cover image Pathetic Literature

Pathetic Literature

Edited by Eileen Myles. Grove, $34 (672p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5715-7

In this powerful anthology, poet Myles (I Must Be Living Twice) shares a wide-ranging but deeply focused reading list linked by the concept of pathos. Excerpts from classic modernist novels like Samuel Beckett’s Molloy and Nightwood by Djuna Barnes stand with works by New Narrative writers, including Dodie Bellamy’s Fat Chance and Dennis Cooper’s God Jr., demonstrating a continuum of formal experimentation and vulnerability on the page. Several of the pieces touch on the AIDS crisis, such as the story “Ed and the Movies” by Robert Glück, in which the narrator describes watching horror movies with his terminally ill partner, as well as on the ongoing struggles for racial and gender equality, such as Saidiya Hartman’s essay “Manual for General Housework,” which riffs on the various meanings of the word “manual” to describe how Black women’s bodies are objectified and their work exploited. Myles explains in the provocative introduction the criteria for choosing each piece: “Each of these writers has a discomfort or a restlessness that exceeds their category somehow. Work that acknowledges a boundary then passes it.” The collection amounts to a solid argument for the value of literature that lays bare its author’s personal investment. (Nov.)