The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connolly (Persea, $14). Working almost entirely with quotations from other people, the great English critic paints an extraordinary portrait of World War II England, the artistic process, artistic ambition, artistic failure, romantic love, romantic failure, and of himself as the embodiment of all of the above.
Minima Moralia by Theodor Adorno (Verso, $15). Published with footnotes in the U.K. and the U.S., Adorno’s aphoristic masterpiece was a far more galvanizing work when the German original appeared without them, in 1951. What was art in the German edition became scholarship here. Citation domesticates the work, flattens it, denudes it, robs it of its excitement, risk, danger.
Commonplace Book by E.M. Forster (Stanford Univ., $27). For me, this is by far Forster’s best and most interesting book: a gathering of quotations, published posthumously, that presents a Forster—homosexual, yearning, sad, confused, alive, human—whom we could hardly have surmised from his previous work.
Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy (Univ. of New Mexico, $35). Rather like Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man in that the art consists of taking someone else’s material and reframing it. Lesy juxtaposes photographs and historical documents from turn-of-the-20th-century Jackson County, Wisc., to create what he calls “an experiment in both history and alchemy”—the alchemy being Lesy’s transformation of American pastoral into a nightmare out of Munch.
The Art Lover by Carole Maso (New Directions, $16). I love this obsessively quotation-crazy book to death. She can’t stop thinking; she can’t stop thinking about what other people are thinking; she can’t stop thinking via what other people are thinking.
This Is Not a Novel by David Markson (Counterpoint, $15). Composed primarily of questions from other sources, some of which are mentioned, many of which aren’t. This book is not a novel; it’s a gorgeous, subtle meditation on whether artistic immortality is consolation for the fact that we die.