Eileen Myles: The Importance of Being Iceland 

Poet and post-punk heroine Eileen Myles has always operated in the art, writing, and queer performance scenes as a kind of observant flaneur. Like Baudelaire’s gentleman stroller, Myles travels the city–wandering on garbage-strewn New York streets in the heat of summer, drifting though the antiseptic malls of La Jolla, and riding in the van with Sister Spit–seeing it with a poet’s eye for detail and with the consciousness that writing about art and culture has always been a social gesture. Culled by the poet from twenty years of art writing, the essays in The Importance of Being Iceland make a lush document of her–and our–lives in these contemporary crowds. Framed by Myles’s account of her travels in Iceland, these essays posit inbetweenness as the most vital position from which to perceive culture as a whole, and a fluidity in national identity as the best model for writing and thinking about art and culture. The essays include fresh takes on Thoreau’s Cape Cod walk, working class speech, James Schulyer and Bj rk, queer Russia and Robert Smithson; how-tos on writing an avant-garde poem and driving a battered Japanese car that resembles a menopausal body; and opinions on such widely ranging subjects as filmmaker Sadie Benning, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets, and flossing.
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Excerpt (PDF)

Additional Resources

Author’s Website
Articles and Podcasts via Poetry Foundation
My Ten Favorite Books: Eileen Miles
The Poet Idolized by a New Generation of Feminists (profile)
Lecture: About Boston: Reading & Conversation with Eileen Myles (video)
Engadin Art Talks: Eileen Myles (video)
NYU Florence Talks: Eileen Myles (video)


Joan Didion: The White Album 

First published in 1979, “The White Album “is a journalistic mosaic” “of American life in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. It includes, among other bizarre artifacts and personalities, reportage on the dark journeys and impulses of the Manson family, a visit to a Black Panther Party press conference, the story of John Paul Getty’s museum, a meditation on the romance of water in an arid landscape, and reflections on the swirl and confusion that marked this era. With commanding sureness of mood and language, Didion exposes the realities and dreams of an age of self-discovery whose spiritual center was California.

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20 Page Excerpt (PDF)

Further Writings: 

On Keeping a Notebook (PDF)
Goodbye to All That (From Slouching Towards Bethlehem (PDF)
On Why I Write (text)
Compilation of Texts Available Online (the Electric Typewriter)

Articles by Joan Didion (compiled by Open Culture

On Self Respect (Article)
The Women’s Movement (Article)
Eye on the Prize (Article)
The Teachings of Speaker Gingrich (Article)
Fixed Opinions, Or the Hinge of History (Article)
Politics in the New Normal America (Article)
The Case of Theresa Schiavo (Article)
The Deferential Spirit (Article)
California Notes (Article)

Additional Resources: 

Interview with Joan Didion, 1992 (video)
How Joan Didion the Writer Became Joan Didion the Legend (Vanity Fair)
The Elitist Allure of Joan Didion (The Atlantic)
The Radicalization of Joan Didion (The New Yorker)

Franz Kafka: Diaries (1910 – 1923)

Perfect for the upcoming hellscape brought on by August's unrelenting heat, alternates between poignant and hilarious (depending on your state of mind, sense of humor, and whether or not you have air conditioning).

These diaries cover the years 1910 to 1923, the year before Kafka’s death at the age of forty. They provide a penetrating look into life in Prague and into Kafka’s accounts of his dreams, his feelings for the father he worshipped and the woman he could not bring himself to marry, his sense of guilt, and his feelings of being an outcast. They offer an account of a life of almost unbearable intensity.

“In Kafka we have before us the modern mind splendidly trained for the great game of pretending that the world it comprehends in sterilized sobriety is the only and ultimate reality there is—yet a mind living in sin with the soul of Abraham. Thus he knows two things at once, and both with equal assurance: that there is no God, and that there must be a God. It is the perspective of the curse: the intellect dreaming of its dream of absolute freedom, and the soul knowing of its terrible bondage.”
—Erich Heller
“It is likely that these journals will be regarded as one of [Kafka’s] major literary works; his life and personality were perfectly suited to the diary form, and in these pages he reveals what he customarily hid from the world.”
—The New Yorker

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Additional Resources:
The Complete Stories (PDF)
The Metamorphosis (PDF)
The Trial (Ebook)

Morrissey: Autobiography

“[Morrissey] is at his very best as he conveys what it was, and is, to be a youth lifted free by the sense of possibilities glimpsed in pop music and films and TV and poetry. He also writes as though he has a clear sense that Autobiography could provide the same kind of beacon, the same kind of life raft, for its most impressionable readers as he found in others. And that’s exactly how he should write, for one of the main reasons Morrissey matters as he does is because he has always been that kind of artist.”–GQ

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The Guardian
The Guardian (2)
15 Revealing Quotes: Rolling Stone

Anne Truitt: Daybook: the Journal of an Artist

Renowned American artist Anne Truitt kept this illuminating and inspiring journal over a period of seven years, determined to come to terms with the forces that shaped her art and life. Her range of sensitivity—moral, intellectual, sensual, emotional, and spiritual— is remarkably broad. She recalls her childhood on the eastern shore of Maryland, her career change from psychology to art, and her path to a sculptural practice that would “set color free in three dimensions.” She reflects on the generous advice of other artists, watches her own daughters’ journey into motherhood, meditates on criticism and solitude, and struggles to find the way to express her vision. Resonant and true, encouraging and revelatory, Anne Truitt guides herself—and her readers—through a life in which domestic activities and the needs of children and friends are constantly juxtaposed against the world of color and abstract geometry to which she is drawn in her art.

Beautifully written and a rare window on the workings of a creative mind, Daybook showcases an extraordinary artist whose insights generously and succinctly illuminate the artistic process.

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