Required Reading has been on hiatus for awhile. I know. Mostly that’s because I’ve been on “hiatus” AKA dealing with lots of LIFE SHIT. But my “have read” pile and “in-progress” pile and “to-read” pile and “AWP-haul” pile are all turning into giant towers of books ready to eat me alive. So let me put a few of them out there. More to come.
The Yellow House by Chiwan Choi (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2017)
I hardly need to tell you anything about this book because really, you just need to read it, and it will break your heart over and over again. There is so much that Choi understands about the inevitability and embodiment of sadness, of the connections we make with other human beings, and the way we lose and break those connections again and again. How does one move through life and move forward, when the past refuses to let go, when the ghosts appear even in front of us, and when we can’t tell the difference between the dead and alive. Why are the words the only solace, the only respite, the only things capable of breaking us apart over and over again, and piecing us back together, why poetry when death and why memory when love?
he looked at me from the floor
at the bottom of the stairs
before rolling away so I couldn’t see his face
I stood at the the top of the stairs
as I tried to hide all of my secrets
he couldn’t call to me
and I wouldn’t run down to him
because neither of us could measure
the distance between us.
The Ghosts of Birds: Essays by Eliot Weinberger (New Directions, 2016)
The essays in this collection are fragments of a masterfully swirling vortex. The vortex is the world, is the landscape, is the mind, is language. A stunning collection that comments on everything, it seems, with a roving mind and eye that is incredibly and generously observant. The juxtapositions are careful and surprising and insightful, and the form of the essay continues to get pushed in this world that continues to pulls back.
Ghosts by César Aira; Trans. Chris Andrews (New Directions, 2009)
So much of this book is about the absence of absence, the non-existence of silence. That is, the characters occupy an unbuilt/unfinished building, and though this seems to be about incompletion, the spaces are filled with music, with dialogue, with everyday tasks, and then, ghosts. The ghosts here work as a connective thread, remind us that we are constantly between worlds and spaces, and yet the work of human life must go on. The ghosts don’t hold us back here, instead stand and watch and are vigilant. They seem to be ever-present, in the crevices of in-between spaces, and yet they are detached. Ghosts as neighbors. Ghosts as admirers. Ghosts as reminders. Ghosts as apparitions. Ghosts as us.
Her soliloquy was interrupted by a feeling she often had, the semi-epileptic impression that someone was passing behind her. There was no one behind her in the kitchen, and no room anyway, but through the open door she could see a band of ten ghosts watching her from the terrace, between the apartment and the stairs. What were those floury clowns doing there, she wondered crossly. She didn’t like it when they interrupted her conversations with an intimate friend, all the more intimate for being in her mind and nowhere else. (Elisa didn’t know it, but a few months earlier, ahorrific derailment in Concepción had claimed her friend’s life.) Anyway, it wasn’t their normal time. Were they going to start showing up around the clock? Or was there something special happening because it was the last day of the year? That could have explained why they were starting at her with their round eyes open wide in their stupid faces. As if they had something to propose to her. It was odd, because they were meant to be seen rather than to see. And since she was in the relatively dark interior of the kitchen, she may not have been visible from the outside. But she couldn’t be sure about that, because even if the shadows hid everything else, her thick-twelve-diopter spectacles could reflect or condense enough light to make them visible (she had been caught out like that before): two shining circles, like the eyes of an owl suspended in the night.
ROCK | SALT | STONE by Rosamond S. King (Nightboat Books, 2017)
Because bodies are not rocks but get weighed down by them when tossed into the ocean to drown. Because bodies are not consumed by mouths but are covered in salty sweat and can be beaten like meat. Because bodies have mouths but can not always speak without being stoned and sometimes the mouths make the wrong shapes and so the bodies become demons then ghosts then demons then ghosts again. Because the bodies wash up on the shore and wash up still. Because all things that are life become death like water or salt or stone or rock or other bodies and when not all the bodies fit together huddled on the rock, and so as some bodies cling to the hard surface with their bruised fingers and open mouths, other bodies shove those bodies off, without blinking, because blinking would be memory, and here, in the unraveling hardness and conjuration of demons, memory is not always honest and words are not always true.