Friday, December 31, 2010


Walking around in the snow in the East Village on the last day of the year and soon into the next there are the constants of this time of the year: the lemming-like pursuit of crap and a discussion of crap… and we all know what I am writing about and knowing they and their fans do not care and they sit with the smug confidence that as long as you spell the name right even the most vicious criticism only adds to the ever growing mountain of shit that are as Edward Dahlberg might say: I have heard of him and that is sufficient… another one our well known bad writers…

On the other hand or going into a pleasant room:


THE H.D. BOOK by Robert Duncan. University of California Press. Written over many years and now published long after his death: was it so long ago, 1988?, though he was part of the background at least for me since 1962 or 63 or 64 when reading the Donald Allen anthology of the real poets, because actually alive unlike the academics who seem to sadly, have long lives and are still tormenting us by their presence… W.S. Merwin… comes to mind and Galway Kinnell and Philip Levine… Mark Strand… think of their wretched lives, teaching young people to be poets… the sheer fakery of it all and not an honest line in any poem of theirs--- these so-called teacher poets--- even by accident because always paying homage to their tenured futility they dared not not write, dared not give up their sinecures that dulled their pencils…

THE H.D. BOOK in honor of Hilda Doolittle and we are back in the world of Pound and Eliot and Williams… a book to be read or entered at any page and every sentence gives rise to thought as in: “The heart of the poem (The Waste Land) was the unbearable mixing of things.” But against his wishes, “The fame of the poet (Eliot) itself had triumphed over the pain of the poem. Eliot, was not in the outcome stricken but celebrated.”

A book to read slowly, a page a day. A sentence a day, sometimes…

I doubt there will be a better book written about poetry when looking back to 2010 or even looking forward to 2011…

And two perfect sentences from Duncan: “As I write now, I am in the waiting room again. I do not see any more than my eyes saw.”


ZONE by MATHIAS ENARD. Open Letter. 517 pages as a man sits on a train going from Milano to Rome, carrying documents and memories of the obscure and familiar horrors of the last century. Each page sent me to look for a further book, to look up some historic event I was unfamiliar with: the war in Morocco in the 1920s for instance or photographers in the Nazi camps both guards and prisoners… Atilla Josef, the Hungarian poet, who lay down on the tracks to be cut in half or the detail about Palestinian suicide bombers who went the belt of explosives went off propelled the head high into the sky… the 517 pages of basically one sentence broken into discrete bits: never for a moment does the reader lose his or her place since we never forget we are on a train inside the voice of an appealing narrator who sent me to…


DRIFTING CITIES by STRATIS TSIRKAS, published by Knopf in 1974…703 pages… starting in wartime Jerusalem.. Refugees…echoes of Durrell, again an imagined because real history of the times that shaped me and you: out of Alexandria.. and yet why is this not in paper and easy to find?

Well translated by Kay Cicellis who is till translating Greek books for Dalkey Archive and who even published a novel with Grove Press years ago… the sureness the grandeur of the DRIFTING CITIES.. like I THE SUPREME by Roa Bastos… back when Knopf could publish such books…

Okay, so the opening sentences: “A rustle, a rippling springtime effervescence came in from the window with the pine-scented breeze. And a voice from another age spoke of the perfume of a golden lily unfolding over the river.”

Today an editor would decide that the word effervescence would have to go as it was unlikely that readers of some of the well known bad writers would not know the word or “be comfortable” encountering such a word in the first line of a novel.


Alexandria was not mentioned without the purpose of celebrating the publication of SELECTED PROSE WORKS by C.P. CAVAFY by the University of Michigan Press.

Cavafy is probably the only Greek poet anyone reads, really in English with a few who know the work of GEORGE SEFERIS. And there is nothing really terrible about that. There is a Greek guy who sacrificed his talent on the altar of communism and enjoyed a little fame but again there is Cavafy and Seferis but this is a moment for Cavafy and the revelation of his prose: “On the Poet C.P. Cavafy,” (An anonymous piece): “Rare poets like Cavafy will thus secure a primary position in a world that thinks far more than does the world of today.”
Written in 1930… how he flatters us, how he will be mistaken… the purity of whim is never to be over-looked when talking about writers and about the works that endure…

It is probably true that Philip Roth will disappear within ten years of his death and the fact that the Library of America is publishing his collected work before he is dead is my evidence for this assertion. He is dead.

But Cavafy lives on: On Saint Simeon the Stylite : “This great, this wonderful saint is surely an object to be singled out in ecclesiastical history for admiration and study. He had been perhaps, the only man who has dared to be really alone.”

Not by accident is SIMON OF THE DESERT possibly the best film by Luis Bunuel.. well, along with The MILKY WAY.


PANORAMA by H.G. Adler. Random House. I have only dipped into this novel… Happily as Nabokov might have remarked I have noticed that it is not a play in disguise. There are no long reported conversations.

Mentioned by W.G. Sebald, Adler has slowly begun to make his appearance in English. Of course his great work on the Nazi camp THERESIENSTADT 1941-1945 is not in English while so much… and it seems that this is his great claim upon out attention…

PANORAMA is an attempt to re-create a childhood; it tries to argue with the opening pages of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man… and that is a worthy ambition.

I will report back on this book as I will on his THE JOURNEY and I feel guilt in not having read THE JOURNEY because how could I have avoids a book that Veza Canetti writes is, “too beautiful for words and too sad.”


Dalkey Archive has three books both published and to be published. GOING TO PATCHOGUE by THOMAS MCGONIGLE.

I have established a group on Facebook called Lord Patchogue and people are invited to join…

while that has something to do with GOING TO PATCHOGUE the re-appearance of this book is incredibly sad for me. It came out 18 years ago.

I have written many other books but they have not been seen into print and that will include the one I am working on now EXIT IS FINAL… and just before that I wrote NOTHING DOING…

Both Richard Seaver and Daniel Halpern confessed their powerlessness to publish the more recent books, even Dalkey Archive joined in this group confession and before that there was Sam Vaughan and Alice Quinn and a guy at Norton whose name I have forgotten… they invited my consolation and understanding and how shabby their deaths will be and have been…

GOING TO PATCHOGUE is available but officially from Borders it comes out in April though Amazon and Barnes and Noble have it…

YES, those other Dalkey books: ISLE OF DREAMS by KEIZO HINO made me get a map of Tokyo. That is how good it is. In the same way that one gets a map of Dublin when taking up ULYSSES: a man wants something, but what does he want?:
“He thought of nothing in particular, nor did he reminisce.”

“Though covered with dirt, none of this refuse, including tools and other bits of clothing, appeared the least decayed. Indeed, there was something starkly vivid about it. He was startled to find kindled in him a feeling bordering on the sexual, something which, since the death of his wife, he had thought irrelevant to him.”

AND in April, the cruelest month as Mr Eliot wrote DALKEY ARCHIVE will bring out: SUICIDE by EDOUARD LEVE. A novel about the suicide of a friend of the author. A week after handing in the manuscript the author killed himself. Told in the second person pronoun, that insinuating manner, that refutation of fiction in the death of the actual author, how fortunate for the reader to have a distanced suicide note, a gift to the funeral museum in Vienna, with the author’s death no need to ask if he knew what he was writing about. I do hope Dalkey Archive will publish his four books of writing and…


I didn’t write about GOGOL’S ARTISTRY by ANDREI BELY, heroically translated by CHRISTOPHER COLBATH and published by Northwestern University Press. It is the necessary compliment to Nabokov’s little book on Gogol. What I have most liked about the book is Bely’s actual discussion of the sentences of Gogol, right down to diagramming them so as to show how Gogol created his fiction.

I wish there were more books like this. I wish there was one written on Faulkner like this but I can’t imagine any major writer doing this in the United States of this moment.

Bely of course is the author of ST. PETERSBURG, the major Russian novel of the 20th Century, right there with Bulgakov’s THE MASTER AND MARGARITA…. can anyone imagine a so-called famous contemporary American writer taking the time to write such a book?

Case rested for the unimportance of you can name them…

(However, Tom Whalen who sadly happily, I can’t make up my mind but surely sadly, almost totally unknown has taken up the task and has written a very fine book on Russell H. Greenan… Dalkey will be bringing that out in the Spring.)


I am going to read THREE DAYS BEFORE THE SHOOTING by RALPH ELLISON. Since Ellison wrote the best novel by a man who happened to be Black or as he preferred Negro--- though I do think LORD OF DARK PLACES by HAL BENNETT gives him the only real competition in that rather narrow marketing niche… it can’t be avoided, but it is no accident that the schools never urge students to read INVISABLE MAN because the quality of that novel is simply too intimidating by comparison to the crap they shove down students throats in the interests of diversity… and reading THREE DAYS BEFORE THE SHOOTING allows me to live again in the moment of hearing Ellison read from an early version of this book at Hollins College In the summer of 1970…

And to be a better reader of ORANGES AND SNOW by MILAN DJORDJEVIC. Translated by Charles Simic. Princeton University Press:

My sweet and formless,
Bloodless and colorless,
Best-loved Nothing,
With what eyes shall I look at you
To see you truly
and remember your face forever.


tonight someone will fuck someone
while statesmen negotiate
untie the knots on neckties long underwear
and tense international situations
while secretly they scratch their balls under the table


Or are you the edible miracle that couples
foolishness and depth, like penis and vagina,
in the midst of our electronic Paradise?

Friday, December 24, 2010

COALS FOR A STOCKING: a dash of the dreary

I ran into Sam who lives two doors away in a big loft above Arlo and Esme, a bar, that evolved into a young people’s bar where kids go to get drunk here on East First Street.

Sam teaches a how to course in porn writing for women and others at the New School and a poetry writing class at NYU. He also reviews books and as a result gets piles of the stuff. I wish I got as many as he does, but he has broader interests than I do.

He was coming back from The Strand Bookstore where he has been to sell review copies. They don’t buy everything the way they used to he was telling me. Years ago they bought everything and would give you are a quarter on the dollar but not anymore. The give no where near that and now are picky.

Sam showed me the books they didn’t want. He was saying this is the shit that publishers are now publishing and it is such shit that even the Strand can’t get rid of it. And if they can’t get rid of it no one can.

Here is a list of “shit that no one wants” according to The Strand Bookstore, today 24 December 2010.

WALKING PAPERS. Poems. Thomas Lynch, WW Norton. I guess that is understandable. Lynch wrote one good book of poems and then discovered his Irish heritage and sunk into the bog and got buried which is an easy irony since he is an undertaker and wrote some prose about it, but never about the actual draining, cutting, pasting…

UNDIVIDED SELF. Selected Stories by Will Self. Bloomsbury. Complete with an introduction by Ricky Moody. The English were desperate for a writer they could promote as an antidote to some real writers, like William Burroughs, Hunter Thompson… you get the picture… created by back scratching English hacks and by their Anglophile American cousins, so Self is yesterday’s wild man with a dash of the Jewish thrown in for good measure…

SIGN OF LIFE. Hilary Williams. A Story of family, tragedy, music, and healing. DaCapo. Can any rational person keep a straight face reading the sub-title? In the footsteps of her grandfather, father… this gives nepotism a bad name… Old Hank Williams most have twirled so much in the grave there can’t be much left of him now with what came after him in the family.

REASONS TO KILL. Why Americans Choose War. Richard E. Rubenstein. “Undeniably important,” Publishers Weekly.

TRESSPASS. Rose Tremain. A novel. W.W. Norton. Winner of the Orange Prize. As if anyone knows what that means. Another dreary English novel American publishers decide American ought to read but obviously American still have some sense…

THE GREAT FIRE OF ROME. Stephen Dando-Collins. DaCapo. A prize winning Australian author living in Tasmania who according to the notes is basically paraphrasing, Tacitus and Suetonius…

And maybe the saddest book because it is so typical of what passes as taste and awareness of the world and literature or who knows what: TAKE ME HOME. Brian Leung. A novel. Harper. A third book. “Award winning…takes his reader to the desolate and wild terrain of the nascent Wyoming territory… strong willed young woman…the Chinese man she dares to love… LEUNG who is half Chinese…” An associate professor of creative writing.