Some notable books in 2019 / 2019年に印象に残った本

These books were discussed at Gray Window Press last year!
Gray Window Pressの二人の間で昨年話題になった本を挙げておきます。

By A.K. Acosta:

  • Q / Luther Blisset (Mariner Books, 2005)
    Written by an anonymous collective of four Italian anarchists in the early 2000s, this story traces two characters throughout the Protestant Reformation of the late 16th century. The religious fervor of this conflict, between radical Protestants and the Catholic church, might seem a strange topic for a bunch of anarchists to write about, but they are really dealing with community, autonomy, power, statecraft, and access to God. Q is an adventure story that also traces the emergence of capitalism, of finance, the venality of the Church. It’s a celebration of heretics, true believers who want to deal directly with their God and not go through gold-covered intermediaries. Ends with Europe’s discovery of coffee. Very fun and you will learn a lot of history too.
    The title character of Q is an undercover informant for the Church, leading to speculation a few years ago that this book was somehow related to the Qanon group that believe an agent named Q is working to protect Trump and his plans against adversaries in the “deep state.” Were anarchist jokesters inspired by this book to prank a bunch of right-wing conspiracy theorists? Is Q just a good letter for anonymous agents to use a nom de plume? A mystery!

  • Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys / Viv Albertine (Faber & Faber, 2014)
    Albertine was a guitarist for legendary London all-girl punk band the Slits. The first part of the book covers the remarkable period in the late 70s where Sex Pistols, the Clash, and Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm MacClaren were at their peak. Albertine tells this story well, giving new perspectives to figures who had long become caricatures, like Sid Vicious. This part of her life ends about 40% through the book, and I foolishly wondered what else Albertine would have to talk about it. She tells us briefly of her post-Slits work as an aerobics instructor, her time at film school and career as a video editor, and then her transition into being a housewife. When a letter from an unexpected celebrity spurs her to return to music, we arrive at the punkest part of the book- a suburban mom playing her deeply personal, idiosyncratic songs at open mic nights to audiences full of drunk, boring guitar-nerd men, persevering through their jeers and incomprehension. Absolutely thrilling. I read several other music memoirs the past few years, but nothing hit nearly as hard as this.

  • New York 2140 / Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, 2017)
    Climate change fiction from the premier leftist sci-fi writer of the day. Imagines a post-flood New York, a lower Manhattan turned into a Venice-like network of canals between the partially submerged skyscrapers. On the one hand, it was a little disappointing that despite a few technological advances, twelve decades into the future was quite recognizable to the late 2010s reader. On the other hand, all cities are made cooler by boats, and this book as a lot of them. The story might be a bit too convenient- somehow the exact right rag-tag gang of New Yorkers come together to do something wild that I can’t deal you about because it would be a massive spoiler, but also- it’s a sci-fi book, we aren’t here for naturalist plots. This book was an imaginative and more hopeful counterpart to the non-fiction The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, by David Wallace-Wells, which was a huge bummer of course but also a worthwhile read.

  • Doxology / Nell Zink (Ecco, 2019) / The Topeka School / Ben Lerner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019)
    The election of Donald Trump was now three years ago, just about the amount of time our more thoughtful novelists need to come up decades-spanning stories to explain How We Got Here. It’s funny for me to talk about these two books together, because Nell Zink just published a very enjoyable essay where she managed to throw some pointed barbs at Ben Lerner, but these two books are both interested in locating the root of our current situation back in the late 80s/90s via inter-generational family tales. Zink’s book follows a teen runaway to the NYC in the late 80s who eventually becomes a computer programmer, member of an indie band that launches the career of a future rock star, and young mother. The second half of the book follows her daughter as she grows up in DC and volunteers on the 2016 campaign trail. Zink is American but has lived in Germany for the past twenty years or so, and sometimes the hyper-specificity of her writing combines with her perhaps not-as-in-touch-with-the-youth-as-she-thinks-she-is analysis of our era to create some interesting uncanny valley characters. Many offhand mentions of Ian MacKaye in the book, which might have been my favorite part. Lerner’s novel is about a high school debate champion living in the Midwest in the 90s (Lerner himself was a teen debate champion growing up in the 1990s Midwest), and his family of psychologists (Lerner’s parents are also psychologists). The novel is interested in questions of the uses and abuses of language, of gender, and of violence. I’m not sure how either of these novels will stand the test of time, but they are both extremely 2019 in their various ways.


  • 天皇陛下にささぐる言葉 / 坂口安吾(景文館書店、2019年)

  • オウム大論争―地上の楽園か、現実の地獄か!?(鹿砦社、エスエル出版、1995年)

  • 宿命 警察庁長官狙撃事件 捜査第一課元刑事の23年 / 原雄一(講談社、2018年)

  • 鳥の巣 / シャーリイ・ジャクスン 北川依子訳(国書刊行会、2018年)
    「誰かであること、いつも誰かであったということはほんとうに重要だ、あたしが入っていく世界のどこを探しても、ある特定の誰かじゃない人などいない。誰かであることは不可欠なのだ。」(P.121) という呪いのような言葉は、これも「女性」という存在が自己形成の機会を奪われてきたゆえに発される言葉なのだろう。