My Favorite Books from 2009 (in alphabetical order):

I’ve read over 120 books in 2009, and by the time the year is up I’ll have reviewed over fifty. At the risk of being redundant, I’ve put together a list of the books I thought were this year’s best. I’ve also included links to the ones I reviewed. But before that, I should mention some great books that weren’t published this year: Eugene Lim’s Fog & Car, Eugene Marten’s Waste, Mary Caponegro’s first three books, Ken Sparling’s Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lavinia, and Michael Kimball’s The Way the Family Got Away and Dear Everybody. And then there’s Shane Jones’s The Failure Six, David Shields’s Reality Hunger, and Ander Monson’s Vanishing Point, all of which won’t be released until next year. By the way, while the so-called major presses churned out a whole lot of fluff I did enjoy John Haskell’s Out of My Skin and Anne Michaels’s The Winter Vault. Oh, and I should mention The Complete Cosmicomics, by Italo Calvino which  is playful and inventive in that inimitably Calvino way. Each chapter is a combination of pseudo-science (as far as I can tell) and fantasy—a weird mishmash of fable and fact. They sound like entries from an encyclopedia sometimes, albeit a whimsical one. This was the best way to close out the year. So, besides beautifully-crafted language, eddying narratives, evocative imagery, and provocative characters—whose quirks, thoughts, and comings and goings remain with me—what the books on this list have in common is that they were published by independent presses.
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Big Other Contributors’ News #8

Lily Hoang is a new contributor to Html Giant.
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Shya Scanlon will be reading on Sunday, December 20, 2009 in Brooklyn at 440 Gallery, with two other writers Scott Geiger and Micaela Morrissette (a senior editor at Conjunctions). Here’s a link to the details.
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J.A. Tyler‘s fiction has appeared recently in these fine places: Everyday Genius, Storyglossia, Litareview, Dark Sky, and Requited. He’s interviewed at Storyglossia and Dark Sky.
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John Dermot Woods was interviewed by Adam Robinson this week over at HTML Giant.
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Check out Nicolle Elizabeth‘s essay “Madmen and Exiles”.
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Daniele Adair read as part of  a launch for “You’ve Probably Read This Before”, a new anthology of CalArts alumni writings, I read in on Sunday. More HERE.

And she performed a new piece “We Are Mired In a Kind of Stalemate” in a group show at a new art space, Dan Graham. More on the performance/event HERE.
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Stacy  Muszynski reviewed The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit, by Michael Zadoorian HERE and interviewed Laura van den Berg HERE.
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Check out John Madera‘s  reviews:
Joanna Howard’s On the Winding Stair (Brooklyn Rail, December 2009)
Ken Sparling’s Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall (The Collagist, December 2009)
Michael Kimball’s Dear Everybody (Word Riot, December 2009)

WALLS (ANAMNESES) by Marcel Cohen, translated by Brian Evenson & Joanna Howard (Black Square Editions/The Brooklyn Rail, 2009)

WALLS (ANAMNESES)

For the past few years, Black Square Editions, run by John Yau, has been putting out beautiful paperback books in translation such as Pierre Reverdy’s rollicking work of short fiction Haunted House (translated by John Ashbery) and Reverdy’s Prose Poems (translated by Ron Padgett).  Its latest venture is Brian Evenson and Joanna Howard’s translation of Walls (Anamneses) by Marcel Cohen who, according to John Taylor, “has produced some of the most innovative and arresting short prose in contemporary French literature.”

At 5.5″ by 4.5″—about on par with the Green Integer volumes or the books in The City Lights Pocket Poets Series—this is one of the smallest books that I own; it is also one of the most fascinating. It is the kind of book that I wish well-dressed elderly men passed out on the street instead of those pocket-sized bibles that one inevitably sees immediately abandoned on the tops of newspaper machines.

A compendium of aphoristic passages, a flipbook of presences and absences, an exquisitely minimalist travelogue-cum-commonplace book, a remembrance of things past by way of the fragment: it is difficult to categorize this text, which was originally published in 1979, but it is quite easy to appreciate its grave acumen and elegance.

As the title suggests, these authoritatively stated sentences directly meditate on walls both physical and figurative, and sometimes a careful observation of the phenomenal world exists in the same sentence as the metaphysical:

Little flowers blooming between the stones of the wall, detritus of time at the confluence of all memories.

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&Now Conference: A Conference of Innovative Writing & the Literary Arts

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I went to the &Now Conference held in Buffalo, New York, October 14-17, and enjoyed it on a number of levels. First of all, it was great to cross that cold digital divide and finally meet so many people that I’ve been corresponding and/or working with, and/or reading their work for a while, people like Matt Bell, Cara Benson, Blake Butler, Donald Breckinridge, Ryan Call, Mary Caponegro, Kim Chinquee, Rikki Ducornet, Tina May Hall, Lily Hoang, Joanna Howard, Matt Kirkpatrick, Josh Maday, Kendra Grant Malone, Lance Olsen, J.A. Tyler, Bill Walsh, and John Dermot Woods, as well as reconnecting with Brian Evenson and James Yeh. I also had a chance to meet Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Donald Breckenridge, Rikki Ducornet, Shelly Jackson, Steve Katz, Dave Kress, Christina Milletti, Pedro Ponce, Davis Schneiderman, and Steve Tomasula. Have I missed anyone?

And if it was only that, it would have been well worth it, but I also attended many dynamic, energetic, informed, inventive, and stimulating panels and readings. Below are some capsules of some of the events as well as recordings of some of them.

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