Tuesday, June 29, 2010


It was bad enough last week to discover in the bookstore next to McDonald’s on Vitosha Boulevard in Sofia that Faber in London had published the complete works of Paul Auster in a multi-volume hard cover edition as here it sat on the shelf awaiting a buyer.

Later on the plane to New York I began to read the bound galleys of his most recent novel SUNSET PARK (to be published in the US in November). The novel concerns a man who is fixing up foreclosed houses in Florida. By coincidence his publisher is also publishing a non-fiction book about the same subject, EXILES IN EDEN, Life Among the Ruins of Florida’s Great Recession by Paul Reyes.

Of course anyone who could seriously consider Florida an Eden is probably beyond help… but by now it is all old news and there have been the long human interest stories in the quality newspapers… but book publishers seem to have an addiction to news that would not now be fit wrapper for dead fish…

But, Auster: SUNSET PARK. I will type out why exactly why I did not continue reading the novel that wants the reader to be interested in this guy Miles who has taken up with some jail-bait:

“The first time they went to bed together, she assured him she was no longer a virgin. He took her at her word, but when the moment came for him to enter her, she pushed him away a told him he mustn’t do that. The mommy hole was off-limits, she said, absolutely forbidden to male members. Tongues and fingers were acceptable but not members, under no condition at any time, not ever… Did he understand? Yes, he understood but war was the alternative? The funny hole, she said. Angela had told him all about it and he had to admit that from a strictly biological and medical standpoint it was the one truly safe form of birth control in the world. For six months now he has abided by her wishes, restricting all member penetration to her funny hole and putting nothing more than tongue and fingers in her mommy hole.”

But why stop? Isn't it obvious?: the deadness of the ear, the condescending vulgarity, the knowing nudge to the shoulder: I know these people are… and then the fact that most likely no one at the publisher even read the manuscript since they were just publishing another Auster book, another book that will be reviewed… and no matter the quality of the reviews SUNSET PARK is another bit of product to keep alive the brand, keep the brand in the marketplace, occupy the shelf space, provide an excuse to re-republish in paper some earlier equally forgettable books .

SUNSET PARK is a squeamish bit of rubbish from Paul Auster who is writing an old guy’s book about a lecher who wants to fuck a teenager who really only wants to get fucked in the ass…

AUSTER wrote one good book, THE INVENTION OF SOLITUDE and should have stopped right there in 1982. Nothing has been added to that book by all these subsequent books. He knows this...

Thursday, June 10, 2010


A letter from Dan Halpern at Ecco Press

Nothing Doing is a terrific piece of writing, Thomas - experimental in the ways we used to admire, smart, challenging. You gotta love George the psychiatrist with his suitcase of ties. And a nice touch, the footnote introducing a new character… It seems to me that you’re pursuing some serious insights about life, about the nature of immigration, s subtle book, layered, demanding, moving – the character who can’t read poetry in English, despite his fluency, because he can’t feel in English. Wonder where that came from.

It’s good, but I don’t think it fits on our list – we don’t publish this kind of fiction – and our salespeople don’t know how to sell it. Aside from the fact the fiction market is shit right now, I’d be doing you a disservice having our group attempt to sell this worthy book. I understand this isn’t the kind of response that interests you, but it’s what I’ve inherited here. I wish we could jump in and try to do something with what you’ve accomplished on the page.

I wish you luck finding an editor and publisher who knows how to make magic out of the magic you’ve spun here.


AND another manuscript to put in the pile for the children or widow to dispose of...

I have in the past had this experience. Richard Seaver wrote pretty much the same thing about the previous mansucript and some guys at Dalkey Archive wrote in the same vein.

I send a manuscript to one or two editors. That is it. And then later there is always the accident and I forget what it really feels like to wait and again I send out a new manuscript...

Where is the persistence, you might ask?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


David Markson is dead.

The news came to me here in Montecatini, near Lucca in Italy. A nice place to be aware that I am alive and he is dead.

A mean and nasty man.

I had been one of those who read the manuscript of Wittgenstein's Mistress and urged Jack O'Brien to publish it.

Markson objected to an essay I wrote about knowing him as a writer which was published in the Review of Contemporary Fiction. He threatened to beat me up... I am not kidding and he was not kidding as he was a barroom brawler or at least aspired to that role...a boozed up blowhard that gave the unlamented Lion's Head in a New York City some sort of reputation where midst Joe Flaherty and Pete Hamill he never tired of exploiting the accident of his friendship with the drunk Malcolm Lowry, a far better writer.