Thursday, November 27, 2008



With a certain amount of moaning about thinking there was no one who could read my new writing with an eye to publishing it but always remembering Richard M. Elman in 1971 pronouncing: there are no undiscovered geniuses in New York and remembering even then thinking how wrong he was and surely he was saying this to be provocative though as the years went on I was of course really aware of many undiscovered great writers and the accidents of their obscurity...


Not totally closed down, but pretty close to it, I still read the newspapers--- kept up as they say--- but dreading discovering a name with whom I might have something in common and dis-regarding the memory of the agent who said: I can't eat lunch off of you and the probable futility of approaching... the initial establishing of credentials, the asking to be read, the sending of the manuscript and then the waiting with the sure knowledge, though drawn from the actual experience of publishing my two books, THE CORPSE DREAM OF. N. PETKOV and GOING TO PATCHOGUE (Dalkey Archive), that if an editor does not get back to you within a week there is really very very little chance they will be interested because by then they will have forgotten why they asked to see the manuscript and it will just be another thing on a pile that has to be gotten through in some fashion


Could be the season but I was taken by a profile of Carrie Kania in the New York Observer and how she had re-vitalized Harper Collins' paper line and in the profile it had talked about her growing up in Wisconsin, of having been on the outside in Milwaukee during the 80s and her coming to New York to be in publishing and how she had learned of the power of books published by a certain imprint. She mentioned Grove's Black Cat and IT IS right there I probably said to myself, well she is young and yet that was how I had learned to read by trusting the New Direction imprint and the Grove Press imprint and had been published by Dalkey Archive which was inspired by those presses.


I liked her emphasis in the profile on paperback originals and the possibility that they represented in terms of not a lot of money invested and their availability because most people no longer bought hardcover books...


So I was composing a letter in my head to Carrie Kania and it would have begun by saying I used to visit Milwaukee in the early 80s and into the 90s to visit with James Liddy who I had first met in Dublin in 1964 and who now presided at Axel's Tavern, taught a very popular course at UWM on the Beats and who was spooked by the reality of Jeff Dahmer, the cannibal, and knowing one or two young men who had been killed by that guy... and I would have said my parents had died in exile in Menasha, Wisconsin,far from Patchogue


And while all the writers she was publishing as originals were far younger than me I did have a very good book on the so-called 60s A BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING and AN END OF THE END...


Right here I was thinking why would someone who was really plugged into the present moment be interested in such a book?

Well, just in the talking about her own past Kania was not a total creature of the present moment and surely realized that without some knowing of what had happened...

But how was I to describe my own book that neatly contained that over-talked about moment but this time from a young man going off to East Germany from Ireland in 1965 discovering the Vietnam war, the bed of a young man.. the echoes of all that was surely coming even then and how brief it would all be... the coming back and so the necessary end of that time now on the Upper West Side in 1971-72 when people were re-enacting as theatre that iconic figure Charles Manson as they were being sneered at by Anthony Burgess who had seen it all so well... even as the weird sex lives of the Sullivanians and the...

and while the opening and last chapters of the first part of this book had been published by Barbara Probst Solomon in The Reading room I could not expect Carrie Kania to know who Solomon was or to remember that I had read at the KGB bar and I was going to say of course I had read there...


And to try Carrie Kania's patience I would ask if she had has been reading about the recent gang killing in Patchogue when a gang of white and black kids went out looking to kill a Mexican and ended up killing an Ecuadorian as I had published only in hardcover with Dalkey Archive GOING TO PATCHOGUE which if anyone cared is the only book to explain why such things happen... and while reviewed across the country NYTIMES, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, LATIMES, full pages in The VILLAGE VOICE and NEWSDAY... now it still languished only in hardcover


But I knew I was then venturing to the edge of looniness as no editor really wants to know all this, but I guess though one never knows...


SO I thought to write this as an example of how writers stew stew and toll beads of futility though in my case by reviewing with some frequency for the LA Times and in years gone by for the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and doing interviews for Newsday and The Guardian in London I would not be talking about A BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING and AN END OF THE END if I did not believe it was literature and deserved to be read, could hold its own against those writers I had reviewed, Bernhard, Bolano, Cela, Celine, Kerouac, Cioran, Green... since it did not just re-package the so-called 60s but tried to find a form that... and I knew one of the reasons those kids went looking to kill in Patchogue is that no one had ever taken the time to write of those lives without the dreary condescending tone of outraged journalists and that Ecuadorian man would be buried as just a victim as surely as the 60s were buried in the tawdry familiarity of "what everyone knows." and while I had not much faith in my own self I did know that A BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING and AN END OF THE END was now distant enough from myself to be the final real word on the so-called 60s and GOING TO PATCHOGUE told a story and might just force a little a moment of hesitation as people rushed passed Patchogue on the way to the Hamptons or Fire Island...


The picture of Carrie Kania illustrating the profile shows her reading a book DIRTY, NASTY BAD, BAD THINGS. I don't have a clue what that book might be. I guess I should have gone to Amazon but I just have to walk out of the door down here on East First Street... walk by the Catholic Worker as the guys line up in the morning...


I am really here. I wonder if Carrie Kania...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


In this coming Sunday's New York Times Book Review (November 30) Newsweek hack David Gates gives Toni Morrison's new novel A MERCY a black kiss.

The photograph of Morrison with bright light shining upon her face reminds one that surely BO will be inviting her to his inauguration to read as JFK invited a dottering Robert Frost.

Of course informed observers have reported that Morrison will receive her second Nobel Prize for literature next year since the Swedish Academy wishes to overcome its inherent racist attitudes as expressed in having only given her one Nobel Prize thus allowing people to compare her to Pearl Buck, the writer most people associate her name with when commenting on Morrison's first Nobel Prize.

Friday, November 21, 2008


A collage to help me forget the futility of writing since each day is spent, hour by hour, consciously trying to forget that writing is futile and in my ignorance of not knowing a single publisher who might be capable of publishing my new books, sadly, and since Heidegger mentions that one of the aspects of the activity called writing is based upon "conversation" act of writing is complete until it has been read by someone other than the writer...


A quote from what is probably the best literature site in the world:

Frankfurter Rundschau 18.11.2008

The poet Olga Martynova writes about Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and Varlam Shalamov and recounts a memorable decision that Georgi Vladimov had to make as editor of the periodical Novyi Mir. He could only publish one text about the Gulag, and had to decide between Solzhenitsyn's "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" or Shalamov's "Tales from Kolyma": "'You see' Tvardovski admitted, 'Shalamov might be the better writer. But' – and here the hidden mechanisms started to kick in - 'Solzhenitsyn's novel can be published in one go. Even if the censors tear it to bits, it will at least remain whole as a work. But with Shalamov's short stories, the censors would simply remove the best ones and the rest would perish.' And so it was ultimately down to censorship that Alexander Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel prize, went into exile, and taught mankind, and the Russian people in particular, 'not to live a lie'. While Shalamov, who was not allowed to publish a single paragraph in Russia during his lifetime, died bitter, sick and lonely in 1982."

One hopes that everyone would have read the KOLYMA TALES by Varlam Shalamov but I well understand this is probably not possible as it is the grimmest book ever written and its obscurity is testament to its power. Only A TESTIMONY by Alatoly Marachenko comes close. People have been stuffed with horror by the current and recent focus upon the Nazi killing machine, so stuffed is the public that there is little room for any other victims...


To try to outlive the awfulness one can end up reading collections of letters in which one discovers comments about people one has known and well liked:

WORDS IN AIR The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell sent me to the index and NELIDA PINON but before I quote I opened again THE TRIQUARTERLY ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY LATIN AMERICAN LITERATURE, published by E.P. Dutton-- does anyone remember when that was a real and important publisher?--- and there is an inscription to me from Nelia prefacing her story "Brief Flower": TO DEAR THOMAS NOT A BRIEF AFFECTION BUT A LONG ONE I HOPE. Nelida Pinon New York 1971. I had met Nelida through Hannah Green and that year Nelida was living in a bare apartment in Brooklyn with a young elegant protege...this time in America, Nelida told me, she was not meeting famous people. In a previous visit he had met famous people. Updike had been warm and hospitable and a meeting with Philip Roth in a low bar on Eighth Street in Manhattan had been very disturbing as he felt called upon to make an advance on her and at the same time telling her, bragging almost, that this was his year to make a million dollars as had Bellow and Styron in previous years... and it is what he thought he deserved, she said.

Nelida Pinon no longer much travels to the Unites States. She reported on a later visit when she discovered universities in America are of no real importance and what happens in them seems to have very little impact on the country as a whole in spite of most academics' inflated sense of self importance. She learned this when she was invited to a big conference at Duke University and during that time she had the occasion to watch the local news reports and never once did any of them ever report on the conference which had brought writers and intellectuals from all over the world to discuss...

I do remember her talking about Lowell and his mental breakdown... but in the letters Nelida's affection for both Lowell and Bishop seems...

Bishop writes on September 21 1962, "Nelida has been here once to talk the higher Portugese with me and I think she will come now twice a week."

And then on November 7, 1962, "That girl Nelida came to call--- with a poet friend---pretty awful--- the Teasdale school, I think. They treat me as if I were 100--- help me up steps,etc! I hate lack of respect--- hate respect--- never pleased, I guess."

On December 24 from Lowell, "They (the Fairfield Foundation) also might be able to finance a trip by Nelida to New York. She might get a Ford if you and I and Keith sponsored her. I think she would have to apply first."

On January 8, 1963 from Bishop, "I don't want to mean-- but I don't think Nelida would be a good person unless there are fellowships to spare. Her novel is so bad, really. She is nice, personally, but arty and pretentious. I could have told you this that first time I met her, out of my superior knowledge of the language and the customs, but for some reason I was being discreet... maybe Nelida will learn. Clarice suffers the same kind of datedness provincialism, etc-- but she really has talent..."


Edward M. Burns has just published with UCD Press in Dublin: A PASSION FOR JOYCE. The Letters of Hugh Kenner and Adalyne Glasheen. Kenner writes to Glasheen that, "DENIS DONOGHUE is not one to bury himself in a magnum opus, spending years away from the gratifications of celebrity continually conferred and renewed... Donoghue is an articulate ass."

The magnum opus was a biography of W.B. Yeats. Over the years Kenner and Donoghue had run into each other in reviews of each other's work. And I remember Donoghue in 1966 in the UCD Kevin Barry Room I think it was--- I might have the wrong room--- mentioning that the problem with Kenner was that he had no voice of his own. When he writes of Joyce he sounds like Joyce, like Beckett when writing about Beckett, when writing about Wyndham Lewis, Lewis...

As we all know, Kenner left really only one solid important book THE POUND AGE and it is a model of critical writing. DENIS DONOGHUE has written one of the greatest memoirs in WARRENPOINT and it easily holds its own in the company of such books as MANHOOD by Michel Leiris, BLACKLIST SECTION H by Francis Stuart, LITTLE SAINT by Hannah Green and A TRIP TO KLAGENFURT In the Footsteps of Ingeborg Bachmann by Uwe Johnson.


And why not: the best book of 2008. ON PAIN by ERNST JUNGER just published by TELOS PRESS:

There are several great and unalterable dimensions that show a man's stature. Pain is one of them. It is the most difficult in a series of trials one is accustomed to call life... Tell me your relation to pain, and I will tell you who you are!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CHRIST VERSUS ARIZONA by CAMILO JOSE CELA: the perfect book for this moment or any moment

For the last year or so, midst other readings and writings, I have been reading CHRIST VERSUS ARIZONA by Camilo Jose Cela (Dalkey Archive). It is the perfect book for this exhilarating or gloomy moment, as the case might be. Or it is for any other time.

In my mind it shoves over a little Celine's JOURNEY TO THE END OF NIGHT.

CHRIST VERSUS ARIZONA is both very hard and incredibly easy to describe. On one level it is 261 pages being told by, "My name is Wendell Espana, Wendell Liverpool Espana, or maybe it isn't Espana but Span or Aspen, I've never found out for sure, I've never seen it written down..."

The book goes on for those 261 pages without a period. It is vaguely centered on Tombstone or Tomiston the most notorious town in Arizona and upon the famous gunfight at the OK Corral. But as there are at least a hundred different versions of that gunfight in reality--- I might be under counting--- these are just two of hundreds of places and events mentioned in the book...

Cela through Wendell Liverpool Espana has created the great necessary epic of Arizona and by implication the West. He never falls into a dreary realism which attempts to describe the psychologies of any of the people he mentions or takes the time to tease out a dreary plot of conflict and either resolved or un-resolved resolution... he counter-points a vast array of "characters" with the constant refrain from the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary... and while it is easy to lose track of these characters they gradually inhabit your imagination and while some appear and re-appear you are gradually brought into this familiar yet mysterious world that seems as timeless as that created by Rabelais or Dante, forsaking always the temptation to fantasy or invention. My own GOING TO PATCHOGUE is a genuine companion to CHRIST VERSUS ARIZONA

In homage to the last few days (early November 2008) I thought to share some selected lines from Cela's book and telling you these should give you a very good idea as to why I put this book on the top of what everyone should be reading. I have not cited any of the famous Earps who are mentioned of course in passing ...

It is all an eerie counterpoint to the shrieking political celebrations going on beyond my windows here on East First Street in Manhattan still at 2PM on the day after...


...there's a lot of loneliness around here, and rosemary grass is used to fix up vaginas, to fake virginities, and my friend and I still have two steps to go, drinking beer and pissing on the Chinaman's door...


...she gets her mouth of your asshole puts in her tongue a little and sucks hard, like a vacuum, it's called the "black kiss" and it was invented by Bonne Mere Mauricette, a madam from Napoleonville, near New Orleans, my mother does it to anyone who pays for it, I'm exempt, she doesn't charge me for it...

3 you know if it's true that they instituted proceedings against Christ in Arizona?, no, no I don't know, nobody can take Christ to court because he's God and God always wins, God can work miracles and change a woman into a lizard with three eyes and horns, it depends what he wants, Christ-- rather, God--- is tougher than Arizona...


..where the Papago Indians stand and brood about poverty, loneliness and the wind, and the Papago Indians don't like that name, they are the Tohono-O'Odham, the cactuses resemble bell-towers, surrounded by disaster...


...what's bad is when a man wants to put his thoughts into another person's head, that's a sign that death is lurking nearby and feeling brave...


a man has to come from somewhere. what's bad is being a stranger, all strangers go around dragging a dirty bloody history that they don't want to tell anyone, silence ends up making the bones ache, but anything is better than the gallows, strangers don't have any traditions and that's why they rob banks and trains, they cheat at cards, they steal cows and horses and they shoot you in the back, tradition doesn't forbid robbing banks and trains or cheating at cards or stealing horses but it does forbid killing a man from behind


Negroes want to turn their children white and the only thing that matters for whites is making money, if this isn't the end of the earth it's something very close to it...


...when halfwits finish coming they also fall asleep if the woman sucks their cock very carefully, first their thoughts fade away and then they doze off,


Ronnie killed him with a bullet between the eyes, the price of life is life and no one escapes this law, nobody can know what will happen after they go


nobody knows it God is male or female but if she is female instead of male the Grand Canyon would be the cunt of God, the horrendous Grand Cunt of God

11. have to organize what you're saying so people don't get confused, the best way is to keep telling the story in terms of the dead, I said to him, it's very easy to talk but bringing order to what you're saying isn't so easy...


...reason is worthless if a man can't get a hard-on, words are always traitorous and end up betraying whoever speaks them, if a men were mute the jails would be empty and the gallows wouldn't have been invented, man is an animal that doesn't know enough to die on time and keeps praying to go on living...


the opposite of mercy is indifference--- people think it's cruelty--- but what's really bad about cutting off a dead man's privates is doing it without even looking, when giving someone food or drink you must look into his eyes, the same applies to forgiving insults or cheering up sad people...


the Chinaman Wong wasn't a murderer because he didn't kill living men but instead disinterred dead children, afterwards he would slice them up or shred them, all very carefully, the soybean shoots with minced pork were also delicious...


there's always one woman that would like to blow the hanged man, custom doesn't allow it and the law even less, it's a pleasure that hardly any woman gets to enjoy...


my little brother Pato Macario's flatulence doesn't make any noise because by now all his farting has smoothed out the wrinkles in his asshole, we usually say "ripe avocado, fart for sure," real men's farts sound like whiplashes, they crack the wind


...dogs don't piss on the houses of the dying, they are very respecful and go straight past, this detail doesn't belong here but I wanted to note it down before I forgot


it's the custom to smile at the hangman and spit in the face of the man sentenced to death, men are born wearing their masks and every line already carved in its place, on the forehead, the corners of the eyes, at the corners of the mouth, in the cheeks the same things have always been done, spitting on the one who loses and smiling at the one who wins


the women wait at the Nabor Guevara tavern, groping and feeling each other up, their hearts pounding they while away the time telling each other dirty stories and killing doves by squashing their heads, they also strangle roosters by pinning them their between their thighs, there's plenty of pleasure in it


...nearly every day remembers Maggie Cedarvael the little neighbor girl who as a child used to play with his little cock, she would fondle it delicately and also suck it, later she died of tuberculous, this game of life and death is upsetting