Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Preface:  HERE EXACTLY IS WHY 95% of what passes for good writing in the United States is simply impersonal fake something or other: "The Philosophical prison we all carry within us has unleashed an assault onto our memories, decreeing unto them the fiction of chronology. And yet they continue, obstinately, to be our only freedom."--Juan Jose Saer from THE ONE BEFORE (Open Letter books)
Start of summer.  (21 June)…though it is now 26 July when there are no longer any children in the house, when one is no longer a child such a moment no longer matters…on Long Island if one is a city person  the summer begins with Memorial Day as that is when summer rentals begin running until Labor Day…
But but
My wife’s mother grows sad always as the day reaches its greatest length as her father was arrested on that day in 1941 by the Russians in Estonia to be sent to the Gulag where he would be murdered… so for her daughter Anna the start of summer was always shadowed by this both spoken and unspoken fact and while it has dimmed for me over the years I am aware that the summer brought the fact of my sister getting polio back in 1950 and I not getting polio… on a summer day when we came back from the beach near the house on Furman Lane in Patchogue…
At the moment I am engaged in the melancholy business of packing up my books and papers in the house in New Jersey in the getting ready to move as Anna is selling the house she was born into it… there are a surfeit of these essays some well known, by Walter Benjamin for instance and while we also continue to live in the city--- where another collection of books has been established--- but to the vast majority of the population such a concern is so esoteric as to be almost inconceivable… packing the books?  What books? Most would simply say.  What is the big deal?...  Or increasingly you just find shopping bags with books on the sidewalk that have been discarded when people move or when people decide to tidy up their lives, in other words live in the prison of the current moment.
But being of a certain age books have filled up my life and I have been surrounded by books as living in New York City books are very cheap indeed and easily collected… in spite of access to libraries both academic and public… and then there is the writing of books… Edward Dahlberg always maintained that before he ventured a line of his own he had to look at a…I forget the word he used… but his hand would sweep about the shelved books in their many cases… and I have always known that when the French writer Lamartine went to the Balkans he traveled with a library in excess of 500 books… of course that is now easily possible with the various electronic devises at one’s disposal…but for a person of my age, the electronic does not have the authority of the word printed on the page… but this is now probably a quaint idea in the light of the current political warfare both foreign and domestic which is primarily via electronic devices…for  better or worse…
So that a writing like this---ironically to be read on an electronic device and being composed on an electronic device though I can imagine it only as a small stone on a highway which will only be of consequence if by some accident it is propelled by another vehicle’s wheel into hitting the windshield of the car which I am driving and the driver’s reaction: what bad luck.
In the moving I moved the three books of BillHolm which I have:  COMING HOME CRAZY--- based on a time teaching English in China--- THE HEART CAN BE FILLED ANYWHERE ON EARTH and THE DEAD GET BY WITH EVERYTHING. 
According to a search Holm is now dead… so is there any reason to hold on to his books, to read his books, has he marked the culture of the Unites States…  some of the books are still in print and others have moved to two cents plus postage.  I had been interested in his work because of my own GOING TO PATCHOGUE  and I guess we both have read Thomas Wolfe and in particular William Carlos Williams’s PATERSON….the power of the local  and Holms has an essay “Iceland”  which concerns itself with his always identifying himself as Icelandic and that is another reason I was interested in him as Iceland was the first foreign country I had visited and the first foreign woman I ever talked to was Icelandic, Silja Adalsteinsdottir… but for Holm being Icelandic because of his Icelandic grandparent gave him a way to avoid being part of the United Sates,  avoid being an ordinary American, whatever that might mean…
Yet, Holm did not write an essential book… maybe in Minnesota his book exists but beyond these paragraphs I am writing… will he ever be taken up?
Of course none of this matters to him, now, dead. 
And the same for another book long cared for perimeters a book of poetry by Charles Levendosky which came out from Wesleyan in that distinctive series they had back then which also gave me James Dickey’s Drowning With Others which I see was autographed by Dickey in February,1964 but it is the Levendosky book that concerns me as he tries within the space of a thin book the whole of the United States.  One might compare it to Michel Butor’s MOBILE which also tried to do the same…  but Butor was doing prose while Levendosky was doing poetry as in these lines from near Yuma:  he always talked about/the dunes as if they were/naked pregnant women/called those wind ripples/stretch marks/they have been waiting a long time/to birth/unless the reptiles are theirs.
         Amazon provided what came after and it is mere verse, and Levendosky is dead according to the internet except for me for this book which will never be reprinted…
But I shall save both the Holms and the Levendosky books, though I doubt I will consult them as I do Hannah Green’s THE DEAD OF THE HOUSE because they do not possess what she calls vision, a vague word to be sure but let me be accurate:  I got the idea from life, but I have proceeded from vision.  And in that I link her with Celine, Proust, Faulkner, Joyce, Beckett, Onetti, Saer, Gombrowicz, Kertesz, Nadas… those writers I constantly go back to:  Glenway Wescott, Julian Green, Claude Simon, Thomas Bernhard…
I will not make a listing of the characteristics of that vision,  A reader who has read these authors knows what I am writing about and if I included the poets: Eliot, Pound, David Jones, Lorine Neidecker would this vision be clearer… and possibly adding Thomas Kinsella, and Georgy Ivanov…
But so many others and that is why one must have a library. 
And for thinking I go to Cioran, to Shestov, to Valery, to Unamuno, to Ernst Junger.
Is there a difference between vision and thinking?...
Probably not though these two words are the twin touchstone one  hauls out when a new book…
Which allows for should this be the summer of Juan Carlos Onetti--- he of A BRIEF LIFE is there anyone worth the time of a summer of course he is for the few as nothing is positive, nothing is exhilarating, nothing is enlightening, all of his work is imaginative in all the ways of shutting down the possibility of changing the looking at the world with anything but a turning aside not out disgust but out of recounting with a knowing that it can only get worse… even with the last sentence read we know that the next will re-iterate what you  have read  the pleasures of insistence, the sole virtue of genius … 

        To be continued at some future… or in the past

Friday, July 1, 2016


for now a few years I have been writing a novel or a book  that as is said revolves around an actual--whatever that might be-- artist: JOHN WESLEY, not to be confused with the founder of Methodism ...  in this section hats are talked about and their connection to atomic testing in Western deserts...  
(another prepared slide appeared in a recent NOTRE DAME REVIEW                              
         Wesley has talked of discovering his dead father and the hat on the hook near the door not to be put on his head ever again and Jack never wore a hat as far as I know… a lifetime summed up in one article… that is how we thought  back then I am telling Jack, I think it was an old Esquire magazine where there was an article how to be successful in college and one of the key points was to put something on the wall and not explain it--- like a dented Maserati hubcap--- but you were allowed to hint as to the nature of the article, the associations of the article with some intimate activity or display of such activity while the weight of these words seem to drive us into a hole, for a moment or three, Jack is saying, as a way to wake the dead from their graves--- but I am not thinking of zombie movies as I never believed in them and maybe you can’t believe in them in Southern California since creatures coming out of the desert seem to have more authenticity and we tried not to think that the atom bomb tests were going off closer than anyone dare think about, always avoiding looking at maps of the western part of the United States as they made it all too clear how close these tests were in Nevada or New Mexico... this was before people went to Las Vegas though they went to Reno for a divorce so Reno didn’t seem to be in Nevada but I knew it was in Nevada and I knew what was going on there… those creatures came out of the desert and we had plenty of desert in California… when I came to New York people talked about getting under your school desk during those air-raid drills as they were called and I guess we worried about Japs as we called them during the war coming into America by way of the ocean but the atom bomb was much closer and then it wasn’t close anymore once I was in New York City and being in France took the atom bomb even further away, if I can say something like that, though the French man who told me the joke about why Chinese people have those narrow eyes was always telling Hannah the weather had changed because of the tests the Americans and Russians had been making with their atom bombs… I don’t think anyone worries about atom bomb tests anymore.
         There is a pause, Jack drinks from the glass of water and is saying, maybe hats went away when people no longer worried about atomic tests… hats were always some sort or protection from as they say the elements and people were always hearing about atomic elements but then people are no longer hearing about atomic elements so hats just went away I guess to be replaced by all the bad stuff people put into their stomachs and how they are supposed to avoid this or that but what I don’t understand: why do people seem to get fatter and fatter when there’s all this talk about the junk you eat and junk inside even the food that is not junk?
                             PART ELEVEN

THE TRADITIONAL NOVEL                                          WHILE EXPECTING                                                        CONSISTENCY AND ORDER IS                                  SOMETIMES AS IT WERE                                             INVADED BY AN ILLUSIVE                                        SECTION THAT IS SKIPPED BY                                 THE NODDING EDITORIAL EYE                                 AND PEN.

         The room behind the room where Wesley sits in his chair is the scene of the food preparation.  He is not provided a menu with pencil to check off his desires.  He is presented with bowls and expected to empty them.  The food seems to be prepared in such a way that either a fork or a  spoon are the only eating instruments Wesley needs when moving the food from bowl to mouth.  Gradually the spoon is likely to come to be the sole instrument of movement and the observer should not be jumping ahead of the inevitable narrative. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016


ST. PATRICK’S DAY: another day in Dublin

My grandparents were spit out of County Donegal, Ireland in 1889 at the age of 12 like so much possibly tubercular phlegm.  They became inhabitants of Brooklyn and none of their many children graduated from high school and all of them died of alcoholism or the effects of alcohol. During all my years of living in Ireland I have only gone twice to the countryside.  Jokingly I say pints don’t grow on trees but I knew and know that the countryside is The Famine.  To be Irish and to celebrate the countryside is to celebrate a death of too many sorts but it also seems as thoughtless as a Jewish person celebrating German culture in spite of…. Do I really need to say more?

On the second floor of Patchogue High School in November, 1961 when I saw Melinda Brady and was unable to talk to her or introduce myself to her.  She was two years younger than me and a sophomore to my being a senior.  I decided to write a short story about an American soldier in France who dies in the trenches of WWI on the 6th of November 1918 with thoughts of a Melinda Bradley in his head.  There was no response and so I wrote a second story but this time from her viewpoint of going down to the train station in Indiana and discovering his death.

Is there any other way of so describing the origin of a novel of the type that I have written and which I am obviously interested in?  I finally did meet Melinda upon my return from Dublin in June of 1965 and I went about with her in Patchogue and into the city for the summer.  But unlike a certain type of Danish movie we are still alive with her living in Northern Maine with her third husband and I am living in New York City with my third wife.

I arrived in Dublin in September, 1964 by way of the over-night ferry from Glasgow.  It had been a rough crossing and I along with many others, including infants in their mother’s arms, had thrown up.  I tried to read the first book I had bought in Europe—if Glasgow can be thought of as a part of Europe—Samuel Beckett’s From an Abandoned Work.  I also bought William Burroughs Dead Fingers Talk. The four days in Glasgow, after stopping for a few days in Iceland, the painting of the crucified Christ by Dali, the anarchists in George Square, a performance of the Caucasian Chalk Circle in the Citizens Theatre prepared me for the Dublin I walked that first morning from the quays to along O’Connell Street up to a bed and breakfast down the street from the Joycian school, Belvedere. And a few hours later the walk to the Friends meeting rooms on Eustace Street, a street in which I would live years later again on the top floor of a commercial building now torn down… and then still another walk in the early afternoon across Stephen’s Green to talk with a priest in Newman House about seeing after accommodation while at UCD and he sent me to 5 Orwell Park  where I would spend that first year as a paying guest of the Opperman Family who ran/owned Jurys Hotel. Breakfast was presented to me in my room  every morning and a Sunday lunch was provided.  I was very fortunate when compared to many who found themselves in “digs” with landladies who counted the slices of toast and the minutes in the bath…

It is not for me to destroy any sort of suspense the reader might have when reading my book.  It does take place on St Patrick’s Day… in Dublin…  though in those years 1964-65 it had not acquired its subtitle, but more about that a bit later. A day starting in a building that will be torn down and ending in another building that will be torn down.  It will be said that only this book remains to remember when…

The close reader will notice towards the end of the book the reproduction of a check to a Lilia McGonigle for 500,000 pounds from the poet Derek Mahon and a headline FROM DUBLIN TO BULGARIA.  In the so-called time of the novel none of the characters knew that one day both Ireland and Bulgaria would find themselves in the same social club called the European Community.  Lilia arrived at Dun Laoghaire by ferry with me, with the recognized narrator of the novel after coming on the overnight boat train from London and before that Paris, Venice and Sofia… having spent Easter in the French countryside. We were met by Eugene Lambe who presented Lilia with her first grapefruit. Derek Mahon was in near attendance and later would write a poem about Eugene being in heaven though my own last memory of Eugene was our eating oysters together in Longacre in London where he was held hostage in a attic room by a small sculpture by David Hockney and the complete edition of My Past and Thoughts: The Memoirs of Akexander Herzen … however that is not in ST PATRICK’S DAY: another day in Dublin. Lilia and the narrator of the novel happily did not have to avail themselves of the generosity of the poet and the check was saved as reminder of a more lasting treasure we were fortunate to find in Dublin.

Happily. It was supplied by Anna Saar who is my third and last wife. Her first language is Estonian and the close reader will have noticed the dedication in the book which is in the Estonian language and I am sure recourse to a handy Irish-Estonian Dictionary will reveal the nature of the precisely worded delight contained in that aspect of the book… a detail even close readers will appreciate as such is not included in a certain book by Mr. James Joyce and thus a significant difference between the two books.

That’s a long question and deserves a short answer.  The angels were on duty. 
THE LONG ANSWER:  The editor of the Notre Dame Review, William O’Rourke had the good well-developed taste to publish two pieces of other books by me: “Then” a prepared slide from Just Like That, a book from the Sixties of the last century, that was involved in part with Anthony Burgess, and “The Beginning of a Traditional Novel for the Twenty-First Century,” a book I am still composing that revolves around the painter John “Jack” Wesley who is not yet dead.  Mr. O’Rourke had heard that ST. PATRICK’S DAY, which had not acquired its subtitle, was available—I will not go into the immediate reason for it being available as it is all too sordid to retell in such a pleasant circumstance as this. Mr. O’Rourke read the manuscript very quickly in the late summer of 2014 and the prize was awarded and here it is.  We share an affection for the writings of Edward Dahlberg and of course take consolation in Dahlberg’s wise words, “It takes a long time to understand nothing.”

Having even a more limited ability to predict the future than the Weatherman or should I say Weatherperson though Weatherwoman sounds more interesting and I have never met a woman who was not far more accurate in her predictions than…. But that is…  I hope the book will find a few readers who are interested in reading a book they have not read many more times before.  Of course Notre Dame seems an ideal place for such a book but then there is also Ireland itself with its native delight in begrudgery and I hope to see the book appear in Estonian, Bulgarian, Japanese, Swedish, Icelandic, Turkish, Russian… of course I worry about what people in Patchogue will think of it and the shades that inhabit Grosvenor Square, in Dublin, and it should be remembered that the duck counters are there as they always are in St Stephen’s Green since they are counting for all of us…

Yes, a 12 year old boy is always being put on a boat for America having walked from Malin Head, Co. Donegal to… he will give up his name Patrick in Brooklyn and take on Hugh which he will pass to Hugh Jr., my father, whose dying will be financing the opening scene in ST. PATRICK’S DAY: another day in Dublin…

All the sexualities are present in these pages, all the versions of intoxication, all of the versions of reading and being read, all the ways of… not dying… just yet.

Book Information:

St. Patrick's Day
another day in Dublin
Thomas McGonigle

Notre Dame Review Book Prize

ISBN 978-0-268-03538-9
240 pages
$27.00 hardback
Pub date: August 19, 2016

University of Notre Dame Press

Thomas McGonigle is available for interviews.

Contact: Kathryn Pitts, Marketing Manager, University of Notre Dame Press, e: pitts.5@nd.edu, p: 574.631.3267

Wednesday, June 1, 2016



I hope this can be seen as a forgivable act of... something or other, but here is the cover for the book to appear at end of August or early September from U of Notre Dame Press....


And then there was this in the TLS

               Thirlwell is one of those British writers like Tom McCarthy and Martin Amis who seem to afflict themselves upon the world armed with suitable connections, a modicum of talent and a great deal of cunning... none of them will be mourned upon passing except  possibly by relatives... and my evidence:  B.S. Johnson and Anthony Burgess yet there are mumbles: where are the women? and again I can cite three: Anna Kavan, Mary Butts and Jean Rhys which will allow me to add Alan Burns... I know that Amis lurks in Brooklyn and that fact along with Jonathan Safran Foer and Paul Auster also living beasts now there makes me wish not to have been born into a house on Willoughby Avenue--- on top of it...


             It took a while but I finally got a copy of Ivo Andric's SIGNS BY THE ROADSIDE.  I am sure you all know he is the author of The Bridge on the Drina though I value him even more for his BOSNIA CHRONICLE and the shorter work ZEKO.  Yet, SIGNS is a collection of fragments from journals kept for most of his life.  Foresaking chronology--- that constant temptation to pay attention to the clock of all things--- Andric just arranges the fragments on the page and could do it many other ways... I was going to quote one or two of the longer passages but why?... I am a lousy typist and if you don't find the book....  only 1000 copies printed in English in Beograd...  but here is a tiny fragment:     

I could take as my motto the name of a Canadian ship: I'm Alone.  But I have no motto, either.

             [And thanks to the internet;  I'M ALONE  was an actual ship sank by the US Coast Guard when it was caught smuggling alcohol from Belize into the USA...]

               The book goes on the little shelf with Cioran's THE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORN, a rotating volume of Valery's NOTEBOOKS and Rozanov's SOLITARIA which I came to at the suggestion of Edward Dahlberg who also suggested Shestov's IN JOB'S BALANCES


Thinking of these books and these thoughts I even created a hope in myself that someone would invite me to Pula, Beograd and Sofia... aren't books meant to both transport and ...

BUT the reality in a recent ECONOMIST:  in Britain the average sale of a novel written in English is 263 copies while a translated novel sells 531 copies...back in 2001  a novel in English sold on the average 1153 copies and a translate novel sold 482...