Courtesy of the great Second Editions bookstore at the main library. The Power Broker is one of those books that’s been hanging out on my Amazon wish list for a while, but I never felt excited enough about starting it to drop twenty bucks on it. For $5, though? In what looks to be brand new condition? That’s a different value proposition.
As mentioned previously, I tried to read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities last year and didn’t finish it. Not for any particular reason; I just ran out of steam and moved on to something else. I could tell that on a future return to that book something would unlock for me and I’d probably really like it, so when I saw this edition of If on a winter’s night a traveler today, I figured it was a sign from the universe to try a different Calvino.
The problem is not that we read Derrida and thereby become neoliberals, but that we take our reading of Derrida—or Rancière or José Muñoz—as sufficient evidence that we aren’t. One of the forms that power takes in a mature capitalist society is the professional class’s ability to build bulwarks against capital itself: respites and pseudo-negations.
Last year I read fewer books than I have in any year since I started keeping track (in 2014). Most of this was because of the newborn baby sleeping in our room for about six months, so it’s not exactly something I’m down on myself about, but it does make me want to set out some goals before getting into the year rather than just reading whatever drifts into my hands. Here are some things I’d like to read this year, loosely, in no real order:
The Anatomy of Melancholy.I bought the NYRB edition of this with an introduction by William H. Gass, and I read the introduction and then shelved the book. Having thumbed through it, it seems like a work that one can thumb through for decades and never actually “finish”, so my goal for this year isn’t so much to finish it as to read as much of it as I can manage.
William Gaddis, again. I read The Recognitions a long time ago, and JR not long after that. They both loom large in my imagination, and Gaddis’ dialogue remains maybe the most distinctive voice this side of Faulkner, but other than Carpenter’s Gothic a couple years ago it mostly remains in the past. There are two whole novels still to read, and while The Recognitions feels intimidating as a re-read, JR feels more doable. I want to return to Gaddis, in general, in whatever form that takes.
JG Ballard. I’ve never read any Ballard and people whose opinions I respect tell me that’s a mistake.
Poetry. There was a time in my life when choosing whether the concentration of my creative writing degree would be in fiction or poetry was a major decision, one over which I agonized, or at least some small-scale version thereof. I haven’t read it much in years, other than plowing through Sylvia Plath’s collected poems in 2017, and there’s a whole world out there. There have been poems in the last six months that have made my heart feel like it was about to burst. I need more of that (and, really, everyone does, but these are my reading goals).
Ishmael Reed. Another author people keep bringing up with whom I’m totally unfamiliar.
The Confidence-Man. I bought a really nice copy of Melville’s The Confidence-Man at Powell’s in Portland years ago, and so far haven’t made it more than 20 pages in before putting it down and picking up something else. I know there’s something here—there always is with Melville—but I don’t know what it is yet, and so this one more than anything else on the list feels a bit like it’s taunting me, daring me to try it again.
I had an Amazon gift card from Christmas, so I used it to grab the three most recent things off my wish list: Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish, Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation by William H. Gass, and Jeff Sharlet’s The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.
I’ll probably read the Sharlet first; fiction has disagreed with me so far this year, for reasons mostly having to do with my own attempts to write the stuff rather than anything else, so maybe something a little more political in nature is what the doctor ordered. I do love a good conspiracy involving Evangelical fascists and politicians who’ll do anything for their money, and these latter days sure seem to create an awful lot of those sorts of scenarios, yes?
The Lish has been on my list for a while. Reading Rilke caught my attention because Gass’ On Being Blue was maybe my favorite thing I read in 2018. I’ll have more to say about those when I get to them.
Author’s note: this is from the old blog and still does OK on Medium so I wanted to move it here for safekeeping.
1970 was the year Jimi Hendrix died, but it was also a time of great creative growth for him. Free of the Experience (sort of) and free of the contractual mess that led to Band of Gypsys (more on that in a bit), he holed up in the nearly-finished Electric Lady Studios to work on his next album of material, most of which would trickle out unfinished on various compilations after he died.
For whatever reason—greedy management, according to most accounts—Hendrix had to head back out on the road for a grueling tour, playing the hits, billed as the Experience but with Noel Redding nowhere in sight, trying to play the new stuff and also enough of the hits to keep the crowds happy. The result were some of my favorite performances of his.
You can get some of the tour on official releases already, so I’ve left those off my list, though there are certainly some gems there. The US tour is represented by the Berkeley show (highlight: “Johnny B Goode,” probably, but “Straight Ahead” is also really good) and the Atlanta Pop Festival (not one of my favorites) and there’s a Blue Wild Angel record that captures his kinda-bad Isle of Wight show from August (highlight: “All Along the Watchtower”). The new material was where all the magic happened for the whole year; the older stuff mostly just sounded rote except when “Foxey Lady” got stretched out into interesting jams, and the two exceptions I put on my list. Hendrix also played the “Star Spangled Banner” at most of these shows, just as he’d played it a couple of times before Woodstock, but it’s not exactly something that you need to hear done more than once.
Here are some of my favorite performances from Hendrix’s 1970 tour, in chronological order. If you like pristine audio, you probably won’t be able to hang with most of these, but like so much lost art from the history of humankind, it’s a blessed miracle that we have what we have.