"Here are five choice books I thought about while writing To Remain Nameless. They accompanied me or puzzled me, jolted me when I felt comfortable with a particular way of writing or thinking, reminded me why I’d ever wanted to do this." —Brad Fox
From the publisher: In this debut novel, Tess keeps vigil at the bedside of her friend Laura, through a long night of labor as Laura’s first child arrives. The two have known each other through years of humanitarian aid work, from the Balkans, to Egypt, to Istanbul amid the ongoing refugee crisis—an era that includes the US’s war in Iraq, the Arab Spring, and many forms of global consequence and aftermath. Fox’s first novel helps us endure our questions about what forms care may take, and what we may offer to anyone, near and far.
Fanny Howe$22.95 $21.11
This volume contains five Fanny Howe novels, published after she abandoned the form. It’s the easiest way to get your hands-on Indivisible, her last. I remember thoughtlessly opening to the first line: “I locked my husband in a closet one fine winter morning.” By the time I reached the bottom of the page, where I found the passage was addressed “to you, God,” I was hypnotized. The novel is a careful assemblage of narrative and speculative fragments, ranging through the last decades of the 20th century. Activism, disillusion, incarceration, race, and religion — it evokes a scoured and devastated emotion.
Darius James$14.95 $13.75
I met Darius James in Berlin in 2004, in the aptly named Schwarzsauer, and spent many nights in his Pankow walk-up cooking greens and lotus root and talking about sin-eating and Satanism. When our illegal place on Reichenbergerstrasse held a night called “Writing Music / Music Writing,” we billed Darius as a National Treasure. Still too little known, this reissue of Negrophobia (is it a novel? an unproduced screenplay? God knows what it is!) captures Darius’s sensibility when he was in New York in the 1980s, performing, provoking, satirizing everyone. His knowledge of US culture is rare and deep, and his champagne bubbles go pop-pop-pop.
Charles Ludlam$18.95 $17.43
Doing high honor to the term travesty, Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theater Company used to take over downtown movie theaters after the midnight show. Now there’s a block by Sheridan Square named Ludlam Lane. This goldmine is a posthumous collection of essays, short pieces, and testimonies. It is always the right time to revisit the tenets of the “Ridiculous Manifesto”: “Aim: To get beyond nihilism by revaluing combat.” “The comic hero thrives by his vices. The tragic hero is destroyed by his virtue.” “If one is not a living mockery of one’s own ideals, one has set one’s ideals too low.”
Way down in the roots of the novel, before there was Quixote or the picaresque or the earthy comic tales of The Decameron, before there was a book called A Thousand Nights and a Night, there were the interlocking, cyclical tales of thieves, beggars, and charlatans called the Maqamat. Al-Hamadhani wrote the original version, but the imitation by al-Hariri was a smash hit. In the twelfth century, only the Qur’an was more popular. Its stylistic pyrotechnics are so outlandish — it’s like the whole Oulipo school in one book — that it serves as a consummate challenge for translators. Cooperson’s new version uses all kinds of techniques to render the infinite games of the original. Time to rediscover al-Hariri!
Clarice Lispector$15.95 $14.67
Gnostic philosophy oozing from the body of a half-smashed cockroach in a twentieth-century Brazilian apartment. The minarets of Damascus just there across the Atlantic. A short, flowing, constantly self-undermining work of fiction. There is nothing like it and it is not for everyone. An emblematic passage, in the excellent recent translation by Idra Novey: “I had entered the Sabbath orgy. Now I know what happens in the dark of the mountains on the nights of orgies. I know! I know with horror: things enjoy themselves. The thing of which things are made delights itself—that is the raw joy of black magic. It was from that neutral that I lived—the neutral was my true primeval soup. I was moving forward, and feeling the joy of hell.”