First novella, The Plastic Abyss, is surprisingly compelling and layered. Why surprising, when I've been meaning to read Wilhelm for ages? Lots of medFirst novella, The Plastic Abyss, is surprisingly compelling and layered. Why surprising, when I've been meaning to read Wilhelm for ages? Lots of mediocre reviews seem to have distracted me a bit, but this is, in fact, quite great. A PKD-like peeling and bifurcating of reality, across a solid conceptual conservations about images playing over the surface of nothingness, or the unknowable!...more
I feel like this could just be a gush of superlatives, but the crux is that Jim Woodring can capture a wordless, profound strangeness of experience beI feel like this could just be a gush of superlatives, but the crux is that Jim Woodring can capture a wordless, profound strangeness of experience better than almost anyone. Even when, as here unlike his parallel progression in Frank, he's using words, and often drawing himself and ostensible real life. He's not free of a certain heavy-handedness at times when seemingly grappling with large metaphysical and ontological issues that may only be partially accessible even to Wooding himself. And yet, much of this is just totally, disconcertingly natural and direct, even when seemingly equally searching and expressive of the inexpressible. Also great to chat with when Maya and I picked this up at an opening of his new (wonderful) paintings....more
It's interesting that this is translated, since the repetition of the word "dog" here transforms it into some kind of ungodly gutteral utterance of poIt's interesting that this is translated, since the repetition of the word "dog" here transforms it into some kind of ungodly gutteral utterance of possibly dangerous import. Does this happen with "chien"? Certainly chien backwards is nothing close to "dieu", and the sound is completely different. On the other hand, dog and dogs are pronounced the same in french, so the incantatory repetitious trance this induces might be even stronger.
Well, there are a bunch of words about the sound of one word. Content here almost grows from the sound. Dogs could be anything perhaps, though the micro-reconfigurations here do evoke Lazlo Krasnahorkai's Animalinside, which is also about dogs. What is it about dogs? Dogs running, dogs dogging, dogs dogging dogs until they are dog-tired. This is otherworldly, hypnotically set down in patterns of repetition/variation with any number of elucidations of the world, and intense if you try to fight into the words as actual meaning, to envision the scene being spun out of the intangibles of written (or spoken) language here....more
Disappointing. A long intro from the author, in which he recounts his formative Beatles experiences (seriously the most abominably uninteresting critiDisappointing. A long intro from the author, in which he recounts his formative Beatles experiences (seriously the most abominably uninteresting critic origin story) then straight into an interview with Shadow aka Josh Davis himself, which is all interesting enough. But as far as a book about about Endtroducing..., this is hopeless. Compared to, say Drew-from-Matmos' book on Throbbing Gristle which broke the album down by track and blended interview, analysis, historical context, and personal recollection all quite fascinatingly, there's just nothing here. Many tracks go entirely unmentioned (and my favorite, Mutual Slump, a formative music experience while listening to the local college radio on really low after my parents were asleep -- Mutual Slump appears only once in a list with four other tracks. Thanks for the insight.) So. A couple stars for Josh Davis discussing his life, but nothing much beyond....more
I feel like I was dancing around really getting into Duras' novels until the sudden sequence this year of The Ravishing of Lol Stein and now this one,I feel like I was dancing around really getting into Duras' novels until the sudden sequence this year of The Ravishing of Lol Stein and now this one, which are both perfect (and not so incidentally interlinked), and with India Song (book or film) as well, which forms a more cryptic reduction/echo of this. As with the best Duras, this is driven by a submerged intensity and desperation right to the edge of madness and apocalypse. A kind of madness and apocalypse has actually occurred off the pages, to be circled and reinterpreted endlessly via second-hand account. Which is how everything hear is told: at an interpretive remove that suggests the incomprehensibility of experience and the utterly unbridgeable gulf between any two people. When two here seem to understand eachother, if only for a moment that can have no sequel, it's the white-hot pivot point of the universe. Brilliant....more
Rather variable ride. First, we're presented with a man checked into a psych ward with no memory and a pretty delusional idea of where he is. ImmediatRather variable ride. First, we're presented with a man checked into a psych ward with no memory and a pretty delusional idea of where he is. Immediately we're drawn into his (already debunked) subjective reality, which removes (the pre-debunking does, that is) much of that excitement of trying to figure out what exactly is going on. Soon, his (interior) journey takes on enough concrete detail and sense of place to teansport me despite this, at least until it starts to develop that excessively domineering allegorical sensation, perhaps with a little bit of that piercing-of-the-veil and ultimate reality that I tend to find a bit trying. The questions of what is the truer reality and who is more crazy (individual or society) begin to emerge, but these aren't exactly earth-shatteringly unique treatments of so-called insanity. Still, by the end (there are far more shifts and plot redirections than I've detailed, I'm really not spoiling anything, it has a kind of sincerity and pathos that won over my sympathies. Uneven, but thoughtful, occasional radiance (the Yugoslavis story?!) balanced with some pseudo-academic nonsense (the smart but irritating mythologies-in-space digression)....more
As others have said -- a more even Barthelme, with fewer risks, fewer peaks or outright failures. These stories are odd in more normal ways that his eAs others have said -- a more even Barthelme, with fewer risks, fewer peaks or outright failures. These stories are odd in more normal ways that his earlier more audacious experiments in form and content. Peculiar characters, stylized dialogue, bits of incident that wouldn't show up in a realist story, even if the main plotline seems essentially believable. And so, the standouts were more pleasantly interesting here that crazy blow-outs, usually revolving around relationships. Opener Visitors, The Sea of Hesitation, and then, in the collection's only fairy tale (and a postmodern one, at that!) The Palace at 4 a.m., which I rather loved. I know, I know, I should just cut to the chase and read 60 stories or 40 stories, and I will, but I like approaching Barthelme slowly through these peripheral sources (which are arguably more primary since they're the original forms)....more
Comyns continues to be a pleasure, with so many amazing turns of phrase and strange but perfect juxtapositions between mundane and morbid on every pagComyns continues to be a pleasure, with so many amazing turns of phrase and strange but perfect juxtapositions between mundane and morbid on every page. It's all a little unsettling, but rings true to the vague menaces and unreliable adults bound to haunt children everywhere. All the same, I feel like this wasn't quite up to the focus and intensity of her earlier novels of the 50s, perhaps trading in creepy fairy-tale specifics for universality. As such, it may take slightly longer to get caught up, but it still casts a deep and lasting spell....more
An obese dog archeologist and various humans seek the ruins of the Louvre beneath the post-climate-collapse ice. Weirdly, it was commissioned by the LAn obese dog archeologist and various humans seek the ruins of the Louvre beneath the post-climate-collapse ice. Weirdly, it was commissioned by the Louvre itself, as part of an initiative to get new comics artists to interpret their collection, so it's full of classic paintings being entirely misinterpreted by a future attempting to learn everything about our civilization from a purely classical, painted record. Nicolas de Crecy is one of the better people who I've found purely via random issues of Heavy Metal (with Fogliatto, since republished as a single book, though not apparently to the knowledge of GR) and this displays his typically gorgeous watercolor art, with the added advantage of its being his own weird writing as well....more
Honestly I'm a little nonplussed with Flash Fiction. Even when filled with scalpel-sharp bits of description and haunting or resonant moments like theHonestly I'm a little nonplussed with Flash Fiction. Even when filled with scalpel-sharp bits of description and haunting or resonant moments like these, they seem to end quickly too really be felt. Each flashes briefly and then is swallowed up by dark, unconnected to the fragments before and after (besides perhaps by a few thematic threads. But then, I tend to prefer novels over stories in most cases as well, even within a single author's work.
Also, what exactly separates flash fiction from prose poetry? Era and prevailing literary ideas? They seem to overlap quite a bit in actual form. At least with shorter flash fiction examples. The ones that run longer than a page seem more entirely like very short short stories, but in come ways the bare suggestion of story in the shortest makes for the most intriguing uses of the form....more
Astoundingly page-turning yet philosophically powerful. Anais Nin (read back-to-back with this) fictionalizes her experiences to interesting reflectivAstoundingly page-turning yet philosophically powerful. Anais Nin (read back-to-back with this) fictionalizes her experiences to interesting reflective / psychoanalytic ends, but Kraus does so much more. This is only barely fictionalized, but through conceptual rigor and density of thought this is more the essential "novel" and even that descriptor falls short of everything going on here. A post-modern epistolary self-immolationation for the good of self and all. I really must read more Kraus now -- despite liking her films, this is somehow my first foray into her writing, or even into her press...!...more
I normally am one to give fictionalized experiences space as fictions, but despite the many sublimations and shifts here, I know Nin's process of writI normally am one to give fictionalized experiences space as fictions, but despite the many sublimations and shifts here, I know Nin's process of writing everything twice, first as diary, then as fiction, and I'm a little too familiar with the particulars here to not find Henry Miller irritating, and not worth the massive poetic character study that Nin grants him. June, however, once she enters the essential triad with the other two, is more interesting. I wonder, though, how this might have all looked out of her eyes, and Nin in hers. ...more
Both this and the incredible Night of Lead are drawn from a longer work, Jahnn's last, unfinished at his death in 1959, It Catches Up With You, stillBoth this and the incredible Night of Lead are drawn from a longer work, Jahnn's last, unfinished at his death in 1959, It Catches Up With You, still without a complete English translation. Both of these extracts, however are perfect on their own, even as hey interact with eachother. I wonder how much is left, now, though, as this slim printing also incorporates many fragments beyond the title text, though in a manner far more cohesive than that implies. Along with a stellar translation, this is an excellent act of curation. There's nothing arbitrary or superfluous about the fragments that flesh this out -- they are not bonus bits or curiosities, but carefully woven into a short work that feels somehow complete and essential even with in its broken murmuring and gaps. The strange public/private space of a bath house, the most direct address of sexuality and the erotic I've seen from Jahnn, and mythic whispers around all the edges. For a tiny press like Solar Luxuriance being able to release unpublished Jahnn like this for the first time is quite a coup, and extends their already entirely fascinating reach in a new direction....more
M. Kitchell has a way of taking any landscape and dragging out unseen conceptual / narrative viscera. Or here, vital thickets and eerie groves. I loveM. Kitchell has a way of taking any landscape and dragging out unseen conceptual / narrative viscera. Or here, vital thickets and eerie groves. I love place as protagonist in this manner, though we do have a protagonist, wandering lost through forested lands, on kind of overnight odyssey of self-renewal....more
An exercise in compressed power, bold and precise. In marked contrast to some of her meandering earlier works, this one sees Ducornet at her sleekestAn exercise in compressed power, bold and precise. In marked contrast to some of her meandering earlier works, this one sees Ducornet at her sleekest and most directed, with nary a word nor plot point out of place or overextended beyond its essentials. In fact her words all seem to be working at double-strength, so perfectly are they selected and strung together. Ducornet has also reigned in the excess of whimsy that bugged me in some mid-period works -- this is all ominous coiling and deeply flawed human drama. I loved The Stain as well, but I'm actually entirely surprised by how close this comes to outdoing that classic, in entirely different ways, nearly 30 years later. ...more
Perhaps the less said about this the better, as I knew nothing much going into it (besides that Comyns had written Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, aPerhaps the less said about this the better, as I knew nothing much going into it (besides that Comyns had written Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, and so was obviously amazing), and it really crept over me out of nowhere. In the best ways. Comyns is a fantastic, unique stylist, with a deadpan sense of the macabre and an eye for detail, often very odd and defining ones that inflect her works into really her own territory of realist-grotesque....more
For someone who spends as much time taking pictures as I do, I don't read a lot of photography books. But here's an interesting find, a catalogue of 1For someone who spends as much time taking pictures as I do, I don't read a lot of photography books. But here's an interesting find, a catalogue of 1979 International Center for Photography show on Japan through the lenses of Japanese photographers. All new to me, besides Nobuyoshi Araki, here seen in his pin-up-covered studio. Of especial interest here to me, were the two sections on domestic architecture that followed, Miyako Ishiuchi's series Apartment, and Kishin Shinoyama's Meaning of the House. This also speaks to quality of the thematic sequencing througout: studio -> apartment -> to the house as a near-metaphysical construct. Maybe I should pick up more photography monographs, in general....more
Written in 1887, between his two major decadent works, Huysmans appears here in a different mode than either the aesthetic catalogue of Against NatureWritten in 1887, between his two major decadent works, Huysmans appears here in a different mode than either the aesthetic catalogue of Against Nature or the almost investigative-journalistic account of Satanism in modern 1890s France in Down There. Actually, for someone so defining of the Decadent movement he seems notably willing to shift gears from work to work.
Here, he follows a couple of financially insolvent former aristocrats, Jacques and Louise, who retreat to the countryside, only to become lost in a kind of pastoralist nightmare of verdant choking growth, rampant ticks and owls that haunt stairwells by night, mercenary peasants, and all manner of rot and ruin that can beset a once-fine estate. His descriptive and observational powers are in full force here -- nearly every page glistens with some insane gem of the natural world amok or menacing. Even moreso during the the novel's many dream sequences, which interpose themselves almost without warning as the usually city-dwelling protagonist's nerves fray further under this under strain of this undesired sabbatical. (The surrealists, of course, took note, and Breton seems to have rated this highest even among Huysmans' works).
Somehow, this also avoids a few pitfalls of its time and conception. By spending most of the novel in Jacques' perspective, we see the neighboring peasants as coarse and conniving and Louise's illness (some vague 19th century nervous disorder) as a domestic inconvenience. But the seeming classist impulses are hardly sustainable when it is so clear that Jacques, who has squandered family wealth on bad investments and is constitutionally unable to consider getting a job or to adjust to circumstance whatsoever, and not the actually hard-working peasants is the ill-adjusted one here. And just when Jacques' thoughts turn to the most sexist musings on how Louise's illness has prevent her from performing the essential duties of wives (carnal or housekeeping), we switch immediately into her perspective to reveal her frustrations with Jacques' complete inability to manage their finances despite her attempts a practical intervention -- it's presumably depression of these matters, and not hysteria, that lies at root of her illness. Despite this, they both regret letting their thoughts towards eachother sour and there's a kind of mutual sympathy there that makes them more compelling. In any event, what could just be a tirade against country people or a fish-out-of-water comedy in other hands, is in Huysmans' something more precise and haunting, a story of a deterioration as much internal as external, amid verdant phantasmagorias of a relentless natural world....more
The follow up to Wild at Heart turns darker and grittier by turning aside to follow an expert survivor who flees a key crime scene in that original. PThe follow up to Wild at Heart turns darker and grittier by turning aside to follow an expert survivor who flees a key crime scene in that original. Perdita is a fascinating character, but in Gifford's spare fly-on-the-wall style we only get her in observed actions and a few snatches of past that come out in conversation. A little more action-driven than its predecessor, but the action still unfolds with a clipped and random brutality surrounded by the the long empty spaces of the America Southwest highways. ...more
Dennis Corrigan is wonderful. I found his bizarre, delightful picture book The Amusement Park totally at random, and immediately snapped it up. CombinDennis Corrigan is wonderful. I found his bizarre, delightful picture book The Amusement Park totally at random, and immediately snapped it up. Combining bizarre precision pen drawings of odd structures and inexplicably distorted people with an extremely dry narration that refused to bat an eye at any of the absurdity unfolding around it, the book stands a a rare work of a kind of deadpan surrealist illustration-narrative that I needed to see more of. And so I've been on the lookout for more of his work ever since.
This was rather unsuccessful, as he's only published a couple books in decades of art-making, until I was contacted out of the blue by the publisher of a new collection of his illustrations, which shortly found its way to my doorstep (thanks! (also, that's my full disclosure that I got a review copy)). While of course a collection of unconnected drawings was unlikely to equal the more cohesive experience of his story-driven picture books, and it doesn't, it also has bits like this:
Many of them in fact. This is Dennis Corrigan's world at its best. The unexpected with a matter-of-factness of presentation that suggests that, no, you should have expected it, this is actually how the world operates, no no, you're the weird one.
On the other hand, this is a collection that Corrigan says was a return to simpicity when he was feeling burned out on art. As such, it's also filled with doodles and borderline-sophomoric bits of ideas that seem like rehearsals for something like Timmy's implied universe of absurdities. Perhaps it's a look a process, at ideas in their raw form. In any event, it's a new Dennis Corrigan book, which is reason enough to pay attention. Perhaps we can hope that a collection of his etchings is to follow?