Friday, April 11, 2014

DISCOVERING MY "OTHER" LIFE

         Jorge Luis Borges, Tom Whalen reminded me, had discovered now many years ago and as he wrote in Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, what I  discovered today when I put Bookforum + McGonigle into the Google search.

       In my experience, I discovered I had lived a life different from the one I thought I knew but now thanks to Kevin T. McEneaney I have stood corrected by this entry published  in a book entitled  Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics and History (Transatlantic Relations) by Philip Coleman (Editor), et al.  published by ABC-CLIO in 2008  and priced at $270.00. 

      I do not at the moment fully comprehend this new version of my life though I am delighted  that a dash does not appear after my birth year and another date has not been placed after that.




McGonigle, Thomas
(1944)
            Born on October 25, 1944, to Hugh and Marion (Whitney) McGonigle in Patchogue, Long Island, New York,   McGonigle attended Hollins College, but transferred to Beloit College for his B.A.  He then received an MA from University College, Dublin.  McGonigle frequently writes about the theme of the writer in exile.  All three of his novels treat this theme: St. Patrick’s Day, Dublin, 1974 (only fragments have appeared in journals) paints one day in the life of an Irish-American exile in a bohemian Dublin setting;  Going to Patchogue (1992) depicts a New York writer’s ironic pilgrimage to the hometown he grew up in and left in the mundane suburban setting of Patchogue, which would seem uncongenial to literary treatment; The Corpse Dream of N. Petkov (1997) presents a surreal journey into the mentality of fascism, dramatizing the absurd rationalizations of tyranny within a hallucinatory framework.  This novel mixes fantasy and fact about an exile returning home to Sofia to challenge the communist leadership who tried, tortured, and hung Petkov in 1947.  The novel was made possible by a traveling fellowship to Bulgaria from the International Research an Exchange Board.
            As a personality, McGonigle remains uniquely himself: a dry absurdist humor permeates his portrayal of conversations, memories, observations, newspaper clippings, and even narcissistic self-meditations.  His work abounds in temporal discontinuities, as in the work of Alain Robbe-Grillet, whom he has interviewed for the Village Voice.  His fascination with the rootless wanderings of the Dutch novelist Nees Cootebaum led to a BookForum interview with the Dutch master.  McGonigle has written introductions to books by Julian Green and E. M. Cioran.  For the Review of Contemporary Fiction he has written articles on Charles Bukowski,  Aidan Higgins, B.S. Johnson, Jack Kerouac and Jack Spicer.  McGonigle remains fixated with the self-imposed German exile of the Irish novelist Francis Stuart and the voluntary exile of the Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov.  Stylistically, McGonigle exhibits the influence of both the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard and the bleaker broodings of Samuel Beckett.
            For several years in the 1980s, McGonigle edited Adrift, An Irish American magazine that published a wide variety of Irish-American prose and poetry of merit; the magazine was launched at the now-defunct Facsimile Book Shop in midtown Manhattan, where books from Ireland were found in abundance between 1978 and 1988.  Clearly belonging to the postmodern European tradition, McGonigle lives his life as an exile in America with a public hardly familiar with the nouveau roman tradition, nor able to comprehend how an American much less an Irish-American could possibly consider himself alienated in the United States.  But there is no commercial market for writing that eschews complex plot, romance, or easy rewards for readers impatient with parody, sarcasm, satire, surreal organization, and panoptic irony.  McGonigle’s genial book reviews on non-American novelists frequently appear in such newspapers as New York Newsday, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.
                                                                        KEVIN T. MC ENEANEY
See also BECKETT, Samuel
                                     REFERENCES
Fanning, Charles.  The Irish Voice in America: 250 years of the Irish American Fiction.  Lexington:      University Press of Kentucky, 2000
Wall, Eamonn.  From the Sin-e Café to the Black Kills: Notes on the New Irish.  Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999


FROM    IRELAND AND THE AMERICAS; CULTURE. POLITICS AND HISTORY (TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS  by Philip Coleman, James Byrne and Jason King. ABC-CLIO,  2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

TO READ: PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR and WITOLD GOMBROWICZ AND...



I decided to preface these reminders of books read, to be read and reread with this first poem  published in The Patchogue Advance in 1962.

I


                                                  SEVEN
             I might even think this is the beginning of a long memorial address that will go for many pages, in the voice of Johannes Freumbichler--- the grandfather of Thomas Bernhard who encourage his grandson in words and as Bernhard writes in A CHILD: "I can still hear my grandfather saying Everything one writes is nonsense.  So how could he think of writing a thousand pages of nonsense?    He always had the most incredible ideas, but he always felt that these ideas were the cause of his failure.  We all fail, he said time and again.  That is the thought that most occupies my mind too.  Naturally, I had no idea what failure  was, what it meant, what it could mean though I myself was already going through the process of failure, non-stop failure; at school I failed everything with incredible consistency.'

                                                                        NINE
      Of course the very copying of these sentences reveal me as...

                                                            FOURTEEN
      Could one imagine Joyce Carol Oates [the three saddest words in the English language (Gore Vidal)] or Jonathan Franzen or Philip Roth or Toni Morrison or Paul Auster or any of our well-known bad writers---to use Edward Dahlberg's phrase to which he always added:  I have heard of them and that is sufficient--- stepping back.. except as a strategic marketing move...but they can’t do that... and find themselves within the sentences of a Thomas Bernhard?

                                                TWENTYONE
      From Emerson’s Quotation and Originality: "A great man quotes bravely and will not draw on his invention when his memory serves him with a word as good."

                                                            SIXTEEN
            Here it is a book from the grave of Patrick Leigh Fermor:  THE BROKEN ROAD (New York Review Books)... having set out to walk across Europe, Fermor published in his lifetime two books---A TIME OF GIFTS and BETWEEN THE WOODS AND THE WATER--- but it is from the grave that we get to Bulgaria. 
            Having set out in 1933 on his walk it is now the fall of 1934 and how I wish the Bulgaria he describes was still available in Bulgaria though reading Fermor’s version of Bulgaria still reminds me of what I find attractive in Bulgaria…
      “A twist in the valley and a leaf-fringed glance through a  clearing brought my destination into sight.  This was a fortress-like building,  almost a small towered city, embedded in fold after fold of beech trees and pine  The southern ramparts sank into the gorge, and the five tall walls and tiled roofs formed a lopsided pentagon round the deep well of a courtyard, lined within by many ascending tiers of a slender-pillard gallery hoisted on semicircular arches…” 
      Of course, Fermor has come to Rila Monastery as did I so many years later. 

             


      But driving with a former prime minister of Bulgaria a few years ago form Rila did not sadly take us through what Fermor saw:  “The way back to Sofia lay through the western foothills of the Rilska Planina:  rolling dun-coloured country that turned red at sunset with prehistoric wooden ploughs drawn by buffalos or oxen.  In the village, the houses were looped with festoons of tobacco leaves drying in the sun, the size colour and shape of kippers.  I slept in a rick, the first night, reached the little town of Dupnitza on the next and got to Radomir the following dusk.  I was drinking a lonely slivo and feeling tired and a bit depressed when a bus stopped opposite with София inscribed across the top, and a roof laden with a host of roped baskets and bundles.  Inside it was a Noah’s ark indeed, for, in every inch, not occupied by my kerchiefed and kalpacked fellow passengers, were trussed chickens and ducks, a turkey and two full-grown lambs that bleated shrilly form time to time.  We rocked and clanked through the darkness.  The half a dozen passengers next to me sang quietly all the away: sad fluttering patterns of sound in the minor mode, quite different from the robust strains I had heard so often lately. I listened entranced. I asked for a particular one  over and over again---Zashto to se sirdish liube? (Why are you angry with me, my love?) The first line ran--- and determined to try and master it later.”
            45 years of the communism and the long disastrous hangover from that blight changed all of this and it goes without saying not for the better.
            Yet, yet I would go to Bulgaria at the drop of a plane ticket as the connection, at least in my mind is there through THE COPRSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV (one of the first American books to be translated after the fall of the communism but not reprinted in book form since as the fear has returned to Bulgaria:  to actually remember is now disputed in Bulgaria which intellectually is still under the heavy thumb of the old nomenkultura of the previous regime---richer now than ever before, more mediocre--- and the middle section of GOING TO PATCHOGUE and when it is published and I hope before I am dead, EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS:  this last book pursues the violent  awful death of Linda Nelson while happening in Upstate New York began in Bulgaria…
                                                            FORTY
            How can I convince you that THE BROKEN ROAD is one of the  best travel books --- right there with ALBERTO Savinio’s SPEAKING TO CLIO and D.H. Lawrence’s ETRUSCAN PLACES and MORNINGS IN MEXICO---  they are not up to date, they are not  modern, they are not looking for bargains, not looking for the very best, not playing that insider’s card of knowing A SECRET… they know what they are writing about and that knowing is not designed to put you the reader under their thumb of some sort of superior connoisseurship, but the knowing is also edged with a certain felt experience of how fragile all such memories are and as a reader you know it, whatever  it was will not be there when you get there BUT you might, just might find some tiny reminder of…
                                                          
  SEVENTEEN
            A second version of TRANS-ATLANTYK  by Witold Gombrowicz has been published by Yale University Press. replacing an earlier version that had been introduced by Stanisław Barańczak--- a once important critic and poet but now  sadly sidelined by illness. 
            I do not read Polish but I do read Gombrowicz and Yale along with minor contributions by Dalkey Archive, Grove Press and Archipelago have seen to it that almost all of Gombrowicz is available in English. 
            One can think of TRANS-ATLANTYK as the book that gets us from the Poland of FERDYDURKE , PORNOGRAFIA and  COSMOS to the Argentina  of the great DIARY also available in an essential version from Yale as who can forget the memorable opening of that diary of his exile in Argentina that begins:  1953 I  Monday Me.  Tuesday Me. Wednesday Me.  Thursday Me.  Friday Josefa Radzyminska has magnanimously provided me with a dozen or so issues of….get my hands on several issues of various Polish newspapers…I read these Polish newspaers as if I were reading a story about someone whom I knew intimately and well who suddenly leaves for Australia, for example, and there experiences rather strange adventures which are no longer real because they concern someone different and strange, who can only be loosely identified with ther person we once knew…”
                                                            THIRTY
            I would hold that to be well read a person needs on their shelf the collected works of E. M. Cioran, Witold Gombrowisz, Thomas Bernhard, Edward Dahlberg, Ernst Junger, Julian Green. MIguel de Unamuno
            All of these writers have two basic concerns summed up by Unamuno:
            ONE   “I would choose neither “the human” nor “humanity,” neither the simple adjective nor the substantivized adjective but the concrete substantive:  man, the man of flesh and blood, the man who is born, suffers, and dies--- above all the man who dies; the man who eats and drinks an plays and sleeps and thinks and loves; the man who is seen and heard...  
            TWO     “Memory is the basis of individual personality, just as tradition is the basis of collective personality of a people.  We live in memory and by memory and our spiritual life is simple the effort of our memory to persist, to transform itself into hope, the effort of our past to transform itself into our future.
            Or, maybe it is all summed up in the titles of two of Cioran’s books  THE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORN,  THE SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY.
                                                          
                                                                                             FORTY-ONE
             Now I have said it and quoted it.
             SO BE IT, again.

                                                                         ***
                                                             
                                                      WHAT IS LEFT OUT  
            I should have written that Patrick Leigh Fermor in THE BROKEN ROAD also goes to Romania, Greece and Turkey but Iwas stopped by his being in Bulgaria.  I also provided no plot summary of TRANS-ATLANTYK but here is the opening sentence:  “I feel the need to convey to my Family, to my kin and friends, this the beginning of my adventures, now ten years long, in the….’
            I do not know what is a wellrread  reader.  I could have added some more     writers who I live with on a daily basis, Celine, Mandelstam, Broch, Handke, David Jones, James Joyce, Beckett, Leopardi, James Thomson, Eliot, Bitov, Nadas… Tom Whalen, George Garrett, Lee Titus Elliott…
 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

STEPS TO LITERARY INHUMATION

      Freumbichler writes, what you are about to read is an attempt probably futile to escape the fate explained by the title, but as it would seem the author of this blog is teetering as is often said on the edge of passing into another state though readers of the books of Thomas Bernhard are familiar to similar situations and Freumbichler writing--- as he addresses himself in this manner--- is no accident and while dying in 1949 it is true that  is still no reason not to hear from him since such shadows remain forever within the village limits of Patchogue.

                  
4                                        
 In 1962  my mother typed my first story WAS IT WORTH IT? since she knew how to type and I sent the story off to the Saturday Evening Post, the only magazine other than SIGN MAGAZINE  my family subscribed to.  Of course the story came back with a little printed rejection slip. 

                   5
IN 1970 I asked Lawrence Durrell if he ever thought about his future reputation and he replied, "What has posterity ever done for me?"  
      
                  6
Dalkey Archive Published two of my books: THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV and GOING TO PATCHOGUE.  Northwestern University Press did PETKOV in paperback.  
Dalkey Archive two years ago contracted to publish ST. PATRICK'S DAY Dublin 1974 but have told me it has been postponed.  So one can say it forthcoming... I hope, still.

                   7  
Over the years Richard Seaver, Sam Vaughan Daniel Halpern have all said nice things about manuscripts I have shown them but sadly they are not prepared to predict sufficient sales to convince whoever it is... but I have learned this is all really a matter of accident and whim and these men have not been prepared to give into my sentences in fortune telling as they have been able to do for others.  This is called spilt milk.

8
It is not unusual for writers to talk and write about being posthumous as I first heard of this from Edward Dahlberg now more than 4o years ago and have always known--- in that place--- but I have tried to hold to Durrell's comment even as he has mostly disappeared from the public world of reading...

so, here I am showing you what the backhoe reads like when it comes for the steps a writer takes to self-inhumation in the form of two letters to editors who I thought possibly powerful, possibly might be interested.  They are self-explanatory and to date come with no replies.  I did sent them by that most unconventional means possible today: the United State Postal Service so of course both letters might have been lost in the mail---though Freumbichler writes: no way can you descend to that level of stupidity

                                                                      *****

3 MARCH, 2014

Dear Kate Medina,
                   Toward the end of June 1972 you wrote me a little note after reading “A Son’s Father’s Day” in the Village Voice.  You had asked if I had anything I might show you and I think I did send along something and nothing happened as it was probably not meant to be.  Possibly, Harriet Wasserman who I had met  through Hannah Green and Sam Vaughan,  had been in touch later with you but all of that is so long ago though your little note was very important to me as a writer back then.
          You might know Dalkey Archive published two of my books: THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV and GOING TO PATCHOGUE.  PETKOV appeared and is still in paper from Northwestern University Press and PATCHOGUE was eventually finally done in paper by DA two years ago.  They have another novel ST. PATRICK’S DAY Dublin 1974 under contract but I have been told by John O’Brien that he has to postpone it into some dim future time.
          Both books were well reviewed in the New York Times (they even found Andrei Codrescu to review PETKOV) and reviews of PATCHOGUE appeared in Newsday, the Chicago Tribune, The Voice and the LA Times.  I well know that this was all another time and have seen the changes as I have reviewed and written with some frequency for all of the major newspapers here in the US and in The Guardian in London.
          The manuscript I am writing you about is JUST LIKE THAT and I have in mind a long subtitle:  A book from the Sixties of the last century: a beginning to that moment and the end with no distinction between truth and fiction.  The book concludes in the year after you wrote to me.
          The first section, a beginning, has a young man going from Dublin in the Spring of 1965 to the DDR.  The opening of the book finds two young men in bed together in Leipzig  and the question asked by the German, “Are you Jewish?” 
          Of course the place, the question and a poster noted:  HÄNDE WEG VON VIETNAM
          Barbara Probst Solomon, who I am sure you know, published the opening and concluding parts of this section in subsequent issues of her journal THE READING ROOM (2002). 
          The second part of the book:  the end of the Sixties is located on the Upper West Side and is held in place by the death of the narrator’s father Upstate while he is living on 114th Street. 
          A long section from this part was published by William O’Rourke in the Notre Dame Review in 2012 and is centered on the narrator’s relationship [what a terrible word] with Anthony Burgess and others in the bars near Columbia along with the theatrical recreations of the life and times of Charlie Manson and  the intense racial and sexual goings-on inside the Sullivanian world of those large apartments on Riverside Drive are not missed as is the nightly pilgrimage between The Gold Rail, The West End and Forlini’s along there on Broadway.  (The piece in the Notre Dame Review was listed as a notable essay in The Best Essays of 2013)
          Now the reason for this actual letter:  the manuscript exists as a manuscript.  It was typed on Word Star.  I held on to that program for the longest time.  I have partial versions in more contemporary e-forms but the complete manuscript exists as just that.
          Of late, I did have the pleasure, obscure as all such things are, of discovering that Nadine Gordimer in the 1990s had read my reviews in the LA Times and who remembered I had been in her class at Columbia and she was pleasantly surprised that I had survived my former existence.
          All of this is possibly irrelevant to the actual reading of JUST LIKE THAT.  And my most recent post at abcofreading.blogspot.com (of course the homage to Pound in the name) can serve as a sort of immediate calling card:    http://www.abcofreading.blogspot.com/2014/01/what-remains.html
          Finally, I am enclosing a photocopy of an article George Garrett asked me to do for the last yearbook of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, “A Writer’s Life.”

                                                All the best,
                                               
                                                Thomas McGonigle
                                            



                                                                     *****


5 February 2014

Dear Geraldy Howard,

At the end of 2013 we exchanged notes about Malcolm Cowley and I was pleasantly surprised to learn  you also knew him.  When I looked at the notes we exchanged I realized I had misspelled your first name and the ghost of Cowley was there again:  I was a terrible proofreader of my own work which Cowley had read down at Hollins College and he was telling me of why the first editions of Fitzgerald’s books are riddled with spelling error.  Max Perkins believed  an author knew best when it came to his own text, but he did not realize Fitzgerald was a lousy speller and contrary to what people thought  the errors in those early editions were not Scribner’s fault.
But the occasion for this letter which I am sending as a real letter is about my own work and my hope that you might be interested in reading one of my manuscripts.  I prevail upon the fact of having known of you since we were introduced or was  it only that Angela Carter at Keshkerrigan Bookstore told me of you so many years ago at her shop down there in the wilds near Chambers Street? 
You might know Dalkey Archive published two of my books  THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV and GOING TO PATCHOGUE.  PETKOV appeared also in paper from Northwestern University Press and PATCHOGUE was eventually finally done in paper by DA two years ago.  They have another novel under contract ST. PATRICK’S DAY Dublin 1974 but I have been told by John O’Brien that he has to postpone it in spite of a contract into some dim future date.
Angela must have introduced us as I published--- to this date--- the only Irish and Irish American literary journal ADRIFT and thought you had shared an interest in such and possibly in particular William Trevor... and while I was interested in Trevor Francis Stuart held my interest as did Ralph Cusack's CADENZA which lead to Gil Sorrentino and Jack O'Brien.  The small world.
          The book is JUST LIKE THAT and I have in mind a long subtitle:  A book from the so-called Sixties of the last century: a beginning to that moment and the end with no distinction between truth and fiction. 
          The first section, a beginning has a young man going from Dublin in the Spring of 1965 to the DDR.  The opening of the book finds two young men in bed together in Leipzig  and the question asked by the German, “Are you Jewish?” 
          Of course the place, the question and a poster noted:  HÄNDE WEG VON VIETNAM
          Barbara Probst Solomon published the opening and the concluding parts of this section in subsequent issues of her journal THE READING ROOM. 
          The second part of the book:  the end of the so-called Sixties is centered on the Upper  West Side and is held in place by the death of the narrator’s father Upstate while he is living on 114th Street. 
          A long section from this part was published by William O’Rourke in the Notre Dame Review in 2012 and is centered on the  narrator’s relationship [what a terrible word] with Anthony Burgess and others in the bars near Columbia along with the theatrical recreations of the life and times of Charlie Manson, the particular racial and sexual views of Johnny Green of Green County Alabama---  Green will subsequently die of AIDS, but that is another story.  Of course the Sullivanian world of those large aopartments on Riverside Drive are not missed as is the nightly pilgrimage between The Gold Rail, The West End and Forlini’s
          And now the reason for this actual letter.  The manuscript exists as a manuscript.  It was typed on Word Star.  I held on to that for the longest time.  I have partial versions in more contemporary e-forms but the complete manuscript exists as just that.
          Two editors/publishers have read versions of the manuscript, Richard Seaver and Daniel Halpern.  They both decided that they could not make money on it.  Of course I heard a version of that comment when after GOING TO PATCHOGUE came out and even with full page reviews in the Voice, in the Chicago Tribune and long articles in Newsday and the NY Times.. I was told by an agent, I can’t eat lunch off of you. 
          Of course years ago through Hannah Green I had Harriet Wasserman as an back in the early 70s when two little pieces appeared in the Village Voice, Goodbye W. H, Auden and A Son’s Father’s Day.
          So I court that terrible knife edge of age--- I remember that I even had a note from Kate Medina and Sam Vaughan…  though I hope this note is not an elaborate necrologue but as one gets older as I am sure you know…
          I used to review for Newsday, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and for the LaTimes until that paper ran finally out of money.
          Of late, I did have the pleasure, obscure as all such things are, of discovering that Nadine Gordimer had read my reviews in the LA Timea and remembered I had been in a class with her at Columbia.
          All of this is possibly irrelevant to the actual reading of JUST LIKE THAT. And my most recent post at abcofreading  (of course the name form {Pound)  can serve as a sort of immediate calling card:    http://www.abcofreading.blogspot.com/2014/01/what-remains.html
          Finally I am enclosing a photocopy of an article George Garrett asked me to do for the last yearbook of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, “A Writer’s Life.”

                                                All the best, 
                                                 Thomas McGonigle