Monday, December 16, 2013

Some Books for the Rest of Us

Not the New York Times "Best Books" of the Year

Of course you'll recognize Thomas Cole's "End of Empire." Not the benign millennium of utopian theorists, but the wild destruction of Revelations: the Seven Seals, the Anti-Christ, and the End of Days. Each December, when I dust the snow off the blue cylinder that is the New York Times on what happens to be the third Sunday of Advent, I shudder with the recognition that another year has passed during which the Taste-Makers in Manhattan have failed to review a single non-commercial book.  And then, since it's cold outside and I'm not properly dressed for the weather, my thoughts turn black. I think: it's the end of the age of print, the end of serious literature, the end of writing--and all that will be left (sure enough, as I thumb through the "Book Review") are the musing of Sarah Palin on Christmas, the political insights of Glenn Beck, and the continuation of the "Killing Of" series by Bill O'Reilly. 

But then I cheer up (now I'm inside, drinking coffee, the "Book Review" aglow in the fireplace) thinking of the wonderful books I've been lucky to come across and to read this year.  Here are just ten, novels and poetry. Every such list is as much exclusion as inclusion; in other words, I've left out ten or twenty I enjoyed just as much. 

--Christie Watson, Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away (Other Press)

--Maxime Kumin, Where I Live: New and Selected Poems (Norton)

--Hector Abad, Oblivion (FSG)

--Cees Nooteboom, The Following Story (Harvest Books)

--Imre Kertesz, Kaddish for an Unborn Child (Vintage) [All Imre Kertesz books]

--Jabra I. Jabra, The Ship (Lynne Rienner)

--Natsume Soseki, The Gate (New York Review)

--Agnieszka Kuciak, Distant Lands: An Anthology of Poets Who Don't Exist (White Pine)

--Muhammad Kamil al-Khatib, Just Like a River (Arris Books)

--Quian Zhongshu, Fortress Besieged (New Directions)

Happy Reading in 2014!

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