Just wanted to help spread the word for those not on Facebook:
An Unnameable Reading: Fiction Collective Two in Brooklyn
7:30–9pm, Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Unnameable Books (600 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY) (between Dean St. & St. Marks Ave.)
Come hear four recently published FC2 authors read: Margo Berdeschevsky, Brian Conn, Lance Olsen, & Rob Stephenson
[Update 30 April 11: If you like this passage, check out my interview with Yuriy Tarnawsky: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3]
Part 4, “Death,” Chapter 27: “Why Is Water So Beautiful?”
It may shine like cheeks down which tears flow. It may shine like tears. It may be dark like tears. It may be dark like cheeks down which tears flow. It may be pale like cheeks down which tears flow. It may be dark like a room in which tears flow. It may be pale like a room in which tears flow. It may flow like tears. It may flow to where tears flow. It may flow to where tears flow from. It may flow like the world when tears flow. It may carry away with it tears after they fall off the cheeks down which they’d flown. It may carry away cheeks so that there’ll be no more place for tears to flow on. It may carry away rooms so that there’ll be no space for tears to flow in. It may flow past tears. It may flow past cheeks. It may flow past rooms. It may flow past clocks. It may make the sound of a clock ticking. It may move like the hands of a clock. It may move past Roman and Arabic numerals. It may be added or subtracted like numbers. It’s invisible like numbers. It’s invisible like time. It’s like time in the sense that it can be detected only through the effect it has on the material world. It’s like an idea in the sense that it can be detected only through the effect it has on the material world. It can look like a page in a book. It can cover a page like fine print. It can carry away print. It can carry away feet. It can carry away faces. It can provide a roof over one’s head. It can kill like a sword. It’s shaped like a sword. It’s shaped like an atom bomb. It can kill like an atom bomb. It can soothe like soft hands. It can mend broken bones. It can mend broken minds. It can sway like a branch after a bird has flown off it. It can sound like a bird singing. It can make a bird sing. It can sound like a telephone ringing. It can look like a telephone in an empty room. It looks like grass. It covers the earth like grass. It’s green like grass. It’s transparent like an angel’s eye. It’s shaped like an angel’s eye. It’s blue like an angel’s eye. It’s blue like an angel’s wing. It’s transparent like an angel’s wing. It can flow out of an angel’s eye. It can flow out of an angel’s wing. Angels’ wings and eyes can flow out of it. It’s parallel to angels’ eyes and wings. It’s parallel to everything. It can be compared to anything.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Lance Olsen lately—not only because he tied up and duct taped my mouth during the AWP 2010 session on copyright a few weeks ago, and not only because we’ve become friends over the years, but also because he is A) so damn prolific, and B) so damn insightful in his fictions. Read Head in Flames (Chiasmus 2009), which I recently discussed here, for the most recent example.
Some years ago (2006), I conducted the following conversation with Olsen for the now-defunct econoculture.com. Two notable developments since then:
1) Olsen has returned to academia at the University of Utah.
2) My editor for this piece at Econoculture, Matt Kirkpatrick, has too gone to academia after years in the private sector, and, in an odd happenstance, is now one of Olsen’s Ph.D. students (and a damn fine writer himself) at Utah. They did not know each other when this interview was published.
Rereading this, I’m struck by the way it’s a snapshot of a great writer at a particular moment.
If you have not encountered the work of the recently departed Raymond Federman (1928-2009) through his countless novels, poems, short pieces, surfictions, critifictions, and literary provocations, you haven’t really read, or unread, as the case may be.
First step: find a copy of Double of Nothing: a real fictitious discourse (1971)—Federman’s debut. It’s a furious meta-fictional / typographical adventure. It’s cerebral, but with heart. Spend two minutes browsing through the text on Google books; the noodle novel will blow your mind.
From there, pick up any of Federman’s numerous texts, an entire corpus un/writing the autobiography of a well-known story: Federman, as a child, pushed into a closet by his mother as collaborationist French police take his parents and two sisters for eventual transport to Auschwitz. The young boy works in a southern French farm, in hiding, during the rest of the war and eventually makes his way to America, to the army, to a Ph.D, to a friendly relationship with his great mentor Samuel Beckett, and, over a series of books—never from a mainstream press—through the gulf of memory and un/telleable stories of loss and of laughter, always laughter.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
There are still more! Alphabetically, then…
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