Reading Room catalogue

Quinn Latimer
Author
Title
Publisher
Year
Code
Speedboat
New York: New York Review Books
2013
RQL003

When Speedboat burst on the scene in the late ’70s it was like nothing readers had encountered before. It seemed to disregard the rules of the novel, but it wore its unconventionality with ease. Reading it was a pleasure of a new, unexpected kind. Above all, there was its voice, ambivalent, curious, wry, the voice of Jen Fain, a journalist negotiating the fraught landscape of contemporary urban America. Party guests, taxi drivers, brownstone dwellers, professors, journalists, presidents, and debutantes fill these dispatches from the world as Jen finds it.

A touchstone over the years for writers as different as David Foster Wallace and Elizabeth Hardwick, Speedboat returns to enthrall a new generation of readers.

The Collected Poems of Ai
New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company
2010
RQL028

Before her untimely death in 2010, Ai, known for her searing dramatic monologues, was hailed as “one of the most singular voices of her generation” (New York Times Book Review). Now for the first time, all eight books by this essential and uniquely American poet have been gathered in one volume.

from “The Cockfighter’s Daughter”

I found my father,
face down, in his homemade chili
and had to hit the bowl
with a hammer to get it off,
then scrape the pinto beans
and chunks of ground beef
off his face with a knife.

My Sister’s Hand in Mine. The Collected Works of Jane Bowles
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
2005
RQL006

Though she wrote only one novella, one short play, and fewer than a dozen short stories over a roughly twenty-year span from the early 1940s to the mid-1960s, Jane Bowles has long been regarded by critics as one of the premier stylists of her generation. Enlivened at unexpected moments by sexual exploration, mysticism, and flashes of wit alternately dry and hilarious, her prose is spare and honed, her stories filled with subtly sly characterizations of men and, mostly, women, dissatisfied not so much with the downward spiral of their fortunes as with the hollowness of their neat little lives. Whether focused on the separate emergences of Miss Goering and Mrs. Copperfield from their affluent, airless lives in New York and Panama into a less defined but intense sexual and social maelstrom in the novella “Two Serious Ladies,” or on the doomed efforts of the neighbors Mr. Drake and Mrs. Perry to form a connection out of their very different loneliness in “Plain Pleasures,” or on the bittersweet cultural collision of an American wife and a peasant woman in Morocco in “Everything Is Nice,” Jane Bowles creates whole worlds out of the unexpressed longings of individuals, adrift in their own lives, whether residing in their childhood homes or in faraway lands that are somehow both stranger and more familiar than what they left behind.

The Master Letters: Poems
New York: Alfred A. Knopf
2018
RQL013

Lucie Brock-Broido’s first collection, A Hunger, was highly praised by many critics and poets. Stanley Kunitz said of it, “The poems are original, strange, often unsettling, and mostly beautiful.” His words apply with equal cogency to The Master Letters.

Her richly textured new book takes its title from the three mysterious letters left by Emily Dickinson at her death— two addressed to “Dear Master,” the third to recipient unknown. Lucie Brock-Broido’s verse-letters echo and traverse Dickinson’s wilderness of injury and worship; her language is at once blistering and mystical. These are her own brocade devastationsa tapestry of abandonment and bliss.

Plainwater: Essays and Poetry
New York: Vintage Books
1995
RQL025

The poetry and prose collected in Plainwater are a testament to the extraordinary imagination of Anne Carson, a writer described by Michael Ondaatje as “the most exciting poet writing in English today.” Succinct and astonishingly beautiful, these pieces stretch the boundaries of language and literary form, while juxtaposing classical and modern traditions.

Carson envisions a present-day interview with a seventh-century BC poet, and offers miniature lectures on topics as varied as orchids and Ovid. She imagines the muse of a fifteenth-century painter attending a phenomenology conference in Italy. She constructs verbal photographs of a series of mysterious towns, and takes us on a pilgrimage in pursuit of the elusive and intimate anthropology of water. Blending the rhythm and vivid metaphor of poetry with the discursive nature of the essay, the writings in Plainwater dazzle us with their invention and enlighten us with their erudition.

Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems
New York: Alfred A. Knopf
2017
RQL014

Robin Coste Lewis’s electrifying collection is a triptych that begins and ends with lyric poems meditating on the roles desire and race play in the construction of the self.

In the center of the collection is the title poem, “Voyage of the Sable Venus,” an amazing narrative made up entirely of titles of artworks from ancient times to the present—titles that feature or in some way comment on the black female figure in Western art. Bracketed by Lewis’s own autobiographical poems, “Voyage” is a tender and shocking meditation on the fragmentary mysteries of stereotype, juxtaposing our names for things with what we actually see and know.

A new understanding of biography and the self, this collection questions just where, historically, do ideas about the black female figure truly begin—five hundred years ago, five thousand, or even longer? And what role did art play in this ancient, often heinous story? Here we meet a poet who adores her culture and the beauty to be found within it. Yet she is also a cultural critic alert to the nuances of race and desire—how they define us all, including her own sometimes painful history.

Lewis’s book is a thrilling aesthetic anthem to the complexity of race—a full embrace of its pleasure and horror, in equal parts.

Burn the Diaries
New York: Dancing Foxes Press
2014
RQL023

In the oeuvre of Canadian-born, New York–based artist Moyra Davey, literature and writing are as significant as photography, film, and video. In Burn the Diaries, Davey considers the work of French playwright and political activist Jean Genet (1910–1986), while examining fugitive moments from her own life. An essay by her childhood friend and reading companion Alison Strayer, written in response, reflects on Davey’s themes. The publication is part of a group of works—also including photographs, a film, and an installation of her signature mailers—and can be read both as an artist’s book and a catalogue that accompanied an exhibition at mumok, Vienna, and the ICA, Philadelphia, in 2014.

Les Goddesses / Hemlock Forest
New York: Dancing Foxes Press, Bergen: Bergen Kunsthall
2017
RQL024

This book by New York–based artist Moyra Davey is based on two related projects, Les Goddesses (2011) and Hemlock Forest (2016), which each take form through text, photography, and film. Layering introspection and personal narratives with meditations on the lives and works of other writers, filmmakers, and artists—ranging from 18th-century feminist writer and activist Mary Wollstonecraft to Chantal Akerman, Karl Ove Knausgård, and Davey’s own five sisters—the artist explores such themes as compulsion, artistic production, family, and life and its passing.

Breast Stories
Calculta, London, New York: Seagull Books
2014
RQL005

As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak points out in her introduction, the breast is far more than a symbol in these stories—it is the means of harshly indicting an exploitative social system.

In “Draupadi”, the protagonist, Dopdi Mejhen, is a tribal revolutionary, who, arrested and gang-raped in custody, turns the terrible wounds of her breast into a counter-offensive.

In “Breast-giver”, a woman who becomes a professional wet-nurse to support her family, dies of painful breast cancer, betrayed alike by the breasts that had for years been her chief identity and the dozens of “sons” she had suckled.

In “Behind the Bodice”, migrant labourer Gangor’s “statuesque” breasts excite the attention of ace photographer Upin Puri, triggering off a train of violence that ends in tragedy.

Spivak introduces this cycle of “breast stories” with thought-provoking essays which probe the texts of the stories, opening them up to a complex of interpretation and meaning.

To look at the sea is to become what one is. An Etel Adnan Reader Vol. I
Brooklyn & Callicoon, New York: Nightboat Press
2014
RQL008

This landmark two-volume edition follows Adnan’s work from the infernal elegies of the 1960s to the ethereal meditations of her later poems, to form a portrait of an extraordinarily impassioned and prescient life. Ranging between essay, fiction, poetry, memoir, feminist manifesto, and philosophical treatise, while often challenging the conventions of genre, Adnan’s works give voice to the violence and revelation of the last six decades as it has centered, in part, within the geopolitics of the Arab world, and in particular the author’s native Beirut. Among the key works reproduced in their entirety are Sitt Marie Rose (1978); The Arab Apocalypse (1980); Journey to Mount Tamalpais (1986); and Of Cities & Women (1993).

To look at the sea is to become what one is. An Etel Adnan Reader Vol. II
Brooklyn & Callicoon, New York: Nightboat Press
2014
RQL009

This landmark two-volume edition follows Adnan’s work from the infernal elegies of the 1960s to the ethereal meditations of her later poems, to form a portrait of an extraordinarily impassioned and prescient life. Ranging between essay, fiction, poetry, memoir, feminist manifesto, and philosophical treatise, while often challenging the conventions of genre, Adnan’s works give voice to the violence and revelation of the last six decades as it has centered, in part, within the geopolitics of the Arab world, and in particular the author’s native Beirut. Among the key works reproduced in their entirety are Sitt Marie Rose (1978); The Arab Apocalypse (1980); Journey to Mount Tamalpais (1986); and Of Cities & Women (1993).

A Woman’s Story
New York, Oakland, London: Seven Stories Press
2003
RQL012

A Woman’s Story is Annie Ernaux’s “deeply affecting account of mothers and daughters, youth and age, and dreams and reality” (Kirkus Reviews). Upon her mother’s death from Alzheimers, Ernaux embarks on a daunting journey back through time, as she seeks to “capture the real woman, the one who existed independently from me, born on the outskirts of a small Normandy town, and who died in the geriatric ward of a hospital in the suburbs of Paris.” She explores the bond between mother and daughter, tenuous and unshakable at once, the alienating worlds that separate them, and the inescapable truth that we must lose the ones we love. In this quietly powerful tribute, Ernaux attempts to do her mother the greatest justice she can: to portray her as the individual she was. She writes, “I believe I am writing about my mother because it is my turn to bring her into the world.”

The author of some twenty works of fiction and memoir, Annie Ernaux is considered by many to be France’s most important literary voice. She won the Prix Renaudot for A Man’s Place and the Marguerite Yourcenar Prize for her body of work. More recently she received the International Strega Prize, the Prix Formentor, the French-American Translation Prize, and the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation for The Years, which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. Her other works include Exteriors, A Girl’s Story, A Woman’s Story, The Possession, Simple Passion, HappeningI Remain in DarknessShameA Frozen Woman, and A Man’s Place.

The Errancy
Manchester: Carcanet Press
1998
RQL019

The Errancy is a pensive and erotic new collection by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Dream of the Unified Field. In these poems Jorie Graham approaches a number of numinous characters, each an embodiment of sexual, emotional, political or spiritual desire – desire seeking its place in an age of betrayed values, where dreaming has been rubbed thin by reason, frayed by the speed of facts.

Error is explored as the heroic form of finding one’s way—a purposeful wandering toward truth, a pilgrimage in which the heart’s longing is guide. Lovers celebrate the body; angels deliver celestial warnings. Here are Pascal and his wager, Akhmatova and her refusal; a few soldiers sleep before a sepulchre while something inexplicable happens behind their backs.

Sacred and spiritual, celestial and corporeal, coexist: The Errancy confirms John Ashbery’s description of Graham as ‘one of the finest poets writing today’.

My Emily Dickinson
New York: New Directions
2007
RQL004

For Wallace Stevens, “Poetry is the scholar’s art.” Susan Howe—taking the poet-scholar-critics Charles Olson, H.D., and William Carlos Williams (among others) as her guides—embodies that art in her 1985 My Emily Dickinson (winner of the Before Columbus Foundation Book Award). Howe shows ways in which earlier scholarship had shortened Dickinson’s intellectual reach by ignoring the use to which she put her wide reading. Giving close attention to the well-known poem, “My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun,” Howe tracks Dickens, Browning, Emily Brontë, Shakespeare, and Spenser, as well as local Connecticut River Valley histories, Puritan sermons, captivity narratives, and the popular culture of the day. “Dickinson’s life was language and a lexicon her landscape. Forcing, abbreviating, pushing, padding, subtracting, riddling, interrogating, re-writing, she pulled text from text….”

I’m OK, I’m Pig!
Bloodaxe Books
2014
RQL010

Kim Hyesoon is one of South Korea’s most important contemporary poets. She began publishing in 1979 and was one of the first few women in South Korea to be published in Munhak kwa jisong (Literature and Intellect), one of two key journals which championed the intellectual and literary movement against the US-backed military dictatorships of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan in the 1970s and 80s

Don Mee Choi writes: ‘Kim’s poetry goes beyond the expectations of established aesthetics and traditional “female poetry” (yŏryusi), which is characterised by its passive, refined language. In her experimental work she explores women’s multiple and simultaneous existence as grand-mothers, mothers, and daughters in the context of Korea’s highly patriarchal society, a nation that is still under neo-colonial rule by the US. Kim’s poetics are rooted in her attempt to resist conventional literary forms and language long defined by men in Korea. According to Kim, “women poets oppose and resist their conditions, using unconventional forms of language because their resistance has led them to a language that is unreal, surreal, and even fantastical. The language of women’s poetry is internal, yet defiant and revolutionary”.’

I Am the Brother of XX
Sheffield, London, New Haven: And Other Stories
2015
RQL020

A wife is suspended in a bird cage; a thirteenth-century visionary senses the foreskin of Christ on her tongue: Fleur Jaeggy’s gothic imagination knows no limits. Whether telling of mystics, tormented families or famously private writers, Jaeggy’s terse, telegraphic writing is always psychologically clear-eyed and deeply moving, always one step ahead, or to the side, of her readers’ expectations.

In this, her long-awaited return, we read of an ‘eerie maleficent calm, a brutal calm’, and recognise the timbre of a writer for whom a paradoxical world seethes with quiet violence.

Ban en Banlieue
New York: Nightboat Press
2015
RQL026

Bhanu Kapil’s Ban en Banlieue follows a brown (black) girl as she walks home from school in the first moments of a riot. An April night in London, in 1979, is the axis of this startling work of overlapping arcs and varying approaches. By the end of the night, Ban moves into an incarnate and untethered presence, becoming all matter— soot, meat, diesel oil and force—as she loops the city with the energy of global weather. Derived from performances in India, England and throughout the U.S., Ban en Banlieue is written at the limit of somatic and civic aims.

f.
Berlin: Sternberg Press
2015
RQL016

First published in German in 1987, this is artist and writer Jutta Koether’s meditation on painting. In novella form, f. follows several disembodied female characters as they consider velvet, coral, the curtain, money, color, red. These objects, these things, help the narrator and other characters come into being, but it is paintings that embody who the narrator really is: “Even if I’m their hostage when I look at them, I’m not inferior to them. I lie down, stand, or sit in front of them and, in this moment, I’m everything they affect in me.” Unlike people, paintings are fixed, explicit with their intentions and challenges—in the end they will still be here, outlasting those who made them or who looked at them. A facsimile of the original German publication is included in this volume.

In the Surgical Theatre
Philadelphia: The American Poetry Review
1999
RQL022

A doctor contemplates Lenin’s embalmed body; two angels flank an open chest during a heart transplant; a father’s anger turns into a summer thunderstorm. Each of Levin’s poems is an astonishing investigation of human darkness, propelled by a sensuous syntax and a desire for healing. Winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize, In the Surgical Theatre was selected by Louise Glück, who wrote, “at the book’s center… is the surgical theatre, an image, like Plath’s bees, metaphorically fertile, its manifold resonances revealed though Levin’s extraordinary and demanding intelligence… What in such a smaller talent might have proved repetitious, banal, self-glorifying, is, here, the heart of an astonishing book.”

WHEREAS: Poems
Minneapolis: Graywolf Press
2017
RQL015

WHEREAS confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes, and reflects that language in its officiousness and duplicity back on its perpetrators. Through a virtuosic array of short lyrics, prose poems, longer narrative sequences, resolutions, and disclaimers, Layli Long Soldier has created a brilliantly innovative text to examine histories, landscapes, her own writing, and her predicament inside national affiliations. “I am,” she writes, “a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, meaning I am a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation—and in this dual citizenship I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live.” This strident, plaintive book introduces a major new voice in contemporary literature.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
Berkeley: Crossing Press
2007
RQL027

In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope. This commemorative edition includes a new foreword by Lorde-scholar and poet Cheryl Clarke, who celebrates the ways in which Lorde’s philosophies resonate more than twenty years after they were first published.

These landmark writings are, in Lorde’s own words, a call to “never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is . . . ”

Sula
London: Vintage
2016
RQL001

As young girls in a poor but close-knit community, Nel and Sula are inseparable. But their paths as adults couldn’t be more different: while Nel settles in town to raise a family, Sula escapes for the progressive ideals of the big city. When Sula reappears ten years later, she comes face to face with a community whose values are at odds with her fierce individualism and rebellious ways. Reunited, Nel and Sula must confront the consequences of their actions and the dreadful secret they shared in childhood.

Two girls who grow up to become women. Two friends who become something worse than enemies. Terrifying, comic and tragic, Sula overflows with love and life, friendship and betrayal.

Afterglow (a dog memoir)
London: Grove Press
2018
RQL029

Prolific and widely renowned, Eileen Myles is a trailblazer whose decades of literary and artistic work “set a bar for openness, frankness, and variability few lives could ever match” (New York Review of Books). This newest book paints a kaleidoscopic portrait of a beloved confidant: the pit bull called Rosie. In 1990, Myles chose Rosie from a litter on the street, and their connection instantly became central to the writer’s life and work. During the course of their sixteen years together, Myles was madly devoted to the dog’s well-being, especially in her final days. Starting from the emptiness following Rosie’s death, Afterglow (a dog memoir) launches a heartfelt and fabulist investigation into the true nature of the bond between pet and pet-owner. Through this lens, we witness Myles’s experiences with intimacy and spirituality, celebrity and politics, alcoholism and recovery, fathers and family history, as well as the fantastical myths we spin to get to the heart of grief.

Moving from an imaginary talk show where Rosie is interviewed by Myles’s childhood puppet to a critical reenactment of the night Rosie mated with another pit bull, from lyrical transcriptions of their walks to Rosie’s enlightened narration from the afterlife, Afterglow (a dog memoir) illuminates all that it can mean when we dedicate our existence to a dog.

Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962-1972
New York: New Directions
2016
RQL011

Revered by Octavio Paz and Roberto Bolaño, Alejandra Pizarnik is still a hidden treasure in the U.S. Extracting the Stone of Madness comprises all of her middle to late work, as well as a selection of posthumously published verse. Obsessed with themes of solitude, childhood, madness, and death, Pizarnik explored the shifting valences of the self and the border between speech and silence. In her own words, she was drawn to “the suffering of Baudelaire, the suicide of Nerval, the premature silence of Rimbaud, the mysterious and fleeting presence of Lautréamont,” and to the “unparalleled intensity” of Artaud’s “physical and moral suffering.”

Excellent Women
London: Virago Press
2009
RQL017

Mildred Lathbury is one of those “excellent women” who is often taken for granted. She is a godsend, “capable of dealing with most of the stock situations of life – birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sales, the garden fete spoilt by bad weather”.

As such, she often gets herself embroiled in other people’s lives – especially those of her glamorous new neighbours, the Napiers, whose marriage seems to be on the rocks. One cannot take sides in these matters, though it is tricky, especially as Mildred, teetering on the edge of spinsterhood, has a soft spot for dashing young Rockingham Napier.

This is Barbara Pym’s world at its funniest and most touching.

R's Boat
Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press
2010
RQL018

I wanted narrative to be a picture of distances ringed in purple.
Then I wanted it to be electronic fields exempt from sentiment.
Then I wanted it to be the patient elaboration of my senses.

The boldly original Canadian poet Lisa Robertson has received high praise for the uncompromising intelligence and style of her poetry. In R’s Boat, she brings us to the crossroads of poetry, theory, the body, and cultural criticism. These poems bring fresh vehemence to Robertson’s ongoing examination of the changing shape of feminism, the male-dominated philosophical tradition, the daily forms of discourse, and the possibilities of language itself.

As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Diaries 1964-1980
Penguin Books
2012
RQL002

From the graphic destruction of war-torn Vietnam to her tumultuous romantic affairs, in the second volume of her diaries, Sontag is profoundly candid and insightful. This instalment charts the years when Sontag wrote the majority of her renowned essays, including the ground-breaking Against Interpretation in 1966. Riveting and enlightening, As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh illuminates the mind of one of the twentieth century’s most significant intellectuals.

Electra
Oxford University Press
2001
RQL007

Translated by Anne Carson.

Based on the conviction that only translators who write poetry themselves can properly recreate the celebrated and timeless tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the Greek Tragedy in New Translations series offers new translations that go beyond the literal meaning of the Greek in order to evoke the poetry of the originals. Under the general editorship of Peter Burian and Alan Shapiro, each volume includes a critical introduction, commentary on the text, full stage directions, and a glossary of the mythical and geographical references in the play.

Although it has been at times overshadowed by his more famous Oedipus Tyrannus and Antigone, Sophocles’ Electra is remarkable for its extreme emotions and taut drama.

Electra recounts the murders of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus by Clytemnestra’s son Orestes, to avenge their murder of his father Agamemnon, commander of the Greeks at Troy, upon his return home. Sophocles’ version is presented from the viewpoint of Electra, Orestes’ sister, who laments her father, bears witness to her mother’s crime, and for years endures her mother’s scorn. Despite her overwhelming passion for just revenge, Electra admits that her own actions are shameful. When Orestes arrives at last, her mood shifts from grief to joy, as Orestes carries out the bloody vengeance.

Sophocles presents this story as a savage though necessary act of vengeance, vividly depicting Electra’s grief, anger, and exultation. This translation equals the original in ferocity of expression, and leaves intact the inarticulate cries of suffering and joy that fill the play.

Kith
Albany: Fence Books, Toronto: BookThug
2017
RQL021

In Kith, award-winning writer Divya Victor engages Indian-American diasporic culture in the twentieth century, via an autobiographical account that explores what ‘kith’ might mean outside of the national boundaries of those people belonging to the Indian and Southeast Asian diasporas.

Through an engagement with the effects of globalization on identity formation, cultural and linguistic exchange, and demographic difference, Kith explores questions about race and ethnic difference: How do ‘brownness’ and ‘blackness’ emerge as traded commodities in the transactions of globalization? What are the symptoms of belonging? How and why does ‘kith’ diverge from ‘kin,’ and what are the affects and politics of this divergence? Historically-placed and well researched, Kith is an unflinching and simultaneous account of both systemic and interpersonal forms of violence and wounding in the world today.