I’m breaking loose from form here (not one to stick to rules, me): these aren’t all explicitly to do with math and/or science (the theme of this increasingly infrequent column), but they’re works I’ve recently found joy in, gravitated to, and looped. They eased the year.
As always, these aren’t necessarily works from 2022 but ones I (re)encountered in 2022.
fiction The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett (1953)
I’ve read this I don’t know how many times—I say that, but I think the answer is probably only twice, and a very long time ago, until just this past week (so maybe three times now). To reread it was a little unsettling: how many of my own sentences I feel like I discovered there. And to watch students have their worlds also unsettled by it (“I’ll never read a novel the same way again”) was… moving is the only word I can think of. I’m grateful for its shifts and resonances.
interview David Naimon’s Between the Covers interview with Dionne Brand (Oct. 2022)
towers The communication towers and weather stations near Berthoud Pass, CO
album Sent From My Telephone by Voice Actor (2022)
My favorite album of 2022.
fiction Summertime in the Emergency Room by David Nutt (Calamari Archive, 2022)
This collection of short stories by my Calamari pressmate is quick and funny and sad and so, so particular with the sentence—a real delight, I found, reading it.
national monument Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ
journal a row of trees, vol. 1 (Sept. 2022)
I’m biased because I’ve been a part of seeing this project come into being for the last year and a half, but, really, the variety of work inside is incredible: smart and hopeful, arrays of form and expression around the theme of “vibration.”
film Memoria by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2022)
Saw this twice in the theater, which I never do.
song “Down Where the Valleys are Low” by Judee Sill (Live in London, the BBC Recordings, 1972-3)
nonfiction The Weil Conjectures: On Math and the Pursuit of the Unknown by Karen Olsson (FSG, 2019)
I picked this up randomly at Powell’s while browsing the math section, and I read the whole thing on the flight from Portland back to Denver. Really delightful and curious, informative but with layers of awe and wonder—would be a great introduction to the pleasures and mysticisms of mathematical thinking.
letter from Jay Wright (March 2022)
Send letters to people whose writing you like is something I learned this spring. A couple of lovely emails, but Jay’s handwritten letter was best. Thank you, Devin Johnston, for suggesting I do this.
poetry Blood Snow by dg nanouk okpik (Wave Books, 2022)
A corroded filament of a white bear’s heart
shines in warm snow like frozen fireflies stuck
in the air still yellow. A bulldozer digs the taiga.
fiction Florida by Christine Schutt (Northwestern UP, 2004)
Early summer I read most of Schutt’s books (I had only read a handful of stories here and there), and Florida was just the thing. Hard to pick a moment (all those Schutt sentences!), but here’s one:
My father never came back—no matter what he promised. He took off one morning in the car we called the Mouse: gray, rounded fenders, a grill that looked like a snout and a decoration of chrome banding the hood for whiskers. The Mouse was a harmless name for a harmless looking car, and it killed him; or it was the water that took his life though he drove to it. The rolled-up windows imploded, sounding the glassy dazzle and rush of water as my father passed down and down in what might have been a lie, this story of how he died. I never did see him again. He was elsewhere buried after he was found.
Late spring, hard ground, then from out of nowhere nodding flowers and loaded branches.
song “Commercial Suicide” by Colin Newman (1986)
I listened to this song a lot while driving in the snowy dark in Gunnison, Colorado, always on my way back from an evening pottery class, sliding around in the snow after failing to make anything.
bookstore Pilsen Community Books, Chicago, IL
nonfiction What is Information? by Peter Janich, trans. by Eric Hayot and Lea Pao (University of Minnesota Press, 2018)
film What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? by Alexandre Koberidze (2021)
Much, much waiting here. Prolonged scenes of waiting, children playing, chairs stacking.
fiction The Water Statues by Fleur Jaeggy, trans. by Gini Alhadeff (New Directions, 2021)
I wrote a bit of what I think about this (it’s fantastic) for Newfound.
poem “Enhanced Density” by Rosmarie Waldrop
This poem lit up in my brain this summer as I was reading Wittgenstein’s Zettel from which it borrows a sentence almost verbatim. This poem often appears in front of me when I’m walking. You can find it in Love, Like Pronouns (Omnidawn, 2003). Here’s something from Zettel, but not the part she uses:
In science it is usual to make phenomena that allow of exact measurement into defining criteria for an expression; and then one is inclined to think that now the proper meaning has been found. Innumerable confusions have arisen in this way.
There are for example degrees of pleasure, but it is stupid to speak of a measurement of pleasure. (#438)
fiction In the Cage by Henry James (1898)
I have a measured and wild love for this book.
film Two Friends by Jane Campion (1986)
Nice stills, piles of girls, socks, frustration.
album One of Our Girls (Has Gone Missing) by A.C. Marias (1989)
song “Keep It Lo” by Ojerime & Mura Masa (2022)
poetry Of Entirety Say the Sentence by Ernst Meister, trans. by Graham Foust and Samuel Frederick (Wave Books, 2015)
Reread this as I was working to articulate something about something I’ve been trying to make that’s expansive but not without constraint, too much and too little space, deictic and syntactic contractions, thin questions—all of which you can find here.
conference Experimental Writing in English (1945-2000): The Anti-Canon, Brussels, BE (Sept. 2022)
fiction Ratner’s Star by Don DeLillo (Knopf, 1976)
Recently read this for the first time—a little surprising for someone who writes about math. It was funny and strange, and I liked the ending.
art writing Solar Systems & Restrooms by Mel Bochner (MIT, 2008)
My only column from 2022 pairs Bochner with Renee Gladman’s latest—truly I’d like to make this longer; there’s much to draw out.
painting Door 5 by Theodoros Stamos (1962)
I don’t love this painting, but I saw it at the Portland Art Museum this summer, and I found myself standing in front of it for a very long time, and after I’d lapped the whole museum, I came back to it and stood some more.
fiction When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, trans. by Adrian Nathan West (NYRB, 2021)
criticism Experimental: American Literature and the Aesthetics of Knowledge by Natalia Cecire (Johns Hopkins UP, 2019)
Second favorite sentence: “If flash is a face, precision is a pussy.”
tacos El Torero, Tucson, AZ
song “Ponta de Areia” by Wayne Shorter (1975)