Diane Williams and Alain Arias-Misson read the other night at the KGB bar on East Fourth Street in the East Village.
The obscenity of naming a bar-- known for its literary evenings--- in honour of the KGB requires a trivializing sense of humour that needs to tramp over the memory of Osip Mandelstam to mention only one victim of the KGB.
In my mind I always call it the GESTAPO BAR... but no one even bothers. The millions upon millions of victims of the KGB in the hierarchy of victims in the 20th Century simply do not matter because they were the unfortunate by-product of a progressive left wing movement that made a few mistakes...
Diane Williams, the short story writer, is now published by Dalkey Archive. Listening to her read was as if I was listening to a voice from the grave: as if Gertrude Stein was reading with six feet of earth piled upon her corpse. The words have no connection to any recognizable version of human emotion. Some think this an accomplishment.
Alain Arias-Misson the other reader is the author of CONFESSIONS OF A MURDERER, RAPIST, FASCIST, BOMBER, THIEF OR A YEAR IN THE JOURNAL OF AN ORDINARY AMERICAN... A book I used to have but never read. It looked like a photo-copy of someone's journal.. the writing was designed not to be read. Arias-Misson was introduced to the audience with the assurance that he was writing a transgressive work of fiction. He read from a book just published by Dalkey Archive: Theater of Incest
One sentence made me regret I was literate, "she devoured my genitals."
I had gone to the bar to talk with John (Jack) O'Brien, founder and publisher of Dalkey Archive and The Review of Contemporary Fiction. I had not seen him in 10 years or so. We talked. I realized I missed talking and corresponding with him. Our friendship seemed now like something from the past. It has become an object to talk around and about.
HISTORIC DOCUMENTS II. The Correspondence between Thomas McGonigle and John (Jack) O'Brien.
20 July 1981
120 Thompson Street #10, NY NY 10012
Dear John O'Brien:
Thanks for the magazine subscription to Adrift and YES will come up with some about Higgins.. the challenge.. have you been in touch with Francis Stuart? 2 Highfield Park DUBLIN 14 he and Higgins used to do reviews in tandem for HIBERNIA... Stuart married the daughter of Maude Gonne lived in Germany during the war up shit's creek as a result author of BLACKLIST SECTION H he is the dean of writers at the moment in Ireland--- the voice of rebellion... in a way it would have been the perfect issue of the magazine to do the 2 of them but Eastlake is not much talked about... trouble with Higgins is that in Ireland he is not much about got his reputation abroad and lived there for so long people don't know what to make of him. Do you by chance know James Liddy, poet teaches up at University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee once put out ARENA in Dublin? I'll be writing him to see if he has any leads... Celka's name came up when James was in town in June on way to Dublin--- they had met him when they knew Dahlberg in Spain... I have also been in touch with Goytisolo in Paris because I like his writing and his anarchism and wanted him to speak at the Libertarian Book Club, the oldest anarchist group in USA founded back in the late 40's.. possibly he'll be in NYC this Fall for his new book-- though he says he doesn't know...
send 5 copies (Review of Contemporary Fiction) to NEW MORNING BOOKSTORE
169 Spring Street
NY NY 10012 Att: Ron Kolm
Ron says he'll order more when they move and I'll be keeping my eye on them did this on the way back from post officer Friday is my day to walk over to St Marks will chat with those guys then and will stop in at the Gotham tomorrow when I am on my messenger job for Maple Vail which is a book manufacturer... from absolutely cursory reading glance at Review just what we need actually designed to be read!!!
enclosed is a little piece from a long book i did ST. PATRICK'S DAY, DUBLIN, 1974 James Published it up in Milwaukee later in the book there is a tiny mention of Higgins and the Celtic Mews club which is in "Balcony" reason for that I of the novel am married to Bulgarian who worked in the club which during the way was restaurant for English language school where I taught--- very complicated will try to work that out in Piece on Higgins will write later in the week I know a man who says he is Gaddis's best friend a man Malcolm Raphael used to be bartender at the 55 now is doing legal work goes back a long way with Gaddis... do you know him or the bar?
more later...a good week to look forward to with the review in hand.
---(Aidan) Higgins. See previous annotation. BALCONY OF EUROPE, maybe his best book.
---Francis Stuart. Prolific Irish writer. Later when I asked him why he went to NAzi Germany replied, "It is the obligation of a writer to place himself in the situation of he greatest moral ambiguity possible. He published in ADRIFT one of the best summaries and attacks on the Irish short story under the title, "The Soft Center of Irish Writing" in which he compared the drivel written by Frank O'Connor etc to the mere knitting of sweaters in worn out patterns.
---Eastlake (William) author of The Bowman Family Trilogy, The Bamboo Bed, Castle Keep
---James Liddy poet and editor of ARENA, the best short lived literray magazine to be published in Ireland in the latter part of the 20th Century. He paid me four guineas for a four line poem. I had to buy a round of drinks for a circle of writers in O'Dwyers that Spring of 1965 in Dublin. The poem was "Short Thought on Death." In the circle of drinkers were Brian Lynch, Micheal Hartnett, Brian Higgins, Anthony Cronin, Leland Bardwell...and there were others...
---ST PATRICK'S DAY DUBLIN, 1974 is a long novel by Thomas McGonigle. Sections appeared in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, in The Gorey Detail, a seminal journal from Ireland. The book was to have been published by Dalkey Archive but something happened. Many letters will discuss this book and yet the mystery is still there: why has it not appeared.
---Dahlberg (Edward) BECAUSE I WAS FLESH is one of the very best American autobiographies or memoirs. It can easily sit on the same shelf with the great autobiographical books of Julian Green. In ARENA a few sentences among more from Edward Dahlberg, "Solitude is the virulent disease of our century A man will sit the whole day in his room and gnaw the walls that inter him, and the draperies that shroud his light rather than risk a single encounter."
---Cela (Camilo Jose) you can now finally read a newly translated book, CHRIST VERSUS ARIZONA (Dalkey Archive), "I know they say I 've got bugs growing on my body, fleas, lice, crabs, snails, no, but if you want I'll wash myself really clean and put on my other shirt, lots of people would like my Sunday shirt for a shroad..."
---Goytisolo (Juan) author of COUNT JULIAN, JUAN THE LANDLESS... and more recently sadly some trivial books celebrating homosexual Arabic culture--- Jean Genet a far far better writer took pleasure in tormenting him, long ago.
---New Morning Bookstore has been described.
---Ron Kolm a poet, bookstore manager for many years. Famous for publishing the same poem Suburban Ambush in over a hundred little magazines. Published a few slides from Thomas McGonigle's IN PATCHOGUE in an anthology, The Low Tech Manual.
---Gotham Book Mart, a once important bookstore on West 47th street. Famous for never paying its bills, stiffing in particular small literary presses.
---Maple Vail Book Manufacturing Company. THOMAS McGONIGLE worked for more than 20 years as messenger forthis company out of an office on Fifth Avenue. Maple Vail manufactures at two plants the actual books for many major publishers. A long book EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS was written by McGonigle in part involved with his job... another item in a litany of failure and isolation
---Malcolm Raphael. A bartender at The 55, the only straight bar on Christopher Street in the 1970s. One of his wivs was seduced by Lucien Freud. The 55 was one of the 3 memorable bars along with the 602 Club in Madison, Wisconsin and The French Pub in London that was often a pilgrimage route for "those in the know." Champagne drinking with Francis Bacon, the painter, was indulged in by Thomas McGonigle in the French Pub in those years... in the 602 Club far more sordid activities were under-taken... Malcom was famous for getting distracted from his duty of serving up the drinks at the cocktail hour that lasted from 1PM until 9PM at The 55.
---William Gaddis famous for The Recognitions but his best book is JR.
120 Thompson Street #10
NY NY 10012
Dear John O'Brien
talked to people at Gotham and St. Marks bookstore they both said they will be ordering if you don't hear from in 2 weeks let me know and I'll get on their case
have you written to Books & Co. up on Madison Ave. that is the other classy place and should be interested in review
All the best
---Books & Co. an important bookstore for a time next to the Whitney Museum on Madison Avenue in New York City. Owned by a heir to the IBM fortune. Long gone now.
Famous for the wall of books: the single most important acknowledgment of a writer's place in the world of literature in the 1980s, early 90s. If an author's books were not on the wall that person did not exist as a writer. There was also a series of landmark readings. Madison Smart Bell read with THOMAS MCGONIGLE once and they were introduced by HANNAH GREEN, author of the visionary, harsh and delicate DEAD OF THE HOUSE