I realize I am afflicted with the disease of superlatives. Lately I keep on saying when people mention my favorite books to them - that is one of my top 5 favorite books! As if such a list exists. I told Rachel L. that Nightwood and Rilke's Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge was top 5. Then to Roz I just mentioned that Hour of the Star was in top 10 (but really closer to top 5) And so I thought I would make a list. Then realized that was impossible. How could I list my favorites? Can I confine them to novels? And then what then? Does that mean the lyric essay or the fictocrit is not important? No. I cannot choose among my babies. But I thought. I would try. And then tomorrow maybe I will find out NEWS or not. Maybe NEWS about one of the books I've written which was inspired by so many of the books on my top list. So will try. A list. Of my favorite - NOVELS. NOVELS let's say. This is unfair. I cannot choose.
#1 Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys
Is that true? Is that really my favorite novel of all time? It is the one where when I hear the lines repeated somewhere I well up and I feel like I am being held by a ghost who is a mother. That can only describe the longing I feel for this book. Also at #2,3,4,5: All of Rhys' other novels. Fuck! I've ruined the list already!
#2 Wonderful Wonderful Times by Elfriede Jelinek
OR: Piano Teacher. But. Oh. No. WWT. The more urgent social one, to me. Oh no. Piano Teacher. Maybe these occupy the #2 and #3 positions. Yes. That's true.
#3 Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
Because the language makes me want to stab myself heroically and repeatedly like I'm in some opera.
#4 Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Because of the ecstasy and the way she tunnels into her characters, and Clarissa being a sad lonely child in her bed, and Septimus Smith's scraps and fragments, and it is the work I keep on wanting to write to, to make sense of our society and my world.
#5 The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector (Giovanni Pontiero translation)
For Macabea. Because the book is written like an atonal composition. Because of the crossed-out titles at the beginning. Because Clarice loves Macabea. Because of that horror and that love.
#6 Ravishing of Lol Stein by Marguerite Duras
I just read this this year but it's there. As is The Lover. They are the same. My flaneur Lol Stein. She is wanly fingering herself in the field of rye. And the meditation on trauma and memory.
#7 Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke
Because the first book contains some of the most gorgeous passages of the city, of the alienation of the writer, and then in the second book he becomes a mystic and looks outside, all the reference library of the mind.
#8 Extinction by Thomas Bernhard
Or Concrete. Or even the Bernhard novels I have not yet read. The ones that never could be written. They are my favorite too. Those delicious Vintage covers I want to own all of them and yet I own none of them.
#9 It is here that I begin to lose my focus. I don't want to choose anymore. Can't choose anymore. This is ridiculous. What is a novel? I dont' know what a novel is. Is Gail Scott's My Paris a novel, how she invents a language, writes the flaneuse, a city? If so it is here. Is Sebald's Austerlitz a novel? Any Sebald? Is Elizabeth Hardwick's Sleepless Nights novel or anti-memoir or hallucinatory travelogues? Is Colette's Pure and the Impure? Anna Kavan's Asylum Piece? Jane Bowles' Two Serious Ladies? That is my favorite too. Peter Handke's A Sorrow Beyond Dreams? Nathalie Sarraute's Enfances? No these are "creative nonfiction." Sterile, useless words. Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept? I am dizzy and I don't want to pick. I Love Dick? Aliens & Anorexia? Camus' The Stranger? Ingeborg Bachmann's Malina? Oh yes yes Malina! Marvelous Malina! Oh too: Catherine Mavrikakis' A Cannibal and Melancholy Mourning. Oh! Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts!
#10 I give up, defeated. Utterly. And yet enraptured.