The stories of R. A. Lafferty are returning to print*, though in small editions: Centipede Press will publish his collected stories as limited-edition hardcovers — up to 12 volumes — starting with The Man Who Made Models. Centipede says:
In a career that began in 1959 and continued until his death in 2002, R.A. Lafferty garnered the admiration of authors and editors including Robert A.W. Lowndes, Harlan Ellison, A.A. Attanasio, Gene Wolfe, Michael Swanwick and many, many others. His body of short fiction is comprised of well over 200 stories and, despite his vast popularity, there was never a concerted effort made to produce a comprehensive collection of his short fiction, until now.
Welcome to the first volume in a series that will run to a dozen volumes collecting all of R.A. Lafferty’s short fiction. Whether it be well-known stories such as “Narrow Valley” or more obscure work such as “The Man Who Made Models,” all will be collected here in the Lafferty Library. Each volume will feature close to 100,000 words of Lafferty’s fiction and each volume will feature an afterword by series editor John Pelan and a guest introduction by a notable author in the field of fantastic fiction.
These scans are from the 50 Watts hoard (the cover art for Nine Hundred Grandmothers is by Leo & Diane Dillon). No word when or if Lafferty’s novels will be reprinted. I love Past Master (1968) — it’s science fiction but the main character is Thomas More — and my copy is in tatters.
Here also is the bio from Centipede's site:
R.A. Lafferty (1914–2002) was an American science fiction and fantasy writer known for his original use of language, metaphor, and narrative structure, as well as for his etymological wit. He also wrote a set of four autobiographical novels, In a Green Tree, a history book, The Fall of Rome, and a number of novels that could be more or less loosely called historical fiction. Lafferty’s quirky prose drew from traditional storytelling styles, largely from the Irish and Native American, and his shaggy-dog characters and tall tales are unique in science fiction. Little of Lafferty’s writing is considered typical of the genre.
*The first volume is already sold out (at least from the publisher). When I drafted this post last week it was still available. Kind of sad.
No one reads “the sandwich-man of the Beyond.”
Joseph Péladan was born in Lyons, in 1858, into a milieu obsessed with occultism…In 1884 Péladan imposed himself on the Parisian public by publishing Le Vice Supreme, a fantastic mystico-erotic novel in which poetry alternates with a no less studied prose: ‘Faithful to your monstrous vice, O daughter of da Vinci, corrupting Muse of the aesthetics of evil, your smile may fade from the canvas, but it is engraved for ever in my heart.’
Péladan, who changed his name from Joseph to Joséphin, described himself as ‘the sandwich-man of the Beyond,’ exhumed a mystical society founded in Germany in the late Middle Ages, declared himself its leader, and crowned himself Sar Merodac, a title which enabled him to dress himself up in a costume reminiscent of Lohengrin and Nebuchadnezzar. He was a dark, handsome man, with bushy hair and a bushy beard, ready to swallow — and utter — all sorts of nonsense. In the despairing Paris of his day, which he convinced of its decadence, Barbey d’Aurevilly sang his praises, and young men such as Jean Lorrain and d’Annunzio copied him… Péladan obtained immediate fame, drawing on two sources from which all those who were disgusted with materialism would drink: occultism and aestheticism. His books came out in rapid succession, under the general title La Decadence Latine.
The text comes from Dreamers of Decadence by Philippe Jullian and the post idea and image from Strange Flowers. There’s also a blog (in English) devoted to Péladan. I think I would prefer reading a biography — especially if it was titled “The Sandwich-Man of the Beyond” — rather than any of the 19 volumes of La Decadence Latine (never translated into English as far as I know).
update: illustrator Mahendra Singh says: “Joseph Péladan plays an occult role in Jean-Christophe Valtat’s Luminous Chaos (Melville House), the 2nd volume of his mind-bending, psychotropically overheated steampunk trilogy, Mysteries of New Venice. When I illustrated Sâr Péladan, I soon discovered the true meaning of ‘occult hair.’” Here it is!:
No one reads the Queen of the Underworld (1850–1924).
In 1913, Sophie Lyons wrote her memoirs, chronicling six decades of bank robberies, prison breaks, cons, and swindles that left her a rich woman. One hundred years later, we’re [Combustion Books] bringing this important work back into print, casting back the veil of the 19th century criminal underworld. This is the world of fences and art thieves, bank sneaks and conwomen, but it is punctuated by a remarkable and nearly universal honor among thieves. Fully illustrated throughout with numerous diagrams of robbery methods and ways of concealing stolen valuables.
via Brickbat Books (my favorite Philadelphia bookstore)
Harry Martinson 1963. First UK edition.
People continue to not read space poetry.
This edition of Aniara: A Review of Man in Time and Space by Nobel-Prize winner Harry Martinson was “adapted from the Swedish by Hugh MacDiarmid and Elspeth Harley Schubert.” Knopf published the same translation in 1963 and then Avon reprinted it as a paperback in 1976. MacDiarmid is the giant Scottish modernist poet and Schubert translated many books from Sweden, and I bet their version is idiosyncratic and wild.
Theodore Sturgeon said: "Martinson’s crowning achievement is the communication at last of galactic immensity, something heretofore reserved to intuition or the highly exclusive speech of abstract mathematics. The poet does this not once, but time and time again, relentlessly and in many ways."
In 1991, the Swedish publisher Vekerum brought out a new English translation by Stephen Klass and Leif Sjoberg. It was reprinted in the US by the now-defunct Story Line Press. All of these editions are out-of-print and pretty hard to find.
Story Line’s description: “The great Swedish writer Harry Martinson published his masterpiece, Aniara, during the height of the Cold War — right after the Soviet Union announced that it had exploded the hydrogen bomb. Aniara is the story of a luxurious space ship, loaded with 8,000 evacuees, fleeing an Earth made uninhabitable by Man’s technological arrogance. A malfunction knocks the craft off course, taking these would-be Mars colonists on an irreversible journey into deep space. Aniara is a book of prophecy, a panoramic view of humanity’s possible fate. It has been translated into seven languages and adapted into a popular avant-garde opera. This volume is the first complete English language version and received the prestigious American Scandinavian Foundation Award.”
The Vietnamese, at least, may now be reading space poetry.
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are probably the most famous Soviet-era science-fiction writers, but only recently have any of their numerous books come back into print in the US: Chicago Review Press published a new translation of Roadside Picnic (the basis for Tarkovsky’s Stalker) in 2012 and Melville House just published Definitely Maybe (translated by Antonina Bouis). CRP will also publish Hard to Be a God in June.
These scans come from the 50 Watts hoard except for the top 1979 Penguin (art by Adrian Chesterman) courtesy of David/qualityapeman. Richard M. Powers illustrated the bottom Roadside Picnic and the four other covers in that style.
No one reads Dame Darrel, the Wise Woman of York (or Charles Godfrey Leland).
Illustrated manuscript of The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York by Charles Godfrey Leland, humorist, folklorist, poet, and artist. Leland presents the book as an account of witchcraft practiced by Dame Darrel, “the Wise Woman of York,” in medieval England, though the work is primarily based on Leland’s own research and imagination. The majority of the manuscript catalogs various types of fairies, elves, goblins, and other spirits in alphabetical order, but there are also stories and descriptions of spells, all of which are paired with fantastical drawings. If you’re inspired to page through the full volume, the Digital Library record is here. I recommend page 137 for an entry on phasmation or a “fantome.” This manuscript is found in HSP’s Charles Godfrey Leland papers  collection.
Additional fun fact about Leland: our man Charles G. is the Leland of Leland and Boker, authorized printers of the Emancipation Proclamation.
This guest post on Clamenç Llansana (Louis Boone) is taken from the introduction of Kit Schluter’s translation of Goliard Songs, which is available as a free pdf at Anomalous Press.
Certain artists specialize in the art of being overlooked.
In using the word overlooked, I am not thinking of artists who have fallen into obscurity after death, having enjoyed the satisfaction of minor prominence during their lives, or even those who seek recognition only to see it deferred during their lifetimes, but those of whom the general public remains entirely unaware, whose work is known only by family members and, at its furthest reaches, a very select coterie of friends.
Widely known examples of this strange lot are difficult to conjure, for these names do not belong to the public domain, but instead to the introverted storybooks of families and communities bound by esoteric practices, the research of obscurantists and eccentrics, and the caprices of folklore. Certain names do, however, come to mind: Henry Darger, John Barton Wolgamot, Emily Dickinson, among others.
In the cases of the sort of artists I’m interested in looking into here, it’s not a question of not knowing the right people, or not having a lucky break, or not being in the right place at the right time. Rather, the sort of public recognition that graces those artists on the tip of their generation’s tongue means nothing to these artists of whom I’m thinking, who are satisfed by the very possibility that, at some point in time, however remote, a curious soul may stumble upon the work they left behind in a crate of family photographs, their old journals and binders of loose-leaf manuscripts, as she digs through the bric-a-bracs her family has accumulated and left behind, passed along to future generations and close friends.
Or maybe even that doesn’t matter to them. Maybe, to say it simply, they just don’t give a damn about any of that. Maybe making work seems to them as inevitable as the act of shedding seems to a golden retriever in the summer, and its reception is inconsequential. It’s always a possibility.
In my family tree, there exists one Fredric Edward Schluter I (b. 1900, Huntington, IL) who, before giving up his early pursuits in sketching— ostensibly to pursue a life more assured of material security—produced at Fort Bragg a modest body of work, mostly plume and ink sketches, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three. Of this work there remains only a single self-portrait and three still lives of hardcover books, bottles, candles, desks, and sad-looking women. And yet, however little is left of this Schluter’s output, the few works he left behind have secured a central place in my imagination ; at this point, to say they have allowed me to become who I am today would indeed be no hyperbole. When the day came that I too wanted to try my hand at drawing, for example, I copied the cross-hatching of his sketches. When, as an elementary schooler, I wanted to learn to smile like a gangster to impress a friend who had been swept away by the myth of Al Capone, I studied the wry, upturned lip in his self-portrait. Later, too, his sketches of liquor bottles, candles, and open books seemed to steer my aesthetic taste toward the perverse genre of Vanitas, the memento mori, the only mode of artwork I, to this day, love unconditionally. Looking back, this experience of possessing these works of beauty that no museum would house for the sole reason of their lack of cultural capital—of my family’s having this œuvre all to ourselves in a sense—allowed these drawings to course through my very blood, and encouraged me to savor that overripe fruit that had grown of one of the shadier branches of our family tree.
In one sense, then, it strikes me that having access to these sketches (the self-portrait, most importantly) led me not only to want to leave behind artifacts that would be found by someone in the remoteness of a future I could never even dream up, but also to desire having more of this sort of secret artistic figures in my life. So, in another sense, I have the artist behind those sketches to thank for the curiosity that led me, years after his death, to find the poetry of Clamenç Llansana (né Louis Boone).
Born in 1951 in the pastoral city of Figeac, France, located roughly 100 miles North of Toulouse, the poet known as Clamenç Llansana was son of a Canadian father (Éric Boone b. Québec City) and Texan social worker (Clemence Tompson b. Dallas), who met through unlikely circumstances in Boston in the 1940s, of which I will spare you the details, and relocated to the rural city of France at some point in the 1950s under even less likely circumstances, the details of which I will also spare you, out of respect for the family’s privacy.
In his adolescence, Llansana still went by his given name, Louis Boone, but wrote under two pen-names, between which he varied depending on the language of the composition: French or Occitan. If composing in Occitan, he aligned himself with the medieval and scholastic lineage the language has to offer, and worked under the name Clamenç Llansana, which was, he said himself, the conscious merging of an Occitan first name with a Catalan surname. If in French, he imagined himself as following the leads of Lautréamont, Arthur Rimbaud, and Henri Michaux’s prose works, and wrote under the admittedly strange Marcel l’Aveugle, or in English, “Marcel the Blind.”
Thus his work vacillates between French, the language of his schooling, and Occitan, the dying language of his local community, spoken now by select communities: the elderly, the eccentrics, and certain Leftist political radicals in the Midi-Pyrenées. Interestingly enough, even though his parents were both English-speaking and he too speaks English fluently to this day, none of the extant writings in Boone’s archive (a milk crate’s worth of poetry, photographs, and drawings) are in English. By the age of twenty or so, the poet had left his given name behind, to make way for the name he goes by to this day, Clamenç Llansana.
Although his output was impressive, this chapbook, Goliard Songs [ed. note: available at Anomalous Press], is, according to the author, the only book he ever published. Released by a micro press in Villefranche de Rouergue named Éditions Igor in 1978, the book has all but entirely disappeared from conversation and circulation. Looking into this publishing venture while working as a public school language teacher in that small city during the 2011-12 school year, I found it has no other publications, and as no local poets had heard of the project, I began to suspect it was merely a one-off vanity project created by Llansana for the making of this book. Llansana himself confirmed these suspicions, not with words at first, but with a wry grin, when we had the chance to meet in the café below his current apartment in the nearby Rodez, France in March of 2012. That same day, when I asked Llansana if we could expect any more work from him in the future, he said he had given up poetry at some point in his late twenties, with no intention of returning. He then retrieved from his modest archive a prose poem in French, “Le Jour de l’armistic (Armistice Day),” which he asked me to translate as a complement to the Goliard Songs—a task I carried out happily. The copy of this book, which Llansana photocopied for me, is the only copy he has been able to locate until now. The nine others printed and distributed in bookstores in the greater Toulouse area must be out there somewhere. Should you know of another, please do find a way to be in touch.
"[Jane Bowles’] novel, Two Serious Ladies, was a revelation—a work of genius, unique, subversive. These terms are overused, and usually misused, but are true of this audacious, brilliantly written novel, this masquerade, comedy, tragedy, with its anarchic, singular views of sexuality, marriage, femininity, masculinity, American culture, exoticism. Jane Bowles ignored the worn lines between conscious and unconscious life; she beggared the realist novel with writing indifferent to prosaic notions of reality. Her dialogue is the most particular and idiosyncratic in American literature, as peculiar and condensed as speech in jokes and dreams. I loved and respected Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky, ‘He of the Assembly,’ and ‘Pages from Cold Point.’ But Jane Bowles’s novel shifted the ground for me—she made the world of writing move. Move over and sigh.” — Lynne Tillman, Nothing is Lost or Found
I contacted illustrator Mahendra Singh after learning that his late aunt Monica Tornow appears in Malcolm Green’s legendary anthology Black Letters Unleashed: 300 Years of “Enthused” Writing in German (Atlas, 1989). This post grew from our exchanges.
Tornow wrote short prose pieces and one novella, Ming-Fatso & Ming-Scrawn (1989, with illustrations by Wulf Lücks). She was born in 1938 in Dresden and died in 2006 in Virginia—on the family farm, which she visited every summer—surrounded by her beloved cats.
"Body Demons," the page-long work included in Black Letters Unleashed, is her only writing translated into English. It’s an extract from a collection of similar surrealist feuilletons published in 1978 in Manuskripte, an influential Austrian publication of the time. Mahendra says “the general tenor of the pieces reminds me of the Walser short ‘A Slap in the Face’… I’m looking over them and laughing, they’re pretty good. Burning chickens, leopards knocking at the door, time machines interacting with cats … they are right up your line.” You can now read “Body Demons” on 50 Watts, along with Mahendra’s own translation of another short work, “It Was a Beautiful Day.”
Monica lived mostly in West Berlin, worked as a producer of documentaries for West German TV, and was a totally insane cat nut—Ming-Fatso & Ming-Scrawn is about her two Abyssinians. She wrote on the side, some good stuff but she was possessed of the true Bartleby spirit and simply couldn’t be bothered with the demon Ambition. She introduced me to Ernst, Walser, Gombrowicz, Saltykov, Lem and much more, the classic Central European tradition of mordant, black humour.
Monica loved a crisp, cool Fontana Candida on a sweltering Virginia summer afternoon, followed by a good goulash and some Johann Stamitz on the stereo.
She was also involved sometimes with the Berlin Film Festival … she told me that when Kaurismäki attended one time, he had a guy who would walk before him with a bottle of schnapps on a silver tray, always ready to provide him a restorative shot.
She is sorely missed by her family (except for the damn cat hair that got into everything).
Also see: Two texts by Monica Tornow on 50 Watts.
No one reads Beatus of Liébana.
Illustrated Beatus manuscripts bring to life an extraordinary vision of the end of the world, as recorded by Saint John in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) and filtered through the lens of Beatus of Liébana, an eighth-century Asturian monk. These manuscripts are unique to medieval Spain and a testament to the pervasive artistry and intellectual milieu of monastic culture there. The leaf shown here comes from a manuscript disassembled in the 1870s.
This table was created in an attempt to calculate the numerical “code” of the Antichrist, who was a particularly troubling figure to Christians of the Middle Ages. Saint John asserted in Apocalypse 13.18 that the “number of the beast…is 666,” the number specifically linked to the devil at the time the Apocalypse was written. Here, the eight names given to the Antichrist are lettered in red in vertical columns; each letter is assigned a number. The total given is 666, written four times diagonally in the center of the table.
No one reads glyph poems.
A collection of unpublished Glyph poems by Edward Sanders. This body of work consists of 19 Glyphs printed letterpress from plates of Ed’s original artwork, with two text pieces printed from hand set type. These 19 prints are each 8.5 x 11 inches, and laid into printed envelopes. The group includes Ed’s statement on the work, and is signed by him. Printed in a hand numbered edition of 250 copies. This body of work spans four decades of Sanders’ poetic career, and covers a broad range of his unique writing style, intellect, and keen sense of humor. A very nice addition to the published works of this important poet, activist, Fug, and fromer Peace Book Store Proprietor & publisher of Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts. Published by Jon Beacham and Daniel Morris. [Brother in Elysium on tumblr]
Scan of a rare book cover by surrealist Wolfgang Paalen (1905-1959) for Contes Bizarres by Achim d’Arnim, introduction by André Breton, published by Eric Losfeld for Arcanes, 1954.
It’s unlikely that your somewhat erratic editors at Writers No One Reads will be able to provide a massive 2014 Book Preview in the near future, but in the meantime, possibly more to allay our own concerns in that regard than yours, we will, as should be expected, erratically share what we’re reading.
Originally published in 1969, Stanley Crawford’s Travel Notes has been out of print for decades until being rescued from oblivion by Calamari Press. Travel Notes is a strange novel capable of making any reader feel the surreality of being a tourist. It’s a work of baroque imagination, full of invention and absurdity: there is a linguist whose invented word has the capacity to destroy the world; a conspiracy of mail carriers in an abandoned city; a seaside resort where the beaches are lined with mausoleums; an oxymoronic line of hermit janitors… In the end, the book proves to be more than the sum of its parts, making it a welcome addition to Crawford’s sadly unread body of work. (SS)