Photography-Embedded Fiction & Poetry 2017
Here is my bibliography of works of fiction and poetry published in 2017 containing embedded photographs. If you know of a book that I have not mentioned, please let me know in a comment. My thanks to the many Vertigo readers who have already pointed out books that I had not known about. [Updated February 15, 22, May 14, 15, August 30, 2018, March 22, September 30, 2020. Re-posted April 12, 2021.]
Jess Ball. Census. NY: Ecco, 2017. Ball prefaces his novel by writing briefly about his deceased older brother, who had Down syndrome. In the novel, a father with a terminal illness and his son (who has Down syndrome) volunteer to conduct a census in towns from A to Z. At the end of the novel is a portfolio of family snapshots “from the author’s private collection.”
Mary Jo Bang. A Doll for Throwing. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2017. A book-length series of poems about Lucia Moholy-Nagy and her circle. Lucia was married to the famous Bauhaus artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy for several years. When she fled Germany, her negatives ended up in the care of Walter Gropius, who used them for many years (without any attribution to Lucia) to bolster his reputation as an architect and founder of the Bauhaus. Lucia, who lived to be ninety-five, spent much of her life trying to regain her negatives from Gropius and restore her rightful place in the histories of the Bauhaus and photography. The book’s title is taken from a woven, flexible doll designed by Bauhaus artist Alma Siedhoff-Buscher that supposedly always landed with grace. The book ends with a single photograph by Lucia from 1926. It’s a stunningly Bauhausian image depicting a room Walter and Ilse Gropius’s house. See my review here.
Sara Baume. A Line Made By Walking. London: William Heineman, 2017. The title of Baum’s book comes from the similarly-named work of art created by Richard Long in 1967. Long made an ephemeral straight line by tamping down the grass as he walked across a field. The line was then photographically documented, although Long referred to the line as a work of sculpture. In Baum’s novel, a young struggling artist hoping for an creative renewal moves to the countryside, where she contemplates life and ponders numerous well-known works of contemporary art. Each of the ten chapters is named after an animal found in the countryside and is accompanied by a photograph of a dead animal. Although not explicitly noted, the photographs are likely by the author.
Clément Bénech. Un Amour d’Espion. Paris: Flammarion, 2017. Bénech’s novel contains 27 snapshots by the author, a couple of maps, and simple line drawings.
J.W. Böhm [pseudonym?]. This Wounded Island, Volume One: The Condition of England. Berlin: Institute of Liminal Landscape Studies, 2017. Everything about this book seems to be a fiction, including the Institute, the author, the Introduction writer (Frederic Stiller), and the translator (Michael Randolph). A satirical, fragmented text alternates with black-and-white photographs. In the text, Böhm and his traveling companion, Green, explore and comment on England, following “some cataclysmic event that had irreparably damaged the psychic landscape of the place” (Brexit?). The result echoes Patrick Keillor’s sardonic, pseudo-academic Robinson films–London (1994), Robinson in Space (1997), and Robinson in Ruins (2010).
Bertolt Brecht. War Primer. London: Verso, 2017. Originally published in East Germany in 1955 as Kriegsfibel, this is Brecht’s reaction to World War II and its immediate predecessor, the Spanish Civil War. While in exile in Finland, Sweden, and the US, Brecht created these “photo-epigrams” by clipping photographs and articles from newspapers and magazines (including Life) and writing brief four-line poems that relate to the images. Although partly anti-war, Brecht’s poems mostly direct their vitriol toward the politicians, generals, and national leaders – or, in his term “misleaders” – who sent their young men off to murder each other and kill or maim millions of innocent civilians. An earlier English-language edition was published in 1998 by Libris. The original edition had only 70 photographs and poems, while later editions like this one have 85.
Anelise Chen. So Many Olympic Exertions. Los Angeles: Kaya Press, 2017. Chen’s novel, which includes anecdotes about extreme examples in the history of sport (the longest tennis match, etc.), contains a number of sports-themed photographs that are credited to a wide variety of sources.
François-Henri Désérable. Un Certain M. Piekielny. Paris: Gallimard, 2017. In his memoir The Promise of Dawn, the Lithuanian-born French writer Romain Gary wrote that he had promised a childhood friend – a certain M. Piekielny – that he would tell him about all of the famous people he would meet when he grew up. This novel is an attempt to discover who M. Piekielny was. Contains eight variously credited photographs, along with reproductions of a document and a painting.
Daša Drndiƈ. Belladonna. London: Maclehose, 2017. Drndiƈ’s devastating novel about some of the horrors of the Holocaust, includes numerous photographs and other illustrations (drawing, musical notation). Originally published in Croatian under the same title in 2015.
Mathias Énard. Compass. NY: New Directions, 2017. Énard’s novel about an aging Orientalist includes nine photographs of postcards, documents, and book pages. Translated from the French 2015 original Boussole. See my review here.
Cristina García. Here in Berlin. Berkeley: Counterpart, 2017. Garcia’s novel about the city of Berlin contains several photographs (some of which are by the author), a map of Berlin, and a reproduction of a musical score. García cites W.G. Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction as one of the inspirations for this book.
Ross Gibson. The Criminal Re-register. Crawley: University of Western Australia Press, 2017. Poetry inspired and accompanied by blurry portrait photographs found in a junk shop.
Rainald Goetz. Insane. London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017. First published in German in 1983 under the title Irre, Insane delves into the world of madness, drawing on the author’s own clinical psychiatric experience. It includes reproductions of artworks (presumably painted by insane patients) and uncredited photographs, some of which have been manipulated by the author.
Susan Howe. Debths. NY: New Directions, 2017. Four poems, which include photographs of printed texts (sometimes distorted) and a fingerprint.
Han Kang. The White Book. London: Portobello Books, 2017. Kang’s profound, often poetic, meditation on life, death, and much more contains a seven photographs and film stills (cover photo included) by Choi Jin-hyuk, which document a performance made by Han Kang. Originally published in Korean in 2016 under the title Hŭin. You can read my review here.
Esther Kinsky. River. London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017. First English-language translation (by Iain Galbraith) from the 2014 German original Am Fluß. Kinsky’s novel contains several uncredited snapshots of rivers. See my review here: Part I and Part II.
Alexander Kluge. Kong’s Finest Hour: A Chronicle of Connections. Milan:Fondazione Prada, 2017. Currently, the first and only English-language translation of Kluge’s book Kongs große Stunde – Chronik des Zusammenhangs (Suhrkamp/Insel, 2015) is one volume of a two-book package titled The Boat is Leaking. The Captain Lied, which served as the catalog for an exhibition held at Fondazione Prada that brought together the work of three artists: writer and filmmaker Alexander Kluge, stage and costume designer Anna Viebrock, and sculptor and photographer Thomas Demand. Kluge’s book, with King Kong as a character, includes many photographs and other illustrations.
Nicole Krauss. Forest Dark. NY: Harper, 2017. Krauss’s novel of two intersecting stories that take place in Israel contains four uncredited photographs, presumably by her.
Amitava Kumar. The Lovers. New Delhi: Aleph, 2017. A novel a young Indian man who comes to the United States and studies at Columbia University, structured around some of the women that the narrator has loved or known. Includes twenty-three photographs in all. In addition to snapshots, some of the photographs reproduce works of art, clippings, and other texts.
Paul La Farge. The Night Ocean. NY: Penguin, 2017. A novel about a man’s obsession with the cult writer H.P. Lovecraft, and what that does to his marriage. Contains four photographs (two credited to the author) of the ocean, Lovecraft, and documents.
John McGregor. Reservoir 13. London: 4th Estate, 2017. A novel about what happens within a village over many years after a young girl mysteriously vanishes. It opens with a photograph by Sandra Salvas of a young girl in a swimming suit in the midst of jumping into a lake or river.
Matthew McIntosh. TheMystery.doc. NY: Grove Press, 2017. A massive book of 1664 pages, containing many photographs, including snapshots, film stills, press photos. From the publisher’s website: “Rooted in the western United States in the decade post-9/11, the book follows a young writer and his wife as he attempts to write the follow-up to his first novel, searching for a form that will express the world as it has become, even as it continually shifts all around him. Pop-up ads, search results, web chats, snippets of conversation, lines of code, and film and television stills mix with alchemical manuscripts, classical works of literature—and the story of a man who wakes up one morning without any memory of who he is, his only clue a single blank document on his computer called themystery.doc. From text messages to The Divine Comedy, first love to artificial intelligence, the book explores what makes us human—the stories we tell, the memories we hold on to, the memories we lose—and the relationships that give our lives meaning. Part love story, part memoir, part documentary, part existential whodunit, theMystery.doc is a modern epic about the quest to find something lasting in a world where everything—and everyone—is in danger of slipping away.” More about the book can be seen at its website.
Clémentine Mélois. Sinon J’Oublie. Paris: Grasset, 2017. Mélois creates short fictions based upon grocery lists that she has found, saved, and photographed.
Javier Moreno. Alma. NY: Quantum Prose, 2017. Moreno’s novel of a narrator rambling on about literature, life, and memories contains seven uncredited photographs. Originally published in Spanish under the same title in 2011.
Caroline Preston. The War Bride’s Scrapbook. NY: Harper Collins, 2017. Preston’s second “scrapbook novel,” done in the same nostalgic scrapbook format as her Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt (2011).
Jack Robinson (pseudonym of Charles Boyle). An Overcoat London: CB Editions, 2017. Robinson/Boyle transports the French writer Henri Beyle (1783-1842), also known as Stendhal, along with several of the characters from his novels, into the 21st century and lets them loose to live again and interact with the public. Contains a page with six photographs of pedestrians walking past the entryway to 48 Via Condotti, where Beyle lived in 1840.
Eleni Sikelianos. Make Yourself Happy. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2017. Sikelianos’ book of poetry engages science, mythology, history, ecology, extinction, and other topics, and includes numerous images and photographs, credited to various sources. See my review here.
Bennett Sims. White Dialogues: Stories. Two Dollar Radio, 2017. The title story in this collection includes eleven different film stills from Hitchcock’s Vertigo, one of which is reproduced several times.
Isabel Waidner. Gaudy Bauble. Manchester: Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2017. “Gaudy Bauble stages a glittering world populated by Gilbert & George-like lesbians, GoldSeXUal StatuEttes, anti-drag kings, maverick detectives, a transgender army equipped with question-mark-shaped helmets, and pets who have dyke written all over them. Everyone interferes with the plot. No one is in control of the plot.” (from the publisher’s website) With two small images.
Quintan Ana Wikswo. A Long Curving Scar Where the Heart Should Be. Santa Fe: Stalking Horse Press, 2017. A novel of “southern fabulism and gothic fury” with many photographs by the author. See my review here.
Natascha Wodin. Sie kam aus Mariupol. Berlin: Rowohlt, 2017. After the death of her mother, who had been born in the Ukraine, a women goes in search of her story and discovers that she was taken by the Nazis and placed into forced labor in Germany. With seven photographs.
Kate Zambreno. Book of Mutter. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2017. A meditation on photography, memory, and art with three embedded photographs: one is a screenshot from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Jeanne d’Arc, one is from a stage production of Brecht, and the third is the juxtaposition of two photographs—one of the author’s mother, the other a shot from the movie Wanda by Barbara Loden. The cover image of an artwork by Louise Bourgeois is also important, since she is one of the artists Zambrano engages with in this book.