26 books
  • Girls to the Front

    Sara Marcus

    I became aware of riot grrrl late, mostly from a distance through zines and records. I can still conjure some sadness that Huggy Bear actually played a show in northeastern Connecticut, but on a Tuesday night when there was no way I could go. What I experienced influenced me greatly, but I never felt like I was a part of the movement in the political sense. There was a lot that I didn’t know about the origins and history. I’m glad this book exists now, though it doesn’t feel like the “definitive” record it claims to be.

    Marcus opens the book by establishing her own relationship to riot grrrl, so it’s clear from the beginning that this is a personal project...more

  • Sunset Park

    Paul Auster

    I was excited about this book since it is largely set in my neighborhood, plus I always enjoy reading Paul Auster. While the book is definitely entertaining, the writing feels a little rough around the edges, at times even clunky. His description of Sunset Park as a neighborhood during this time period — the 2008 economic collapse — is largely inaccurate, though the other NYC neighborhood descriptions are perfectly evocative. The story is more of a straight forward narrative than other books of his that I’ve read, though there are threads pulled through each of the separate story lines that are mysteriously not tied together in the end. But that sort of lingering suspense at the end of a story isn’t that interesting....more

  • Between the Acts

    Virginia Woolf

    Jacob’s Room is maybe my favorite Woolf novel, with its dark look at WWI and the futility of life; this novel shows England just before its entry into WWII, in a village hours outside of London, where a fragmented family is hosting a pageant on the grounds of their modest estate. It’s not as dark, but instead eerily quiet — the calm before the storm, you might say, as everyone wonders if the weather (“Variable winds; fair average temperature; rain at times”) will hold for the play to be outside instead of in the barn.

    The play itself is ridiculous, attempting to tell the history of England in a few acts, some of them seemingly just tales of romance, skipping...more

  • I Wonder

    Marian Bantjes

    Apparently Marian Bantjes’s approach to her first book was to make it “feel like a brick of gold.” With a cover of gold and silver foils on a satin cloth with gold-gilded page edges and lots of gold ink on the interior, it’s definitely a success, gold-brick-wise. Her work is known for being both illustrative and typographic at once, involving intricate patterns and highly ornamental vector art. The graphics represent all of these aspects and are fully entangled with the text throughout.

    The content comes partially from essays previously published on Speak Up that she reworked for the book, and the rest is original. The writing feels somewhat zinelike to me: very personal and at times lightly researched. The theme...more

  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

    James Agee & Walker Evans

    Words could, I believe, be made to do or to tell anything within human conceit. That is more than can be said of the instruments of any other art. But it must be added of words that they are the most inevitably inaccurate of all mediums of record and communication, and that they come at many of the things which they alone can do by such a Rube Goldberg articulation of frauds, compromises, artful dodges and tenth removes as would fatten any other art into apoplexy if the art were not first shamed out of existence…

    Agee and Evans originally traveled to Alabama on assignment for Fortune magazine; Fortune declined to publish the result, and their documentation of three white tenant...more

  • Paris

    Eugène Atget

    Beautiful photographs. Eugène Atget “was a French flâneur and a pioneer of documentary photography, noted for his determination to document all of the architecture and street scenes of Paris before their disappearance to modernization.” (as summarized by Wikipedia)…more

  • As Ever

    Joanne Kyger

    This collection has been hanging out on my bedside table for months, read in little pieces until finally this week I decided it would not be renewed again. I picked it up in the midst of the Desecheo Notebook (circa 1971), a semi-diary. In some ways her poetry can at times chronicle specific time periods and feel very similar to her published journals, Strange Big Moon, which I failed to get through earlier this year. But this collection spans so many decades that it doesn’t get so bogged down in the every day. I love her sense of humor and physical shapes of her lines.

    Lynn doesn’t want to miss the full moon tonight

  • Anthropology of an American Girl

    Hilary Thayer Hamann

    Very Short List made this sound so good (a well-crafted classic!), and the NYPL hold list was hundreds of people deep, so when a copy finally came through nearly four months later, I was expecting a pretty awesome coming-of-age story based in the late 70s and early 80s in New York (the city and east Long Island). The story isn’t so much non-linear as episodic with not all the episodes following the chronology, the jumps aren’t distracting but lack purpose. It’s also tediously detailed, including elements that seem to be for atmosphere but generally come across as unnecessary. A quarter of the way in to the 600-page tome, I was losing steam and did something I don’t usually...more

  • True North

    Rebecca Solnit

    True North was a 2008 exhibition at Deutsche Guggenheim; this catalog is technically not by Rebecca Solnit, but I borrowed it to read her opening essay, “The Needle Points, the Ice Melts: Thoughts Facing North.” Solnit manages a fairly broad survey of the north, framed through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, based on an adolescent memory of a made-for-TV version’s polar climax. She breezes through colonialist explorations, draws in some Cold War references, and finishes up by drawing a parallel between Frankenstein and climate change. Brilliant and poetic. The art is lovely too....more

  • Distant Star

    Roberto Bolaño

    Just about a year ago, I got less than a hundred pages into The Savage Detectives before I could go no further (and turned to Valley of the Dolls as a cleanser). Initially I didn’t think I’d follow up on a suggestion to try this novella instead, but it wound up there on my hold list. Populated by Chilean poets on the cusp of Pinochet’s coup, the unnamed narrator attempts to piece together the history of Carlos Wieder, who arrives as a polite, yet mysterious, poet in Concepción’s college workshops and ends up evolving into something more sinister after he begins sky-writing his poems after Allende’s fall. The fragmented portrait builds out of his own memories and those...more