Best Books of 2019




Miyó Vestrini | Grenade in Mouth

Those who write are not even of a race. Nor a caste. Nor a class. Nor are they one. They ruin the point of living, like women in a world of science.
Behind thick lenses, the court is never dull. They have all privileges: from philosophy up to anger, passing through conjugal relations, and the length
of the paragraphs. Between the rights of man it is figured that the writer should write largely for himself first, then for the others, with a purpose well or poorly defined: to flood the window displays, walls, countries, homes. Or, when all is said and done, to commit suicide

ARANJUEZ // Don’t be ridiculous. / No one dies from holding their breath. / Think of your brittle bones, / of your sweaty folds, / of your dry vagina / and your receding hairline. / Or of your heart attack when you fake orgasm. / Women die of that. / Why you gotta be so obscene? / Because for twenty years I’ve not gone to Aranjuez / and that makes me pissed.



Sean Bonney | Our Death

A94797DA-C481-48FD-B9D6-D66055C0984CThese days everyone is writing their final book. Whatever. I’ve lost everything as well. My body is made up of three needles, several coins, a system of nitrates and something wankers would call “a philosophy.” I see in the dark and like to smash mirrors. For many other people things are far worse. I roam around the town, reciting an old poem by Anita Berber: CORPSE. KNIFE. CORPSE. KNIFE. LIGHT. There are moments each evening when I think I can see that light. It shines inside all the rooms I have lived in, all those rooms and cities that we have always despised. COINS. MIRRORS. LIGHT.

Fuck it. The sun is doing whatever suns do / The citizenry all creeping like flowers. / Idiots. / The sky is grey on further grey and / The haunting, its sharpened hail, never stops.



Anne Boyer | The Undying

E16A8BF2-B589-4F83-B7DB-75DC6216246AI began it the week I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, in August 2014. I had just turned forty-one, and my life was finally stabilizing, going really well; I felt incredibly vibrant and healthy, and then in just a matter of days everything I knew to be the case was no longer the case. They were telling me I was this sick person who, unless I got this really aggressive treatment, would not have very long to live. I wrote during the treatment because I didn’t know if I was going to live or die and, more so, because the treatment for chemotherapy causes brain damage, memory loss, and loss of words. So each time I would go in for treatment, I didn’t know which part of me would be lost. I wrote thousands of words’ worth of journals during treatment, and afterwards I knew I was going to live but was dealing with having become disabled and mutilated from treatment. So one hundred thousand words were condensed and condensed and condensed into forty thousand words, into a much smaller prose work that relies on those documents that I wrote during the time but that doesn’t really reproduce them. (An Interview with Anne Boyer | The Believer)

Anne Boyer is a staunch communist, but never the elitist communist intellectual. Boyer has become a trusted voice in communist writing by eschewing pretentious frills and whittling communist ideas down to their central, glowing ember of truth: recognizing our shared abundance and innate desire to help one another.
She is a light. She is a witch. She is an ocean. (Callie Hitchcock)



Stuart Hall | Essential Essays

From his arrival in Britain in the 1950s and involvement in the New Left, to founding the field of cultural studies and examining race and identity in the 1990s and early 2000s, Stuart Hall has been central to shaping many of the cultural and political debates of our time. Essential Essays—a landmark two volume set—brings together Stuart Hall’s most influential and foundational works. Spanning the whole of his career, these volumes reflect the breadth and depth of his intellectual and political projects while demonstrating their continued vitality and importance.



Marion Bell | austerity

running on / devotion / and / antidepressants / i read / George Jackson’s / prison letters / on the 124 / bus / where the / working classes / ride far away from the city / for low wage / jobs / learning to think differently / this tremendous / exhaustion / which is actually my / body / saying i don’t give a fuck / about money or / poetry / i don’t care about anything / but being here for you / now

AUSTERITY // Look i get radicalized by love / like any normal / American // i wouldn’t turn you into a wife / i’m a person you know // and the conditions are weird / the naiveté / even of my knowing / i wouldn’t turn you into anything // i get radicalized  by love / and by austerity / and by work / by austerity and by work // it’s easy to get  radicalized just by paying / attention to experience / i would write to you / in the naiveté of my knowing



Adelaide Ivánova | The Hammer

in german door viewer / is spy in portuguese / magic eye peephole / is what they say in pakistan / whose official language is / english / judas is the word / in france approximating / watchfulness over betrayal / which seems to me the fruit / of resigned wisdom // witnesses are not / moths they saw nothing like / moths yet they defend / hysterically the innocence of the / prince using me / as measure how can / witnesses be called / witnesses if they were never there



Fred Moten | all that beauty

On the other muhfuckin’ hand, / neoliberalism is a concerted attempt / to obscure the essential and essentially / exclusionary relation of identity and / politics, which is better known as / liberalism, which is less well known / as fascism, (business) man. It’s ashamed / of where it comes from, a cold city on a / dry marsh. Lots of loose talk about hills / and light, and here we come and go, the / wet / recrudescence of the marsh, the much / more + less than malarial life of drops of / nonlocal gold, as anti- and ante-aristocratic / swarm laid open to natural, natal, univocal / return.

Does art move / against our / terrible capacity / to settle? Or does / it settle where // we move? Violence / is all it should be, / nothing but / beauty, till we / say that shit / to the violent air. // The whole in what / we see through / can’t be stolen, / ain’t my stole, / but what we share.



Antonin Artaud | Van Gogh the man suicided by society

164ED10B-F69D-4774-8149-A85E8161D535_1_201_aIt’s a man who has chosen to become mad, in the / socially accepted sense, rather than disregard a certain / superior idea of human honour. / That way, / society strangled in its asylums all those it / wanted to rid itself of or to defend itself against, as they / refused to become party to certain major foul acts. / For a madman is also a man whom society did not / want to hear, and whom it wanted to prevent spouting / unbearable truths. / But, in that case, internment is not its only weapon, / and the concerted gathering of men has other means to / grind the wills it wants to break. / Beside the little spells cast by backcountry sorcerers, / there are the great periods of world spell-casting, in which / all alerted consciousness periodically takes part. / So during a war, a revolution, a social upheaval still in / its infancy, the collective consciousness is questioned and / questions itself, and also passes judgement. / It can also be provoked and taken out of itself in / some resounding individual cases. / So there were the collective spells cast on Baudelaire, / Poe, Gérard de Nerval, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Hölderlin, / Coleridge, / and there was one on Van Gogh. / It can happen during the day, but preferably, / generally, it happens at night. / Strange forces are lifted and brought into the astral / vault, into that kind of dark cupola that constitutes, above / all human respiration, the poisonous aggressiveness of / most people’s evil spirit. / So a few rare lucid and well-intentioned wills that had / to struggle on earth end up, at certain hours of day or / night, deep in states of authentic and waking nightmares, / surrounded by the formidable suction, the formidable / sprawling oppression of a kind of civic magic that will / soon be seen appearing openly in social conventions.



Karl Marx | The Political Writings

062B6A3A-EE7B-47AE-9A52-DDF9676CA5DA_1_105_cKarl Marx was not only the great theorist of capitalism. He was also a superb journalist, politician, and historian. This book brings together all of his essential political and historical writings in one volume for the first time. These works allow us to see the depth and range of thought in the mature Marx, covering a period from the tumultuous revolutions of 1848 that rocked Europe through to the end of his life. With a foreword by Tariq Ali, and including The Communist ManifestoThe Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis BonaparteThe Class Struggles in France, and The Critique of the Gotha Programme, this volume shows Marx at his most astute, analysing the forces of global capitalism as they played out in the world around him.



Jerome Rothenberg | Polen 1931

DER KENNER VON JUDEN // wenn es Lokomotiven gäbe um darauf heimzufahren / & keine Juden / dann gäbe es immer noch Juden & Lokomotiven / genauso wie es Juden & Orangen gibt / & Juden & Krüge / es gäbe immer noch jemanden um das jüdische Gedicht zu schreiben / andere um die Namen ihrer Mütter mit Licht zu schreiben — / ebenso wie andere, wütend geboren, / das Gesicht des Mondes auf ihren Armen eingebrannt haben  / & nicht klagen […] (Translation by Norbert Lange)

THE CONNOISSEUR OF JEWS // if there were locomotives to ride home on / & no jews / there would still be jews & locomotives / just as there are jews & oranges / & jews & jars / there would still be someone to write the jewish poem / others to write their mothers’ names in light— / just as others, born angry / have the moon’s face burnt onto their arms / & don’t complain […]



Zaina Alsous | A Theory of Birds

We know the Nazis loved / America; Hitler yearned to paint a twin, // a green room where the dead are everywhere. / Asked Abraham before the flame, to the obedient tribe // What are these statues you cling to? / Why calico, why Spanish moss, why the crickets scream. // In a segregated graveyard, no stone reads / private or public; the local jail is everywhere. // Before another body is buried, a window is broken. / A window was broken. The window is broken. // In a high school history class, white children raised / their eyebrows when I raised my voice. // I don’t know what they thought I was capable of; / I wish I was more capable of it.



Jean-Marie Gleize | Denis Roche, Éloge de la véhémence

Il ne saurait y avoir de « portrait complet » de Denis Roche. Pourquoi ? En raison de sa mobilité extrême, de la multiplicité des positions qu’il a occupées successivement ou simultanément : écrivain et photographe, éditeur et traducteur, poète et post-poète. Parfait dandy révolté, érudit désinvolte, promeneur solitaire, amoureux absolu, créateur de formes. Il est peu d’œuvre aussi stratégiquement déterminée que la sienne mais en même temps aussi fougueusement improvisée. Ennemi irréductible du lyrisme des « poètes », il est aussi le plus lyrique des artistes. Le plus radical et le plus véhément. Son influence est décisive, à la mesure de son indifférence à l’exercer. On tente ici d’en restituer tout le plus vif.



Mario Tronti | Workers and Capital

Workers and Capital is universally recognised as the most important work produced by operaismo, a current of political thought emerging in the 1960s that revolutionised the institutional and extra-parliamentary Left in Italy and beyond. In the decade after its first publication in 1966, the debates over Workers and Capital produced new methods of analysis and a new vocabulary for thousands of militants, helping to inform the new forms of workplace, youth, and community struggle. Concepts such as “neocapitalism,” “class composition,” “mass-worker,” “the plan of capital,” “workers’ inquiry” and “co-research” became established as part of the Italian Left’s political lexicon.



Jay Bernard | Surge

FF9AA9D2-B594-44F6-B4E7-F06DB7C21A15_1_105_c.jpegThe poems here seethe with unspoken rage and acerbity; they read like thinned-out paraffin, something on the cusp of explosion… A brutal indictment of Britain’s racist history and hypocrisy in the face of the facts… Bernard’s persistent question drills down, line by line, into Britain’s dark subconscious (Marek Sullivan)

I take this January morning in my hands and wonder if it should go under London, England, Britain, British, Black-British – // where to put the burning house, the child made ash, the brick in the back of the neck, the shit in the letter box and piss up the side of it? // I file it under fire, corpus, body, house.



Chantal Akerman | My Mother Laughs

In 2013, the filmmaker Chantal Akerman’s mother was dying. She flew back from New York to Brussels to care for her, and between dressing her, feeding her and putting her to bed, she wrote. She wrote about her childhood, the escape her mother made from Auschwitz but didn’t talk about, the difficulty of loving her girlfriend, C., her fear of what she would do when her mother did die. Among these imperfectly perfect fragments of writing about her life, she placed stills from her films. My Mother Laughs is both the distillation of the themes Akerman pursued throughout her creative life, and a version of the simplest and most complicated love story of all: that between a mother and a daughter.

After her hospital outing, she (my mother) talked to me only about doctors, aches and pains, and who would be picking her up to accompany her to the airport. / And who would pack her bags. / She couldn’t anymore. This time she really couldn’t do it. Arthritis had mangled her hands and was starting in her feet too. / Hip pain. / Her eyes were running, or not enough, due to the dryness. / And each day a shot in the thigh for her bones. / Without this she’d be full of sand. No longer an upright person, but sand lying in a bed. / But she would hold on. She knew it and so did I.


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