January Reading

The Devil’s Territory by Kyle Minor

I’m a little late getting to Minor, but I was surprised by the balance and versatility of this collection. He has an especially good command of the long story.

Town Smokes by Pinckney Benedict

The first full collection by Benedict I’ve read, and his first published. I’ve enjoyed some of his later stories more than these, though “The Sutton Pie Safe” which appears in this volume is one of the best Southern stories I’ve ever read.

The Good Brother by Chris Offutt

Very strong in the first half. Somewhat falls off in the Montana section, but still damn well worth the read.

Wittgenstein’s Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

My introduction to Bernhard. He comes highly regarded and I can somewhat agree. Certainly enough to get me to buy a copy of one of one of his others, “The Loser”. However, the misanthropy is tiresome. Hell of a nice reversal in the ending though. I think the comparison to Sebald is overplayed. Sebald demonstrates far greater versatility.

Stories II by Scott McClanahan

The repetitive tone was hard for me to get past. This aesthetic seriously disagrees with me, so I’m afraid I don’t understand much of the praise. The one story that seemed to stand above the others was the one where the narrator wanted to steal a copy of LEAVES OF GRASS from the Walt Whitman mall.

Bob, The Gambler by Frederick Barthelme

A quirky, enjoyable treatment of gambling addiction and the Southern Bizarre. The psychological realism was harrowing during the casino scenes when things begin unravelling.

The King by Donald Barthelme

The second book in my Barthelme brothers weekend doubleheader. A great, funny, sad, singular novel that applies postmodernist theatrics to Arthurian legend. One of my favorite novels in the last few years.

6 thoughts on “January Reading

  1. Charles –
    I liked Minor’s collection, too, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. Perhaps it was the cover and the title.

    I haven’t read either of Benedict’s collections, but I have read Dogs of God, which I think was his first novel. You can look it up if you don’t know anything about it, but it doesn’t deliver. I wouldn’t recommend it at all.

      • If you haven’t read it, Winter’s Bone is damn good. I’ve read Tomato Red, Woe to Live On, and Give Us a Kiss, and while they’re all good (Tomato Red being the best of the three), they don’t stand up to Winter’s Bone.

  2. I read GIVE US A KISS years ago and loved it. I plan on Winter’s Bone (saw the movies) and Tomato Red. Woe to Live On seems to be next to impossible to find.

    • I found a copy of Woe to Live On online quite awhile back. It’s a British publisher – No Exit Press. If I remember correctly I liked it but didn’t love it. I probably read it too quickly. It did remind me some of McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, so it can’t be all bad.

      I really like Woodrell’s work. He writes about a region that’s not really on the literary radar – The Ozarks. I’m really familiar with the area, and the novel I’m working on for my thesis takes place there. So, Woodrell’s a pretty good model for me.

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