vendredi, octobre 26, 2007


Allez, le week-end. Feu de bois. Lecture.

Set in a region of northern New Hampshire that in the 1830s declared itself an independent nation, JoshuaHarmon's debut novel traces the real and imagined travels of Martha Hennessy, a girl wishing for a life beyond her family's farm. QUINNEHTUKQUT interweaves Martha's story with those of dreamers and drifters whose lives intersect hers: an American soldier scarred by the first World War, a mythical and murderous tramp seeking lost Indian gold, a man haunted by his memories of Byrd's expeditions to Antarctica, an industrialist longing to become a woodsman, and an old woman forced to leave her home due to the planned flooding of a valley. A vivid study of the New England landscape, Quinnehtukqut reveals how people inhabit place and how place inhabits people.

"Joshua Harmon's magical postmodern epic ranges across time, threading fragments of oral history, diaries, and news accounts into parallel tales of mystery, wonder, and tragedy"--Jayne AnnePhillips.

Quinnehtukqut evokes the impressionistic sweep and lyrical beauty of The English Patient alongside the brilliant idiosyncratic vitality of Mason and Dixon. But Joshua Harmon is a thoroughly original writer, who is doing no less than reinventing storytelling before our eyes, by means of a dazzling, ever-shifting formal innovation, the primary allegiance of which is always to music. Quinnehtukqut is mesmerizing line by line." - Mary Caponegro

"Through a series of loosely linked fictions that toy with both the mythologizing and the dislocating effects of language, Quinnehtukqut provides a mesmerizing picture of a place over time. Teasing a complex and compelling narrative out of a vast array of voices, documentation, and styles, this is historical fiction at its most eccentric and best."
- Brian Evenson

lundi, octobre 22, 2007


Le dernier "opus" de Chapman, que l'on suit depuis longtemps, auteur des splendides Daughter, I forbid your reccuring dream, Stet et Glass. Avec un extrait, étonnant, là :

This unusual novel comes in the form of a libretto for an oratorio, completed by a fictional composer just before his death in the 1990's. After an introduction that gives us the bare outlines of his personal history, most of our knowledge of his inner life--his emotion at the death of his wife, and the way he is dealing with his own illnesses--comes to us from his libretto.

The libretto consists of dozens of scored quotations from outside sources (many of them invented) around the subjects of illness and the fear of death. Particular obsessions of the composer--the life and death of contralto Kathleen Ferrier (who died mid-life of breast cancer, as the composer's wife did), the illnesses of composers and performers Leonard Bernstein, Glenn Gould, Gustav Mahler and Alfred Schnittke, as well as Hindu poetry, German history and many other matters, provide the reader with a ghostly outline of the life story and soul of a dying artist.

The most unusual formal innovation here is the musical scoring, indicated by columns--the density of simultaneous sung quotations will increase in moments of great emotion; spareness and "white space" become more frequent as hope recedes. We come to know the composer as one who had already withdrawn from the world, allied only with the woman he loved. And we see what is left for him once he has lost her.

The last musical work of fictional composer Eckhard Rabindranath Unruh, produced in his last year on earth. A musician born in India of German parents, he was trained in Hindu classical music, served in the British army in WWII. He could find no outlets for his music in postwar Germany and so supported himself by working in a plant nursery. "Unruh had an instinct for making his work undesirable." He emigrated to the United States and tried to get his career on track in California, all to no avail. He was known to a few aficionados. That was all. "Unruh's time may have passed before it ever arrived." Unruh was an odd bird, much more so than the average odd bird that many artists are.
Fugue State Press has sent an advance copy of Chapman's novel in spiral-bound double-page layout with a fugal element. There are English-language translations for the words of the speakers who utter parts in languages from Hungarian, Sanskrit, Sumerian, Portuguese, Czech. There are four spoken recorded tracks, two separate choruses, live speakers #1 and #2, and instrumental soloists all going simultaneously. In concert, performance time is supposed to last 53 minutes. The obsession of the variegated libretto is death, its many manifestations, the descent into nothingness, the triumph of disease, rotten corpses "too filthy for the dogs to eat." Quotes from various cultural works and reminiscence follow in rapid recititives, with contralto, with baritone. The truth emerges from these complex juxtapositions.
Chapman gets his point across and does it in an original manner by his choice of these cultural antecedents joined together in a Greek chorus of despair. Let's try to get used to techniques like these. An artist has license to engage in such irregularities, using the voices of others in an oratorio of the damned. Once again, Chapman develops the theme of the artist in the postmodern world. The theme bedevils him as it did in Stet. It wouldn't surprise me if he returns to it again. How is This Going to Continue? is an unusual fiction of originality filled with the high purpose of Chapman's vision.
--Arnold Skemer, ZYX


Limit Point, a new work of fiction by Michael Brodsky. Limit Point focuses on people in deep crisis. In the title piece, the drifter-hero s involvement in a heist, including his dangerously ambivalent relationship with two enigmatic women, ends in disaster. The tale goes far beyond beloved B-movie conventions to yield unsettling insights into the criminal mind as well as images of startling beauty. In Midtown Pythagoras , the efforts of a shamus straight out of Raymond Chandler to save his oddball client are stymied at every turn by Manhattan s special brand of 24/7 irrationality. Crisis in the Life of an Actress , set in the avant-garde theatre world of a decade ago, reveals how uncontrollable envy can destroy the creative spirit. Confronted head-on in Limit Point are subjects that have obsessed Brodsky over more than 30 years of unstoppable productivity casual humiliation as the hair-trigger of violence; identity theft through sexual surrender; the tragicomedy of institutional rehab; and the disconnect, engineered by the demon of language, between the dark world outside us and the even darker one within.

jeudi, octobre 18, 2007


Le retour du grand Clarence....Chapeau bas!

My Amputations

The author of the acclaimed novel, Reflex and Bone Structure, returns here in My Amputations, to the question of identity, the double, adventure, detection and mystery, but with more hypnotic power and range. In My Amputations he has his protagonist, Mason Ellis, (who may just be "a desperate ex-con" or a wronged American novelist out to right the wrong done to him) jump through flaming loops like a trained dog, so to speak. In other words, there seems to be no end to the troubles Mason Ellis faces.

His story takes him from the South Side of Chicago, to New York, with a stint in Attica prison, across America, Europe and into the primal depths of Africa. Mason, all the while, tries to convince the reader that he is the important American writer he says he is. Upon his release from prison he sets out to prove his claim. After an audacious bank-robbery and a couple of burglaries that are hilarious, he goes into hiding to escape the malice of one of his cohorts; and eventually flees to Europe. The irony is that he is now as much the runner as the seeker. After encounters with a Zuni ex-folksinger, kidnappers, the New York underworld, literary groupies, an Italian swordsman, a violent German secret society, an anti-bellum cotillion in rural Greece, he finds himself face to face (behind a mask) with his own destiny.

mercredi, octobre 17, 2007

How the Dead Dream
Lydia Millet. Counterpoint, $24 (256p) ISBN 978-1-59376-184-4
Millet proves no less lyrical, haunting or deliciously absurd in her brilliant sixth novel than in her fifth, the acclaimed Oh Pure & Radiant Heart. As a boy, T. keeps his distance from others, including his loving but vacant parents, preferring to explore his knack for turning a dollar. Before long, he's a wealthy but lonely young real estate developer in L.A. Just after he adopts, on impulse, a dog from the pound, his mother shows up and announces that T.'s father has left her. His mother, increasingly erratic, moves in; meanwhile, T. finally meets and falls in love with Beth, a nice girl who understands him, but a cruel twist of fate soon leaves him alone again. As his mother continues to unravel, T. finds unexpected consolation in endangered animals at the zoo, and he starts breaking into pens after hours to be closer to them. The jungle quest that results, while redolent of Heart of Darkness and Don Quixote, takes readers to a place entirely Millet's own, leavened by very funny asides. At once an involving character study and a stunning meditation on loss—planetary and otherwise—Millet's latest unfolds like a beautiful, disturbing dream. (Jan.)

mercredi, octobre 10, 2007


This was the first time ever that Spinner had trusted me with the keys to Mister Twisty’s, but at any rate I was feeling very tired myself, and for some reason, a little sad also. From the basement I could hear the hum of the giant cooling machines as I sprayed a little Windex on the counters to wipe away the stickiness, and rubbed down the swirl machines with chrome cleaner. And I was just about to go home when I heard, or thought I heard, a difference in the intensity of sound coming from below me. For a moment I thought I might be coming down with a cold, or maybe the flu myself, but when I shook my head and pressed my sinuses everything seemed fine. It was probably nothing, but just suppose there was some kind of a malfunction in the equipment downstairs, or even one of the old guys had had a heart attack and fallen into the machinery. We never really kept track of who went down and who came back up, and for all I know there might be someone down there, dying this very minute. I knew that Spinner had said he’d been working on the equipment a few weeks earlier, but I also knew that he had told me once, when I first began to work there, never to go down to the basement for any reason at all.

Once at the foot of the stairs, I was slightly surprised to see that the dull, yellow glow came, not as I'd imagined, from some bare bulb suspended from the ceiling, but rather from the walls and corners, from what looked like giant, softly glowing Popsicles. Not only that, but the basement itself was much larger than I had ever guessed. It was far larger in fact than the whole floor of the yogurt parlor above, and must have stretched at least to McReedy's Hardware, and possibly even beneath Pets Incorporated, at the far end of our corner mall. The stairs from Mister Twisty's, however, appeared to be the only entrance or exit to the place, and as my eyes slowly grew accustomed to the light, I could see a cooling machine certainly more grand than any I'd imagined — four or five times bigger in fact than any yogurt refrigeration apparatus I'd ever seen in trade magazines, possibly ten times more powerful than would be necessary to supply a modest frozen yogurt outlet such as Mister Twisty's.

This was the time, I decided, to take a closer look at those glowing objects placed around the walls. I chose one set of pipes running out from the central compressor and followed it to a tall cylinder with a sort of a burnished metal cap and a shiny metal base, out of which stuck three silver fins, strangely like those early rockets that landed on London in newsreels of years ago. Or, to use a more modern analogy, it resembled a seven-foot tall version of one of those fancy Italian espresso boilers you sometimes see in trendy coffee bars, hissing and wheezing out phlegmy portions of java. Between the base and the cap was a wide band, about six feet tall, of cloudy glass, or possibly Plexiglas. It was that glass which was the source of the dim glow.

I placed my hand against the glass, and felt a slight hum, almost a pulse. Moving my hand then to the bottom of the cylinder, down between the fins, my fingertips inadvertently brushed against what felt like a toggle switch. I hesitated, wondering whether it might be connected to an alarm, but then I reasoned that you don't go around installing alarm switches in the hopes that a burglar will deliberately set one off. My forefinger slipped under the smooth metal ball at its tip and I flipped it upward. At first nothing happened. Then there was a flicker from behind the surface, and slowly the glass brightened from its faint glow to reveal the form of a young and actual and completely naked woman--somewhere in her twenties, I guessed. Her hands were at her sides; her blue eyes were open wide; her hair moved slowly as a whisper in the liquid that had held her there, for who knew how long?
--Jim Krusoe

lundi, octobre 08, 2007


Après l’excellentissime Blue Guide To Indiana, dans lequel Martone attaquait, pliait, transfigurait le guide de voyage dans un exercice beaucoup plus Sanderso-Barthien que Molvaniesque, notre homme se consacre dans son dernier livre Michael Martone à la notice biographique. Celui-ci offre en effet quarante-neuf notices biographiques (et un remerciement) toutes consacrées à Martone himself, écrites par quarante neuf contributeurs différents (Mais que fait lot 49 ?). On y voyage au gré des multiples vies, morts et renaissances de l’auteur. Sans atteindre une dimension Borgesienne ces variations autobiographiques sont néanmoins réussies à 100%. Des mémoires fractales et distordues devraient faire le bonheur des lecteurs de Curtis White ou de… Régis Jauffret. Un extrait for the road :

Michael Martone was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and he was educated in the public schools there. He attended Indiana University in Bloomington where, as a freshman, he took part in the famous Kinsey Report by completing a survey of his sexual history during orientation. Alfred Kinsey, a biology professor at the university, had begun his famous work on human sexual response when he was teaching, after the war, the "marriage" course, an early attempt in the health curriculum to provide information in what was called then sexual hygiene. One day, a co-ed, who was to be married that summer, approached Kinsey after a lecture to ask what she could expect from her husband, and Kinsey, always the scientist, couldn't answer her since he didn't have, he realized, any hard scientific evidence. "I'll get back to you," he told her, and began his decades long project collecting oral interviews, written personal narratives, taped anecdotal commentary, and computer scanned surveys from a vast range of informants in order to build a workable database of sexual behavior.

There, years later, in a crowded lecture room in Ballantine Hall, Michael Martone participated in the very same ongoing effort of data gathering, carefully blackening with the provided No.2 pencil the appropriate bubble corresponding to the numbered response most accurately representing such desired information as his masturbatory habits and history, his sexual preference, his preferred positions (there were illustrations), and the time, to the nearest minute, of his recovery after "performing vigorous coitus." The room fell silent as the freshman class bent to this initial collegian task required of them, the quiet broken only by the scratching of pencil lead on the rigid manila IBM cards and the counterpunctual response of the rubbing of rubber erasers.

Afterward, Martone remembers racing from the building into a bright fall day, the trees of Dunn Meadow just taking on the color of the season. That night, he called his mother, who had also been a student at Indiana University to ask her if she, too, had been recruited to contribute to Professor Kinsey's report, indicating to her, as best he could, the extent and duration of statistical instrument he had just endured. "No," his mother responded, "they didn't have that when I was there. I did take this facts-of-life course the spring before I married Daddy." She went on to say that she didn't learn much, that the class had been dry and very statistical in nature. "I even asked the professor about it." It hadn't mattered, she concluded, since shortly after that meeting with the professor who had told her he would get back to her about her questions, she and her soon-to-be husband figured out how to go about the very thing that had been so mysterious.

Late one night, in a classroom where, in his senior year at Indiana University, Martone would take a class on Chaucer, his parents, ignorant of contraception in spite of the courses they took, managed to conceive their son. Though when asked, years later, by her son for further details, his mother simply said she couldn't recall much more about that night but that she could make something up if that would help. »

jeudi, octobre 04, 2007


Petit précis de Technoluxure (pour repartir à petites foulées)…..le nouveau « tour de farce » de Mark Amerika – diablement contemporanoïde et sympathiquement anecdotique– on finit néanmoins par préférer sa modestie aux derniers Palahniuk (voire, scandale, au Hype Danielewskien), ne serait-ce que pour donner un coup de chapeau au travail de Chiasmus, éditeur rare et précieux.


De retour, enfin. Peut-être aurez-vous du mal à me croire mais je suis parti début juillet sur un beau Paquebot blanc affrété par une étrange compagnie promettant monts et merveilles – en particulier un jeu de novo-loto auquel, alors que nous voguions au milieu des mers du sud, j’ai lamentablement fini bon dernier, en conséquence de quoi j’ai du renoncer à deux de mes organes, les échanger plutôt, contre deux nouveaux aux fonctions inédites, que j’ai « choisi » les yeux bandés dans la piscine ou surnageaient de multiples amas glaireux calamaresques, gluants, spongieux et souvent grotesques, et que l’on m’implantait au moment où le bateau a fait naufrage près d’une île inconnue de toutes les cartes, univers désertique et quasi lunaire peuplé seulement de quelques indigènes dont la mémoire collective, chose étrange, était, à mon arrivée quasi semblable à la page 93 d’Ou finira le fleuve d’Angelo Rinaldi, et qui, curieusement, peut-être grâce à ces deux organes nouveaux que, je l’avoue, je ne maîtrise pas encore tout à fait complètement, ressemblait davantage, lors de mon départ sur le dos d’un fœtus diplodocuso-flaubertien, à la troisième ligne de l’édition anglais de 1922 parue chez Constable and Company Ltd. de Pierre ou les ambiguïtés d’Herman Melville. Le retour ne fut pas sans encombre, mais je suis heureux de me retrouver parmi vous ce soir.