Some Thoughts About Bradford Morrow’s The Uninnocent

It’s Bradford Morrow’s birthday, today, and so I decided to spend the day reading The Uninnocent, his collection of gothic fictions, a book limning life’s many shadows, whether caused by illness, madness, pain, loss, or death.

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What I Learned from “Travesty”

It was Curt White who told me to read it. In workshop, he stressed the importance of having a good hook—the reason being, once you’ve captured the reader’s attention, you can get away with just about anything—a good strategy for experimental fiction.

He also said that Travesty had one of the best. Here are its opening four paragraphs:

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The Book Club Reads John Hawkes’s Travesty

This month the Big Other Book Club is reading Travesty by John Hawkes. Everyone is welcome to write a post about Travesty or Hawkes. It is 132 pages and out of the handful of books of his I’ve read, the most accessible.

John Hawkes’ short novel Travesty presents a monologue of a person driving an automobile who plans to deliberately crash the car into a farmhouse because his wife and daughter are lovers of his friend Henri. Henri and his daughter are with him. The collision is expected to occur within 100 minutes.  – Conte (below)

A few resources:

Design and Debris: John Hawkes’s Travesty, Chaos Theory, and the Swerve by Joseph M. Conte

All That Remains: On the Fiction of John Hawkes by Daniel Green – it looks at Travesty, as well as The Lime Twig and Second Skin

Start Suffering – my appreciation of Hawkes, focused on The Lime Twig, with links to other sources

Book Hunting in San Francisco: Wallace, Wallace Stevens

I love San Francisco. Especially the book stores and thrift stores. The Community Thrift Store in the Mission has been a goldmine for me the last six years and each time I come here I check in and check out with jewels for about $1.50 each. I remember going there and finding the first six issues of NOON for $.50 each. Last year there were two first editions of Donald Antrim’s The Verificationist and one of his The Hundred Brothers. Ardvark Books in the Castro also has great finds. The first two days of my trip there was, bookwise, delightful.

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Joy to the Reader When Reading Gass’s The Tunnel

How can I contain myself? (But perhaps the question is: how could Gass both contain and not contain himself to have done what he did?) Having had The Tunnel to go back to every morning was like having the one you love next to you, to be transfixed and freshened, to be, as that worthy words man said, surprised by joy and impatient as the wind. (First post on approaching The Tunnel)

In the end (and there can’t be an end to such a work that reverberates on itself and the whole of literature, philosophy, and history), Gass’s explication of Kohler’s consciousness is all tongue, all logos, but a logos of the highest order. Is there pity and terror? Is there sentimentality? Many monsters have their sweet side and though some have called Kohler a monster, I would just call him a guy who tells the truth of his story, no matter the lies of old age one tells to lessen the pains of the past. At the center of his thoughts is the idea of the fascism of the heart, with Kohler himself as the case study.  He gives us his life in many slices of pie (sugar and sweets, such as ice cream and cake abound in the book). He also heaps us with shit, with the staged, and with something surfacely sentimental, but wholly human:

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New Issues of The Quarterly Conversation and Rain Taxi

Issue 24 of The Quarterly Conversation has a great David Foster Wallace symposium, with seven essays, including Lance Olsen on Oblivion. Also reviews of books by Rimbaud, Ovid, and Andrew Ervin, as well as an interview with Eliot Weinberger.

My review of Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries by Helen Vendler is also in the issue. NOTE: This book is the Big Other Book Club’s November Selection.

The Spring 2011 on-line edition of Rain Taxi is also full of wonderful things. Interviews with Evan Lavender-Smith, Steve Tomasula, and John Ashbery. Also reviews of books by Susan Howe, Alissa Nutting, Orhan Pamuk, Günter Grass, and Roland Barthes.

My review of John Hawkes’s The Passion Artist, recently re-issued by Dalkey Archive, is there as well.