Ken Edwards’ Top 5 for 2018 11th December 2018 – Posted in: Blog
Every year we ask Unthank authors to compile an end-of-year list from the books they have read that year, one refreshingly unconstrained to books published in 2018. Any bibliophile worth his or her salts is an omnivore. We don’t just read what everyone is chattering about. What we choose to read, and when, may offer us a revelation of how things are, taking us on a journey through the corridors and byways our imaginations, emotions and fears have drawn us to unwillingly. The first in our seasonal series this year is Ken Edwards
M John Harrison: You Should Come With Me Now
M John Harrison is one of those writers (another being China Miéville) whose reputation was made in the SF genre but whose scope is much wider and deeper. This is his latest collection of stories, alternating one-page flash fictions with longer pieces. It’s subtitled “Stories of Ghosts.” In the first of the longer ones, “In Autotelia”, people grumble in familiar terms on the train: “That’s nice, innit? Chaos, innit?” inadequately masking the reality of the dystopia in which the narrative takes place. The ghosts are never named, the horror is below the surface.
Picked this up by accident at a second-hand bookstall, purely because I love Herzog’s films. What a find. A very short book, describing the author’s three-week walk from Munich to Paris in 1974, mostly in the snow, after hearing his mentor, the film-maker Lotte Eisner, was dying there. Very weird. Impossible to distinguish between the reality of the gruelling journey and the traveller’s dreams.
Laszlo Krasznahorkai: Seiobo There Below
I’ve been a fan of Krasznahorkai ever since I saw Bela Tarr’s film Werckmeister Harmonies, based on his novel The Melancholy of Resistance, a rare case of a film adaptation equalling the stature of the original book. This one’s a collection of seventeen pieces – stories, prose poems, essays, whatever – numbered from 1 to 2584 in the Fibonacci series. As with Proust, don’t be put off by the length of the sentences and paragraphs; before long, you will be attuned to their rhythms, and the meanings they assemble will start to clarify.
For some reason, this is the one major Flaubert work I’ve missed out on all these years. There is no particular reason why I didn’t get around to it until this year; I just didn’t. A late work: three long-short stories of very different character from someone I regard as the first modern prose writer.
The Herzog is the shortest book in my selection, this is by far the longest. I know something of the history: the inestimable British-born, California-resident poet David Bromige wanted my press, Reality Street, to publish his Collected Poems. After he died in 2009, I did my best to make this a reality, but the project had already defeated me by the time I called time on the press, and I was happy to hand it over to Vancouver-based New Star Books. What has emerged is a magnificent 600-page book, edited by Ron Silliman, Bob Perelman and Jack Krick, which covers about half David’s oeuvre. I regard him as the best of the Language poets, and he wasn’t even a member of the movement and took the piss out of it at times. The 1980 sequence “My Poetry”, long out of print in book form, is published here in its entirety and is worth the price on its own.