Mina Loy Insel
Isaac Bashevis Singer The Magician of Lublin
Clarice Lispector Near to the Wild Heart
John Hawkes The Blood Oranges
Dear Writer, Dear Actress: The Love Letters of Anton Chekhov And Olga Knipper
Max Rostal Beethoven: The Sonatas for Piano and Violin
Willa Cather My Antonia
Beatrix Lehmann Rumour of Heaven
Burton Kaplan Practicing for Artistic Success
D.H. Lawrence The Complete Stories (vol 3)
Herman Melville Battle Pieces
Saint John of the Cross The Ascent of Mount Carmel
Frances Harper Iola Leroy
Marly Youmans The Foliate Head
Henry James "The Story of a Masterpiece"
Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar A Mind at Peace
Henry James "A Most Extraordinary Case"
D.H. Lawrence Birds, Beasts and Flowers
Henry James "Crawford's Consistency"
Georgi Gospodinov Natural Novel
Henry James "An International Episode"
Kerana Angelova Elada Pinyo and Time
Henry James "The Impressions of a Cousin"
Henry James "Crapy Cornelia"
Henry James "A Round of Visits"
W.E.B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk
Anton Chekhov "The Bear"
Anton Chekhov "A Proposal"
J. G. Farrell Troubles
Anton Chekhov "A Jubilee"
Anton Chekhov "Ivanov"
Anton Chekhov "The Seagull"
William Faulkner Light in August
Anton Chekhov "Uncle Vanya"
Daniel Levitin This is Your Brain on Music
Iris Murdoch Nuns and Soldiers
Leo Tolstoy War and Peace
Isaiah Berlin The Hedgehog and the Fox
Invitation to German PoetryGeorge Eliot Middlemarch
Yasunari Kawabata Beauty and Sadness
Elie Wiesel Night
Saltykov-Shchedrin "The Eagle: Patron of the Arts"
Vsevolod Garshin "Four Days"
Vsevolod Garshin "The Red Flower"
Anton Chekhov "Death of a Government Clerk"
Anton Chekhov "Sergeant Prishibeyev"
Anton Chekhov "The Grasshopper"
Anton Chekhov "The House with the Mezzanine"
The Brothers Grimm Household Stories
Maxim Gorky "Chelkash"
Ivan Bunin "Brothers"
Frank Kermode The Sense of an Ending
Joshua Mohr Fight Song
Kevin Brockmeier The Brief History of the Dead
Joan Chase During the Reign of the Queen of Persia
F. Scott Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise
The poems in Marly Youmans' The Foliate Head are startling, vivid and strange. Excellent stuff. As I was reading the book, I had a powerful urge to set aside all of my current work and write a novel based on a tangential image inspired by the poetry. I managed to restrain myself, which was probably either a mistake or a blessing. I tell you that Youmans is a great poet, deserving a much wider audience. I can't remember if she'll have something new out in 2019. I hope so.
For my new project of Reading A Lot of Contemporary American Fiction, I chose as my first book Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection, because it was on our shelves at home and because it was billed as Kafkaesque. It is not Kafkaesque; it is mostly Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday with a more convincing ending. What is up with the American obsession with circuses and carnivals? A few years ago, even I wrote a detective story that features a traveling circus.
War and Peace, which book I've now read twice, is a masterpiece. Really, everyone should read it. Tolstoy wrote it while Nikolai Chernyshevsky was writing What is to be Done? Tolstoy must've laughed mightily all the way through Chernyshevsky's book, if he read it. I assume he did; Tolstoy read everything.
I continue to discover that most of the nonfiction books I pick up are not very well written. This is Your Brain on Music, for example, is 260 pages of breezy fluff, hardly touching upon music and so aimed at a "general audience" that Levitin says precious little of interest about the brain, either. Max Rostal's book about the Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano was much better, sparkling with wit and insight. W.E.B. Du Bois and St John of the Cross are also quite worth reading, both authors exhorting the reader to get down to the hard work of improving humanity. If that's not your thing, then we will have a hard time being friends.
Stuff what I wrote:
My primary writing task for 2018 was to revise the manuscript of a novel-in-stories called Antosha. I declare it to be a fine book, made possibly more fine by the revision process. That process took longer than I'd initially envisioned, probably because I've lost the obsessive focus on writing that I have had for most of the last decade. Also because I've been very busy this year in general, with less time available for fussing with novels. Writing has become more of a leisure activity for me. I think that shows real progress on my part. Though I confess that I've begun trying my hand at poetry. This has been worthwhile, in that attempting to do something myself almost always makes me aware of how hard the job really is, and reveals that vast gulf between my efforts and those of really capable folks. A good learning experience, in other words.
For 2019 my plan is to work on a new book, possibly completing a first draft. The idea for now is a collection of linked stories all set in the same small prairie town, possibly in 1976, very American stuff. The working title is Hilltop Stories. Hopefully some better title will present itself. I have about half a dozen story ideas sketched out already.
I was also delighted to learn that Miriam Burstein (a.k.a. the Little Professor) used my novel The Astrologer as a text again this year, in her autumn Introduction to Literary Analysis course. It's pleasing to think that The Astrologer has readers, even ones who might be under duress.
I did not buy any new hats this year, which is a shame. I did replace most of my black business suits with new suits in patterns of blue and brown, a significant change at the office. This is real progress.
Also, a partial list of authors I think I'll read in the coming year:
Debra Di Blasi
James Byron Hall