The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2012

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JUL-AUG 2012 Issue

Suggestions for Summer Reading: Unspeakable Origins

For our first reading list three summers ago, Phong and I asked contributors to provide the author and title of five “most important” works that, objectively considered, everyone should read: the result—no doubt—was a Grand List. Last year, however, already marked a subjective turn in our summer recommendations. Contributors were again asked to provide five “most important” works, but this time five that each dreaded never ever finding time to read before the big reading lamp is snapped off for keeps. This was a somewhat Tragic List of summer readings forever mise en abyme.

This year, our third, we have directed the gaze of our contributors more inwardly still and asked each to divulge author and title of five books remembered as having once been decisively “most important,” but of which our contributors could never ever bear to again read a page. This, no doubt, is to date and by far our most Introspective List.

Confronted with the vision of this 3rd collated landscape, we expect, the gaze of our readers will itself be compelled to diverge inwardly. For if it was difficult even with the Grand List to figure out what to do with a catalog of hundreds of books that nobody could plausibly get through in any number of summers, so that one might have easily concluded it was hardly worth starting one of them; and if the next summer, faced with the Tragic List, it was by magnitudes again more dispiriting to seek a reason to read any of several hundred volumes that 30 deeply studied contributors had compulsively remaindered from their life plans; then, in this, our most Introspective List, the puzzle of mode d’emploi obtrudes most ominously, demonstrating perhaps a streak of nihilism.

For what, after all, is one to do with these suggested hundreds of readings that every named contributor long ago jettisoned, while maintaining only a secreted, perhaps rueful, even humiliating affinity known only to each? Here our most inward list, weighted by dialectical ballast alone, reverses once again into the most outward and objective of concerns, the meaning of history itself in the puzzle of our unspeakable origins, as a list of suggested readings, actually no more, no less grim than any other such list, itself for summer reading in a summer—as we all know—that, cold or hot, is no longer so very much that season.

—Robert Hullot-Kentor



2012 Summer Reading List:


1. Paul Taylor (dancer, choreographer)

Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabokov

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust

The Ants by Edward O. Wilson and Bert Hölldobler


2. Sylvère Lotringer(philosopher, writer, editor)

Indochina: An Ambiguous Colonization (1858-1954) by Pierre Brocheuz and Daniel Hémery

The Malady of Death by Marguerite Duras

The Femicide Machine by Sergio Gonzáles Rodríguez

Judgment and Contemporary Art Criticism edited by Jeff Khonsary and Melanie O’Brian

Sloterdijk Now edited by Stuart Elden


3. Su Friedrich (filmmaker)

Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers


4. Clayton Eshleman (poet, translator)

The Complete Poems of Hart Crane by Hart Crane

The Four Zoas by William Blake

Love’s Body by Norman O. Brown

The Dream and the Underworld by James Hillman

The Ghost Dance: Origins of Religion by Weston La Barre


5. Michèle Gerber Klein (writer, art lover)

Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

The Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde

La Bas by Huysmans—so scary. (I found it under my parents’ bed.)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare


6. Bob Holman (poet, poetry activist)

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry

Kita Kan by Kandia Kouyaté


7. Paul Greengard (neuroscientist)

The Iliad by Homer

The Odyssey by Homer

The Greek Tragedies (considered as a unit)

King Lear by William Shakespeare

Hamlet by William Shakespeare


8. Bryce Dessner (composer, musician)

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

L’immoraliste Andre Gide

The Technique of My Musical Language by Olivier Messiaen

Ecrits by Edgar Varèse


9. Gamal al-Ghitani (novelist, journalist)

The Book of The Dead (Pharaonic Heritage)

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

One Thousand and One Nights

The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andrić

The Way of Lao Tzu by Wing-tsit Chan


10. Joseph Masheck (art historian, critic)

Paradise Lost by John Milton

Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

The Accumulation of Capital by Rosa Luxemburg

Culture and Society by Raymond Williams

Abstract Art by Dora Vallier


11. Barry Schwabsky (art critic)

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

Of Grammatology by Jacques Derrida

Classifying, The Thousand Longest Rivers in the World by Alighiero Boetti and Anne-Marie Sauzeau-Boetti


12. Donald Breckenridge (novelist, editor)

The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

Black Spring by Henry Miller

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.

Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac

La Maison de Rendez-vous by Alain Robbe-Grillet, translated by Richard Howard


13. Malcolm Morley (painter)

Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History by Norman O. Brown

Ulysses by James Joyce

The First and Last Freedom by Jiddu Krishnamurti

A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust

Outline of History by Oswald Spengler


14. Johnny Temple (publisher, musician)

Native Son by Richard Wright

The Obscene Bird of Night by José Donoso

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Billy Budd by Herman Melville

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky


15. Ursula von Rydingsvard (artist)

Kurt Schwitters by John Elderfield

Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke

Between Silence and Light: Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn by John Lobell and Louis I. Kahn

Africa: The Art of a Continent edited by Tom Phillips

Arshile Gorky by Janie C. Lee and Melvin P. Lader


16. Will Ryman (sculptor)

Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury


17. Barbara Rose (art historian, critic)

Stilfragen by Alois Riegl

On the Sublime by Longinus

The Art of Memory by Giordano Bruno

Seven Types of Ambiguity by William Empson

Of Grammatology by Jacques Derrida


18. Robert Haller (film archivist)

One Two Three… Infinity by George Gamow

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem (by the way, the Soderbergh film version is superior to the Tarkovsky film version)

Blonde By Joyce Carol Oates

La Maison de Rendez-Vous by Alain Robbe-Grillet

Witness by Whittaker Chambers


19. Britta Le Va (writer, photographer)

A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust

Kitab alf laylah wah-laylah (or The Arabian Night's Entertainments) by Sir Richard Buron

Das Schloss (or The Castle) by Franz Kafka

Invisible Cities Italio Calvino

Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov


20. Merrill Wagner (artist)

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyesky

Hiroshima by John Hersey


21. Pierre Joris (poet, translator)

Die schönsten Sagen des klassischen Altertums (or Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece) by Gustav Schwab

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Nietzsche (3 volumes) by Martin Heidegger

The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein

The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud


22. Lynne Tillman (novelist, cultural critic)

A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

The Virgin and the Gypsy by D.H. Lawrence


23. Fred Tomaselli (artist)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord


24. Constance Lewallen (curator)

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The Wasteland by T. S. Eliot

Walden by Henry David Thoreau


25. Bill Berkson (poet, art critic)

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein

The Tradition of the New by Harold Rosenberg

Monsieur Teste by Paul Valéry

Les Caves du Vatican by André Gide


26. Joe Zucker (painter)

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Thomas Edward Gibbon

The Banquet Years by Roger Shattuck

Painters of the Italian Renaissance by Bernard Berenson

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol


27. Chris Martin (painter)

History of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism by John Rewald

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Life Goes to War: A Picture History of World War II by David G. Scherman

Howl by Allen Ginsberg

The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda


28. Carlos Brillembourg (architect, writer)

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan

La Pensée Sauvage (or The Savage Mind) by Claude Lévi-Strauss

Words and Pictures by Meyer Schapiro


29. Vincent Katz (poet, art critic)

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

The Rolling Stones On Tour by Terry Southern

The Poems of Sextus Propertius translated by J. P. McCulloch

Archie Comics created by John L. Goldwater and written by Vic Bloom

Dennis the Menace


30. Raymond Foye (curator, publisher)

A Confederate General from Big Sur by Richard Brautigan

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Catcher in the Rye (but of course) by J. D.Salinger

Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone by James Baldwin

Anything by Hermann Hesse


31. Eléonore False (artist)

Moi, Christiane F., 13 ans, droguée, prostituée by Kai Hermann and Horst Rieck

Une femme by Anne Delbée

La vie sexuelle de Catherine M by Catherine Millet

Ether by Bénédicte Puppinck

Un certain sourire by Françoise Sagan


32. Barbara McAdams (writer, editor)

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

I’m Not Stiller by Max Frisch

The Tin Drum by Günter Grass


33. Francis Cape (sculptor)

The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt

Of Grammatology by Jacques Derrida

The Anti-Aesthetic edited by Hal Foster

The Life of Benvenuto Cellini by Benvenuto Cellini

The Bible


34. Robert Bergman (photographer)

The Trial and Death of Socrates byPlato

Tragic Sense of Life by Miguel de Unamuno

Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard

The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

Beethoven: His Spiritual Development by J. W. N. Sullivan


35. Mary Ann Caws (professor of comparative literature)

The Loser by Thomas Bernhard

The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen

Marshlands by André Gide

Nadja by Andre Breton

The Power of the Center by Rudolf Arnheim


36. Antonio Y Vasquez-Arroyo (political scientist)

Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

The Castle by Franz Kafka

The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

The Theaetetus by Plato


37. Alex Demirović (social philosopher)

Old Surehand by Karl May

The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust

Geschichte der deutschen Revolution (or History of German Revolution) by Richard Müller

Of Grammatology by Jacques Derrida


38. Marjorie Welish (painter, poet, writer)

The Book of Knowledge (a children’s encyclopedia) edited by Holland Thompson and Arther Mee

Art in Our Time: An Exhibition to Celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Museum of Modern Art (exhibition catalogue)

Hundred Thousand Billion Poems by Raymond Queneau, translated by Pierre Rosenstiehl

The High Valley by Kenneth Read

Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet, translated by Richard Howard


39. Robert Hullot-Kentor (philosopher)

The Moving Target by W. S. Merwin

One Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse

Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine by Jay Williams

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

The Tower and the Abyss by Erich Kahler


40. Phong Bui (artist, publisher)

Lust for Life by Irving Stone

Irrational Man by William Barrett

Young Man Luther by Erik Erikson

Le Grand Meaules by Alain-Fournier

Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Robert Hullot-Kentor

Robert Hullot-Kentor's "Commentary on Samuel Beckett's What Where" will appear in Critical Inquiry this spring; his Undreamt Nation is forthcoming later in the year from Sternberg Press.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2012

All Issues