It seems paradoxical to write about Witold Gombrowicz’s Diary here. At well over seven hundred pages, spanning multiple decades and the writing of several major literary works of the 20th century, and encompassing correspondence, provocation, essays on aesthetics, and thoughts on Polish literature and the role of the expatriate artist, there’d still be uncovered space if we dedicated a week of Vol.1 to musings on it. Still: having sat down with it, I feel compelled to recommend it; Gombrowicz was a hell of a writer, and the work collected here is almost always fascinating. (There are, unfortunately, a few points where his penchant for provocation feels tone-deaf or borderline hateful; thankfully, these moments are few in number.)
It also prompted me to watch this utterly bizarre scene from 30 Door Key, an early-90s adaptation of his novel Ferdyduke, starring Crispin Glover and Iain Glen.
I hope you all read Jen Vafidis’s interview with Wayne Koestenbaum from earlier this week. Having just read Koestenbaum’s My 1980s and Other Essays, I’d like to add some quick thoughts on said collection — namely, that it’s a deftly-constructed take on art, literature, and culture. and that Koestenbaum seems singularly talented at utilizing particular structures for his essays that never seem to impose on their content. Some of the smartest and most self-searching writing on, well, virtually anything you’re liable to read right now.
Next week, you’re liable to read thoughts on a couple of quality science fiction novels, so it’s worth noting that my reading of those was prefaced by Thomas M. Disch’s 2000 The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of. Subtitled “How Science Fiction Conquered the World,” Disch begins with Poe and focuses on science fiction’s growing cultural appeal, from its roots in fiction to its spread across media. In the process, he touches on subgenres, politics, and more. And while there are a couple of moments that read awkwardly to me — most notably, his criticism of Ursula K. LeGuin, which seems at least in part rooted over a dispute around an anthology she edited — the bulk of this book is informative, whether you’re already familiar with the works begin discussed or relatively new to them.
As someone who’s increasingly becoming more fixated on soccer, I find more and more of my reading time this year dedicated to books about the sport. And hey, it’s a good time of the year to do it: in MLS, there’s very little space separating the top teams in the East and the West. (As one might suspect, I’m pulling for the New York Red Bulls.) Numerous European seasons are getting underway, and I’d be happy to talk your ear off about various American players with the initials “JA” who originally hail from New Jersey and are or will be playing in the EPL this season. Then again, Nick’s the go-to-guy for all things sports-related around these parts, so I’ll just say — for now, anyway — that I read Eduardo Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow over the weekend and enjoyed it a lot. It’s a series of short, poetic meditations on soccer over the better part of a century. Mythologizing abounds, with an eye towards South American players and teams, and a focus on left-of-center politics. Galeano is juggling a lot here, but it largely works: he shows how soccer and the rest of the world interact neatly, never pressing too firmly on his metaphors. If that last bit sounds somewhat like Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World — well, the two books have similar scopes, but vastly different approaches. Both come highly recommended.
In terms of periodicals and journals, I quite enjoyed Justin Taylor’s account of running into another writer who shares his name, which appeared in the latest issue of Slice. That same issue also featured a (fictional) account of an apartment search gone awry from A.N. Devers, which begins as a distinctly urban epistolatory slice of life and quietly veers into something stranger. The third issue of Howler has a focus on the centennial of U.S. Soccer. I’m still making my way through it, but lately I quite enjoyed excellent writing on the rise of a new professional women’s league in the US, a profile of Michael Bradley, and a look at the MISL in the 1980s — the last of which made me remember taking in an MISL game sometime in the early 80s on Long Island, though I can’t for the life of me remember much more than that. And as someone who was very curious about Gabriel Blackwell’s news of an upcoming Vertigo-inspired project, I’m even more intrigued by the excerpts that have turned up on 3:AM.