful of books of shorter material. Thought I’d share some of the highlights of these thumb-intensive texts:

Separations by Marilyn Hacker – Intense collection of poetry from the ‘70s I found for cheap. The slightly torn dust jacket with the creepy Magritte painting makes me consistently pick this up. I usually end up rereading the first poem in the collection and freaking out at the fact that I bought this at the same time that I’ve been listening to a an album that quotes from this collection (that would be the supremely great Alopecia by Why who turns the following line into a dirge-like call to arms: “Billy the Kid did what he did and he died”).

The Most of It by Mary Ruefle – Another female poet, but this is actually a collection of (often very) brief prose. The stories are of the wacky, you’re-not-supposed-to-be-able-to-do-that variety. I’ll admit I was a sucker for the book’s design. That the content is just as solidly crafted comes as a sort of awesome bonus.

Novels in Three Lines by Felix Feneon – Hundreds of single sentence news items that ran in the French newspaper Le Matin during the early 1900s. The power of these sentences (as one demigod Luc Sante describes in a fantastic introduction) is the way Feneon reveals and builds suspense through the end. Each story reveals another aspect from the seedier side of France – sex, drugs, violence, car accidents, abuse, are the norm. Here’s an example drawn entirely at random: “Le Verbeau his Marie Champion right on her breasts, but burned his eye, because acid is not a precision weapon” (page 83). You’ll either love it or you’ll feel the need to read one more to be fully convinced … so here you go: “The tramp Bors, all bloody, was on the road near Acheres. He had been on the receiving end of his friend Bonin’s truncheon” (page 107). There are more than a thousand of these collected. So good.

Hall of Best Knowledge by Ray Fenwick – I’m still not sure to make of this one. Every once in a while you’ll get a book that you just don’t even know what to do with. These get filled into the category of Books So Ridiculously Awesome You Don’t Even Know What To Do With Them (BSRAYDEKWTDWT). I don’t mean that the content is necessarily confusing. I mean that when you pick up the book and riffle through the pages you literally don’t know how you are suppose to use the book. What is the book’s function? How am I supposed to engage with this text? Examples of this include the Dictionary of the Khazars (I actually only own the female copy of this text), the Internet and Everyone (as recommended by Ms. DeWitt), and A Humument (I own two different versions of this one). Usually these become some of the most interesting books in my library. I have a feeling the Hall of Best Knowledge will be joining their ranks soon. From what I’m able to grasp, each page is a dense synergy of design, image, and text. Some are narrative based some are just head scratchers. The collection is baffling. I can’t get myself to read/look at more than one or two of these at any given time. I set the book down frustrated, inspired, and dumbfounded that there’s nothing that even comes close to the originality of this collection.