Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Yesterday during lunch with Jon Rabinowitz, founder of Turtle Point Press, he mentioned he was  reading Peter Taylor.  I suggested he might be interested in George Garrett’s DOUBLE VISION  as it concerns itself with Peter Taylor who in both imagination and in reality had been a next door neighbor of both the real and the fictionalized George Garrett.  It was last of Garrett’s novels to be published and was not reviewed in the New York Times or in many other places… it is one of his very best and easily joins THE DEATH OF THE FOX, POISON PEN and the short story Wreath for Garibaldi. 
I was introduced to Garrett by Chad Walsh in 1969  who suggested I go to Hollins College as George was there and in turn Garrett welcomed me into the MA program and sent me a year later via a phone call to Frank MacShane at the Writing Division of the School of the Arts at Columbia… Garrett made it financially possible for me to come to the University of Tennessee celebration of his life and work, well knowing as he told me that it was all a trial run for their hopes to bring Cormac McCarthy to that place… and so while they promised to publish a book commemorating this event of course that never came to fruition as the Garrett festival failed in its true intention to lure McCarthy there… something Garrett knew would be the result but to enjoy seeing and hearing all those who had been part of his life… and while I didn’t see him much in the following years I did talk with him just before his death when I was up in Massachusetts visiting my son, a student at the Groton School, and opening the pages of DOUBLE VISION  I know that on page 153:  “Frank also copies down one sentence from a piece, “The Writing Life,” by Thomas McGonigle: The dead are always with us.
                  And while I have published two books and a third on the way from Notre Dame…this quotation and being quoted in Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek stake a miniscule and probably laughable point of culpable pride.
ONE  from the 25 March, 2016 TLS:  Geoffrey Hill writes, “In our present condition of oligarchic democracy…”  
TWO   In the WSJ for 1 April, 2016 it is stated that 95% of college professors in the humanities are self-identified as left of center.
There you have the US and the UK in 2016.  
Preface Two:

Books I am reading and books I think everyone should read or at least look into:
SEVEN SEVEN….. THE HATRED OF MUSIC  by Pascal Quiginard.  (Yale University Press.)   A book of fragments, reflections… the huge mistake of listening to music, all music, from a man who was a classical musician, who organized a major festival of baroque opera… a life long listener who stops…  understanding we are surrounded by noise from the time in the womb, noise we have no control over… he has a very disturbing reflection on the use of music in the Nazi murder camps where the murders were carried out to a soundtrack of the very best of classical music…
Quiginard joins at least in my mind Robert Calasso and E.M. Cioran as being the three essential thinkers of the current moment.  They are the only individuals who seem to be able to think, to be suggestive, to warn, to be clearing a way for thinking to continue.  Tied to no dreary political party, no theory, to agenda… with an absence of jargon and access to all the major world languages : ancient and modern…
Survivors of the so-called Sixties remember::: :the beating to death of a Black man by the Hells Angels who were guarding a Rolling Stones concert at Altamont as the band played on…
::: remember Charlie Manson took direction from the Beatles’ White Album when he sent those people out to do some carving in the garbage dumps as he sang on an album called LIE… just another guy wanting to play music… right in there with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Doris Day’s son…
ah, the days of LSD and music…
EIGHT EIGHT…   I have been reading Thomas Wolfe again as I did so long ago when I read my first novel, his first novel LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL… a book I came to on my own, the only novel I had read before going to college… but this time YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN… as I have thought to describe a party I was recently to and remembered that Wolfe had a very memorable party scene in this his last novel.  What I had lost touch with was Wolfe’s ability to inhabit lives other than his own and his description of the rich remains as essential today as ever… and it is no wonder that Wolfe was one of the first American writers that both Thomas Bernhard and Peter Handke turned to… something little known or appreciated as Wolfe’s books were forced to be forgotten by the creative writing industry in the US…
NINE NINE….I have also been reading  I the Supreme by August Roa Bastos.  The single best description of “a leader” and the immediate delusion that inhabits such a person.  Told in a startling original manner with no consistent timeless voice, no attempt at re-creation, no paying homage to the usual blandishments of suspense and plot.  A sole reliance on the exact moment each sentence is read in order to create the person of Franca… who becomes--- because of how carefully the centering of the book upon Franca---  every nasty leader along with usual bunch of the so-called good guys… to remember a leader is to always dip your fingers in the blood or another or the many…  in the same way that Joyce in Ulysses tries to describe a conversation between a father and son that in reality can never be, no matter how willing or how hopeful the parties might be… by sending Stephen and Leopold out to eventually meet… on the sure conveyor belt to  six feet under…
TEN TEN…I AM TRYING TO READ Laszlo Krasnahorkai, DESTRUCTION AND SORROW BENEATH THE HEAVENS.. . (Seagull Books) but it reminds me of SOUL MOUNTAIN by Gao Xingjian, the Chinese Nobel prize winner and which in turn reminded me that Jack Kerouac’s BIG SUR  or THE DHARMA BUMS which were both superior to Xingjian and I would suggest that the Chinese guy was trying to be Kerouac and while pretty good, fails--- at least for me—as I have been on that journey and to that place before with Jack Kerouac. 
ELEVEN ELEVEN…And sadly I was defeated by Klaus Hoffer’s AMONG THE BIERESCH (Seagull Books)  in which a young Austrian writer tries to imagine the life and culture of an obscure part of what was the old Austro-Hungarian empire…which seemed a not very interesting project though it is said to be popular in Germany… because in English we are fortunate to have a translation told very much from within the imagine setting that Hoffer is trying to urge into being…in the form of Gyula Illyes’s PEOPLE OF THE PUSZTA…first published in 1936 but available in English since 1967…
(an over-looked New Directions book, THE SINISTRA ZONE  by Adam Bodor  some years ago took us to one of these obscure border regions but some of us had read his THE EUPHRATES AT BABYLON…)
The only reason I knew about the Hoffer book is that it was translated by Isabel Fargo Cole whose essential translated version of “I” by Wolfgang Hilbig (SEAGULL BOOKS) and the book of stories THE SLEEP OF THE RIGHTEOUS also by Hilbig introduced me to finally a German language writer one could read after reading Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, Ernst Junger, Uwe Johnson, Ingeborg Bachmann…to lay out some names for context… and Hilbig lead to re-reading his wife, Natascha Wodin whose THE INTERPRETER was published in English as long ago as 1983 to no reviews…and ONCE I LIVED         from Serpents Tale… also not widely reviewed but if I had the power I would link her to Jean Rhys… in her ability to present the interior of her women in such a manner that individualizes them though they are hardly the positive roll models women have been cajoled into providing and happily do all the way to the bank and irrelevance… How these two people could be together… not having the German I cant answer that.. as Hilbig in “I” has created the perfect example of  a man who is inside the security apparatus of the DDR…and really inside every other apparatus including the American versions  which have sadly been endlessly romanticized by American writers…
Lastly I should have written about ATLAS OF AN ANXIOUS MAN by Christoph Ranmayr (Seagull Books) as I had long ago reviewed his THE TERRORS OF ICE AND DARKNESS… but that review is not available as I wrote it for Newsday day when that was a very good newspaper for books… The ATLAS is a collection of 70 some destinations but I have not ventured into it but not from laziness instead sheer jealousy--- I guess they do things differently in Austria and German where a good writer—on the basis of  his novel THE TERRORS OF ICE AND DARKNESS and THE LAST WORLD--- gets paid to travel…
Such is a moment and then a PS.
THE RECENT DEATH OF A GREAT WRITER…  sometimes the Nobel gets it right as with Claude Simon and I guess we can be happy that Patrick Modiano  got it recently—better him than any of the awful American prospects, Roth Delillo, Oates..who else…

Book review: 'Fiasco' by Imre Kertész
The second book of the trilogy about a young boy who survives Nazi concentration camps.
June 14, 2011|By Thomas McGonigle | Special to the Los Angeles Times


In 1944, a 14-year-old boy, future novelist Imre Kertész, was rounded up while on an excursion in the countryside near Budapest and sent to Auschwitz. And then to Buchenwald. Surviving the camps and returning to Budapest, he was asked, simply, by his surviving family and friends, "Where have you been?"
In his work, Kertész reflects on how quickly he discovered that no one really wanted to know what he had experienced. And yet, Kertész's entire literary life has been an attempt at answering that simple question in the trilogy of novels, "Fatelessness," "Fiasco" and "Kaddish for an Unborn Child" — an attempt that earned him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002. His other books describe in particular detail his dreary survival under the communism in Hungary.
Finally published in an English translation, "Fiasco" is actually the middle book of the trilogy and describes, in the opening third, the fictionalized experiences Kertész must have had in writing "Fatelessness" — having it rejected by a publisher as being unsuitable for publication. "As I now see clearly, to write a novel means to write for others — among others, for those who reject one," he muses. The later parts of "Fiasco" follow a writer very much like Kertész who is going about his life in the tediously circumscribed environment of communist Hungary.
         Although "Fiasco" is outwardly a little off-putting — in Kertész's style, the reader encounters parenthesis upon parenthesis — the writer also succinctly explains how he could write about his awful experiences as a child that he described in "Fatelessness" and still remain faithful to his 14-year-old self's search for adventure and beauty amid the horror of the concentration camps.
Now, in translator Tim Wilkinson's handling, "Fiasco" completes the trilogy for English readers, a trilogy that is one of the best renderings of what it must have been like to survive a Nazi murder camp. As Kertész writes in "Fiasco," he could not avoid a responsibility "to transmit, in my own way, according to my own lights; to transmit the material that was possible for me, my own material, myself.… however, there was one thing that, perhaps naturally enough, I did not think of: we are never capable of interpreting for ourselves. I was taken to Auschwitz not by the train in the novel but by a real one."


Probably this is all a self-indictment for… knowing, I am about to give birth astride a grave in Beckett’s phrase… but then every book is that.

Friday, March 11, 2016


Warning: some of this might read like I am voting the graveyard...

TWO    “Helpless as a deck of cards,”  from a song by John Cale, who I have not listened to for years… but in Hobo Sapiens  closest among the living we  get to the sibyl who was Nico..
THREE    Going over the copy-editing for ST PATRICK’S DAY another day in Dublin which University of Notre Dame Press will publish in the Fall.  I have been reading some of the these pages since 1982 when prepared slides appeared in the Review of Contemporary Fiction. 
THREE  as I am reading the proofs  I test my prose against Pascal Quiginard’s THE HATRED OF MUSIC and I THE SUPREME by Augusto Roa Bastos… and I keep on with reading my own prose and can hear Edward Dahlberg annoyed with me and will Goytisolo go toward the book as his friend Julian Rios has read the manuscript and linked me to Fred Exley… too bad Carlos Fuentes is dead and having been a good friend of Julian might have picked up the book and remembered our conversation too many years ago when we talked in the Harvard Club for a Newsday interview/profile and our finding we both had Nelida Pinon as a friend of long standing=== and the same with the shade of Harold Brodkey who wanted us to be friends and who admired my earlier books, as I held him justly important and have never denied him as James Wood has done, it seems: Brodkey becoming a non-person to Woods, it seems as he marched through the American institutions  that could not make room for Brodkey… and both Julian Green and Francis Stuart are dead so can’t be called into witness my book…. And for that matter the other Julian--- Gracq--- is also dead... so one living Julian is sufficient… and more than enough as I see my book eventually on his shelves with the Arno Schmidt, the beautiful old Everyman many volume edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy  over next to the many books of Hans Henny John  but at least I have two of Jahnn’s books  The Ship (and is there a better title)  THE LIVING ARE FEW, THE DEAD MANY…  I wish I could say I saw that Rios had on his shelf two defining books: I THE SUPREME by Augusto Roa Bastos and A BRIEF LIFE by Juan Carlos Onetti…

EIGHT  But  I also wanted to mention that in Los Angeles Douglas Messerli is making a record--- published by Green Integer--- of our days and while the days are his: in the form of individual essays based on the music he hears, the poetry and fiction he reads and the movies and plays he sees, he has shaped into  annual books of his writings in these fields --- at the moment under the title: MY YEAR 2002, 2003,2004,2006, 2007, 2008--- fat volumes each--- however book by book he opens the front against forgetfulness and unique in American letters to be sure—a person who does not forget--- an attempt to hold in the present what should not be forgotten and because of this---unlike books focused on politicians and their followers--- Messerli’s book will never date, even if some of his enthusiasms might possibly be dimmed in the future his endeavor will be valued as he is  creating a record of what is to be remembered and shaping what will be created in the future as whatever is new is never created from nothing…

Sunday, January 10, 2016


1.              From The Wall Street Journal:  Nobody needs to buy a book,” says Jane Friedman, CEO of Open Road, which promotes its titles via  “You have to make it appealing, and one of the best ways to do that is price.”
2.           A writing Life, again, as I had written such a life for the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook of 2002, at the invitation of George Garrett, now dead, as soon I will be, no doubt, the only fate we can  be sure of.
BUT IN THE MIDST OF THIS SOME BOOKS THAT SEEM TO BE ALIVE FOR ME IN THE MOMENT…. The year of books for me: Wolfgang Hilbig’s “I” published by Seagull Books but the absence of any new books of translations of Thomas Bernhard was again a lost year though Douglas Robertson  at is making available unauthorized translations of TB and I have enjoyed the letters of TB to his publisher and a translation of UNGENACH and while not at the level of CORRECTION of EXTINCTION … still takes us to GARGOYLES of fond memory.  In so many ways Thomas Bernhard and Louis Ferdinand Celine… make remote every contemporary American writer… none that I know of come close to these two and I include myself in this… yet the writing continues as does the reading.

 I have finally discovered or renewed my acquaintance with Elemire Zolla whose THE ECLIPSE OF THE INTELLECTUAL has now been joined by THE WRITER AND THE SHAMAN  A Morphology of the American Indian because to go west as I am doing this month is to always go toward the American Indian…  which is probably of the higher sort of cliché…D.H. LAWRENCE… CAMILO JOSE CELA, even J.M.G. LeCLezio---all of the more famous… The American Indian is both always present and always absent…

(The phrase Native American  has a slight condescending tone to it: anything that is official academic speak is patronizing in some offensive way…
      For me the best novel about the American West remains Cela’s CHRIST VERSUS ARIZONA… none other comes close sadly, not even William Eastlake or LeClezio’s books who at least for me lost his way after TERRA AMATA…but I must not know what I am talking about as he did not get the Nobel Prize for TERRA AMATA but for what I thought the wrong turn…
          YET, Patrick Modiano is a worthy Nobel Prize winner and we are blessed with many of his books into English:  OUT OF THE DARK which moves from Paris to London in the 60s reverberated for me as he was able to describe at least in the London part of the book the world I knew there and in Dublin; the casual meetings with the rich, the famous, people in on something or other and open to meeting people like his narrator and I so identify with that narrator… it is embarrassing in some way… and my ST PATRICK’S DAY when it appears might be another proof via the descriptions of London and Dublin and dare I say New York City… a mingling among. a messing about with… now no longer possible for too many sad and obvious reasons.  Here is a bit from Modiano describing one of those typical figures who moved through our lives in retrospect, dramatically, reflectively and as the real cliché word would have it: unforgettable until of course forgotten but suddenly remembered by a McGonigle or here by Modiano: 
“He kept girls much younger than he was, and he put them up in apartments like the one in Chepstows (sic. There is no S) Villas.  He came to see them in the afternoon, and, without undressing, with no preliminaries, ordering them to turn their back to him, he took them very quickly, as coldly and mechanically as if he was brushing his teeth.  Then he would play a game of chess with them on a little chessboard he always carried with him in his black suitcase.
             NOTE: my wife as a 15 year old girl was living in Chepstow Villas many years later in the Estonian Center attached in some way to the Estonian Embassy, a legacy of unrecognized conquest of Estonia by the Soviet Union following World War Two, with her mother when a call came announcing the death of her father back in the USA where he was an itinerant Lutheran minister attending to the needs one of his congregations in Baltimore to which he traveled from their home in Edison, New Jersey, twice a month…
           and I too walked by that street,  year after year, when I would  go in January to London to visit the Oldfields who lived in Ladbroke Grove but to walk by this street and then along the Portobello Road always remembering the upstairs flat where I stayed when I  had come over from Dublin to go to a ball at Clivden... though Profumo and poor Christine Keeler were but a scent in the swimming pool where I went swimming with Antonia Peck, now dead, a suicide--- and Caroline Fleming  Bowder who wrote two novels and now writes plays which seem to be popular about people afflicted by  terrible diseases …
2.     My two books remain in print: THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV (In paper from Northwestern University Press/hardcover  from Dalkey Archive) and GOING TO PATCHOGUE (In paper and hardcover from Dalkey Archive).  I am not fully sure of their actual availability from Dalkey Archive as I have had no accounting from them for many years but they remain in printed and listed on the Dalkey Archive web page.
3.     In the Fall of 2016 the University of Notre Dame Press is scheduled to publish my ST. PATRICK’S DAY (another day in Dublin).   Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Julian Rios and James McCourt have supplied blurbs for the book and the book has been awarded the Notre Dame Review Prize. 
            I will believe this when I have the actual book in hand.  A contract has been signed.  The prize money has been received and the check did not bounce… ($1000).  There was no actual advance for the book and it would take hundred of thousands copies sold before I would have enough money to say get a plane ticket to Dublin.  This is the reality of publication in the real world outside the fantasy world of gossip columns in the pages of Vanity Fair…
I am not complaining but the sourness is evident XXXXXX xxxxxxxxxxxxxx  [[[[I moved a section from here to the end of the text so as to not confuse the reader--- few as they  may be----  as I do not want to dismissed as supping solely upon sour grapes]]]] xxxxxxxxxx

I am glad that Dalkey Archive has survived the severing of its ties to the University of Illinois and is now located in Texas with an office in Dublin.  While no longer distributed by Columbia University Press… Dalkey Archive books are available from Amazon, though not as easily accessible in the usual books stores as their current distributor is rather obscure.
And I have continued to write and have if anyone is interested  a few manuscripts that could and should be published: 
I am writing        WESLEY HE IS ALMOST DEAD
                           DIPTYCH BEFORE DYING.
YEARS AGO back when editors read books, read magazines and newspapers  I had two letters from editors after I published two stories in the VILLAGE VOICE  a son’s father’s day and Goodbye W.H.Auden  One of those editors Kate Medina was already a prominent editor and she continues on in publishing…
For years and years I have published hundreds of reviews in the Washington Post, New York Newsday, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times… and have never once received a note from any editor of any sort enquiring after my so-called literary work… not even after both books were reviewed in the New York Times and Going to Patchogue was even the subject of feature stories in both the New York Times and Newsday…
Of course there is background

                                WHEN AT COLUMBIA in 1972  Nadine Gordimer taught at the School of the Arts:
"The natural writer's magic could be honed by a creative writing course, but never created. "Although deadly serious about his desire to write," she (NADINE GORDIMER) commented on student Thomas McGonigle, "he also has a an equally deadly facility." But she was delighted to be proven wrong on him when decades later, she began to notice and enjoy McGonigle's essays in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. [from NO COLD KITCHEN, A Biography of Nadine Gordimer by Ronald Suresh Roberts]             
                And then to really prove my own case I decided to put up what I have been working on as a way to avoid going back to finish EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS, what might me my last book, a journey about Bulgaria, but to avoid that I have been writing out little voyages of going to Newfoundland and Mexico City with my father in 1973 after my mother died and this lead to what was here on the blog recently OVERLOOKED OBITUARY

FINALLY:  If you want to read the self-censored section please write to me and I will send it as a private communication: