Showing posts from May, 2010

David Lalé - Masochistic public spectacles, a doomed affair with the beautiful poetess Mina Loy, and finally vanishing without trace

David Lalé, Last Stop Salina Cruz: A Novel (Alma Books, 2008)


«Fleeing from the tedium of his everyday life and the painful memory of a dying father, the narrator embarks on a long solitary journey retracing the footsteps of real-life malcontent and misanthrope par-excellence Arthur Cravan, the nephew of Oscar Wilde. As a lambasting critic, poet-boxer, and Dadaist anti-hero, Cravan wreaked havoc on himself and three continents during the course of a short and spectacular life, which led him across the world in an escalating frenzy of self-destruction. Along the way, our young protagonist encounters every species of grotesque human character blighting Europe, the U.S., and South America, until he reaches the shores of the desolate oil town of Salina Cruz, the site of Cravan’s mysterious disappearance. Only there does the true purpose of his journey become at last apparent.»

«David Lale on Last Stop Salina Cruz:
On the outbreak of the First World War, the notorio…

Sara Greenslit - Language is a bird, at times warm, close, pulsing in the hand, at others flying, soaring in the space of the unsayable

Sara Greenslit, The Blue of Her Body (Starcherone, 2007)

«Suffering from depression, a young woman leaves her lover, Kate, and flees the city where they lived, taking a job at an aviary. There, she learns how to handle birds of prey--hawk, kestrel, owl, eagle. Living alone, she dissects the path of her illness and her history with antidepressants. Beauty, wilderness, and danger are intertwined for a woman whose desire is nonetheless identifiably human: "All my life I have wanted my hands on a living thing." Artfully building powerful and poetic scene upon scene, The Blue of Her Body creates a memorable portrait of the human heart and its untamable nature, and the wonders of the activity of the human imagination we call love.»

“The Blue of Her Body negotiates the difficulties of the muted raptures of love for a woman who anchors her life with raptors on the one hand and mood elevators on the other. In elliptical and lyrical fragments, Greenslit brings very real daily struggles …

Isaac Babel - The orange sun is rolling above the sky like a severed head. He who doesn't read Babel is surely doomed

Isaac Babel, The Complete Works of Isaac Babel, Trans. by Peter Constantine (W. W. Norton, 2001)

"Arguably the best book of short stories published in 2001, The Complete Works of Isaac Babel, expertly translated by Peter Constantine, should affirm Babel's place among the top Russian short story writers. Like Chekhov, Isaac Babel primarily wrote odd, tightly wrung little stories in which he displays a variety of convincing styles and tones, with each piece having an immediacy and weight that exceeds its brevity.
Babel's writing life lasted approximately 20 years. (He was executed by Stalin after a few military subjects unflatteringly portrayed in his "Red Cavalry" stories gained positions of influence.) His most notable stories depict the Russian civil war and Jewish soldiers, his childhood, and Jewish thugs in his native Odessa. Often journalistic in style, his stories provided gripping war accounts to Russians eager for news from the front, as in this passage f…

Kris Saknussemm - Wanderings of a Zelig-like, mysterious, super-mentally-gifted amnesiac who can defeat his enemies simply by chanting tongue twisters

Kris Saknussemm, Zanesville: A Novel (Villard, 2005)

"WHO IS ELIJAH CLEARFATHER? Futuristic bioweapon or good old-fashioned messiah? Reincarnated ex-porn star or mutant information-age revolutionary? The man who awakens in New York City’s Central Park with no memory of his identity and the enigmatic message FATHER FORGIVE THEM F carved into the flesh of his back may be all of these things and more. Taken in (and then expelled) by a group of freedom fighters battling the soul-deadening Vitessa Cultporation, Clearfather is a stranger in an even stranger land. Following tantalizing clues that point to the gnomic Stinky Wiggler, and pursued by murderous Vitessa agents, Clearfather embarks on a surreal odyssey of self-discovery across an America that resembles a vast amusement park designed by some unholy trinity of Walt Disney, Hunter S. Thompson, and Hieronymus Bosch. Accompanying Clearfather is an unforgettable cast of characters–including Aretha Nightingale, an ex-football-playing …