PRINT Summer 2016




My life in Chicago has taken on a Teutonic tinge, so I’ve become more engaged in arcane Germanic topics—and I’m keen to read the novel Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), an erudite essayist and chronicler of the black literary tradition. Whereas that tradition’s engagement with Europe generally pivots around a New York–Paris axis, Pinckney’s novel sends a young, queer, aspiring writer from my hometown to seek refuge in Cold War Berlin, hoping to resuscitate the libertine spirit of Weimar Germany. I imagine disappointment for the protagonist but expect nuanced insights and beautiful turns of phrase from Pinckney.

Naomi Beckwith is the Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.


Pascal Quignard’s interlocking microhistories of the uses and abuses of music, translated by Matthew Amos and Fredrik Rönnbäck, add up to a masterpiece of renunciation, The Hatred of Music (Yale University Press). Quignard is (or at least was) an accomplished musician—in the early 1990s he ran the International Festival of Baroque Opera and Theater at Versailles—but in 1994 he turned his back on “all musical activities.” I just finished writing a monograph called The Hatred of Poetry, and so I have been interested in how denunciations are really expressions of idealism: In order to protect music from the failure of particular performances, Quignard ends up valorizing silence. But the energy of his own writing undercuts that despairing logic. (Maybe a press should inaugurate an imprint of Hatred books—The Hatred of Painting, The Hatred of Dance, The Hatred of . . . )

Ben Lerner is the author, most recently, of 10:04 (Picador, 2015) and The Hatred of Poetry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). A 2015 MacArthur Fellow, he is a professor of English at Brooklyn College.


Keys—to hearts, secrets, gardens, and libraries—get lost and found throughout What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (Riverhead Books), Helen Oyeyemi’s delightful first collection of stories. The British novelist contemplates our tendency to think we have everything under control, only to discover that this is, of course, rarely the case. The book promises to be a reality check. With the language of fairy tales and mythology but also of YouTube clips and text messages, Oyeyemi wonderfully interweaves surreal narratives and sharply accurate portrayals of human relationships. She impressively links life with, well, life.

Yvette Mutumba is an art historian, a curator, and a cofounder of the online magazine Contemporary And (C&).


The word animal is pretty bloody useless. It refers to everything from protozoans and corals to hummingbirds and orangutans. Not much room for differentiation. Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel (Henry Holt) is a fascinating look at making distinctions regarding animal consciousness from one of the world’s truly terrific nature writers—Carl Safina. Celebrated for his extensively researched and poetic meditations on marine conservation and the ocean’s biodiversity crisis, Safina here makes something of a departure. He begins by asking a tough question, “Who are you?,” to elephants, wolves, killer whales, and dolphins. He probes animal consciousness, understanding his subjects as individuals. Great stuff!

Mark Dion is an artist based in New York.


Today, with heavy snow and freezing fog covering spring blooms, I give in to summer longings: My reading list grows. I’m eager to open Natashia Deón’s debut novel, Grace, on slavery and freedom, and I’ll recognize the National Park Service’s centennial with The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams. But I most anticipate reading Manisha Sinha’s The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press) to learn of the African American role in shaping the abolition movement and to “hear” voices once lost in history’s silences.

Lauret Savoy is the author of Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape (Counterpoint Press, 2015) and a faculty member at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.


I don’t go outside much, so Mauro Javier Cardenas’s The Revolutionaries Try Again (Coffee House Press) is my kind of summer reading. Set in a hot country—Ecuador in the 1980s and ’90s—it begins as an antic comedy about three childhood friends who reunite to overthrow the corrupt (and nonfictional) president Abdalá “El Loco” Bucaram. But the prose darkens and brightens into avant-garde genius; in the last chapter, the punctuation itself stages a revolt / as we drive so deep / into the characters’ minds / that you will find / yourself even starting / to think in / new units of thought. It’s not out until September, so get in a nice tan and workout before hefting this book, which is short but as dense as planet Earth.

Tony Tulathimutte is the author of Private Citizens (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2016).