Posts tagged WS
"I was unable to go to sleep yesterday evening. At half-past eleven everything around me was suddenly lighted up, and the vivid light permitted me to distinguish surrounding objects. I arose this morning with a very clear remembrance of that which I then saw. A tableau was formed in that light, and I had more before me than the interior of a Martian house—an immense square hall, around which shelves were fastened, or rather little tables suspended and fastened to the wall. Each of these tables contained a baby, but not at all bundled up; all the movements of these little infants were free, and a simple linen cloth was thrown round the body. They might be said to be lying on yellow moss. I could not say with what the tables were covered. Some men with strange beasts were circulating round the hall; these beasts had large flat heads, almost without hair, and large, very soft eyes, like those of seals; their bodies, slightly hairy, resembled somewhat those of roes in our country, except for their large and flat tails; they had large udders, to which the men present fitted a square instrument with a tube, which was offered to each infant, who was thus fed with the milk of the beasts. I heard cries, a great hurly-burly, and it was with difficulty that I could note these few words [of this text]. This vision lasted about a quarter of an hour; then everything gradually disappeared, and in a minute after I was in a sound sleep."
Hélène Smith, pseudonym for Catherine-Elise Muller, quoted by Théodore Flournoy in From India to the Planet Mars (1900; in print from Princeton). Note that I opened the book at random and started typing.
Read all about Smith—and see samples of her Martian writing (no one reads Martian writing)—in an article from the very first issue of Cabinet Magazine.
New category: Fictional “Writers No One Reads”
No one reads Enoch Soames.
When a book about the literature of the eighteen-nineties was given by Mr. Holbrook Jackson to the world, I looked eagerly in the index for SOAMES, ENOCH. I had feared he would not be there. He was not there. But everybody else was. Many writers whom I had quite forgotten, or remembered but faintly, lived again for me, they and their work, in Mr. Holbrook Jackson’s pages. The book was as thorough as it was brilliantly written. And thus the omission found by me was an all the deadlier record of poor Soames’ failure to impress himself on his decade.
I daresay I am the only person who noticed the omission. Soames had failed so piteously as all that! Nor is there a counterpoise in the thought that if he had had some measure of success he might have passed, like those others, out of my mind, to return only at the historian’s beck. It is true that had his gifts, such as they were, been acknowledged in his life-time, he would never have made the bargain I saw him make—that strange bargain whose results have kept him always in the foreground of my memory. But it is from those very results that the full piteousness of him glares out.
“You may be familiar with Robert Bridges, who served as England’s Poet Laureate. But chances are, you are unfamiliar with the work of Digby Mackworth Dolben, a school friend of Bridges’s who died at only nineteen. An eccentric and a zealous Anglo-Catholic, long after his death Dolben continued to exercise a compelling hold over his circle, which included Gerard Manley Hopkins.”
I hope to some day read the Collected Works of Mirtha Dermisache (Argentina, 1940–2012).
Image: Mirtha Dermisache, Carta, 1970
From the publisher’s page for City: Bolshevik Super-Poem in 5 Cantos:
Manuel Maples Arce was born in 1898, and studied law in Mexico City. He was a judge and later Secretary General of the Government in the city of Xalapa, state of Veracruz, under the controversial revolutionary General Jara. During this same period he became the central figure in the Stridentist Movement, a very ambitious avant-garde group that flourished under General Jara’s protection. Composed of a small group of poets and visual artists (especially engravers and printmakers), Stridentism bore resemblence to both Futurism and Dada, as well as many similar groups throughout Latin America, but was much more radical, politically, and came much closer to the realization of many of their goals, since they effectively were the government in Xalapa for a brief period in the 1920’s. General Jara was eventually deposed and murdered and the group dispersed. Maples Arce went on to become a diplomat, serving as the Mexican ambassador first to France, then Canada. He continued writing poetry as well as essays and criticism. His collected poems was published in Mexico in 1971. Maples Arce died in 1981.
André-Marcel Adamek (1946-2011) is the pen name of one of Belgium’s finest contemporary storytellers. The author of more than fifteen books of fiction, poetry, and teleplays, he also holds several patents, and has been a cruise ship steward, a toymaker, a paper wholesaler, a goat farmer, an editor, and a ghost writer. His awards include the Prix Jean Macé, the Prix triennal du roman, the Prix du Parlement de la Communauté française, and the Prix Rossel, Belgium’s top literary prize. His sweetly postapocalyptic fable “The Ark” appeared in the January 2011 issue of Words Without Borders.
No one reads Francis Poictevin (1854–1904). Alastair Brotchie, from the 1994 Atlas translation of de Gourmont’s Book of Masks:
The mysterious and gnomic works of Poictevin…record a quest which ended in disaster: his mental collapse in 1894, and confinement in an institution until his death. He continued writing even then, but he was forgotten, except by a few friends, and these manuscripts have never been published. His books, which are not novels, nor travel diaries, nor récits, but some intermediate form, appeared with perfect annual regularity between 1882 and 1894. In them Poictevin contrived to chronicle a psychological and spiritual journey by means of observations of the external world: they are perfect demonstrations of Symbolism, everything here is symbol clothed in the skin of appearance. With hindsight his obsessive and repetitive observation of detail, verging on synesthesia, can be seen to foreshadow his illness.
A Christian mystic and hyper-aesthete, Poictevin shared these characteristics with his close friend Huysmans, but applied them to his works in a unique way….He has never been translated into English.
De Gourmont (circa 1898):
The author of Tout bas and Presque would have been able, like all the rest, to arrange his meditations into dialogues, to order his sentiments into chapters cut at random into slabs of lines, to insinuate into sham-living characters a few animated gestures and have them convey, through noticeable genuflections upon the flagstones of a known church, the efficacy of an unacknowledged creed: in short to write “Mystical Novels” and to vulgarise for the “literary journals” the practice of mental prayer. By this means his books would have acquired some popularity, which he certainly lacks, because, if few writers are so esteemed, few, among those of evident talent, are less well known and less seen in the bookshops…
[Images: top, Poictevin by Vallotton; bottom: Francis Poictevin by Jacques-Emile Blanche, 1887]
[Writers No One Reads is on Facebook]
No one reads the Aged-Angler of Desolate Lake.
Dingbo Wu, from his introduction to Science Fiction from China:
…modern Chinese science fiction really began in 1904 with the serialization of Yueqiu zhimindi xiaoshuo (Tales of Moon Colonization) in Portrait Fiction. It is a novel of approximately 130,000 words written in Chinese by Huangjiang Diaosuo (Aged-Angler of Desolate Lake). The author’s real name remains unknown. The story describes the settlement of a group of earthlings on the moon.
"Yueqiu zhi Mindi Xiaoshuo" ["A Tale of Moon Colonists"]…written by the pseudonymous and never-identified Huangjiang Diaosuo, might be described as a picaresque Edisonade in which exiles from modern China tour the world in a hot-air balloon, trying new Inventions, encountering strange races and customs, and eventually reaching the Moon. However, its title is cunningly ambiguous, eventually revealed as a fear that the superior lunar civilization is sure to conquer the Earth, and that, inevitably, some superior race elsewhere is sure to conquer them in turn.
China’s earliest original science fiction was Yueqiu Zhimindi Xiaoshuo (月球殖民地小說 “Lunar Colony”), published in 1904 under the pen name Huang Jiang Diao Sou (荒江釣叟 “Secluded River’s Old Fisherman”). The story concerns Long Menghua, who flees China with his wife after killing a government official who was harassing his wife’s family. The ship they escape on is accidentally sunk and Long’s wife disappears. However, Long is rescued by Otoro Tama, the Japanese inventor of a dirigible who helps him travel to Southeast Asia searching for his wife. They join with a group of anti-Qing martial artists to rescue her from bandits. Deciding that the nations of the world are too corrupt, they all travel to the moon and establish a new colony.
[Writers No One Reads facebook page]
I asked Dmitry Samarov — author of Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab — to post about Chicago writers. This is his first post. He even made a portrait of the author!
No one reads Willard Motley (1909–1965) but they certainly used to. He grew up in a middle-class African-American household in the then primarily-white neighborhood of Englewood in Chicago. The prominent painter Archibald Motley was his uncle, cousin, or brother (according to various sources).
He first gained notice when he submitted a short story to the Chicago Defender at the age of 13. This led to his being hired to write a children’s column under the pen-name “Bud Billiken” from 1922 to 1924. (“Bud Billiken” was later used for a South Side Chicago parade which continues to this day.)
Motley was a co-founder of Hull-House Magazine, which published some of his first adult writings.
I. THE STREET
This is the corner. Here is where the women stand at night. This is where the evangelists preach God on Sundays. Here is where knife-play has written a moment’s strange drama; where sweethearts have met; where drunks have tilted bottles; where shoppers have bargained; where men have come looking — for something… This is the humpty-dumpty neighborhood. Maxwell and Newberry…
Here is where the daytime pavement never gets a rest from the shuffle of feet. Where the night-time street lamps lean drunkenly and are an easy target for the youngsters’ rocks. Where garbage cans are pressed full and running over. Where the weary buildings kneel to the street and the cats fight their fights under the tall, knock-kneed legs of the pushcarts. This is the down-to-earth world, the bread and beans world, the tenement-bleak world of poverty and hunger. The world of skipped meals; of skimp pocketbooks; of nonexistent security — shadowed by the miserable little houses that Jane Addams knew. Maxwell and Newberry…
This is the street of noises, of odors, of colors. This is a small hub around which a little world revolves. The spokes shoot off into all countries. This is Jerusalem. The journey to Africa is only one block; from Africa to Mexico one block; from Mexico to Italy two blocks; from Italy to Greece three blocks…
This is the pavement. These are the streets. Here are the people…
Motley’s most popular novel, Knock on any Door, sold 47,000 copies in its first three weeks of release. Its hero Nick Romano famously said, “Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.” The book was adapted into a 1949 film directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart.
Responding to criticism that he did not directly address race in his work, he said, “My race is the human race.”
Motley died of intestinal gangrene in Mexico City in 1965, poor and forgotten. His papers are held at the Chicago Public Library and Northern Illinois University.
Motley was suggested to me as a subject by Bill Savage, who owns a copy of Nelson Algren's Neon Wilderness inscribed by the author as “the poor man’s Willard Motley.”
[Writers No One Reads Facebook page]
No one reads Stifter’s 60-page novella Indian Summer:
In chapter four, we read about how Adalbert Stifter’s highly digressive, and as Frederick writes, ‘diffuse’ novel Indian Summer, so disturbed its readers that successive editions of the work radically reduced its three volumes of over 1,300 pages – one 1940 edition butchering it to less than 60 pages – as they were concerned to remove everything that did not pertain to the supposedly real story which, as Frederick demonstrates, is an insignificant aspect of the work: the entire novel having been focused on the time after this story and its very texture dependent on the feel of the resulting narrative dispersal.
From Ed Park’s piece for the Harry Mathews symposium (he’s describing a 1975 Harper’s edition of Mathew’s early novels called The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium and Other Novels):
The heft of the book, its strange title in stolid green caps—the abundance implicit in the casual “other novels”!—and its enigmatic cover all attracted me, as did this statement on the back:For several years Harry Mathews has enjoyed a growing following among college students, artists, other poets and writers, and fans of the obscure who have never been able to buy his books.
It seemed a contradiction, an impossibility. Being a fan of the obscure was one thing—but being the follower of an author whose books you couldn’t even get? That was another level of perversity. And I was ready to go there.
Don’t miss the footnotes either.
Random sighting of a writer no one reads (Frederic W. H. Myers):
If Breton tired of Hélène Smith, he could always turn to the writings of Frederic W. H. Myers. The son of the perpetual curate of Saint John’s, Keswick, Myers was renowned for swimming the river beneath Niagara Falls, for his study of hallucinations, and for his crusade for women’s rights in his native England.
Found in The Surrealist Parade by Wayne Andrews aka Montagu O’Reilly, author of the first book published by New Directions: Pianos of Sympathy (1936). Now I’ll start working on posts on O’Reilly and Hélène Smith.