RCF- The Failure Issue

Spent most of the day burning through the newest issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction, guest-edited by Joshua Cohen.  By all means, glance at the table of contents and see if you’d like this sort of thing.

RCF is the sort of journal that one learns to look out for in secondhand bookstores.  Most of the numbers I own I spied on dusty back shelves in cities one wouldn’t imagine had many readers of the sort of fiction Dalkey publishes. One is always astonished.  This one I ordered straight up, being unwilling to wait the decade or two it would take for it to trickle into my used bookstore rotation.  I’m glad I did.

Cohen’s piece is a “Life” not unlike those in Borges’ Historia universal de la infamia, Kis’s A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas, Schwob’s Imaginary Lives, you get the point. [Aside- I was in the habit, before I read the damned thing, of lumping Savinio’s Operatic Lives into this august tradition.  It isn’t a good fit.]  There’s some Cioran and some Pessoa* in Cohen’s Benjamin De Casseres.  Also some farce and some failure.  It’s a wonderful “essay” and if it is a taste of where he’s going with his fiction post-Witz, I’ll be more than happy. Buy and read Witz, by the way.

The interview excerpts with Gary Indiana and the somewhat hermetic Helen Dewitt piece reinforce each other.  Readers of paperpools will be familiar with much of the latter. That some fucking industrialist hasn’t sent Ms. Dewitt enough euros to live on for a decade or two is a crime of some sort.  It (or something like it) happened to Arno Schmidt, though, so hope springs eternal. Buy and read The Last Samurai, by the way.  And preorder Lightning Rods.   I have.

There’s plenty of bittersweet stuff on David Markson.  Keith Gessen almost offhandedly reveals that the fate of Author’s library isn’t as bad as we were inclined to think and Dan Visel’s reading of Markson’s corpus in his essay was interesting, which is more than one can say about most readings of Markson’s corpus.  Jesus Christ we’re all fucking doomed.

Jesse Ball has a bit of fluff in the issue. Sam Frank has a sad piece on his dad and other things in the issue. James Chapman (buy and read Stet, by the way) has a prayer in the issue.

I read every word of it and can imagine rereading bits in the weeks and months to come.  Give yourself the chance to do the same.

*EDIT: not Pessoa, but rather Pessoa’s Stoic.

more Goncalo Tavares in translation

I flipped open Oxford American #72 the other night at work. There was a piece by Kevin Brockmeier tucked away towards  the back. His new book The Illumination seems a little too touchy feely for me, but i dug Brief History of the Dead enough to pay attention to him. Besides, he opened up with a quick salvo essentially calling Nick Hornby a pigheaded ignoramus (my words) for writing the zine The Believer a few years ago that out of print books deserve to be out of print as they’re of little interest to anyone.

Brockmeier then jots out ten books out of print in the U.S. that definitely don’t deserve to be. He earned my trust further by naming Dino Buzzati’s Restless Nights (and The Siren for good measure.) I won’t repeat the whole list, as i don’t want to ruin the article. Most seemed solid recommendations, although it was Augusto Monterroso who was of most interest to me, as Calvino was mentioned as a fan.

The other cool bit was that Brockmeier mentioned that he ordered a contemporary book not in print in the U.S. Bill pointed out to be that Goncalo Tavares was someone he was interested in back when Dalkey Archive put out one of his books, Jerusalem. The one that Brockmeier mentioned is titled Mister Valery, but it turns out that Dalkey is putting out two more of his books this year, Learning to Pray in the Age of Technology and Joseph Walser’s Machine.