Exploration and Discovery List Part 1

From my pocket notebook, a list of twenty writers to explore; a memory prompt for when I am browsing in a bookshop. Most came as further reading from a book I’ve read, or passing comments on social media that intrigued me. Beyond cursory sampling I’ve read nothing of their work.

  1. Paula Gooder
  2. Matei Calinescu
  3. Vittorio Hösle
  4. Anton Shammas
  5. Miguel de Beistegui
  6. David Nowell Smith
  7. Susan Woolfson
  8. Roger Foster
  9. Christine Brooke-Rose
  10. Rachel Moran
  11. Michel-Rolph Trouillot
  12. Amitav Ghosh
  13. Roy Scranton
  14. Ricardo Piglia
  15. Ann Quinn
  16. Jacqueline Rose
  17. Edmond Jabes
  18. Max Tegmark
  19. Caleb Everett
  20. Agnes Callard

The Lunatic Fringe by Christine Brooke-Rose

Have you ever felt madness behind your eyes
cold as a draught from a forgotten door,
when you are talking intelligently to those
who think you sane, poised and perhaps a little more
brilliant than that flask of liquid brain allows,
that honeycomb filled with the drugs of bees
out of a season’s hearts, then drained
by the insomniac insolent machinery of love?

Madness, like shame or rage, is not hot as they say,
but like a stylus needling in a groove
to some loudspeaker at a distance of
about God’s nearness to us,
which for the lunatic is close
as his own brain that sometimes runs away
into an ocean of prehistoric fish,
long-playing to the beak of a bird,
and amplified
in, maybe, sex.

I must get into the mad world now.
There is a secret in the lunatic fringe,
a way of impinging
on God without mock-heroics of spirit.
When the soul is anyway lost,
given up with awareness,
generously as a gambit
in life’s deadly conversation with death,
there then can be no remorse,
only the cold closeness of creation,
a white filament of matter through the brain
ejaculating from generation to generation,
like Lucifer, falling.

Sontag’s Diaries 1964-1980

Susan Sontag in 1972

Rain provides the excuse not to go out and be busy, but to drink tea and finish Susan Sontag’s 1964-1980 Diaries: As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh. Like the first volume of diaries, Reborn (2009), these entries show a different Sontag to the assured essayist. The bones of the fierce essays are here, but so also is the unvarnished emotion of Sontag’s quest for intimacy and love.

The diaries reveal tantalising outlines of works, some realised and others abandoned, and lists and opinions like these:

“New” British novelists: B. S. Johnson, Ann Quin, David Plante, Christine Brooke-Rose, Brigid Brophy, Gabriel Josipovici [1976]

The great American novels of the 20th century (that is from 1920 on: post-James): Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Dos Passos’s USA, Faulkner’s Light in August [1976]