Our Year in Reading 2017

Our Year in Reading 2017

Open Letters closes its run with our regular year-end feature, as our editors and contributors look back at some of the books that made memorable impressions in 2017.

Our Year in Reading 2017 Continues

Our Year in Reading 2017 Continues

Our final year in reading continues….

OLM Favorites: Losing Music

OLM Favorites: Losing Music

“We can pour anything into it – any fear or catastrophe or yearning, any warning” – music both fills our lives and helps to shape them. But what happens if music starts, slowly, haltingly, to go away? A harrowing personal essay.

OLM Favorites: Seer Blest

FormsofAttentionKermode

Frank Kermode consumed all of the tumultuous 20th century’s literary theories without being consumed by them. A look at the work of this wisest of secular clerics.

OLM Favorites: Macaroni and Cheese

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“You come as opportunely as cheese on macaroni” is a terrible line, a symptom of all the reasons George Eliot’s Romola is a failure. But is failure really such a bad thing? Maybe a novelist’s reach should exceed her grasp.

OLM Favorites: A Great and Sustaining Mystery

OLM Favorites: A Great and Sustaining Mystery

Anthony Burgess the novelist had dreams of being a composer. He had little success, but along the way he delved deep into the nature and meaning of music.

OLM Favorites: Not A Boating Accident

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It wouldn’t be summer without a giant killer shark novel, so Steve Donoghue goes for a fun swim with the, er, mother of them all, Meg: Hell’s Aquarium.

OLM Favorites: Rarest Spun Heavenmetal

OLM Favorites: Rarest Spun Heavenmetal

A Clockwork Orange turned 50 this year and received the gift of an anniversary edition. Justin Hickey looks anew at the novel Anthony Burgess claimed to have knocked off in three weeks, and which made him famous.

OLM Favorites: Aid in the Labyrinth

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Randall Jarrell was suspicious of attempts to turn criticism into a science: he wrote as a reader, for other readers, with the work itself foremost in his mind.

OLM Favorites: The Cute One Redux

OLM Favorites:  The Cute One Redux

A sprawling new biography looks at both the quotidian day to day life and the pivotal music of the “cute” Beatle, Paul McCartney.

OLM Favorites: The Madwoman and the Critic

OLM Favorites: The Madwoman and the Critic

On Kate Zambreno’s Heroines and the crime of dismissive criticism in both Bookforum and The LA Review of Books.

OLM Favorites: Learning How To Read: William Goldman’s The Temple of Gold

OLM Favorites: Learning How To Read: William Goldman’s <em>The Temple of Gold</em>

In Stephen Akey’s personal essay, the sex and squalor of William Goldman’s The Temple of Gold appeals to the thirteen-year-old he was when he first encountered it – and prompts an adult reassessment.

OLM Favorites: Trouble in Mind

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What would it mean if history were a joke, a shaggy dog story? J. G. Farrell’s bleakly funny Troubles reflects the struggle of post-war British literature to come to terms with the inheritance of modernism.

OLM Favorites: The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

OLM Favorites: The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

William S. Burroughs’s notorious Cut-up Trilogy was his fiercest broadside against what he felt was the tyranny of linear thought. Steve Danziger delves into their Word Hoard.

OLM Favorites: Green

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Open Letters presents the first of many installments of Adam Golaski’s innovative new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a serialization.

OLM Favorites: Every Day

every day

The hero of David Levithan’s “Every Day” – now out in paperback – lives his life as a spirit inhabiting the lives of others, until something happens that makes him want his own reality

OLM Favorites: Elena Ferrante and the Art of the Left Hand

OLM Favorites: Elena Ferrante and the Art of the Left Hand

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels — which form a sprawling epic about art, friendship, and power — are what Goethe called Weltliteratur: books that speak to the world, not just to a nation.

OLM Favorites: This Drifty State of Being

OLM Favorites: This Drifty State of Being

Two Idiots: Dostoevsky’s classic and the new novel by Elif Batuman. What, if anything, do they have in common, and what do their differences say about each author’s attitude toward fiction?

OLM Favorites: Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn

OLM Favorites: Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn

Every correspondent in Moscow wanted to be the first to find Solzhenitsyn after he won the Nobel Prize in 1970. Michael Johnson had that honor – but the great Russian writer wasn’t altogether pleased so see him.

OLM Favorites: Prayers for the Stolen

prayers for the stolen cover

The plight of young girls in slavery-blighted Mexico is the crux of a harrowing novel by Jennifer Clement.