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1 of 100

I’m giving a lot of thought to the 100 titles I’m going to order from Dalkey Archive Press this year. I think I’ve just found my #1: Stanley Elkin’s Criers & Kibitzers, Kibitzers & Criers. Here’s an excerpt from “A Poetics for Bullies”:

Suddenly I raise my arms and he stops. I feel a power in me. I am Push, Push the bully, God of the Neighborhood, its incarnation of envy and jealousy and need. I vie, I strive, emulate, compete, a contender in every event there is. I didn’t make myself. I probably can’t save myself, but maybe that’s the only need I don’t have. I taste my lack and that’s how I win–by having nothing to lose. It’s not good enough! I want and I want and I will die wanting, but first I will have something. This time I will have something. I say it aloud. ‘This time I will have something.’ I step toward them. The power makes me dizzy. It is enormous. They feel it. They back away. They crouch in the shadow of my outstretched wings. It isn’t deceit this time but the real magic at last, the genuine thing: the cabala of my hate, of my irreconcilableness.

13 thoughts on “1 of 100

  1. Elkin had that knowing urban tongue, a real swing to it. It’s heartening to see him get some fresh strokings. Be sure to check out “The Bailbondsman,” too, one of his two or three peaks. He pulled that one from ESQUIRE, famously, refusing to submit to the butcherwork of Lish (then the editor), & published it the way he wanted, in TRIQUARTERLY. In the long form, hmm, GEORGE MILLS might be the pick. He said that as he was writing it, he felt as if he owned the language.

  2. I don’t know if you’re looking for any suggestions, Molly, but here are a few phenomenal Dalkey titles that often get overlooked/overshadowed:

    Annihilation, Piotr Szewc
    Cleaned Out, Annie Ernaux
    Collected Fiction, Louis Zukofsky
    Do You Hear Them?, Nathalie Sarraute
    God Head, Scott Zwiren
    In Transit, Brigid Brophy
    L.C., Susan Daitch
    Mobile, Michel Butor
    Princess Hoppy or, The Tale of Labrador, Jacques Roubaud
    The Counterfeiters, Hugh Kenner
    Things in the Night, Mati Unt
    Tripticks, Ann Quin


    P.S. And of course I think Theory of Prose is the greatest book of the 20th century. Possibly also the 21st (it looks that way so far).

  3. Oooh, I’ll definitely check out Theory of Prose. I’ve got a Daitch. Storytown.

    I’m systematically checking out titles from the library and perusing and then deciding which ones I want to own.

  4. That’s a good one, Molly, but if you’re going to get one Elkin, get Magic Kingdom. That’s my favorite comic novel of all time.

  5. Nice, Molly!

    Well, I’m obviously going to recommend all the William Gass titles: Finding a Form, Cartesian Sonata and Other Novellas, A Temple of Texts, The Tunnel, and Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, all of which I’m thinking of rereading next year.

    Oh, and Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds.

    1. I love Dalkey (of course), and I also love Gass (of course), but I’ve never much liked Dalkey’s reprint of Willie Masters’, and personally wouldn’t waste a pick on it. The whole thing is too slicked-up for my tastes. And for another thing, you don’t get the colored pages:

      Meanwhile, the original Triquarterly special editions aren’t too hard to find used (surprisingly):

      Meanwhile, for anyone who haven’t read the thing and want to preview it, some portions of Dalkey’s edition is online here:
      and here:

      (I do think it’s great that Dalkey’s made it—or something reasonably close to the original—more widely available. I just prefer the original!)


      1. Willie Masters’ is actually the only Gass I’ve ever read, and it’s probably because it didn’t completely blow me away. I read the Dalkey archive reprint, and I’m really curious if my initial opinion would have changed had I seen a version with color pages (color tinted images from the 60s and 70s hold a specific aesthetic allure for me, often enough to find me engaging more actively with something than I would be otherwise…). Thanks for the tip Adam

        1. Hi Mike,

          I’m not really a fan of Willie Masters’, regardless of its edition (although I do prefer the original); I consider it an interesting failure. So I wouldn’t give up on Gass if you didn’t like it! Omensetter’s Luck (1966) and In the Heart of the Heart of the Country (1968) are much better places to start. As is Fiction and the Figures of Life (1970), if you’d prefer his criticism (which reads better than a lot of folks’ fiction).


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