Thursday, January 18, 2018

                  A Bulgarian Novel Written in English
                             By Thomas McGonigle

                            the book concerns itself with a violent useless death in Upstate and the journey by two people about in Bulgaria later in the same year on what is called the Aerial Tollway which in the Bulgarian Orthodox tradition, a person upon death finds his/her soul taken on the tollway to be judged... this goes on for forty days and then                      


            There must have been places in the trailer in the mobile home, in Linda’s house, where she lives as she wants to live…
            Places of what might have been… 
            A very arch way of…
            Folders stuffed with pieces of paper covered with Cyrillic writing.  No one could read it.
            It all gets tossed. 
            No one wants any of it and in truth it is all just a mess, her brother say.
            To see the ragged edges of the folders, I don’t know when she stops looking into them or when she decides she can’t do anything with them. 
            Surely, she knows there comes a moment but still you can’t throw them away, Linda must have been thinking… and then there is mess from the dogs, over the years, but the stuff is still there and now it is even a bigger mess but no one can read any of it.
            What must it have been like to realize she isn’t about to get right back to the Bulgarian stuff?
            Linda must remember when she jokes about how Americans are always starting again, even when they are in their 80s… we are always starting again, wiping out the past and getting on with it as they say in Nebraska.  Everybody in Nebraska knows someone who has moved on finally, finally after a hundred years of trying to make a new start… and they end up down there in Arizona or some such place…
            She must be thinking  someday some way she might get a chance but she never talks to her brother about any of this or to any of the people she works with.  While one or two of them might know where Bulgaria is no one really wants to talk about that far-away place and she hadn’t much patience, anymore with explaining and gradually even she is aware of how hard it is to work up interest in that place that doesn’t want her interest in their history.
            Linda isn’t like the naïve girl who wants to research a Rumanian village in Bulgaria and how Rumanian memory survives in Bulgaria… to even have to begin to  explain to someone why that is a taboo subject…
            Those pages in their folders, she must look at them or looked toward them and knows what is there: the pages of notes because it is hard to make photocopies… there are limits and permissions to be gotten and then the machines didn’t work…
            No one could know the sheer difficulty of working in Bulgaria. 
            And then there is the actual pages before her… written in a cursive penmanship in the 19th Century and then trying to find someone who she could talk to about this and there is really no one and anyone who might be interested is more interested in using her to get to the US or wanting to talk about the price of jeans or God knows what…
            Those pages of her notes, those ladders never going up into the scholarly air of accomplishment, as might be…
            Each time, Linda must think when I open a folder all I find is myself digging a hole into which I will be thrown:

                                                                            how could I have ever picked this topic of women in 19th Century Bulgaria… always wives or sisters or mothers of who is supposed to be a more famous man… it is not an edifying situation, she must be thinking on a good day.
            WOMEN IN BULGARIA.  She is discouraged and then the sitting in Mississippi in a college for women worshiping at the shrine of Eudora Welty whose age has sanded off just how radical a woman she had been: but now she is a shrine…
            Linda must look at her penmanship, at those notes…
            When did she…


Saturday, January 6, 2018

DEVASTATION of a sorts

     This post is to serve as a preface to a short voyage to California and on to the Arizona desert...


EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS a Bulgarian novel written in English







       By making the list I see what I have done... but I also see what has not happened: these manuscripts have not been seen into print.  
      Of course the fault is mine.  
      To even hesitate about: of course the fault is mine

      Most  of these manuscripts have been seen by editors---guys like like Richard Seaver, Daniel Halpern, and others whose names... who claimed they admired my work, guys who I knew for more than 35 years at least but the excuse: sales and being dictated to by the sales department... for whatever reason they were not prepared to suspect the books might sell well as happened at DALKEY ARCHIVE, where John O'Brien under-estimated sales and reviews so had to go back to press for GOING TO PATCHOGUE


      Sections, parts, prepared slides from the following books have been published:  FORGET THE FUTURE in BOMB as well as in THE CREAM CITY REVIEW...  AND AGAIN CHANGE: JOHN WESLEY in THE NOTRE DAME REVIEW, as was THE END AND A BEGINNING...  JUST LIKE THAT--- the opening and the conclusion appeared in THE READING ROOM edited by Barbara Probst Solomon.

AND so, even I, a connoisseur of self-loathing  can't go on with this and was thinking of the positive response to the selection from EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS an Bulgarian novel in English that I read at the Bulgarian Consulate in New York City and I will not refrain from mentioning the sort of thumbs-up from Georgia Gospodinov and his wife Biliana Kourtasheva who introduced the reading  which lead me to realize that both THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV and EMPTY AMERICAN LETTERS a Bulgarian novel written in English revolve or are instigated by the contemplation of a dead person.  PETKOV found a home in both English at Dalkey Archive Press and at Northwestern University Press and even in a  Bulgarian journal Svreminik , a "thick" journal much like Novy Mir, the famous Russian journal, upon which it was modeled while EMPTY... is a pile of pages on the desk by which I type this and in a digital form within the machine... but the corpse that launched this manuscript was turned to ashes for which there was no burial site in Upstate New York, while that narrator journeys on the aerial  toll-way of a soul within the Orthodox Christian belief looking for a place to... in Bulgaria.