Anticipated Summer Reads from Dodie Bellamy!
Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley. New York: Norton, 1990.
Devil in a Blue Dress is the first of a dozen books featuring Easy Rawlins, an amateur detective who frequently finds himself on the wrong side of the law, where the LAPD are worse thugs than the criminals. As a series, the books track the position of blacks in America from WW II through the Vietnam era. Life is brutal for these characters, and Mosley articulates tenderness towards them that is never simple or saccharine. The women are amazing—horribly oppressed but brimming with sexual agency. Easy loves these women for their power, even though he does not always win with them. I’ve read the first four books in the series, and I’m addicted.
Theory, A Sunday. Louky Bersianik, Nicole Brossard, France Théoret, Gail Scott, Louise Cotnoir, Louise Dupré. Belladonna, 2013.
In US in the 1980s, feminism and the avant garde rarely collided, so for women with both proclivities the avant-garde Québécoise feminists were mythic, providing us with models of rigor, collectivity, and how to exist politically and creatively in the world. Originally published in French 25 years ago, this volume collects the writing of six Montréal women writers who met on Sundays to discuss language, feminism, and aesthetics. Each woman contributes both a theoretical text and a short piece of fiction, and it’s fascinating to observe the play between these two modes of expression. Theory A Sunday does not read like a stodgy historical document. On the contrary, the work is still fresh and exciting—and important.
Thunderbird. Dorothea Lasky. Wave Books, 2012.
In preparation for the September release of Lasky’s fourth book of poetry, Rome, it’s time to take another languorous look at the multilayered, polyvocalic Thunderbird. Lasky has stated that her title references “the Native American Thunderbird spirit, but then also how that divine force gets infused in American culture, like within the streets and hotels named after it, the car, the liquor, even the search engine. It also comes from the idea of air travel and what it means to control seemingly uncontrollable forces, like air and wind.” With enough narrative beats to keep the poetry-phobe engaged, Lasky reinvents the first person. Her insanely imaginative narrators are libidinal, yet somehow stylized, emitting a vulnerability that sets off fireworks.
Tweaky Village. Kevin Killian. Wonder, 2014.
Okay, I admit it, Kevin is my husband, but he’s also a genius of a writer. The poems in Tweaky Village ping pong back and forth between two lines of action, one of them the ongoing crystal meth “problem” in San Francisco (the subject also of Killian’s most recent novel, Spreadeagle). From there the poems take on the larger subject of the catastrophic gentrification of the city, speed hyped up to the outer limits of capital. Not for nothing is this book dedicated to the social critic Rebecca Solnit. More than any other poet I know, Killian decimates the divide between high and low culture, between politics and desire. His poems make you laugh and cry and pull your hair out.
The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Stefano Harney and Fred Moten. Minor Compositions, 2013
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How do I evade the colonizing totality of Capitalism?” this is your manual. Wonderfully incendiary and subversive, Harney and Moten offer strategies of refusal that gesture to, as Jack Halberstram says in his introduction, “a wild place that continuously produces its own unregulated wildness.” With its validation of the marginal—the fugitive, criminal, queer, unprofessional, visa-expired—The Undercommons is the theoretical equivalent of a Genet novel. Perfect for clearing your head of the drudgery of systems of social control.
Dodie Bellamy’s latest books are The TV Sutras (Ugly Duckling) and Cunt Norton (Les Figues). Her chapbook Barf Manifesto was named best book of 2009 under 30 pages by Time Out New York. Her reflections on the Occupy Oakland movement, “The Beating of Our Hearts,” was published by Semiotext(e) in conjunction with the 2014 Whitney Biennial.