The Paris Review

The Paris Review Staff’s Favorite Books of 2017

Danez Smith.

It turns out that the books that top my reading list this year are, in one way or another, about intimacy. First, biography: Chris Kraus’s  and Sam Stephenson’s (which, full disclosure, I worked on as posts for the ). Kraus and Stephenson have written unconventional lives, approaching their subjects askance and with varying degrees of subjectivity. The lesson these books offer is twofold: no matter how much we nose around in another’s life, it is impossible to know that person fully; and the story of our lives is never really ours alone—the telling comes, in large part, through the words, observations, and experiences of those with whom we’ve shared time. Which brings me to Barbara Browning’s , a novel that incorporates discussions of music, dance, performance art, writing, and correspondence in order to describe collaboration, not just in the artistic sense but as a community of intimates—friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers. Browning’s prose is open and unpretentious; I read her book deliberately, soaking up the fullness of each sentence. Last, a book that knocked me over: Danez Smith’s , a collection of poems about the deaths of black men and boys, about love and sex, about hope, and, above all, about bodies. The form each poem takes, particularly in the various ways the lines break (or don’t), creates an especial meaning / , we say  meaning // / but we mostly say nothing, just sip // some good brown trying to get drunk / with permission.” Another kind of recommendation: I’ve dog-eared nearly every page. —

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