My Year in Reading: 2018

An amazing list of books included here by John Madera


books in the air

Despite 2018’s many local, national, and global catastrophes, it was a wonderful year for me, especially reading-wise. I read over a hundred and thirty books in the year, thirty books over my goal. You can find the full list of all the books I read this year below. But first, here are some capsule-reviews of some of the books I read (* = rereads):

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A Conversation with James Reich (Entropy)

James Reich is the publisher behind Stalking Horse Press and author of numerous books and articles. In this interview, Reich discuses his two most recent novels from Anti-Oedipus Press. Soft Invasions is set in Los Angeles during the early ‘40s and dramatizes psychoanalysis, nativism, and paranoia at the dawn of the Second World War. This psychedelic book focuses on Maxwell McKinney, a psychoanalyst, and Sid Starr, a screenwriter, in the form of a noir tale that plays with motifs and plot elements of Oedipus the King. Stylistically, Reich blends the language of Freud, the structure of Didion, and the mystery of Dashiell Hammett. Next, The Song My Enemies Sing takes mid-century science fiction tropes and twists it into a narrative that exists somewhere between a collection of stories and a novel. The cast is larger than Invasions. The setting more diverse—including California, Australia, Mexico, and Mars. While there is a thematic and stylistic connection between the books, both are unique. In this interview, Reich discusses his inspirations and the development of these books.

Jacob Singer: I’m interested in initial “big bang” moment of the story. What was the origin of Soft Invasions? And how did it progress stylistically? Psychoanalysis is woven through both substance and style. Was that there from the beginning?

James ReichSoft Invasions is the fallout from two volatile elements: the first was a vision I had of the “real” Battle of Los Angeles—the mass consensual UFO sighting that occurred in February 1942. That was its Jungian element. The second was the Freudian element, incest and the Oedipal family—the father who is so enamored of his son that he can longer tell whether that love might have a sexual component, and what, if anything, might prevent him from transgressing that taboo. The title Soft Invasions is multivalent, political, sexual, psychological. The novel also draws on psychoanalytic theory via Wilhelm Reich and Alfred Korzybski, both of whom were influential among the mid-century moderns, not least William S. Burroughs. Those things were always there for me. What developed most perversely was the spike in nationalism, nativism, and the very fears of invasion and contamination that the novel covers, during the 2016 election. As to style, I think our styles are dissimilar, but I was very impressed by Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, that structure, and of course McCoy’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?


Read more at…

William T. Vollmann’s Carbon Ideologies

I spent a good part of my summer reading these books. As always, Vollmann transformed my understanding and thought process. His nonfiction always examines the observational and subjective minds behind the decision making process. In this instance, the focus is on humanity’s crippling inability to address climate change. Cynical but essential reading.


“Throughout the books, Vollmann addresses a hypothetical future reader—one from a future when climate change has made life beyond difficult. These books apologize to that reader. Vollmann speculates about the reader’s hardship and tries to explain the creature comforts of cooking with natural gas, cooling a house with an air conditioner, and flying around the world to write a book about global warming. Vollmann openly acknowledges, “I myself, an American born in the mid-20th century, enjoyed the best life that carbon could give.” Vollmann claims that reducing the demand of energy had been our only hope—one that we failed to live out. This points to the fact that we humans are more attuned to the short term than the long, more concerned with the local weather than the earth’s climate, the community we associate with than the strangers of the human race. Vollmann points out that after all the technological improvement, the source of all these problem is human nature—a cynical but honest assessment of our values and notion of progress.”

You can find the rest at Brooklyn Rail


Wolfgang Hilbig’s The Females


I can’t wait to start this. Hilbig’s The Females (translated by Isabel Fargo Cole) will be coming out this November (2018) from Two Lines Press, who regularly publishes amazing translated works. A few weeks ago, I read The Tidings of the Trees, which reminded me of the psychological isolation in Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress. Interested in how this matches up as I am new to Hilbig. Thanks to Veronica Esposito and the team at Two Lines for sending me the ARC.

Summer of 2018


My summer of 2018 reading list:

  • Paul Beatty – The Sell Out
  • Wolfgang Hilbig – The Tidings of the Trees (Finished)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin – A Wizard of Earthsea (Finished)
  • Min Jin Lee – Pachinko (Finished)
  • Fiona Maazel – A Little More Human (Started)
  • Malcolm McNeill – Tetra (Finished)
  • Marie NDiaye – All My Friends
  • William Vollmann – Carbon Ideologies (No Immediate Danger and No Good Alternative)
  • Richard Weiner – The Game for Real

Meyer Wolfshiem in The Great Gatsby

An interesting read!

Minnesota English Journal Online

Meyer Wolfshiem in The Great Gatsby

by Elisa Malinovitz

[pdf version here: Malinovitz-Wolfshiem in Gatsby]


The Great Gatsby is included in the Common Core exemplars for literature, it’s rare to find a high school or university in the United States that doesn’t teach it, making it one of the most analyzed novels in modern American literature. Students examine and often re-examine the novel at different times throughout their lives, yet there are subtleties in the book of meaning and importance which escape the attention of many analytic reviews. Seemingly lacking is a discussion of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stereotypical depiction of his one Jewish character, Meyer Wolfshiem.

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Jacob Singer Reviews The Futures Industry Edited by Sherryl Vint

Chicago Literati

The future has become a site of crisis, both materially – in the looming threats of climate change, environmental and species destruction, and imminent collapses of the global financial market—and in our capacity to imagine the future otherwise.

–Sherryl Vint

The unpredictability of the 2008 financial crisis, Brexit vote, and Trump presidency has left many doubting traditional prophetic tools—like exit polls and economic theories. Few experts predicted such turn of events. Political reports and journalists seem no better than the imaginations of our best speculative fiction writers. The journalists, many of whom want to keep working relationships with economic and political players, fail to question the status quo or are simply not given the opportunity to address big questions. Meanwhile, fiction writers are free to gaze into the future in an attempt to predict how science and technology will influence our intellectual understanding of reality and shape the human experience.

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