PRINT Summer 2015


Summer Reading


Whither photo history and theory? A growth field in universities and museums a generation ago, it seems endangered today. For young people, photography is so last-century; for the rest of us, it is both everywhere and nowhere in a way that is very difficult to grasp. On the one hand, the great modernist accounts, such as the technophilic utopia of Benjamin and the traumatophilic pathos of Barthes, appear outdated; on the other hand, distinguished voices from somewhat outside the field feel empowered to tell us “why photography matters as never before.” (Answer 1: Its digital pictoriality revives high-modernist painting; answer 2: This same pictoriality resensitizes us to “the miracle of analogy.”) How will photo experts respond? I look to Robin Kelsey to point the way forward in Photography and the Art of Chance, just out from Harvard University Press.

Hal Foster is a 2014–15 fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.


Listen, there are plenty of PDFs that I’ll be carting around this summer, but what I most anticipate reading is Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (HarperCollins). Have you read his Reamde (2011)? I’m a sucker for speculation, and not just because Cascadia is such a good host to the genre. Reamde’s a glorious floppy chunk of paper with its own wiki to help you out; its point of departure is a phishing file that triggers major plot shifts in a World of Warcraft–esque universe. Stephenson weaves an enthralling triangulation between Idaho-libertarian techno-utopianism, advanced MMORPG-ing teenagers in China, and the Taliban. So I doubt very much that the five-thousand-year-spanning Seveneves will disappoint.

Aaron Flint Jamison is an artist based in Portland, Oregon.


From the very first paragraph of the meditative memoir The Argonauts (Graywolf Press), Maggie Nelson makes clear she’s here to get you to think and feel through her sharp, utterly gorgeous prose. In compact metanarratives, Nelson examines gender, sexuality, motherhood, and the ways we connect, but does so in a style that is both intensely personal and welcoming to the reader. I can’t think of a book in recent memory that I’ve wanted to read over and over as much as I do this one.

Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial, 2014) and An Untamed State (Grove Atlantic, 2014).


The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa shake me with their spectacular brevity: “The green tree is hollow. When hit, it sounds.” In prose about a painting, she writes, “It’s all very amusing because I have never before seen a living heart nor dead skin. What gorgeous poetry!” This leaps out of a 184-page volume by a poet who died in her twenties before World War II. Sagawa was the darling of the Japanese avant-garde, but in postwar Japan, a conservative and nationalistic tendency took center stage, much like the Lowellization of poetry here. Now, thanks to Canarium Books and poet/artist/translator Sawako Nakayasu, she’s back, and you will be blown away by her uniquely epochal and mercurial vision. Think James Schuyler, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Bruno Schulz. Then fling the window open onto something you’ve never read before.

Eileen Myles is a poet based in New York. I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems 1975–2014, and a reissue of Chelsea Girls will be out in September from Ecco/HarperCollins.


News flash: The movie Furious 7 (2015) is not about angry cars. What? It’s about “faa-mily.” Huh. The Berlin-based American author Tod Wodicka also perennially deals with family, with less Vin Diesel but much more emotional action. Wodicka’s new novel The Household Spirit (Pantheon) pits youngish Emily (victim of sleep paralysis) next door to Howie (victim of middle-agedness) on lonely Route 29. Wodicka is known to be LOL funny. But when he does sad, it’s the best fiction around by miles, full of tender ache and tenderer beauty. In other words, “faa-mily.” But not as you know it.

Shumon Basar is coauthor, with Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist, of The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present (Blue Rider, 2015).


Summer is an intensive work time for me—can’t get to the hammock even though I live in the country. Between the breakdown and the dissolution of the world as we wish it to be, I’ll be reading Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Simon & Schuster). But having recently found the bliss of a kitten, I will restore my hopes for the future by rereading the irrepressibly marvelous, droll, and remarkable The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, written between 1819 and 1821 by E. T. A. Hoffmann, whose philosophical inquiries into the animal and the natural oddly connect with those of This Changes Everything. This purported memoir of a cat is, in my opinion, a rare instance of accurate anthropomorphism in literature.

Carolee Schneemann is an artist based in Springtown, New York.