Posts tagged ws
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]
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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.
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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.”
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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.
I can’t locate even a simple bio for poor Hal Garrott, author of the children’s fantasies Snythergen (1923) and Squiffer (1924), both illustrated by the somewhat better-known Dugald Stewart Walker. (See illustrations for Snythergen here.)
Never was there a jollier little fellow - although little is scarcely the word - than this Snythergen, and never were there adventures better calculated to delight a child than the tale of how he grew first so very round and later so very tall that he could not remain at home any longer, but was obliged to live in the forest and to become a tree. In the forest lived Squeaky, the pig, and Sancho, the goldfinch, and the three became the best of friends. (publisher’s copy, via)
A tale for young people which is every bit as charming as Mrs. Garrott’s story of the boy-tree, Snythergen. Squiffer is a squirrel whose desire to become a boy sends him upon strange adventures. The characters of the tale include a Bear, a Candy Princess, the wicked Red-Fairy-Hot (with his three quick changes) and ever so many other delightful persons. (publisher’s copy, via)
[update: In the Heather Bright directed me to a PDF article with a mention of Hal Garrott in a list of patrons of Kilmarnock Books in St. Paul (along with Fitzgerald). The article focuses on writer-no-one-reads Thomas Alexander Boyd.]
Robert Recorde introduced the equals sign (=) in 1557. From wikipedia:
Zenzizenzizenzic is an obsolete form of mathematical notation representing the eighth power of a number (that is, the zenzizenzizenzic of a number x is the power x8), dating from a time when powers were written out in words rather than as superscript numbers. This term was suggested by Robert Recorde, a 16th century Welsh writer of popular mathematics textbooks, in his 1557 work The Whetstone of Witte (although his spelling was zenzizenzizenzike); he wrote that it “doeth represent the square of squares squaredly”.
if I should go outside the wolves would come to eat out of my hand just as my room would seem to be outside of me my other earnings would go off around the world smashed into smithereens but what is there to do today it’s thursday everything is closed it’s cold the sun is whipping anybody I could be and there’s no helping it so many things come up so that they throw the roots down by their hairs out in the bull ring stenciled into portraits not to make a big deal of the day’s allotments but today has been a winner and the hunter back with his accounts askew how great this year has been for putting in preserves like these and thus and so and always things are being left behind some tears are laughing without telling tales again except around the picture frame the news arrived that this time we would only see the spring at night and that a spider crawls across the paper where I’m writing that the gift is here
image: El Greco’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz
This is Santiago Caruso’s illustration for a new Spanish edition of “The Bloody Countess,” a 1971 prose work by Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik (1936–1972), a writer I have not read (illustrator’s page / publisher’s page).
Pizarnik’s parents were Russian Jewish and she was raised in Buenos Aires. She published many volumes of poetry in the 50s and 60s (with titles like The Extraction of the Stone of Madness), studied painting, spent some time in France, translated Michaux and Artaud, and finally “died in Buenos Aires of a self-induced overdose of seconal.” (Check out some photos of the writer.)
Jason Weiss devotes a few pages to her in his book The Lights of Home: A Century of Latin American Writers in Paris. César Aira wrote a book on her.
An English translation of “The Bloody Countess” can be found in Manguel’s anthology Other Voices. The book Exchanging Lives: Poems and Translations contains translations of Pizarnik’s poems mixed with biographical details.
update: Chris at Dreamers Rise commented:
She was a good friend of Julio Cortázar and his wife. There’s some material about her in Jesús Marchamalo’s “Cortázar y los libros.” She inscribed a number of her books to him but towards the end you could see from the inscriptions that she was coming undone.
From the notes to Zoo, or Letters Not About Love by Victor Shklovsky:
Aleksei Mikhailovich Remizov (1877–1957), a brilliant and influential writer who attempted in his prose to strip the Russian literary language of its foreign derivatives and restore to it the natural raciness of the vernacular. He emigrated from Russia at the end of 1921 and settled in Berlin until 1923, when he moved to Paris, where he remained until his death. Remizov founded his monkey society as a lampoon on the official organizations and committees that proliferated after the revolution. Charter memberships were conferred by elegantly designed scrolls, signed by Asyka, tsar of the monkeys.
My favorite bit from his wikipedia entry:
Another striking work of this period is ‘The Sacrifice,’ a Gothic horror story in which “a ghostly double of a father comes to kill his innocent daughter in the mistaken belief that she is a chicken”.
I hope to explore his work more in the book Beyond Symbolism and Surrealism: Alexei Remizov’s Synthetic Art.
The great modernist eccentric Alexei Remizov was a “writers’ writer” whose innovative poetic prose has long since entered the Russian literary canon. Gradually expanding his working methods to make drawing an integral part of the writing process, during the 1930s and 1940s, Remizov created hundreds of albums that combined texts with collages and india ink and watercolor illustrations. In Beyond Symbolism and Surrealism, Julia Friedman provides the first extensive examination of the dynamic interplay between text and image in Remizov’s albums, revealing their coequal roles in his oneiric and synaesthetic brand of storytelling.
From another note in the Shklovsky book:
"Kukkha" is a word defined by Remizov as meaning "moisture" in monkey language.
“ He showed me his kabbalistic collection, and I admired the manuscripts. In my enthusiasm I said, quite naively: ‘How wonderful, Herr Professor, that you have studied all this!’ Whereupon the old gentleman replied: ‘What, am I supposed to *read* this rubbish, too?’ That was a great moment in my life.”
No one reads Carlo Sgorlon (1930-2009).
From Jessie Bright’s introduction to The Wooden Throne:
Carlo Sgorlon was born in 1930 in Cassacco, a tiny village near Udine, capital of Friuli, a region in northeastern Italy near the Austrian and Yugoslav borders. He spent much of his childhood in the countryside, where he attended primary school only rarely but came into daily contact with Friulian peasant life. The influence of his grandfather, a retired schoolmaster with a strong literary bent, and his grandmother, a practicing midwife steeped in local folklore, formed the basis of his love of literature and his reverence for ancient peasant traditions.
[…]He has written a number of novels in the dialect of Friuli, as well as twelve novels and numerous short stories in Italian. His fiction has been translated into French, Spanish, Finnish, German and certain Slavic languages. His literary scholarship, aside from translations from the German, includes two major critical works, one on Kafka and the other on Elsa Morante.
[…] The Wooden Throne, his most famous book, was a best seller in Italy and since it was first published in 1973 has gone through fifteen printings. In fact its publisher, Mondadori, has recently brought it out in a new edition as part of a special series entitled “Twentieth Century Masterpieces.”
I started reading this book today and it is very charming.
Also in English: Army of the Lost Rivers
Cover art by Alexandra Eldridge
This is another welcome submission from Nathaniel at Ausmalen. See his post Friedrich Achleitner as Beer-Drinker.
Friedrich Achleitner (born 23 May 1930 in Schalchen, Upper Austria) is an Austrian poet and architecture critic. Achleitner studied architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna from 1950–1953. He joined the Wiener Gruppe in 1955, participated in their literary cabarets, and wrote dialect poems, montages, and concrete poems. In 1983 he became Professor of the history and theory of architecture at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.