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My Four Favorite New Books of 2009, part 5: Other New Books That I Enjoyed in 2009

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

There are still more! Alphabetically, then…

The Barbaric Heart by Curtis White (Polipoint Press, 2009): A follow-up to The Middle Mind (2003) and The Spirit of Disobedience (2007), this time White analyzes the “virtues” that enable capitalism to succeed, and proposes ways in which environmentalists can respond. In my view, White is the most essential critical thinker writing today. (Full disclosure: I studied with him at Illinois Sate University.)

Big American Trip by Christian Peet (Shearsman Books, 2009): This is an intriguingly strange book, a kind of cross between Michel Butor’s Mobile and Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine Trilogy (or at least that’s what it made me first think of—and thankfully, it’s more Butor than Bantock.) Cleverly constructed, it encourages the reader to explore following different paths through the book—to make their own accompanying, parallel trips.

Boon & The Camp by David Ohle (Calamari Press, 2009): The Noughties will be remembered not for the fact that Thomas Pynchon published two new novels (he also did that in the 1990s), but that David Ohle published three new books. It’s been great suddenly having so much more of his work to read. The Camp in particular is some of the man’s best writing.

EVER by Blake Butler (Calamari Press, 2009): Everyone knows Blake, and now he has books coming out, which means that those of us who lack iPhones can carry his words around with us everywhere. This is an encouraging development.

Fog & Car by Eugene Lim (Ellipsis Press, 2008): I’ve thought often of this book since reading it late last year. It has real artistic courage (something that’s too rare these days). Kind of like a cross between Mulholland Drive and City of Glass?

Get Your War On: The Definitive Account of the War on Terror, 2001–2008 by David Rees (Soft Skull, 2008): David Rees is the finest political cartoonist of our time.

I Go to Some Hollow by Amina Cain (Les Figues Press, 2009): Cain’s stories cut whimsically against the current fashions for irony and inscrutability. Each one reads simultaneously as being both complete and incomplete—like a day, like life. Each one is a mystery.

The Illustrated Version of Things by Affinity Konar (FC2, 2009): This is one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read this year, the kind of novel that’s as long as it is partly because of the sheer joy the author had in writing it. Thanks to Konar’s skill, that fun is contagious. It’s also rather clever how the style reinforces the basic premise, the whole work being told by a charmingly manic, motor-mouthed ingénue.

On the conditions and possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her Young Lover by Richard Meros (Lawrence and Gibson, 2005): This is older than the others, but it’s been published in very small editions, and has only now reached my attention. Remarkably, it quickly transcends its (brilliant) concept; every page contains treasures.

The Order of Odd Fish by James Kennedy (Delacorte, 2008): I had the pleasure of reading with James earlier this year, and I’d encourage you to check him out: he is one of the best performers of his own writing whom I’ve met. It doesn’t hurt that the writing itself is so delightful! The protagonist must defeat her enemy in a name-calling contest—you know you want to read this.

Paris Spleen: Little Poems in Prose by Charles Baudelaire, translated by Keith Waldrop (Wesleyan University Press, 2009): We will always need more translations of Baudelaire, especially by poets as talented as Keith Waldrop.

Planet of Beer by Brian Sendelbach (Dark Horse Comics, 2009): This is the first and hopefully not last compilation of the comic strip Smell of Steve, Inc., which started in The Stranger and ran for many years in alternative weeklies. Reading this collection made me realize the extent to which Brian Sendelbach is some kind of absurdist Keith Haring. To whit.

Sidebrow Anthology #1 (Sidebrow, 2008): This is a well-designed collection documenting one of the more intriguing new literary journals out there. And handsome!

A Survey of My Failures This Far by Gabriel Chad Boyer (Mutable Sound, 2008): I know Gabe, but I read this book before I met him (in fact, that’s how I met him! Isn’t the small press life grand?). This book is a beast—an energetic, fun-loving beast. It’s also a mammoth (952 pages), a collection of seven “failed” novels and story collections. Hardly a failure, and few books these days are this generous.

…This list can’t claim to be exhaustive, but how much can a fellow read in one year? If you’re me, sadly, then not much. But I hope I’ve been able to convince you to pick up some of these books in the months and years to come.

Come 2010,

and happy reading,


(Next: The Cinema!)

  • A. D. Jameson is the author of five books, most recently I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING: STAR WARS AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE and CINEMAPS: AN ATLAS OF 35 GREAT MOVIES (with artist Andrew DeGraff). Last May, he received his Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Program for Writers at UIC.

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