Avid Staff Top Ten Series: James


Welcome to the next installment of our staff top 10 series. 

This week we are featuring the top picks of James Butler. James is our CD and DVD buyer, and also manages our social media. He's a co-founding editor of Scum Magazine, a literary website that publishes feminist fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. 

BLUETS by Maggie Nelson

A lyrical, philosophical, and often explicit exploration of personal suffering and the limitations of visions and love, as refracted through the colour blue. [Poetry]

AN ELEMENTAL THING by Eliot Weinberger

Weinberger turns from his celebrated political chronicles to the timelessness of the subjects of his literary essays. With the wisdom of a literary archaeologist-astronomer-anthropologist-zookeeper, he leads us through histories, fables, and meditations about the ten thousand things in the universe: the wind and the rhinoceros, Catholic saints and people named Chang, the Mandaeans on the Iran-Iraq border and the Kaluli in the mountains of New Guinea. [Essays]

JUST KIDS by Patti Smith

In Just Kids, Patti Smith's first book of prose, the legendary artist, musician, and poet offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to this honest and moving story of youth and friendship as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work. [Memoir]


Sumire is in love with a woman seventeen years her senior. But whereas Miu is glamorous and successful, Sumire is an aspiring writer who dresses in an oversized second-hand coat and heavy boots like a character in a Kerouac novel. Sumire spends hours on the phone talking to her best friend K about the big questions in life: what is sexual desire, and should she ever tell Miu how she feels for her? Meanwhile K wonders whether he should confess his own unrequited love for Sumire. Then, a desperate Miu calls from a small Greek island: Sumire has mysteriously vanished... [Fiction]


In Bodies That Matter, renowned theorist and philosopher Judith Butler argues that theories of gender need to return to the most material dimension of sex and sexuality: the body. Butler offers a brilliant reworking of the body, examining how the power of heterosexual hegemony forms the "matter" of bodies, sex, and gender. Butler argues that power operates to constrain sex from the start, delimiting what counts as a viable sex. She clarifies the notion of "performativity" introduced in Gender Trouble and via bold readings of Plato, Irigaray, Lacan, and Freud, explores the meaning of a citational politics. [Philosophy]

I LOVE DICK by Chris Kraus

In 1994, a married, failed independent filmmaker, who is about to turn forty, falls in love with a well-known art and culture theorist named Dick. She endeavours to seduce him with the help of her husband, who is a defiantly unconventional French academic, and with whom she hasn't had sex in a very long time. But when the theorist refuses to answer her letters, husband and wife continue the correspondence for each other instead, imagining the fling the wife wishes to have with Dick. What follows is a breathless pursuit that takes the woman across America and away from her husband and far beyond her original infatuation into a discovery of the transformative power of first-person narrative. [Fiction]


Screenwriter, director, and star of the acclaimed film Me and You and Everyone We Know, Miranda July brings her extraordinary talents to the page in a startling, sexy, and tender collection. [Short Stories]

FRANNY AND ZOOEY by J. D. Salinger

The short story, Franny, takes place in an unnamed college town and tells the tale of an undergraduate who is becoming disenchanted with the selfishness and inauthenticity she perceives all around her. The novella, Zooey, is named for Zooey Glass, the second-youngest member of the Glass family. As his younger sister, Franny, suffers a spiritual and existential breakdown in her parents' Manhattan living room - leaving Bessie, her mother, deeply concerned - Zooey comes to her aid, offering what he thinks is brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice. [Classic Fiction]

THE LONELY CITY by Olivia Laing

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by this most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between works and lives - from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks to Andy Warhol's Time Capsules, from Henry Darger's hoarding to the depredations of the AIDS crisis - Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed. [Memoir]


First published in 1966, this celebrated book - Sontag's first collection of essays - quickly became a modern classic, and has had an enormous influence in America and abroad on thinking about the arts and contemporary culture. As well as the title essay and the famous "Notes on Camp," Against Interpretation includes original and provocative discussions of Sartre, Simone Weil, Godard, Beckett, science-fiction movies, psychoanalysis, and contemporary religious thinking. [Essays]