Harry Mathews Roundtable

The Quarterly Conversation has posted a roundtable on the great Harry Mathews, including essays by Dan Visel and Ed Park  on The Conversions, Laird Hunt on My Life in CIA, John Beer on The New Tourism, Daniel Levin Becker on Selected Declarations of Dependence, and Jeremy M. Davies and myself on Cigarettes.

Enjoy!

Dalkey Archive Press

Until I make my pilgrimage to Champaign, this realtor-walkthrough video of Dalkey Archive’s warehouse (squired by founder John O’Brien, no less!) will have to do:

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With some insight into the workings and history of Dalkey from O’Brien and Jeremy Davies.

Gabriel Blackwell on Stanley Elkin’s Boswell

ABOUT BOSWELL

I am, by way of introduction, perpetually adjunct; not quite ad hoc, still not joined. Inessential. A barnacle, an on-looker, a modifier. I worry. What encomiums for the adjunct?

I am a “Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing.” This is already my second year of visiting, my reunion with familiarity, a second chance for consequence. In nine months, I hope to still be visiting, to have immured my hosts to the fishy odor marking the offices I occupy. I’m a good guest. Quiet. I leave nothing behind. Boswell says: “I have come to make my fortune and have instead added to the fortunes of others. That’s the role of most men, I suppose.” Would it be wrong to find myself in his words? Too grand? I am a guest-post, a ghost, even here, on this blog. And you? You are a reader, a rubber-necker just like me.

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Using Viktor Shklovsky

My hero.

[This post began as a response to some comments made by Douglas Storm on Amber’s most recent post.]

The name “Viktor Shklovsky” comes up a lot at this site (I’m guilty of mentioning it in perhaps half of my posts), and one might wonder why the man and his work matters. Below, I’ll try and lay out what Viktor Shklovsky has done for me, and what he might be able to do for you, too! Because Shklovsky might be the single most interesting and, above all else, useful critic I’ve ever encountered…

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This is the book I’m most looking forward to this year

And it’s a reprint, and I already own the original:

It’s that good.

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A Pan-English Dictionary (for readers of Harry Mathews’s The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s not the only novelist who invented fictional languages! In Harry Mathews‘s early masterpiece, the epistolary novel The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium, newlyweds Zachary McCaltex and Twang Panattapam, separated by the Atlantic, exchange letters in which they “try to trace the whereabouts of a treasure supposedly lost off the coast of Florida in the sixteenth century, while navigating a relationship separated by an ocean as well as their different cultures.”

Twang, who hails “from the Southeast-Asian country of Pan-Nam,” peppers her letters with snatches of her native language, “Pan.” Fortunately for her husband and the reader, she also translates it on the spot. I’ve collected all of the Pan and its English equivalents in the hope it will be of interest; it’s all after the jump.

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Announcing the Summer 2011 Issue of Requited

Carl Baratta, "Driver Take Me to the River 3."

The Summer 2011 issue of Requited is now online. It features:

  • fiction by Josh Collins, Jess Upshaw Glass, Suzanne Scanlon, Ben Slotzky, and Simon A. Smith;
  • poetry by Kristy Bowen, Nicelle Davis, Eric Ellingson, Molly Gaudry, Monica Gomery, Rich Ives, Alyse Knorr, Kate Martin Rowe, and J. A. Tyler;
  • essays by Steve Katz, Mark Rappaport, and Viktor Shklovsky;
  • visual art by Carl Baratta and Alexis MacKenzie;
  • and videos by Anne Elizabeth Moore and Hyon Jung Kim.

Please check it out! And since the nonfiction section is my domain, allow me to say a few words about the pieces there.

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An Interview with Me at Untoward

just went up—well, Part One did, in which Matt Rowan asks me questions about my first book (Amazing Adult Fantasy), G.I. Joe, geek culture, Ota Benga, Ayn Rand, George Orwell, and bad writing habits; we also discuss Curtis White, Theodor Adorno, Viktor Shklovsky, and ninjas, among other things.

[Update: Part Two, which focuses more on my first novel, Giant Slugs, is now up.]

A Review of Susan Daitch’s Storytown

Storytown, Susan Daitch’s first collection, is a singular achievement, displaying a virtuosic command of technique in service to a kind of fractured narrativity, one privileging ellipsis, ambiguity, and odd displacement over the merely episodic, that is, the kind of predictable pit-pat pit-pat of the pitiful stuff that passes for fiction these days. These open-ended investigations problematize ideas about identity, memory, authenticity, language, intimacy, time, art, and originality. Cosmopolitan, history-hopping, and switchblade sharp, these stories-within-stories offer dark starry-eyed artists, troubled doubles, and overthinkers spinning threads that hardly serve as extensions of Ariadne’s lifeline, but threaten, instead, to further enweb them, keep them stuck in their own private labyrinths.

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Announcing a New Big Other Series: “A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies”

Jeremy M. Davies, flexing en route to the cineplex

In two days, I’ll be posting the first installment of a new ongoing series at Big Other: conversations I’ve had with my good friend Jeremy M. Davies about movies, new and old, both popular and obscure. It will be called “A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies” (unless we can think of a better title).

This Monday, and on the following two Mondays (the posts will be in clusters of three), we’ll discuss Source Code, Thor, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and many other films (including Sucker Punch, The Man from London, Tron, Tron Legacy, Willow, and Zardoz). In the weeks after that we plan to talk about Captain America, Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, as well as movies by lesser-known directors like Jacques Rivette, Eugène Green, Agnès Varda, and Jean-Marie Straub and Danièlle Huillet (Jeremy really likes foreign films). And the new Woody Allen film. We’ll also probably talk endlessly about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, because we both love it just so much. And throughout we’ll discuss the current state of the film industry. And comic books, which are synonymous with cinema these days.

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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.

Reading Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds: A Primer

See Greg’s post for the reading schedule (and I hope you’ll join us). This post collects some resources to assist with anyone reading Flann O’Brien’s great comic novel.

A pint of plain is your only man, but when reading ASTB, your second should be:

The Dalkey Casebook

This is available in its entirety online; I’d particularly refer everyone to the excellent introduction (PDF) by the casebook’s editor, Thomas C. Foster. You’ll find there historical information on both O’Brien and the novel, a summary of the action, and some suggestions regarding interpretation.

Foster mentions the three traditional Irish characters that appear in the text; at the risk of repeating him I’ll say a little about them here, as O’Brien naturally assumed that his readers would know who they are. (I’ll also say a bit about the book’s title and epigraph.)

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what you read what i read, part ii

because folks liked my last version of this, for your viewing pleasure, below are the books i read last week. it’s a pretty exciting list:

1. Patrik Ourednik’s Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century (Dalkey Archive, 2005): The twentieth century boiled down to painstakingly concise and shocking truths. No one is left unscathed or uncriticized in this book. Ourednik’s dry humor pairs well with sentences that are dense in their simplicity, that makes sense. For instance: “Psychiatrists said that in many people the First World War provoked traumas that had been previously hidden in the unconscious, and in the 1920s and 1930s the people started to be neurotic because they were not adapted to their inner or outer state, and in Europe in the 1960s, 25% of women and 15% of men were neurotic, and journalists called it the disease of the century. And in the 1970s the number of people suffering from depression also started to rise, and at the end of the century every fifth citizen of Europe was depress” (65). Every sentence in Europeana reads this way: biting, revealing, absurd, contradictory, a slap across an entire century’s big sweaty face.

2. Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker (Les Figues, 2010 but available now!): This is a book to talk about. This is a book you want to carry around with you, just so people can ask you what it’s about. Last week, as I was sitting at a cafe in South Bend, this slender volume lying on top of my usual stack of library books. It’s cover is a lovely yellow, it’s spine an unobtrusive pink. But the title! The title is what interests people most. So someone asks me: What’s that you’re reading? And I say: Babyfucker. Just like that. And that person responds: Hmm. There’s no follow-up question. I have to force their discomfort. I say: It’s a book about a man who fucks babies, or not. It’s this little Beckettian book, this man obsessed with the sentence, ‘I fuck babies,’ constantly repeating, ‘I fuck babies. That’s my sentence.’ Whether or not he actually fucks the babies is irrelevant to the reader, but to that person standing by your chair at the cafe, that’s the only question that matters. Here’s the thing, I haven’t even started touching the substance or the incredible writing in this book, but it’s all solid. This is an inadequate review of a truly stunning book, but I’ve only managed to do exactly what I’ve criticized that person at the cafe of doing: getting lost in the spectacle. Continue reading