Summer Reads: Saelan

Edward St. Aubyn, Lost for Words

I'd heard a lot about Edward St. Aubyn's quasi-autobiographical Patrick Melrose novels, a quintet of books about a family of crumbling British aristocrats, including high praise from some good friends and comparisons to both Amises (Martin and Kingsley). So when his newest novel, a one-off satire of literary awards, arrived with more praise all over it, it seemed like the perfect place to get familiar with St. Aubyn. It's a pretty cartoonish story, with a cast of characters that are all equally, gleefully two-dimensional, but it's hilarious nonetheless -- I breezed through it in just a few sittings. I'd call it a "romp," or even a "lark."

 Tricia Lockwood, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals

Tricia Lockwood's twitter presence (where she pioneered and mastered the sext-as-poem format) has already established her as a twisted genius and made her an icon of the Weird Twitter scene. Lockwood touches words inappropriately, congealing a stew of spam, lolspeak, and pop culture collage into globs of uneasily arousing poetry. Her talents aren't limited to 140 characters, either. Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals is her second collection (like her first, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, it's cover is illustrated by the equally-perverse Lisa Hanawalt) and in it, the space of the page allows Lockwood's verse to bloom like a venus fly trap.

Lydia Davis, Can’t and Won’t
Lydia Davis' thick, pinkish-orange volume of Collected Stories was hands-down the best thing I read last year, one of those books that instantly catapulted its author into my personal list of all-time favourites. And I'm clearly not alone in my esteem, given that she won the 2013 Booker Prize. I haven't started Can't and Won't yet, but it promises more of Davis' inimitably precise, poignant microfictions and I am very excited.

Nick Mandag, Facility Integrity

Toronto comic artist Nick Maandag's latest book is an Office Space-esque send-up of cubicle culture, with an obliviously tyrannical boss named Mr. Azwype who decides to implement some disruptive innovation with an efficiency-maximizing policy that forbids employees from doing "number twos" on the job. But when contract workers are brought in to "sniff out" violators, one of them stages a revolt. Naturally, hijinx ensue. Maandag's deadpan style and eccentric characters (like oily yes-man Bobby Dextrose) make this a real winner.

Maurizio Lazzarato, Signs and Machines

For some heavier reading, I'm looking to Maurizio Lazzarrato (author of The Making of the Indebted Man and The Violence of Financial Capitalism), whose new book advances a theory of how signs do things in the world. Moving beyond a postmodern framework hung up on the collapse of difference between image and reality, Lazzarato explains how, "Money, the stock market, price differentials, algorithms, and scientific equations and formulas constitute semiotic “motors" that make capitalism’s social and technical machines run." Under the imperialism of info-corporations like Google and the rise of ubiquitous surveillance, signs aren't just language and images for people to interpret, they're machines that make the world whether we're paying attention to them or not.

And here's a few other titles I hope to dig into over the Summer:

Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle vol. 1
Tove Jansson, Sculptor’s Daughter 
Sergio Chejfec, My Two Worlds
Ben Davis, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class
Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Neuro-totalitarianism

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