MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot

The March Mudd Up Book Clubb selection is Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot. A first-person plural novel (“part fiction, part earnest mockumentary”) about an ambient band! In other words, we are clearly the target audience for this under-appreciated gem from 2011. It is loopy and sweet and funny and ostensibly less crazy than Sorokin’s Ice Trilogy.PamLu_photo_BW-msall Word on the street is that after Lu’s debut novel (Pamela: A Novel), she dropped out of the Bay Area literary scene and began working for software companies. Rumor? Truth? Disinformation? Seems harmonious with Ambient Parking Lot. We will meet on Sunday March 29th to discuss this book, which you can pick up here.

Also: a car-themed ambient piano jam for your enjoyment:

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Babe Rainbow – Car Ambient # 3.mp3 elitist driving music & yoga

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Qiu Xiaolong

The Mudd Up Book Clubb rolls into 2015 with a Chinese communist crime novel about a poet-cop!

We’ll meet on Sunday January 25 to discuss Qiu Xiaolong’s Death of a Red Heroine.

Set in early 1990s Shanghai, the novel uses the form of a police procedural to portray Chinese society in transition, old Maoists and new money, with lots of Tang dynasty poetry quotations and T.S. Eliot allusions thrown in for good measure. There’s a healthy attention to food, too. Central character Inspector Chen is a Modernist poet and translator, not unlike the author…

Qiu Xiaolong was the first person to translate Eliot into Chinese. He was in the US working on an Eliot book when Tiananmen Sq broke out, prompting him to stay on to remain out of trouble… He still lives in St.Louis. As explained in this interview, Qiu writes his books in English, despite the difficulty–and censors scrub politically sensitive phrases and all specific place references from the Chinese translations!

Death of a Red Heroine. Go here to buy it from local publishers Soho.

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Ágota Kristóf’s The Notebook

Agota Kristof Mudd Up Book ClubbLast selection of the year: Hungarian writer Ágota Kristóf’s hypnotic, powerful (and short) debut novel The Notebook. Published in 1986 it is a bracing language bath, narrated in first-person plural by limpid & disturbing young twins in the midst of wartime scarcity. First part of a trilogy (whole trilogy is great). Kristóf’s stark minimalism reads simply (the stylistic opposite of fellow Hungarian Krasznahorkai’s baroque apocalyptics) but after a few paragraphs the awe piles up and, subsumed in her grip, you realize how deep it all goes.

A stone cold classic (that’s impossible to discuss at a holiday party without alienating your peers)! So–

We’ll meet on Sunday December 21 to talk Notebook. Mudd Up Book Clubb.

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Jo Walton’s My Real Children

The Mudd Up Book Clubb rides again. I’m trying to fit in 2 more meetups before 2015 arrives, so to that end:
jowalton
On Sunday November 30th, we will meet in Manhattan to discuss Jo Walton’s My Real Children. Published earlier this year, it’s an incredibly moving novel about an elderly woman with dementia who remembers two distinct lives, which the book traces out as intertwined narratives.
There’s an understated cumulative power at work here, within an elegant structure. Aging/dementia, sexuality, parenting, also gelato, and a glowing background of divergent geopolitical realities… Continue reading MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Jo Walton’s My Real Children

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya

mudd up book clubb: horacio castellanos moya
On Sunday August 24, we’ll be meeting to discuss Senselessness (2004, 2008 English trans.), a dynamite novella from Central American author Horacio Castellanos Moya.

It takes the form of a monologue, so everything we get comes from the mouth of, as the book jacket text describes, “an alcoholic, atheist, sex-obsessed writer [who] finds himself employed by the Catholic Church (an institution he loathes) to edit the testimonies of the survivors of slaughtered Indian villages.”

Senselessness is agonizing/ly funny, profane & political, entertainingly written yet dealing with huge issues surrounding language and authority, grieving and historical memory — it’s no surprise that Castellanos Moya’s early novels earned him death threats, leading him to take up residence in exile…in Pittsburgh.
Continue reading MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Etel Adnan’s Sitt Marie Rose

Etel Adnan

[Etel Adnan]

Summer reading time! On Sunday July 6th we’ll meet in Manhattan to discuss Etel Adnan’s Sitt Marie Rose. This remarkable novella was written in 1977 by Lebanese artist Etel Adnan. These days Adnan is more recognized for her painting — she was a quiet hero of the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Elsewhere, Adnan’s words have been put to music by Henry Threadgill and Gavin Bryars. Point is, Adnan does many things very well.

Sitt Marie Rose is light and heavy, experimental and matter-of-fact, this story set during the Lebanese Civil War in which gendered violence might be the real civil war. It is also about the way cities feel and tense up. There is politics and religion and luminous sentences as precise and glowing as Adnan’s abstract paintings. The title character is a teacher of deaf-mute children and the language throughout pays great attention to sound, vibration, and silence.

It can be tough to find in bookstores so here’s a purchase page recommended by the publisher. E-book versions exist too. Head here to check out other Mudd Up Book Clubb selections.

SONY DSC

[Etel Adnan, title unknown, from Documenta 13]

I tell myself that it would be better to let loose a million birds in the sky over Lebanon, so that these hunters could practice on them, and this carnage could be avoided. – Sitt Marie Rose

Mudd Up Book Clubb – MARLEN HAUSHOFER: THE WALL

haushofer
The Mudd Up Book Clubb returns to Manhattan on March 9, to talk Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall (1962, English trans. 1990). It is graceful. It is crushingly good. It discusses cows, cats, and foraging in great detail, such that this harrowing narrative of thingness and survival is never far from pellucid (if unsettling) meditation on the philosophically big issues. I see your Walden and raise you The Wall.

“I am writing on my novel and everything is very cumbersome” she told a friend, “because I never have much time and, mainly, because I can not embarrass myself. I must continuously inquire whether what I say about animals and plants is actually correct. One can not be precise enough.”

People have called The Wall an eco-feminist dystopia, and true, this tale takes the form of a diary of an Austrian woman who finds herself trapped in the mountains with an invisible wall separating her and a dog named Lynx from a horrible cataclysm which has befallen the rest of the world. Yet there is no trace of the fantastic; sci-fi, Robinson Crusoe, or Stephen King it is not. This radiant little masterpiece is written with such sensitivity that it’s hard to imagine that Haushofer herself did not live through these things — harvesting potatoes for sustenance, slowly running out of sugar, edging on forgetting her name, looking up at the sky in a forest meadow and thinking:

Human beings had played their own games, and in almost every case they had ended badly. And how could I complain? I was one of them and couldn’t judge them, because I understood them so well. . . The great game of the sun, moon and stars seemed to be working out, and that hadn’t been invented by humans. But it wasn’t completed yet, and might bear the seeds of failure within it. I was only an attentive and enchanted onlooker; my whole life would be too short to grasp even the tiniest stage of the game. I’d spent most of my life struggling with daily human concerns. Now that I had barely anything left, I could sit in peace on the bench and watch the stars dancing against the black firmament.

As a bonus for the cat fanciers and dog lovers among us, The Wall has my vote for the least sentimental yet most heartfelt book involving animals. Rare combo! Some moving contemplation on cyclical time too.

So. Manhattan, 5pm, Sunday March 9. You can join us by (communication magic). Don’t let the ‘now a major motion picture’ on the cover of recent editions of the book keep you away…

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Iris Murdoch, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Subcomandante Marcos

under-the-net

Dear Winternet, I have been remiss in letting you know what we’ve been up to at the Mudd Up Book Clubb. Back in June, we read Iris Murdoch‘s first novel, Under The Net (1954). I stumbled across this at the impossible bookshop, and picked it up on the strength of its first page (“I find it hard to explain to people about Finn. He isn’t exactly my servant. He seems often more like my manager. Sometimes I support him, and sometimes he supports me; it depends. It’s somehow clear that we aren’t equals”). Continue reading MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Iris Murdoch, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Subcomandante Marcos

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: The Loser by Thomas Bernhard & “The Loser” by Gay Talese

Last Mudd Up Book Clubb, the Naked Singularity meetup, was a great one, as Sergio De La Pava and his wife made a gracious appearance. Sergio was a passionate, funny, and generous guest, sharing insights which made our experience of his excellent novel even better. There was discussion of moral concern, conservatism of the publishing industry, drunk Russians wrestling bears and the plight of the farmers, what trials really read like and lots more, including Lee Ann’s homemade cardamom & pistachio bread. Delicious.

And now, as Endless Winter reluctantly starts to consider Spring — and now that I’ve got my personal piano month out of the way– we turn to our favorite hilarity-inducing Austrian misanthrope, rhythm master, one-paragraph-book-writer par excellence and italicist of exquisite conviction: Thomas Bernhard!
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shirtless Thomas Bernhard, our favorite Austrian misantrope hilarity man

On Sunday June 2, we’re meeting in Manhattan to discuss a splendid pair of losers — Thomas Bernhard’s 1983 novel The Loser, about Glenn Gould and two failed virtuoso pianists, and Gay Talese’s 1964 Esquire essay “The Loser”, about boxer Floyd Patterson. Talese published 37 articles on Patterson — THIRTY SEVEN! — which makes him arguably as obsessive as Bernhard’s unnamed narrator.

This inspired pairing comes courtesy of clubber Brad. The Talese is collected in his Silent Season of a Hero (along with 7 other Floyd Patterson pieces). If you’d like to join the Mudd Up Book Clubb, you can sign-up – please read the fine print there, especially since we’re near/beyond capacity, OK? OK.

& remember: be the Steinway, not the person playing the Steinway

Thomas Bernhard - The Loser "be the Steinway"

& here’s the Mudd Up Book Clubb reading list in reverse chronological order:

Sergio De La Pava, A Naked Singularity

Shelley Jackson, “A Report on Certain Curious Objects, Believed to Be Words in an Unknown Language of the Dead”

Rita Indiana Hernandez, Papi

G. Willow Wilson, Alif, The Unseen

Michal Ajvaz, The Other City

Carmen Laforet, Nada

Patrik Ouředník, Europeana

Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Michael Taussig, My Cocaine Museum

Tatyana Tolystaya, The Slynx

Augusto Moterroso, Mister Taylor

Vladimir Sorokin, Ice Trilogy

Lauren Beukes, Zoo City

Samuel R. Delany, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

Juan Goytisolo, Exiled from Everywhere

Cesar Aira, How I Became a Nun

Maureen F. McHugh, Nekropolis

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: DE LA PAVA’S ‘A NAKED SINGULARITY’

It’s true: the Mudd Up Book Clubb lives increasingly offline, but these posts form a useful public record, tracks in the mud, if you will – so here we go:

Sergio De La Pava - A Naked Singularity

This Sunday, April 28th, we’re meeting to discuss Sergio De La Pava’s wonderful, humane, laugh-out-loud funny, 689 page novel involving a public defender in New York City: A Naked Singularity (2008 ex libris, 2012 U Chicago Press). The opening chapter is a thing of wonder – try it and you’ll be hooked.

Book clubber Dan put me on to this; I recommend his thoughtful review from back when it was self-published. Dan writes:

“while the book is long, it’s never imposing. . . This is a book deeply concerned with the preterite: those who don’t have the resources to get themselves represented by others. It’s refreshing to find a recent New York novel that doesn’t bother to mention Williamsburg or Park Slope; the Upper East Side or Upper West Side might be mentioned in passing, but the Village, the East Village, Chelsea, the Lower East Side, the neighborhoods of New York that are seen in movies and literary fiction are absent from this book. There’s plenty left over; but we don’t usually read this. And this also stands out in that it’s a novel of work: Casi is a public defender, and spends most of his time at his job. The job isn’t lionized here: the protagonist is actively trying to be a good man, but he is decidedly not a hero by virtue of his work alone: the other occupants of his office are noticeably flawed, as he is. . .I’m also struck by how the book, comical as it often is, never has recourse to anything resembling magical realism.”

Also, boxing.

Sergio De La Pava

Sergio De La Pava

So! A Naked Singularity. Sunday. Book Clubb. Next up: sweet dumpling Thomas Bernhard. Stay muddy.

Here’s the Mudd Up Book Clubb reading list (you join by recommending a book, although we are somewhat full…) in reverse chronological order:

Rita Indiana Hernandez, Papi

Shelley Jackson, “A Report on Certain Curious Objects, Believed to Be Words in an Unknown Language of the Dead”

G. Willow Wilson, Alif, The Unseen

Michal Ajvaz, The Other City

Carmen Laforet, Nada

Patrik Ouředník, Europeana

Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Michael Taussig, My Cocaine Museum

Tatyana Tolystaya, The Slynx

Augusto Moterroso, Mister Taylor

Vladimir Sorokin, Ice Trilogy

Lauren Beukes, Zoo City

Samuel R. Delany, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

Juan Goytisolo, Exiled from Everywhere

Cesar Aira, How I Became a Nun

Maureen F. McHugh, Nekropolis