Monday, May 12, 2008



"Frank also copies down one sentence from a piece, "The Writing Life," by Thomas McGonigle: The dead are always with us.from DOUBLE VISION by George Garrett, The University of Alabama Press, 2004.

This can serve as a preface to what follows. Of course the important detail is the publisher...


Translation has been in the news. Much of what is translated in junk. All too often the stuff is re-cycled drivel that admits in both form and content that it has been influenced by certain American writers who in turn are already second and third rate versions of in many cases foreign sources. Or the work is published to validate some progressive cause or viewpoint and then the writing is usually of a tedious realistic nature designed to teach a lesson or make us sympathetic for some new victim.

As a rule of thumb--- to fall into a cliche--- translators should avoid the new and the young for a certain period of time... all too often these young writers merely echo the newspaper headlines of the moment and simply put, there are too many works of literature that have been over-looked and which if translated will actually broaden our understanding of what literature is and what can be done beyond the dreary realism that is still the benchmark of ninety five percent of what passes for American writing.

My list of writers whose works should be published, newly translated or republished in new translations, or brought back into print if originally written in English/American must include:::: if I could, I would alter this list every time you look at it since they are listed not in any particular order and any order that is here should be read without significance:::

Louis Ferdinand Celine

Hal Bennett

Pierre Drieu La Rochelle

Juan Carlos Onetti

Georgi Ivanov

Jose Lezama Lima

Julien Gracq

Julian Rios

Julian Green

Uwe Johnson

Glenway Wescott

Robert Brasillach

Marcel Jouhandeau

Ernst Junger

Nina Berberova

Heimito Von Doderer

Edward Dahlberg

Thomas McGonigle

Francis Stuart

Robert Pinget

James Hanley

Robert Walser

Peter Handke

Thomas Bernhard

Walter Kempowski

Gerhard Roth

George Garrett

Claude Simon

Arno Schmidt

Giuseppe Berto

David Slavitt

Tom Whalen

Botho Strauss

Pati Hill

Hannah Green

Kenneth Tindall

Gil Orlovitz

Miroslav Krelza

Alberto Savinio

Hector Bianciotti

Jacques Rigaut


If a publisher came along and said what would you publish and why should I make you an editor I would answer with this list...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


IN spite of what some might think I am still caught up in books and live in a state of actual anticipation. The other day is no exception. A publicist at FSG sent an email reminding me about some book or another and I replied asking if the Roberto Bolano galleys had shown up--- FSG is publishing 2666 in November 2008--- He wrote back saying they had and he'd put them in the mail to me. I called and said could I just walk over as FSG is nearby.

The 18 blocks over there, thinking will there be that awful disappointment... which is always possible...

Next to FSG is Academy Records on 18th Street and for some reason they have a pretty good selection of VHS tapes and WEEKEND was in... for a few bucks... there is a Godard festival coming to NY in a few weeks. I had seen all the Godard films, like anyone actually alive in NY in the 60s 70s-- right down to Vladimir and Rosa--- if you want to know... but anyway up to the 8th floor and the package is waiting.

Do I open it or wait for the street? The circulation department of the New York Post shares the building with FSG and some guys from there got on and one does not want to read with strangers looking on in the intimate confines of an elevator.

So to the street and in the shade as the noise of the city counterpoints, carefully opening, avoiding the staples and then the fat galleys 898 pages: and that first line-- okay a note from the heirs as the book is posthumous then a quote from Baudelaire: An Oasis of horror in a desert of boredom.

A good sign to be sure... but the first line of the novel::: The first time that Jean-Claude Pelletier read Benno von Archimboldi was Christmas 1980, in Paris, when he was nineteen years old and studying German literature. The book in question...

I closed the galleys, carefully put them back into the envelope and walked home through Union Square knowing that I had a reason to postpone suicide for more than one day as we must always keep in mind as Cioran says each book is a postponed suicide and the comfort of knowing that a great book will be my companion for many months... even the annoying fake artists, merchants of political trivia and tourists taking pictures of each other seemed as rich a material as any scene in Chaucer... the shishkabob seller on the other side of 14th Street, the large black woman with the dollar bottles of water in front of the discount shoe store... the pretty girls going into Whole Foods thus endangering their lives because who knows what homicidal maniacs lurk in the aisles of that institution... but in my hand the package containing 2666 Roberto Bolano's last novel... the proper names approximating, the specific dates, age of the boy, the city...those very sharp hooks.

To quote blurbs from my own review of THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES that appeared in the LA Times: The Savage Detectives throws down a great clunking formal gauntlet to the reader's conventional expectations... Only time will supply the adjective great to what is a very good novel.