Daily Postings
literature : first proof

Rombaud

by Álvaro Enrigue

An excerpt from Sudden Death

Jean Rombaud had the worst of all possible tasks on the morning of May 19, 1536: severing with a single blow the head of Anne Boleyn, Marquess of Pembroke and Queen of England, a young woman so beautiful she had turned the Strait of Dover into a veritable Atlantic. The notorious Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII, had brought Rombaud over from France for this express purpose. In a curt missive, Cromwell asked that he bring his sword—a piece of miraculously fine craftsmanship, forged of Toledo steel—because he would be performing a delicate execution.

Rombaud was neither beloved nor indispensable. Beautiful and immoral, he drifted coldly in the tight circle of very specialized workers who thrived in the Renaissance courts under the blind eye of ambassadors, ministers, and secretaries. His reserve, striking looks, and lack of scruples made him a natural for certain kinds of tasks known to all and spoken of by none, the dark operations that have always been unavoidable in the conduct of politics. He dressed with surprising good taste for someone with the job of killer angel: he wore expensive rings, breeches lavishly trimmed with brocade, and royal-blue velvet shirts unsuited to a bastard, which he was in every sense of the word. Cheap gemstones were braided with gypsy panache into his gold-streaked chestnut hair, the gems filched from mistresses conquered with the various weapons over which God had granted him mastery. There was no knowing whether he was silent because he was clever or because he was a fool: his deep blue eyes, which turned down a little at the corners, never expressed compassion, but they never expressed any kind of animosity either. Also, Rombaud was French: for him, killing a queen of England was less sin than duty. Cromwell had called him to London because he believed this last quality made him a particularly hygienic choice for the job.

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literature : interview

Margo Jefferson

by Tobi Haslett

“Crude action is required here. Take off that limb, see what’s left.”

Margo Jefferson was born into a world of exquisite, punishing distinctions. A daughter of the Negro elite—or the colored aristocracy, or the blue vein society, or the “big families”—she was raised among a fearfully dignified milieu, a people desperate to prove themselves. To prove their intelligence, refinement, moral scruples, and impeccable taste. “Clever of me to become a critic,” she writes in her recent memoir, Negroland. “We critics scrutinize and show off to a higher end.”In 1995, she was rewarded, yet again, for all of that scrutiny—with a Pulitzer Prize.

In Negroland, Jefferson’s discriminating judgements are pitched at her own upbringing, full of strenuous dignity and strident achievement. For the women of Negroland, of course, the stakes were impossibly high: Jefferson recalls the brutally enforced social hierarchies and the cruel inspection of physical beauty. Her girlhood was a minefield dotted with malicious little differences—in hair texture, skin color, the flare of the nostril, and the thickness of the lips. By the 1970s, she was a radical feminist.

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literature : interview

Matt Gallagher

by J. T. Price

“War isn’t a destination, nor is it a topic to be mined for scribes with nothing else to say.”

Youngblood, Matt Gallagher’s debut novel, is a story of the American occupation set in an isolated Iraqi town where violence has flared, settled, and may be poised to flare again. Lest that sound too macro an account, it’s really a narrative about people—those encountered on a daily basis by Lt. Jack Porter as he seeks to abide by orders, take care of his men, and do all that he possibly can to maintain a fragile peace in the region. Predictably, those objectives do not always align so well, with fealty to one sometimes pulling him afoul of another. The novel is unique among modern war literature I’ve read for delivering a more pointillist, day-to-day vision of what it’s like to be an occupier of another country, even when you are well aware of the absurdities that go with that less-than-desirable role. Among Youngblood’s wide-ranging cast of characters, Porter must negotiate his way through a gung-ho sergeant, an unreasonable chain-of-command, a Suzanne Somers-enthralled sheik, a cool-as-a-cucumber interpreter, a local boy incensed by the loss of his pet goat, and a bereaved Iraqi mother who longs for life in the Western world. It’s a messy journey that is less one of escalating drama than of steady attrition, and if the narrative edges don’t quite meet in places, Gallagher (as Porter) warns us of as much in the novel’s preface: “I’ll answer crooked, and I’ll answer long. And when they get confused or angry, I’ll smile. Finally, I’ll think. Someone who understands.”

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literature : from the editor

Spring Books Preview

Recent and forthcoming highlights selected by Justin Taylor, John Keene, Albert Mobilio, Dawn Lundy Martin, Alan Gilbert, Ken Chen, Ander Monson, Chelsea Hodson, and Lawrence Giffin.

There will be 300,000 books published in the US this year. We asked a few writers which ones are worth looking out for.

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literature : interview

Robin Coste Lewis

by Matthew Sharpe

"I don't accept the idea of my history as tragic."

I met Robin Coste Lewis in the summer of 2002 in the MFA program at Bard College, where she was a student and I was on faculty. She was then working on a nonfiction narrative about the history of her family in Louisiana. She had received a graduate degree in Sanskrit literature from Harvard Divinity School, and had been a professor at Hampshire College. Shortly before I met her, she’d suffered a traumatic brain injury, was no longer able to teach at Hampshire, and was, in a profound sense, starting over. I did not realize at the time the extent to which this was the case, given her lively presence and the speed and agility of her mind both in conversation and on the page. Not long after that summer, she put aside that family history project, at least in the prose form it then occupied, and took up poetry. She reported some years later that she had told a fellow poet that “brain damage has turned me into a poet,” to which the other poet replied, “Oh thanks a lot, Robin.”

Trauma—historical trauma—is central to Voyage of the Sable Venus, Robin’s debut book of poetry, indeed her first book of any kind, which won the National Book Award last year. The title poem, some seventy pages long, is, as Robin writes in her prologue, “a narrative poem comprised solely and entirely of the titles, catalogue entries, or exhibit descriptions of Western art objects in which a black female figure is present, dating from 38,000 BCE to the present.” So “Voyage” depicts 40,000 years of systemic violence, objectification, and distortive caricature residing in what Western civilization has often construed as the domain of the beautiful. The paradox, as Robin told me, is that many of the artworks she invokes are indeed beautiful. So, emphatically, is the poem. We spoke at length about this paradox, and about her feeling both angered and liberated in the process of the writing, feelings that a reader is also likely to experience in a prodigious poem which, to paraphrase Audre Lorde, uses the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.

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literature : interview

Toni Sala

by Hal Hlavinka

“What distinguishes the writer from the reader is that the writer goes first.”

Toni Sala has been quite busy, but you wouldn’t know it. The author of more than a dozen novels—and the winner of the Catalan government’s 2005 National Literature Prize—Sala is but the latest in a series of Catalan authors to make a recent, mid-career debut in the United States. His newest novel, The Boys, appeared this past November from Two Lines Press in a stunning translation by Mara Faye Lethem, bringing Sala’s sharp wit and ominous vision to a US audience for the first time. Translation-savvy readers might hear a little Rodoreda and Monzó in Sala’s prose, but the most significant comparison could be to Bolaño’s more Iberian-inflected work—light-footed, death-haunted sentences that tumble along at the shuddering speed of a car crash. The Boys takes as its centerpiece the tragic deaths of two brothers, explored through several overlapping perspectives that shift and shuffle the drama so to get nearer to the tragedy’s still-beating heart.

Our conversation was bookended by the November 13 Paris attacks and the December 2 San Bernardino attack, events that have and will continue to change both of our worlds. Toni shared something in our initial pleasantries that I found exemplary of his approach to story: “A few hours after the Paris attacks, a burned car was located in Vidreres, the little town where The Boys is set. Vidreres is seventy kilometers from the border, and the vehicle contained false plates and unactivated phones, which set off the alarm in Catalonia. In the end, it was likely something to do with the drug trade. But the center of the world can be everywhere.”

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literature : interview

Eka Kurniawan

by Jesse Ruddock

“The writer’s task is to recognize when he or she has to stop, what to abandon, when to depart.”

Ghosts pour off the pages of Eka Kurniawan’s debut novel, Beauty Is a Wound. They rub at the windowpane and even play hands at the card table. Badly buried in the twentieth century, their “damaged bodies” have now arisen, seeking justice. And Kurniawan, in telling their stories, is giving it to them.

Published in English this year and collectively hailed in the US as a masterwork, Beauty Is a Wound first appeared in Indonesia in 2002, four years after the fall of Suharto. The dictator’s thirty-one-year chokehold on Indonesian history was broken, leaving Kurniawan free to rewrite it as one huge song. This book is improbable, covering three full generations of one family—the brood of genius prostitute Dewi Ayu—without letting up. Here opposites unite: terror and good humor, blasphemy and faith, death and life. Kurniawan’s prose is in constant elegant turmoil, influenced by everything from Harlequins to Hegel.

His second novel, Man Tiger, came out this year in English too. A slimmer, more intimate book, it also stars a ghost: the spirit of the white tiger dwelling in young Margio, an inheritance from his grandfather. Another family saga, it’s signature Kurniawan in its serious playfulness. It alternates flash and inner quiet. We feel everything from the tenderness of family meals to the roughness of a torn jugular.

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literature : interview

Naja Marie Aidt

by Mieke Chew

Women in Denmark should be both women and men at the same time, but “men” and “women”—what does that mean?

As a young single mother, Greenland-born Naja Marie Aidt began writing poetry and prose in Denmark, where she published for over twenty years. Since 2008 Aidt has been living in Brooklyn, and her writing has been translated into nine languages, yet it’s only recently found its way into English. Last year, Baboon, the short story collection that won Scandinavia’s highest literary honor—the Nordic Council Fiction Prize—was translated by US poet Denise Newman, published by Two Lines Press, and awarded the PEN Translation Prize. This year, Open Letter Books published Aidt’s first and only novel to date, a literary thriller: Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Aidt’s writing grabs readers by the shoulders. She guides us into moments of reckoning-near-collapse: A brother and sister remember their father differently. A small girl sees her father kissing another man. A stranger speaking in tongues forces his way into a couple’s small car. A mysterious bite fills with puss. The boy next door turns his lust on a goat. This is fiction that never simplifies but holds true to what Virginia Woolf saw clearly: “The beauty of the world, which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” 

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literature : review

The Necessary Rage

by Scott Esposito

On Iván Repila’s The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse

It may be that, looking back, we recognize these as the years when the social fabric began to fray. The years in which the rich began to take just a little too much of the world’s wealth, when citizens of the wealthiest nations grew just a little too callous toward refugees from the poorest, when the effects of our environmental mismanagement became just a little too dramatic to brush off. The years, in other words, when order broke down and the only response for the dispossessed became rage.

The author Iván Repila invites this subtext for his second novel, published amid historic poverty in his native Spain in 2013 and now arriving in English.

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literature : interview

Derek McCormack

by Jennifer Krasinski

“I love that a piece of clothing can annihilate me.”

It was Dennis Cooper who first introduced me to Derek McCormack’s novels a little over ten years ago. At that time, Dennis was the editor of Little House on the Bowery, an imprint of Akashic Books, and he’d been gifting me copies of the far-from-ordinary books he was publishing: Benjamin Weissman’s Headless, Trinie Dalton’s Wide Eyed, Derek’s Grab Bag. During my friendship with Dennis, I was coming to terms with the fact that I was a writer, not a filmmaker as I’d wrongly imagined myself to be. Which is to say that at the same time I was learning to write, I was reading these authors and their books. All became tender touchstones for me, voices I returned to as I stumbled around to find my own—Derek not least among them.

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literature : review

And Everything Tasted of Soap

by Jane Yong Kim

On Barbara Comyns’s Our Spoons Came From Woolworths

“One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me.” With this opening line, Olga, the thirty-eight-year-old narrator of Elena Ferrante’s novel The Days of Abandonment, begins the terrifying process of appraising her life after years of ceding it to her family: to her husband, for whom she stopped her career as a writer, and to her two children, who gave her the “stink of motherhood” that she suspects, in part, led to her husband’s departure.

Olga deploys an unbridled anger toward her husband, screaming, “You wounded me, you are destroying me, and I’m supposed to speak like a good, well-brought-up wife? Fuck you!” Meanwhile, she lectures herself. “What a mistake it had been to entrust the sense of myself to his gratifications, his enthusiasms, to the ever more productive course of his life.” She has enough rage and self-possession that she seduces her neighbor, a graying cellist, in a fit of sadism.

Such fiery vitriol is largely absent in Our Spoons Came From Woolworths, but it nonetheless shares DNA with Ferrante’s sharp and dark dissection of domestic breakdown. The second published novel by the British writer Barbara Comyns, it was originally released in 1950 and is being reissued this month by New York Review Books. A startling, immersive excavation of poor, young womanhood and marriage gone awry in 1930s London, it begins at the tale’s end. “I told Helen my story and she went home and cried,” Sophia Fairclough narrates, only to promptly think twice about her loquacity. “I wish I hadn’t told Helen so much; it’s brought everything back in a vivid flash. I can see Charles’s white pointed face, and hear his husky nervous voice.”

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literature : review

The Total System

by Andrew Durbin

On John Cage’s Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)

Composed for oneself, most “literary” diaries—from Samuel Pepys’s to Virginia Woolf’s—are well-written, intimate, interior narratives of self-reflection, sourced from private thoughts on friends, lovers, events, and art, often assuming a private pose, only to wink toward their potential public. This particular complexity has made the form both hugely popular for readers and controversial for those nervous estates that inherit such diaries. Not so with John Cage, whose Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) is now out in full for the first time from Siglio Press. (It was originally printed serially but never gathered in a complete edition.) Unlike other diarists, Cage isn’t so much interested in an explicitly personal meditation on his own life; rather, his life is composed of, and belongs among, the lives of others—written into and out of canned speech and newsy verbiage, spoken and written by public individuals (mom and dad crop up, yes, but famous friends more), reversing the literary formula to begin with the public only to end in the private. Meditating on Chairman Mao and his friend Buckminster Fuller, Cage writes: “Transform mistakes into / projects, misinformation into facts. / Forget yourself.” Gain a public.

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literature : interview

Rebecca Makkai

by J. T. Price

“People love to underrate plot, because it makes them sound like they’re beyond it, like plot is best left to Danielle Steele.“

Music for Wartime (Viking, 2015) is Rebecca Makkai’s third published book and first story collection. It features all four of her Best American Short Story-endorsed pieces—each chosen consecutively, year after year, which has to be a record—in addition to other tales, alternately fabular or dizzy with emotionally precipitous modernity, and frequently both at once. The book showcases the boldness of her range and, ambition notwithstanding, a decided lightness of touch.

J.T. Price Let’s begin where the book ends—with acknowledgments. We live, it sometimes seems, in an age of them. Would you mind speaking to the relationship between acknowledgments and fiction, the latter of which, in theory, is all about estranging and appropriating and recapitulating the actual in a newly relevant light?

Rebecca Makkai I was just thinking about this recently, about how the "real" parts of a book—the acknowledgments, dedication, author photo—all serve to paint this picture of who the author is, of why this author would write these stories. I’m sure I’m not alone in my habit of flipping back to the author photo to reassess the author’s face halfway through a novel.

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literature : review

Hosing down the Slaughterhouse

by Micaela Morrissette

On Michel Houellebecq’s Submission

Michel Houellebecq: butcher. Messy slaughterer of sacred cows. Disemboweler of all modes of political correctness, from the myth of the modern male’s respect for women to the laughable fiction of the liberal Westerner’s respect for non-Western cultures. That’s the story, anyway. Like most good stories, it isn’t true, for the most part; but Houellebecq, who enjoys a good yarn, and who is typically as impish as he is courageous, has done nothing to dispel it. Indeed he’s done his bit to spin it out—to spin, from straw spattered with dung hurled by his offended accusers, thread of pure gold.

His characters are, one and all, denizens of hell: of social hells, capitalist hells, and hells of their own devising. In those infernal regions, however, Houellebecq constructs utopias—terribly fragile, desperately ironic, but briefly beautiful. Michel, narrator of Platform, discovers wealth and romantic love via the industry of sex tourism, at least until his earthly paradise is destroyed by a group of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. Rudi, of Lanzarote, can’t hack free love, but does find a moment’s precious relief in a pedophiliac cult before his arrest. The comedian Daniel, in The Possibility of an Island, also fails in love but discovers the theoretical consolation of immortality in a cult of his own. It is true that in The Elementary Particles, the scientist Michel isn’t granted much of a personal utopia, but his suffering, muted as it is, does lead him too to the utopic discovery of a future immortality for mankind. Even the hapless artist Jed of The Map and the Territory, who can’t possibly recover from the trauma of seeing photographs of the flesh of the murdered Michel Houellebecq spattered about a room like the gobbets and driblets of a Jackson Pollock painting, manages to create in his last and greatest series of works a utopian vision of a technological world swallowed, as if in flames, by tongues of flickering vegetation.

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literature : interview

Mark Doten & Peter Dimock

“People struggling to control language, control conversation, literally to control the world.”

There are novelists here in the United States who wrangle with the daily, psychic experience of living on the “safe,” domestic front of the wars our country has waged over the past fourteen years. Indeed, by now, these wars certainly feel like fixtures in the world, but the enormities of violence perpetrated in the name of “security” seem all too rarely acknowledged—and surely less so in the realm of contemporary fiction. Both Mark Doten’s delirious debut, The Infernal (released this past winter by Graywolf Press) and Peter Dimock’s bold second novel, George Anderson (Dalkey Archive, 2013), confront these very matters. What follows is a generous chunk of their challenging, and at times ecstatic, summer-long correspondence.  

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literature : review

California, Failed Experiment

by J. W. McCormack

On Claire Vaye Watkins's drought-stricken debut, Gold Fame Citrus.

The title of Claire Vaye Watkins’s first novel names just three of California’s historic exports. It’s a list to which, just for fun, we might add surfing, In-N-Out Burger, health fads, The Doors, cults, and—at least lately—post-apocalyptic novels. Gold Fame Citrus is certainly one of the latter, but it would be misleading to suggest that it is only, or even mainly, an aftershock of the dystopic boom that’s been running through mainstream contemporary fiction since, say, The Road. Since then, the genre has matured and broadened so much that labeling an end-of-the-world book as such is akin to cruising Netflix for “horror movies.” That is, your base-level expectations will be met: in both cases, you’re going to see someone die. But for a core audience, the pleasure is in the kind of minute touches and improvisations that each entry adds to the genre.

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literature : interview

Scott Cheshire

by Ryan Chapman

“Post-love, post-work, post-faith, post-home. What’s left?”

Scott Cheshire’s High as the Horses’ Bridles, published by Henry Holt, is one of the most arresting debuts from a major imprint in recent memory. Its triptych structure explores strains of evangelism and madness in one family across two centuries, without recourse to “epic” narratives or traditional stories of generational strife. The bolder, more elliptical approach was praised by Colum McCann and Philipp Meyer upon the novel’s hardcover publication, and some chapters read like fireworks. Others demand patience, as they ruminate on the ambiguity between faithlessness and belief.

The novel opens in 1960s Queens, NY. Twelve-year-old Josiah Laudermilk, groomed to succeed his father in their Evangelical ministry, delights his congregation and his parents with an extemporaneous sermon on the fast-approaching apocalypse. From there we leap to the present day: “Josie” is divorced and ambivalent about his failing business. He’s summoned from California to contend with his ailing father, his own apostasy, and whether both men have wasted decades of their lives. The last section jumps backward to Kentucky in 1801, where a rural church gathering becomes the site of another filial betrayal and another ghostly vision.

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literature : interview

Juliet Jacques

by Rebekah Weikel

“Radical spaces can generate and evolve ideas and tactics, some of which cross over into mainstream culture—and need to.”

Juliet Jacques has written Trans, a memoir documenting many transitions—that of a young person’s entry into adulthood, a writer’s creative shift to mainstream journalism, and the long path through gender reassignment. In 2010, the Guardian published the first entry in A Transgender Journey, her serial blog that pursued a confessional mode with political intent. The column ran successfully for nearly three years and was long-listed for the Orwell Prize. Trans, similar in makeup, makes a strong argument for the personal as political while integrating a broad education in trans theory and politics, and giving context through the author’s sharp tastes in radical literature, French poetry, sport, music, art, and avant-garde film.

Despite its nonlinear progression, it feels right to say Trans begins in Manchester, where our then-eighteen-year-old author moves to go to university and study history. Embarking from Horley, her small conservative hometown, Manchester represents a sort of promised land—a safe(r) place to be queer in the midst of Section 28, and a place to bloom, think, and exist freely while walking the laneways of the city that birthed The Smiths and Joy Division, two bands cited as early mainstays of solace.

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literature : interview

Fiston Mwanza Mujila & Roland Glasser

by Sofia Samatar

“When a state ceases to exist, your body becomes your own state, the one and only state you have.”

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is a poet and dramatist whose work explores what one of his poems calls a “geography of hunger.” His debut novel, Tram 83, takes its title from a bar in an unnamed City-State where patrons meet to indulge their hunger for alcohol, money, music, and sex. Into this ruthless central terminal comes Lucien, a poet returned from abroad, carrying his own hunger for literature, meaning, and political and artistic freedom. His adventures among the denizens of Tram 83 unfold between two overarching hungers: that of foreign and local profiteers for the country’s mineral wealth, and that of ordinary people for survival.

Tram 83 moves with a relentless rhythm, full of lists that rush into one another, cassava fields and churches, miner-diggers and digger-miners, railroads and rumba. This forward charge is countered by frequent loops and repetitions, creating an intense, circular energy. In his efforts to find an art that speaks to the City-State, Lucien invents the genres of the “stage-tale” and “locomotive literature”—terms that could describe Tram 83 itself. His comic search for the right language ultimately suggests the impossibility of speaking. For all its exuberance, this is a novel of dismay.

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literature : review
literature : first proof

Jellyfish

by Menachem Kaiser

In Warsaw I board an overnight bus to Berlin. Three facts immediately present themselves. The bus is full; nearly everyone is sleeping; and there is a sleeping baby in seat forty-three, which is, importantly, my seat. I stand in the aisle, consider my options. I can wake all those around me who might be the baby’s guardian. I can wake the baby, see what happens. I can sit and hold the baby. I can sit on the baby. I can store the baby on the rack above the seats. I can do nothing, stay standing in the aisle.

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literature : review

Le Mômo in the Mire

by Micaela Morrissette

Madness, melodrama, mundanity, and the legacy of Antonin Artaud.

For those susceptible to the romance of madness, the essential sanity of the written word is a tragedy. Perhaps literature is not the only art to suffer from the rationality that form and meanings impose, but it does seem at a peculiar disadvantage, even when it comes to the works of those practitioners who were themselves inarguably mad. The violently colored, claustrophobically dense drawings of the psychotic Adolf Wölfli satisfy with an intense frisson of delirium; the schizophrenic August Natterer’s elusively symbolic, eerily cartoonish images are unsettling in the extreme. But Robert Walser’s microscripts, creepy though they may be to behold, are, once deciphered, all too legible. Gérard de Nerval’s Aurelia, while it may chronicle his descent into lunacy, does so in limpid prose, unfolding its narrative in a calm and eminently parseable progression. The fiction Philip K. Dick generated from his transcendental visions is, if anything, more clichéd than the brain-bending stories that arose during his slightly less hallucinatory earlier years. Maybe literature, the reading of which involves deciphering a series of symbolic equations, simply cannot escape an intrinsically argumentative, demonstrative quality. Maybe, because literary works operate, no matter how conventional or how revolutionary the text, through the suspension of readerly disbelief, it’s tautologically impossible to regard them as delusional. Maybe literature’s mundanity is one more evil ascribable to the crime syndicate of literary criticism: There’s no idea, no form, no mode of language too extreme or sublime to escape the shackles of a meaningful analytical framework. Or maybe one must simply give way to the heartbreaking truth that battiness is banal—no more, no less. The crazy are as bourgeois, as irremediably earthbound as the rest of us. They cannot take us aloft with them; they’re even deeper in the mire than we are.

If anyone was ever truly deranged, it was the French playwright, poet, theorist, and opiate addict Antonin Artaud. If anyone had a chance at translating psychopathy into poetry, it was him. Born in 1896, Artaud suffered in childhood from stammering, headaches, meningitis, and other painful physical illnesses; by the time he was a teenager, he had already spent time in sanatoriums; and in 1937, he entered a period of institutionalization that lasted until his death in 1948. He believed he was Christ—also Antichrist. Wrenchingly repulsed by sex, he would spit at pregnant women when they crossed his path. Artaud knew himself to be the victim of numerous bewitchments by an international cabal of black magicians, and was horrified by the fact that his near and dear were being murdered and replaced by indistinguishable doubles. He was also a maniacally prolific writer now best known for his formulation of the theater of cruelty and for poems and other texts that incorporate glossolalia and nonverbal noise—particularly the scream.

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literature : interview

Stephanie Barber

by Laura van den Berg

“You poor, quite accurate word… cast aside for being too apt!”

Stephanie Barber lives in Baltimore where she is an artist-in-residence in the MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art. In addition to her latest book, All the People (Ink Press, 2015), Barber is the author of Night Moves (Publishing Genius, 2013) and these here separated to see how they standing alone (Publishing Genius, 2010). She also has an extensive body of work in film and various media. Recently her first feature, Daredevils, screened at The National Gallery of Art in DC, and for jhana and the rats of james olds, Barber moved her studio into the Baltimore Museum of Art where she created a new video every day, with museum visitors acting as both spectators and collaborators.

The art I most admire creates its own world. I can remember visiting Stephanie at the BMA and being so wholly absorbed by the world she was creating—isolated, collaborative, lonely, joyful. I remember wanting to stay and stay. To me, that experience is characteristic of her body of work: whether she is operating in film or installation or poetry or prose, she constructs worlds that are kinetic, strange, and stunningly beautiful, worlds that are wise and scary, that hit you in the head and in the heart.

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literature : first proof

I Am Not Dead, Yet: A Mesostic for Janet Fanjón

by John Pluecker

I sit down this morning to write about this image. This image—which might be a poem—that I made as the result of an experiment. I took walks through a city looking for street names with sufficient letters to create a mesostic for Janet Fanjón, a young photographer in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, in the northern part of Mexico on the border with Texas. She was disappeared by Mexican federal defense forces in 2011 along with her entire family.

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literature : from the editor