#nowreading, winter 2016/17

My Brilliant FriendElena Ferrante

People have been telling me to read Elena Ferrante for years and I’ve waited a really long time to start. It’s more of that overly perfumed prose you have so recently disliked. But I’m trying to write a short story about women so I’ve been looking for alternative expressions of wlw or female based friendships. This one starts when our main character is in her sixties, more Erica Jong Fear of Dying instead of Fear of Flying. Quick, enjoyable, I’m loving it so far. I decided to lay off the Straight Sex because honestly that shit is getting boring quickly. I liked how you said you try and read through books from everywhere, and I’m trying to look back at what I’ve read and if I’m getting really a global perspective. I like reading Economist reviews because they do help me stay pretty international. Are you getting NYRB/LRB still? I’d love to do a scheduled swap every week, if we really read as much as we are planning on. I’ve just gotten a japanese futon style bed, so I’m going to go lay down (unfold, make, fluff) and maybe finish the Ferrante and move back to some criticism, reading novels is so hit or miss. But this one is so promising.  x deborah 7.42pm, Sunday 1/8/17.


Ah, again. I finished I Love Dick last night and was irritated at her crazy, feverish, stalkerish, unnecessary letters to some impotent asshole. I’m glad I finished reading it though, so I can tell all those people  who told me to read it to go fuck themselves for thinking I was such a narcissist I would enjoy licking my own navel. Thank you, for giving me a break to not think about work or the traffic or anything. Do you remember when Jacobin broke the story of that Spanish guy who had just stopped going to work and no one noticed and he studied Spinoza for five years? Well, I’ve never read any Spinoza but that’s not why I’m reading Ethics. I’m reading Ethics because for a brief moment the school of life was hosting all these tangentially related “___ as therapy” websites and they paid off a gorgeous Italian woman to masturbate in a series of photos about her graduate studies on Spinoza. Still haunts me sometimes. I get 45 minutes on public transportation to read, it’s helping me stay on track and keep my goals realistic. I finished The Economist on the bus and felt really good about that. I have “100 Ways to Make More Money” on my desk by some woman who runs workshops on the feminine economy. One of the suggestions is to read the newspaper everyday. I’m not a philistine so The Economist is about as close to a traditional newspaper I’ll get. I’m calling it a day at 5:30 because I’ve long gone past the ability to pretend to work.


Your friend, deborah

Downtown atl

5:33 pm


So much fun to meet up with you last night. I even made a new shelf on goodreads. I’m at a weird point in my life where I’m not sure if I should write in the books I own or not. Do you write in the margins? I feel like that would be helpful while I try and read through this Spinoza. I liked your mention of alternative learning last night. I try to stay informed, and basically literate in as many subjects as I can. I’d like to read more books about Mathematics, especially early Math. Principia Mathematica or something. I also don’t read much about the hard sciences. Chemistry, Engineering, etc. I don’t really think I have the math background to understand them entirely.


I’m very ill today. I had a bad night last night, I kept waking up last night, drenched in sweat, clawing at my partner, claiming I was freezing and that I was going to die. I kind of wish I had The Bloody Chamber here at home with me, because some of those stories are feverish and drenched and sweat and blood. I’m waiting for my period to come and I know it’s going to be horrible. I’ve only had my IUD for a couple months and my periods have been basically normal — no nightmare blood or anything, just bad cramps and back pain. But this week, I’ve felt it. I can sense it. It will be just so intense. I am interested in your breakfast on Saturday, we’ll see. I’m anxiously waiting for Inoculation to arrive! I once did a series of letters with some female friends about vaccines and if they had vaccinated their children. It was very interesting. When do we get to trade secrets? Here I am, ejaculating into the wind. At least Damaris looks beautiful. – 1/26/17, Swan House.


Masterlist 2017

An absolutely incomplete list of books we have thought about, talked about, or read in 2017.

Judith Butler Frames of War: When is Life Grievable?  read: E, V
Angela Carter Wayward Girls and Wicked Women  read: E, V
Eula Biss On Immunity: An Inoculation read: E, V
Barbara Fass Leavy In Search of the Swan Maiden: A Narrative on Folklore and Gender  read: E, V
Chris Kraus Video Green: Los Angeles Art and the Triumph of Nothingness
Christine Ross The Aesthetics of Disengagement: Contemporary Art and Depression
Claire Kahane Passions of the Voice: Hysteria, Narrative and the Figure of the Speaking Woman, 1850-1915
Phyllis Chesler Women and Madness
Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale
Angela Y. Davis Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement
Angela Y. Davis Are Prisons Obsolete?
Chandra Talpade Mohanty Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity
Elaine Showalter (Ed.) Daughters Of Decadence: Women Writers Of The Fin-De-Siecle
Iris Murdoch An Unofficial Rose read: E, V
Elaine Showalter Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture
Aung San Suu Kyi Letters from Burma
Susan Sontag Against Interpretation: And Other Essays  read: V
Clarice Lispector The Hour of the Star
George Eliot Middlemarch
Germaine Greer The Whole Woman
Hans Abbing Why Are Artists Poor?: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts
Kate Eichhorn The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order
Kathy Acker The Artist in Society: Rights, Roles, and Responsibilities
Kier-la Janisse House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films
Lynne Segal Is The Future Female?: Troubled Thoughts On Contemporary Feminism
Martha Rosler If You Lived Here…: The City in Art, Theory, and Social Activism
Reina Lewis Feminist Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader
Richard Marshall Witchcraft: The History and Mythology
Ilan Pappé The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge
Juliet Mitchell Women’s Estate
Sophie Calle Take Care of Yourself
Michel Foucault The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception
Kumari Jayawardena Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World
Barry Schwabsky The Perpetual Guest  abandoned: E, V
Gabriel Metcalf Democratic by Design: Why Co-ops, Credit Unions and Communes Are the Only Path to an Equitable America
Assata Shakur Assata: An Autobiography
Benedict Anderson Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
Nicolas Grospierre Modern Forms: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Architecture
Christine Delphy Close to Home: A Materialist Analysis of Women’s Oppression
Marta Harnecker A World to Build: New Paths Toward Twenty-First Century Socialism
Andrea Dworkin Intercourse abandoned: E, V
Anna Dezeuze Almost Nothing: Observations on Precarious Practices in Contemporary Art
Anna Dezeuze (Ed.) The ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Artwork: Participation from Fluxus to New Media
Jacques Derrida Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning & the New International
Joan Didion The White Album: Essays read: V
Joan Didion The Year of Magical Thinking read: V
Patricia Highsmith The Price of Salt read: V
Paul B. Preciado Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era
Peter Todd & Benjamin Cook (Ed.) Subjects and Sequences: A Margaret Tait Reader
Salome Voegelin Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art
Clarice Lispector The Complete Stories
Deborah B. Gould Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight against AIDS
Vivian Gornick The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative
Chin-Tao Wu Privatising Culture: Corporate Art Intervention Since the 1980s
Eileen Cadman Rolling Our Own: Women as Printers, Publishers and Distributors
Dinitia Smith The Honeymoon
Gee Vaucher Crass Art and Other Pre Post-Modernist Monsters
Georges Bataille Story of the Eye  V: This is in Stoya’s bookclub. 9/19/17.
Hal Foster Design and Crime (And Other Diatribes)
Judith Ellis Keeping Archives
Lilian Mohan (Ed.) One Foot on the Mountain: Anthology of British Feminist Poetry, 1969-7
Olav Velthuis Talking Prices: Symbolic Meanings of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art
Shira Tarrant The Pornography Industry: What Everyone Needs to Know
Chris Fuhrman The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
Diane Ravitch The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn
Marcel Proust Swann’s Way (In Search of Lost Time, #1) gifted: L to V
Philip K. Dick Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Roland Barthes A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments
Winifred Gallagher How the Post Office Created America: A History
Minxin Pei China’s Crony Capitalism: The Dynamics of Regime Decay  read: V
Bruno Latour Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory
Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler Preserving Archives & Manuscripts
Ann Cvetkovich An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures
Carl Schmitt Dictatorship: From the Origin of the Modern Concept of Sovereignty to Proletarian Class Struggle
Marta Harnecker Landless People: Building a Social Movement
Maggie Nelson The Art of Cruelty  read: V
Nathan Wolfe The Viral Storm  read; V
Lida Oukoderova The Cinema of the Soviet Thaw read; V

kissed by lightning ; the first 50 pages of Lolita

‘ Lolita, or the Confession of a White Widowed Male‘ — supposed to be implicitly referencing pornography, which we all missed because by the time we came around, reading an erotic novel was the kind of niche thing hipster girls did, and it would be a stretch for us to find a popular pornographic novel from the 1900s — certainly one of many of the constant references we miss just due to time difference. The note from the lawyer also contains the claim that there is not a single obscene moment in the whole book which is true. Somehow.
I know there must be others, but I can only think of The Lovely Bones, other books where the ending is already known — it says right there on the first page that Mrs. Richard F Shiller died in childbirth on Christmas Eve, H. H. is charged with murder, and so on. Can you think of any other books that begin backwards like this? Even though this one is subtle and we don’t really know exactly how subtle until the very end. We haven’t even gotten to the most arresting part of probably the whole story.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. I knew that line before I even read Lolita. It’s ingrained in all of us somehow already, a cultural phenomenon, along with the red glasses and the heart shaped lollipop in Sue Lyon’s mouth — despite Delores Haze never once mentioning either item. In the first paragraph is also the first of 20 (20!) references to Poe, and not just the name of his first dead nymphet Annabel. The seraphim are asked to look upon him, the crucified (for a crime he swears was not crime, but love, love!), although the structure of the sentence makes me think of the Bhagvagita — LOOK UPON MY WORKS AND DESPAIR. LOOK AT THIS TANGLE OF THORNS.

I’m not even sure we can call these notes, more like stray observations.

p.g 10 — in describing his Aunt Sybil (the oracle, i see what you did there Nabokov) — “She wrote poetry. She was poetically superstitious. She said she knew she would die soon after my sixteenth birthday, and she did.”

pg 14 — “Long before we met, we had the same dreams. We compared notes. We found strange affinities.” — some of the most romantic shit I have ever read in my whole fucking life.

the notes say all historical references on page 18-19 are correct, but I (maybe) am a shitty sticlkler — “I found myself maturing in a civilization which allows a man of twenty five to court a girl of sixteen but not a girl of twelve.” Are you really telling me that no 13 year olds got married in 1935? It really doesn’t matter but I just don’t find that plausible. Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin(!) when she was 13 in 1958.

pg 20, line 4 — “Darling, this is only a game!” Is a direct pull from The Enchanter, the photo Lolita story written in Russian in 1939. The constant suggestion that this is just a game, appears over and over again in both Enchanter and Lolita.

pg 23 — I really like Nabokov’s insistence on linguistic flourishes. It’s important to him that we know Monique’s joy at buying new stockings transforms her face into something more innocent, even more childlike, “I will never forget the way her Parisian childish lips exploded on ‘bas’, pronouncing it with an appetite that all but changed the ‘a’ into a brief buoyant bursting ‘o’ in ‘bot’.

pg 31 — great nom de plume. ‘Vivian Darkbloom.’