The Man With the Golden Arm – Nelson Algren

Beautifully written, deals with tragic, depressing subject matters in a poetically artistic way. Sad and bleak, was very glad to have finally finished this one just to escape the world it put me in. Will never be able to forget it. Think Selby via Faulkner, with a bit of Dostoyevsky, Hugo, and Tennessee Williams mixed in. Subject matter and conclusion may be too much for many.

Codex Seraphinianus – Luigi Serafini

At the risk of using an overused phrase, this book blew my mind. Bizarre illustrations, written in a language and alphabet invented entirely by the author, the book forced my mind open in order to ‘read’ it. The only thing I could liken it to is a child who cannot yet read ‘trying’ to read printed words and making up their own for what is on the page. A wild trip, even without drugs.

Essence of Laughter and Other Essays, Journals and Letters – Charles Baudelaire

Engrossing essays by Baudelaire on art, hashish,and the essence of laughter. Prior awareness of painter Constantin Guys a must for the art section since it’s basically all about his works, but at least I found out about him even if later than sooner. Especially interesting was Baudelaire’s discussion of the satanic nature of laughter. Also, inclusions of some notes, journal entries, letters, and prose versions of several poems from The Flowers of Evil. As well written an essayist as de Quincey, although not quite as broad.

Zoo or Letters Not About Love – Victor Shklovsky

Brilliant. A man suffering unrequited love is permitted by the object of his affections to write her only if he stops talking of his love (for Christ’s sake, you’re a pest). He does until he realizes that the woman he obsessed over was only the realization of a metaphor, that he’d invented this (superficial b*tch) and love in order to make a book of misunderstanding, about alien people, about an alien land. Interesting the way the animals of which he talks of seeing in the zoo are really other Russian expat friends of his. A novel of a displaced Russian living in Germany. He finally wises up.

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead – Barbara Comyns

A sweetly horrific nightmare of a tale. And the baby piglet “all pink and dead”. Where CAN one find prose like that? Complete with an appalling grandmother a’la a grotesque Shirley Jackson’s Mrs. Halloran from The Sundial. Who Was Changed could be a Stefan Kiesbye’s Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone, lite. Very lite. Kiesbye’s ducks would not be “quacking their approval” as they floated and in the flood, but his hens might commit suicide by dropping falling off their perches into the muck below. And his character could most certainly carry a dead kitten in his pocket. One of my favorite authors Brian Evanson wrote the prologue to this pitiless portrayal of human relationships in this time capsule of a novel that takes place in Warwickshire during the “Summer about seventy years ago”.
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