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January 5th, 2010

11:59 pm - Books I read in 2009
I managed to read a few more books than last year, but still fell way short of my goal of 52, which is pretty embarassing given that I've had a nearly three-hour commute several days a week since September. Better luck next year, I guess?

For this list, I only counted books I read straight through, cover to cover. I counted a few things are only novellas or long essays as long as they were properly bound as individual publications. I decided not to count art catalogues even though I read a few that were more or less book-length. Thanks to my classes, I also read a lot of stuff by and about Jeff Wall and Geoffrey Farmer, along with a lot of history-of-art-history and museology-type stuff.

1. Pierre Louys, Trois Filles et Leur Mere, 1926
French erotica. One of the filthiest things I've ever read.

2. Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice, 1980
I thought it would be a useful refresher and it wasn't bad. From the same New Accents series as Dick Hebdige's famous Subculture.

3. Roberto Bolano, The Romantic Dogs, 2008
Poetry. It was okay but not nearly as enjoyable as his prose. Of course, I'm the wrong guy to ask -- I virtually never read poetry, though all this Bolano I've been reading definitely makes me want to start.

4. J.M. Coetzee, The Master of Petersburg, 1994
Probably would have enjoyed this excellent book even more if I'd read The Devils beforehand.

5. Diederich Deiderichsen, On Surplus Value in Art, 2008
A short text, bought after hearing him speak at the Fillip conference on criticism and judgment. "Drawing on fresh readings of Marxist and post-modern thought, renowned German cultural critic Diedrich Diederichsen compares the abstract and climbing values of artworks with the plunging value of music—a traditionally immaterial art—in order to formulate a broad reflection on the current “crisis of value in the arts.” I'd probably have to re-read it to offer any intelligent evaluation of his ideas.

6. Pauline Reage, The Story of O, 1954
Unexpectedly depressing.

7. Nicholson Baker, The Fermata, 1994 (re-read)
I wasn't reading with a lot of direction at this point in the year. Bored and horny, I re-read one of my favourite dirty books.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Devils, 1872 (aborted)
Tried to read this for a better appreciation of Coetzee's Master of Petersburg, but I was reading too slow and kept losing track of all the characters. After a month of slogging away, I gave up.

8. Roberto Bolano, 2666, 2008
Took me a little over a month. I savoured every page of this fantastic book. It did even more to revitalize my faith in literature than The Savage Detectives. Certainly, one of the best books I've ever read that was written in my own lifetime. As an adult reader, few (if any) novels have given me more pleasure.

9. Richard Brautigan, Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt, 1970
10. Richard Brautigan, The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, 1969

Read these after Jen and I started dating because I felt happy and romantic.

11. Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard and Pecuchet, 1881
I enjoyed this book immensely. It is a superb illustration of how knowledge moves through society, and a hilarious send-up of the incurable idiocy of humanity.

12. Tove Jansson, The Summer Book, 1972
A gift from a friend, and a beautiful little gem of a novel by the author of the Moomin books. Quiet, simple, and deep.

13. Sarah Thornton, Seven Days in the Art World, 2008
Gossipy but fun. Not as insightful as I'd hoped, but still worth the time. I'd like to read her earlier books on club culture.

14. Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, 1962
I'd never read a PKD novel before this, only stories, and I was totally blown away.

15. Philip K. Dick, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, 1974
Not quite as good as The Man in the High Castle, but still excellent. This was the first book I finished in Toronto.

16. David Mazzucchelli, Asterios Polyp, 2009
Copped for half-price while cruising every bookstore in Toronto for a job (no luck). A beautifully sweet and nuanced graphic novel with a spectacular graphic sensibility.

17. Roberto Bolano, By Night in Chile, 2003
A friend told me he thought it was Bolano's best, which I still don't quite understand. I liked it, but found it to be the most opaque of his books that I've read. I wasn't sure what to take away from it.

18. Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman, 1967
A brilliant, hilarious black comic romp. Enjoyed immensely.

19. Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber, 1979
I bought this because I'd paged through some of Angela Carter's critical writing and liked it, and she comes fairly highly recommended for those who like the fantastical, but I thought this collection of revisionist feminist fairy tales was full of half-baked ideas and weak style.

20. Flann O'Brien, The Dalkey Archive, 1964
More folksy and less pyrotechnically brilliant as The Third Policeman. Didn't quite live up to expectations, especially given that it focuses on the awesome character of De Selby, the wonderfully crackpot mad scientist/philosopher, who didn't really get the story he deserved. I want more De Selby and it's a bummer that this is all O'Brien wrote.

21. Knut Hamsun, Victoria, 1898
My grandmother was named after this book because my great-grandfather used to correspond with Knut Hamsun. I read this immediately after finding that out. It's a simple, ill-fated love story told in a deliriously poetic style that feels almost-but-not-quite modernist. Illustrations in the style of Edvard Munch or the Vienna Secession would be highly appropriate.

22. J.M. Coetzee, The Life and Times of Michael K., 1983
Coetzee in his high mode of human moral struggle stripped of all ornament and rendered with painful clarity.

23. Dan Adler, Hanne Darboven: Cultural History 1880-1983, 2009
A book by my thesis advisor about a fairly obscure conceptual artist, nicely printed by Afterall.

24. Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry: an introduction to Lacan through popular culture, 1991
25. Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site-specific Art and Locational Identity, 2004

Both of these were for a class I took on public sculpture. I'd started the Zizek before and never finished it, and it was nice to come back to it now that I'm much better able to grasp what he's talking about. The Kwon book was great, too. It's the book on site-specific art, and I've had to consult it before.

26. Ernst Junger, The Glass Bees, 1957
I bought this after Ernst Junger was mentioned in a Bolano book. Its impressions of living in a country after a war and its insight into the machinery of political power are interesting. The protagonist is an ex-military man who's a curious blend of the reactionary and the progressive: he's an anti-authoritarian who detests the debasement of the state under technological capitalism, but he looks backwards towards a bucolic, patriotic idea of the traditional fatherland. I think Junger shared his protagonist's sympathies, but the character's contradictions are rendered with a great deal of pathos. A very good book.

27. Roberto Bolano, The Skating Rink, 2009
Bolano tries his hand at a relatively straightforward crime novel, though the setting and characters are entirely his own, full of typical autobiographical detail. Excellent, as usual.

28. Slavoj Zizek, First As Tragedy, Then As Farce, 2009
Another highly readable, highly topical book from Zizek. Ranty as ever, he throws out some questionable points, contradicts himself a few times, and doesn't finish all of his ideas, but that doesn't mean he's not in top form.

29. Roberto Bolano, Distant Star, 2004
A continuation of a part from Nazi Literature in the Americas, which I haven't read yet. More tales of rebel poets under military governments in Chile.

30. Horacio Castellanos Moya, Senselessness, 2008
An El Salvadorean endorsed by Bolano. This gripping, breakneck novel centers around a horny, paranoid alchoholic transcribing records of atrocities committed against indigenous peoples. I read it straight through on a bus from Montreal to Toronto.

31. Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism, 2009
K-punk's long-awaited first book! Not as definitive as I'd hoped, but still incisive.

32. Roberto Bolano, Last Evenings on Earth, 2008
A collection of haunting, highly personal stories.

33. Adolfo Bioy Casares, Asleep in the Sun, 1978
A black-comic story of a man whose wife turns into a dog by this compatriot of Borges. I would have read Bioy Casares' The Invention of Morel (the basis for Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad) first, but it was temporarily out of stock at Amazon. On the list for next year.

34. Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography, 1978
Not really about pornography in general, more about de Sade. Reads like a Master's thesis, but not uninteresting.

35. Cesar Aira, How I Became A Nun, 2007
A short, vivid, quirky, and extremely interior novel about a childhood that starts with arsenic poisoning and ends with ice cream. Recommended by Bolano.

36. Franz Kafka, The Castle, 1926
Somehow I hadn't read this yet.

37. Nina Power, One-Dimensional Woman, 2009
From the same Zer0 books series as Capitalist Realism. Nina Power is a translator of Badiou and a prolific firebrand of a writer on the cutting edge of continental philosophy. She's extremely readable, and this excellent book about the sorry state of contemporary feminism is a must-read. I like her style enormously (young, drunk, angry, sexy) and want to read more.

38. Catherine Malabou, What Should We Do With Our Brains?, 2009
I started this early in the year and didn't finish until the end, in spite of its extremely brief length. Malabou is a Marxist/Hegelian philosopher writing about neuroscience. From the blurb: "Looking carefully at contemporary neuroscience, it is hard not to notice that the new way of talking about the brain mirrors the management discourse of the neo-liberal capitalist world in which we now live, with its talk of decentralization, networks, and flexibility. Consciously or unconsciously, science cannot but echo the world in which it takes place.In the neo-liberal world, "plasticity" can be equated with "flexibility"--a term that has become a buzzword in economics and management theory. The plastic brain would thus represent just another style of power, which, although less centralized, is still a means of control. In this book, Catherine Malabou develops a second, more radical meaning for plasticity. Not only does plasticity allow our brains to adapt to existing circumstances, it opens a margin of freedom to intervene, to change those very circumstances. Such an understanding opens up a newly transformative aspect of the neurosciences.In insisting on this proximity between the neurosciences and the social sciences, Malabou applies to the brain Marx's well-known phrase about history: people make their own brains, but they do not know it. This book is a summons to such knowledge." By asking science to question the ideological bases of its operations, she opens up a space that I hadn't considered between anti-reductionism ("Science can't answer these questions") and reductionism ("there is a rational, scientific explanation for everything.') Extremely provocative stuff. I imagine this book will turn out to be quite important. Endorsed by Zizek.

39. Thomas Bernhard, Frost, 1963 (still in progress)
I've been meaning to read Bernhard for quite a while. So far, his style is a little more stream-of-consciousness than I really like, but it's a fine specimen of visceral, heavy, Euro-modernist misanthropy. Very German, a bit Kafkaesque. I like it.

EDIT: I also read Philip K. Dick's Time Out of Joint in the summer, but I can't be bothered to go back and insert it in the right place. I'd have to change all the numbers.

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December 17th, 2009

11:04 pm - Link Wray and my Dad

DOWNLOAD (from a blog called Totem Songs)
password required by said blog: rideyourpony

Link Wray is mostly known as the inventor of the power chord and the writer of a number of instrumental blues hits in the 50's, but in 1971 he set up a three-track recording studio in a chicken coop and recorded an album of bluesy, backwoods country-rock with a folksy flavor and a few nods to his Shawnee ancestry. It didn't go over well with his fans and remains mostly unknown, but for my money, it's as good as any album that CCR ever recorded. Wray lost a lung to TB in 1953 and as a result, his singing voice is hoarse as hell -- when he's really belting it out, you can feel the effort.

I gave this album (actually, the double-disc Three Track Shack box set) to my dad for Christmas a few years ago, and I think he liked it more than anything else I ever got for him or tried to get him to listen to. My dad and I didn't see each other too much -- just a couple times a year -- and we didn't have too much to talk about. The story of our lives together is that he just wanted to fish and go camping and I mostly just wanted to read by myself somewhere. My dad was a woodworker who didn't particularly enjoy his work and was always a few steps behind getting enough freedom to do the things he enjoyed -- bad luck and trouble dogged him constantly -- and so he was always puzzled and disappointed that I didn't enjoy those things as much as he did. My dad's friends were all blue-collar guys: natives and bikers whose kids mostly took up trades in the BC interior. I don't think he ever understood what it is that I do, but he was always eager to tell me that he was proud of me and happy that someone in our family was getting an education and making it in the city.

Most especially, I think he was pleased that his nerdy, awkward son who read a lot of sci-fi novels and was very serious about church in his adolescence eventually got into music and didn't turn out to be a total square.

So what I'm getting at is that the one thing my dad and I could talk about was music, and I always brought some for him when I came to visit. I associate this Link Wray album with my dad more than anything else. Raw, blues-inflected music always went over with Dad, and the themes of this album really struck a chord with him. Link sings a lot about poor working people, about living in the mountains, about how the rich never get tired of fucking people over, and about divine vengeance and apocalypse. There's also a few tunes about how much trouble women are (something else Dad could relate to), and about how sweet rock n' roll is.

I wish I could still listen to it with him, but my Dad passed away last week. His heart gave out. Now, life was not a great pleasure for Dad. In a way, he is at least free now from the bullshit, frustration, and disappointment that oppressed him while he was alive. I hope that he is now enjoying the peace that mostly eluded him while I knew him, but I'm sorry that he couldn't have enjoyed more of it while he was still with us.

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October 6th, 2009

09:17 pm - Just making some decisions

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March 9th, 2009

10:42 pm - To paraphrase St. Augustine, "Lord, make me less covetous..."
...but not yet.Collapse )

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February 1st, 2009

11:13 pm - ITUNES MEME
How many songs total: 18, 354
How many hours or days of music: 53 days, 22 hours, 43 minutes
Most recently played: Kurt Vile - classic rock in spring/freeway in mind
Most played: Department of Eagles - ghost in summer clothes, 24 plays (this comes as a surprise to me)
Most recently added: Madvillain - madvillainy 2

Sort by song title:

First Song: "a national acrobat" - Black Sabbath
Last Song: "?" by "?", or "_" by Xiu Xiu and Grouper

Sort by time:

Shortest Song: "ironman skit" Ghostface Killah (5 seconds -- not counting incompletely downloaded songs)
Longest Song: "dopesmoker" Sleep (1 hour 3 minutes 32 seconds)

Sort by album:

First album: "Abacabok" Tartit
Last album: "94 diskont" Oval

First song that comes up on Shuffle: "Hello Halo" Ricardo Villalobos

Search the following and state how many songs come up:

Death - 107
Life - 228
Love - 743
Sex – 121
Hate – 20
You - 1463
Me - 3845

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January 12th, 2009

10:05 pm - Every day I'm tumbling
Just a reminder that I'm blogging constantly on my tumblr. I started twittering, too.

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January 5th, 2009

12:45 am - Books I read in 2008
A lot fewer than I'd hoped to! I was aiming at 52 (a book a week), but only managed 34 (a book every week-and-a-half). A couple people posted lists of their reading back in the summertime that were this long already. Embarrassing, given that I work at a bookstore, but I do work three jobs and I have writing to do, too. Plus, this doesn't count any of the magazine and blog reading that actually accounts for the bulk of my reading time.

I also lost my notebook in september when my bag got stolen, so I had to reconstruct this list from memory. I think I got all the titles up to the point where I lost the notebook, but I still don't think I have the order right (not that it really matters).

Colour coding works like this:

-literature (novels and short story collections): 16
-philosophy and art criticism: 13
-music: 3
-erotica: 3
-graphic novel: 1
-children's lit: 1
-writing reference: 1

Some are double-counted as more than one genre.

I didn't read any poetry, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery/thrillers, horror, or science books all year, or any non-fiction that wasn't art criticism, philosophy, or music. I bought and consulted a couple cookbooks, but decided not to bother including them in the list.

Slavoj Zizek was my most-read author at three books. J.M. Coetzee, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Donald Barthelme all had two in the list.

1. Roberto Bolano, The Savage Detectives

One of the best contemporary novels I've read in years. All the hype I heard was true, and then some. Truly fresh and thrilling, formally inventive, almost impossibly diverse, and always painfully real and believable. Emotionally and intellectually rich. It's the kind of masterpiece that seems to contain everything.

2. Slavoj Zizek, Violence
The best book of his out of the three I read this year, and prior to this year, I'd tried reading a few other ones but was never able to finish them. Every Zizek book is a fairly rambling collection of the same ideas restated, but this is the most concise, most effective, and most relevant deployment of his thought I've found so far.

3. Caetano Veloso, Tropical Truth: a story of music and revolution in Brazil
My favourite musician in his own very eloquent words. The best biography (musical or otherwise) that I've ever read, hands-down.

I'll add that I enjoyed pretty much all of these books a great deal. There wasn't a single one that I ended up regretting having read. That said, Mishima's The Sound of Waves was maybe the least engaging of this year's crop, and I had some difficulty with Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Not that it was hard to read (just for being so unrelievedly bleak), but I'm just not convinced that what he was doing with the book was good. The whole ethos of it left kind of a bad taste in my mouth, and the ending left me unsatisfied. But it was still McCarthy. He's a powerful stylist and a major voice. You can't ignore the guy and it was worth reading.

Paul Virilio, Ground Zero
Boris Vian, The Foam of the Daze
Julian Stallabrass, Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction
Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles
Franz Kafka, The Trial
Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Suffering of the World
Carl Wilson, Let's Talk About Love: a journey to the end of taste
J.M. Coetzee, Boyhood: scenes from provincial life
Donald Barthelme, Overnight to Many Distant Cities
Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim
Martin Amis, London Fields
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Strunk, White, and Kalman, The Elements of Style
John Darnielle, Black Sabbath's Master of Reality
Slavoj Zizek, The Fragile Absolute - or why is the Christian legacy worth fighting for?
Anais Nin, Delta of Venus
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others
J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals (fiction and essays)
Mario Vargas Llosa, In Praise of the Stepmother
Slavoj Zizek, How to Read Lacan
Mario Vargas Llosa, The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto
Yukio Mishima, The Sound of Waves
Caetano Veloso, Tropical Truth: a story of music and revolution in Brazil
Dick Hebdige, Subculture: the meaning of style
George Steiner, Nostalgia for the Absolute
Sigmund Freud, On Forgetting

Donald Barthelme, Snow White
Darren O'Donnell, Social Acupuncture
Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good

Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, vol. 1
Aaron Peck, The Bewilderments of Bernard Willis
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Roberto Bolano, The Savage Detectives
Tove Jansson, Finn Family Moomintroll

Slavoj Zizek, Violence

Started but not Finished:

Sven Lutticken, Secret Publicity
Susan Sontag, Styles of Radical Will
Claire Bishop (ed.), Participation

All three being collections of essays and art criticism, all very good, but I've been reading them in a scattershot, piecemeal fashion. Will definitely finish these at some point.

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December 8th, 2008

08:51 pm - So I might have a third job
I had an interview at {ie today that was really easy and casual. It looks like I've got a couple trial shifts next week.

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November 17th, 2008

08:01 pm - Pure Class
In the last 24 hours, I've managed to barf in a kitchen sink full of dishes and off of a second-storey balcony.

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November 14th, 2008

02:41 am - My Top 30 of 2008
As yet, in no particular order. I have to whittle it down to ten for my Zulu year-end list. Probably as my colleagues begin drawing up their lists, I'll remember some other things, too. there's even a chance that something will still come out this year that could wiggle its way on here, but probably not before my next-week deadline.

MORE ADDED! Now up to 41.


valet - naked acid
quiet village - silent movie
destroyer - trouble in dreams
portishead - third
beach house - devotion
atlas sound - let the blind lead those who see but cannot feel
deerhunter - microcastle
silver jews - lookout mountain, lookout sea
ladyhawk - shots
grouper - dragging a dead deer up a hill
chad vangaalen - soft airplane
mount eerie with julie doiron and fred squire - lost wisdom
high places - s/t
gang gang dance - saint dymphna
thee ohsees - the master's bedroom is worth spending a night in
no age - nouns
women - s/t
eden express - s/t
lykke li - youth novels
abe vigoda - skeleton
jonathan richman - because her beauty is raw and wild
department of eagles - in ear park
nite jewel - my cd
john maus - love is real
flying lotus - los angeles
fennesz - black sea
little joy - s/t
megapuss - surfing
group inerane - music of niger, guitars from agadez
skeletons - money
poolplayers - way below the surface
sian alice group - 59.59
vivian girls - s/t
studio - yearbook 2
v/a - roots of chicha: psychedelic cumbias from peru
dj/rupture - uproot
sun araw - beach head
diplo vs. santogold - top ranking mixtape
v/a - 1970's algerian proto-rai
scuba - a mutual antipathy
2562 - aerial


Wavves - s/t
Psychic Ills - mirror eye


Vampire Weekend - s/t
Black Mountain - in the future


Brian Eno & Robert Fripp - no pussyfooting
Gal Costa - 1969
Jorge Ben - 1969
Jorge Ben - forca bruta

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