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.