Stanisław Przybyszewski - Learn about how Satan has a vagina on the end of his penis, and how people in the fifteenth century used to dress like the Devil to honor him

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Stanisław Przybyszewski, The Synagogue of Satan, Trans. by Joe Bandel, Bandel Books, 2011. [1898.]       
read it at Google Books

Originally published in the German language in 1898 by author Stanislaw PPrzybyszewski this book describes the origins and development of modern Satanism and its roots in gnostic Christianity and the reaction against the Catholic Church and its persecutions. Translated by Joe E. Bandel. This is one of the few well researched books on this subject and draws from many early historical resources. It is one of the best books on this subject.    

This is a classic study of the phenomenon of European Satanism. It is really almost a prose-poem to the rebellious spirit of fin-de-siecle Europe. The author himself is one of the best-known exponents of the Romantic school of late 19th and early 20th century Satanism. His work was also used as the basis of Hanns Heinz Ewers' famous lectures entitled "The Religion of Satan." Finally this much-storied "almost legendary" volume can be accessed by an English-speaking readership.

A great old book about the history of Satanism has been translated into English now by Joe Bandel. Here's a review. Learn about how Satan has a vagina on the end of his penis, and how people in the fifteenth century used to dress like the Devil to honor him.    
video review:      https://www.bitchute.com/video/guJ8WmtDI4lo/                             


Rita Bullwinkel - “I was the type of man who got his ears cleaned,” “People kept dying and I was made to sleep in their beds,” “There was a period of my life in which my primary source of income came from being a piece of furniture”

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Rita Bullwinkel, Belly Up, A Strange Object, 2018.

story Black Tongue
story In the South the Sand Winds are Our Greatest Enemy

BELLY UP is a story collection that contains ghosts, mediums, a lover obsessed with the sound of harps tuning, teenage girls who believe they are actually plants, gulag prisoners who outsmart a terrible warden, and carnivorous churches. Throughout these grotesque and tender stories, characters question the bodies they've been given and what their bodies require to be sustained.

"These stunning stories take place in the spaces between ordinary objects and events. They are mysterious, strange, and fearlessly funny in their expression of human isolation, and they contain the existential surprises of great literature. BELLY UP is a powerful debut by an unusually gifted writer."--Lorrie Moore

"At the intersection of the surreal and the real, Rita Bullwinkel has carved out a unique space in which the mundane and the strange cohabitate and sometimes frolic. The sharp, precise writing and careful observations of the human condition in her excellent first collection BELLY UP signal the debut of a major new talent."--Jeff VanderMeer

"Bullwinkel's delightful, passionate stories of disturbance and worried words have the best kind of frenetic energy."--Deb Olin Unferth

Characters obsess over physical and emotional metamorphoses in this debut collection.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses lurks in the DNA of these 17 stories, as characters reckon with the changing forms of the bodies (and minds) they are in. Two teen girls fantasize about turning into plants, using the story of Apollo and Daphne as their model, after they are sexually harassed (“Arms Overhead”). Bullwinkel also writes movingly of the late middle-aged and the elderly grappling with the transformations of aging, as in “Mouth Full of Fish,” about two ill patients going for a night swim. But if Ovid is here, so too is the deep surrealism of Max Ernst. Bullwinkel has a gift for the eye-popping opening line: “People kept dying and I was made to sleep in their beds” begins “Burn,” a tale about a middle-age man helping widows through their grief in an unorthodox manner. “Nave,” a flash piece about the devouring impulses of religion, starts, “My father told me that our church had a belly.” Sometimes the surprise is less in the opening than in the strange turns the tales take once they launch; in one of the collection’s standouts, “Décor,” a young woman working in a luxury furniture showroom has her ennui punctured by a communication from a prisoner with a flair for home design. In “Clamor,” a medium holding a group session must navigate the conflicting desires of her clients, both dead and living. Weirdness is almost de rigeur in short fiction these days, but Bullwinkel also shows impressive range and deep emotional intelligence.
While the shortest pieces in the book can be frustratingly oblique, when Bullwinkel gives herself a larger canvas to dive into the grief and panic of characters caught between one thing and another, her stories approach brilliance. - Kirkus Reviews

Some of the stories in Rita Bullwinkel’s debut collection, Belly Up, take place in a world that we could call real, and others take place in a world we could call supernatural, but in the hands of a craftswoman like Bullwinkel, both are somehow equal in their strangeness. While reading, I would arrive at the end of a story in which nothing truly paranormal had happened and be nonetheless filled with a sense of disquiet, a sense that I was looking at a photograph of my own world, the light and color settings tweaked ever so slightly. Reality, in Bullwinkel’s hands, is subverted with nuanced strokes of the surreal, in much the same way that David Lynch tilts our perception with his depictions of suburbia. The forms of the stories vary, and Bullwinkel is just as good in a longer traditional narrative as she is in a two-page piece of poetic prose. They’re joined by a macabre thread, peopled with dead husbands, teenage girls obsessed with the idea of cannibalism, and zombies. But even stronger is the sustained interest in the mystery of human connection; in “Harp,” a wife tests out a double life after witnessing a fatal car accident, and “Phylum” interrogates selfhood and intimacy. As much as Bullwinkel asks us to reconsider the strangeness of our external reality, she asks us to question our internal reality as well; this collection, which absolutely heralds an exciting new talent, takes place at a four-way crossroads between the mind and the body, the reality we can know and the reality adjacent to our own, which we can only glimpse through fiction. —Lauren Kane 

Rita Bullwinkel’s debut collection, Belly Up is as exquisite as it is absurd. The real glides so closely against the imagined that when a grieving widow hears her neighbors through their shared wall, she finds it necessary to check that they are real people and not younger manifestations of herself and her husband. She wonders whether she has invented them, and, as readers, we are not quite sure. We’re never entirely certain where these stories of recognition and reinvention are going to go, of what the rules are. What keeps us here is the intelligence and precision of Bullwinkel’s prose, which allows her to mine the deeply strange and deeply intimate with abandon and exactitude.
In a recent tweet, award-winning author Victor LaValle posited: ‘The last word of your first book was the theme of the whole thing…” If that is the case, the theme of Belly Up is “thread.” That seems apt. Belly Up is woven together with thick, peculiar strands. In the hands of a less-assured writer, these threads might feel loose, disconnected—under Bullwinkel’s guidance, they pull together to arrive at moments of profound revelation.
These stories are bound by their unwillingness to conform, by their insights into the human mind, by their wicked authenticity. Belly Up is full of reckoning, full of curiosity, full of characters attempting to pull themselves out of the mundane, out of what is expected of them. This feels akin to yanking a plant out of the soil from its root; the experience is intensely odd and simultaneously invigorating.
Belly Up is perhaps best described by a moment in one of the collection’s best stories, “Arms Overhead,” in which two adolescent girls imagine themselves as plants:
As Mary read from several psychology journals that posited theories about why one might have the desire to eat oneself, Ainsley put her head in Mary’s lap and listened.
At the close of the collection’s first story, “Harp,” about a woman whose day, and perhaps, life, is upended by having witnessed a car crash, I jotted down the word: curious in the margins, followed by a cascade of my thoughts: unexpected, unsettled, unusual. Then I paused, indented my pencil and wrote: But, something opens, something begins. All of Bullwinkel’s stories unlock something. The strongest pieces fling the whole thing open. Burn the house down. Others are a mere suggestion of what lies outside, a hint that things are not as they appear. That is like life. Sometimes blaringly loud and other times alarmingly silent.

These stories are populated with the strange: a child with a black tongue, an insatiably hungry church, the commingling of the dead and the living. It is in this strangeness that we are reminded of our humanity; while we are enchanted by the elaborate conceits, we become vulnerable to Bullwinkel’s talent for emotional wounding. She crafts unexpectedly tender scenes that are ripe with revelation.

Belly Up’s standout is “What I Would Be if I Wasn’t What I Am,” an epic narrative of marriage, of identity, of grappling with whom we become in the face of both marriage and loss:
It is difficult for me to distinguish which parts of myself are the original me, which parts of myself predated [my husband], and which parts were developed while I was with him. And, for those parts of me that were developed while I was with him, how am I to tell which parts I would have developed on my own, without him, and which parts of myself never would have come to pass if I had never met him?
Embedded within all of these surreal narratives are similar moments of contemplation, of reckoning, that sting with incredible precision.
In the collection’s opening story, the narrator muses: “I wondered if maybe I should suggest that my husband and I stop talking. Perhaps we should only communicate through touch and feel. Maybe that is a truer way to be with someone.”
At their most profound, the stories in Belly Up name and subsequently interrogate states like adolescence, marriage, self-identification, motherhood. When a mother stares at her son who has just arrived home after driving drunk, she is unable to separate the possibility of what could have happened to him, from what actually did: “…All I could see was a corpse, [my son] dead, an alternate history that had been so close to happening that it drove me mad. People should be driven mad, temporarily, when they see things like that, their son in a near-miss state.”
By the time we are two stories into Belly Up, when the dead return, we are expecting them; if we flinch, it is not from disbelief, but from the thrill of finding out what it is they’ve come to tell us.
In thinking about Bullwinkel’s debut, I found myself returning to the work of the great writer Augusto Monterroso, particularly his collection, Complete Works and Other Stories. Monterroso’s stories venture similarly into absurdity, joy, and exuberance, while also being wedded to philosophical rumination. The juxtaposition of the surreal and the introspective strikes a remarkable a balance that is alive and well in Bullwinkel’s collection.
The characters in Belly Up demand our attention, they demand to be seen, to be recognized. What is perhaps most moving are the moments in which these characters learn to know themselves better. Throughout our reading, we accompany them on their journeys for truth and in the wake of each discovery, we begin to question our own lives, our own interpretations of reality. -

RITA BULLWINKEL’S FIRST COLLECTION of short stories, Belly Up, jangles with the voices of other writers. Her fearless characterizations echo Jincy Willett (Jenny and the Jaws of Life); her stark, unsettling sentences evoke Joanna Ruocco (A Compendium of Domestic Incidents); her crafting of a tautological biosphere that only contains the kind of people who would appear in her stories suggests Miranda July (No One Belongs Here More Than You); and, for many reasons, her work calls to mind Guggenheim fellow Mary Gaitskill (Veronica, Don’t Cry). Singing through this braid of whispers is Bullwinkel’s own confident voice, which displays a talent for compression staggering in a debut collection and proves that the prose belongs to her alone.
Yet the writing feels elusive. This could be a function of narrative distance, something Belly Up has in spades. In one of the longer stories, “Arms Overhead,” events are fairly ordinary, but the two adolescent girls at its center provoke unease. Mary and Ainsley talk about plants, the ouroboros, and school, and a creepy teacher mildly humiliates one of them. But it’s never clear who they really are or what they are really like — by the end of the story are they going to turn cannibal or cheerleader?
Bullwinkel never shortens this distance, despite delivering insights both mundane and exceptional. In one scene, for instance, Mary watches her baby brother while her mother is in the kitchen:
He bunched his eyebrows and opened his toothless mouth as if he were going to scream. He sat there for a moment, silent, open-mouthed in his pre-tantrum. Mary looked at him in this state and thought it was one of the scariest things she had ever seen.
This passage is typical of Bullwinkel: from a certain vantage, yes, a child on the verge of a tantrum is terrifying, and how insightful of the author to point this out with such acute observation. But it’s not clear why it’s terrifying to Mary, or whether it matters that she is afraid.
In the opening story, “Harp,” the main character, Helen, decides to split and compartmentalize two aspects of herself after she is strongly affected by the sound of harps being tuned. There’s a deliberateness to Bullwinkel’s characterization of Helen that’s meant to indicate a comprehensive profile of the character, but the reader is kept at such a remove that it’s impossible to empathize.
Which is not to say this is essential for successful fiction, to generate empathy for characters. After all, Gaitskill’s detached stance toward her characters is part of why her work is so hypnotizing. She, too, creates characters without necessarily investing them with empathy-ready qualities, and she, too, writes with a narrative distance that approaches hostility. It’s never clear whose side she is on. Bullwinkel appears to be on the side of language, but beyond that her loyalties are murky.
Gaitskill’s 1988 debut, Bad Behavior, was a book of extraordinary, mature, complete short stories, none of which had been previously published. Bullwinkel’s collection mirrors this, as well. Her stories have appeared in tough-nut markets such as NOON and Tin House, but most of the longer stories in Belly Up are appearing for the first time, which is a surprise; these stories, like Gaitskill’s, are extraordinary, mature, and complete. They also showcase a knack for killer first sentences — “I was the type of man who got his ears cleaned,” “People kept dying and I was made to sleep in their beds,” and “There was a period of my life in which my primary source of income came from being a piece of furniture,” among them.
Gaitskill has never quite shaken the reputation — half literary wunderkind, half unabashed dominatrix — bestowed by Bad Behavior, but her later work is more interesting. This prompts curiosity about what Bullwinkel’s third or fourth book is going to be like. Will her stark sentences ever open wider than a fist? Will she combine her remarkable insight with greater empathy for her characters?
In a scene in “Clamor,” Bullwinkel describes a séance from the perspectives of everyone in the room, including a young military veteran and a retired woman and her granddaughters. Feelings are matter-of-fact and quickly dispensed with, while thoughts go on and on, such as in this passage:
the older teenage daughter, Izzy, who couldn’t help thinking that for all old peoples’ whining about children being stuck in their computers, that it was the older people who were the ones usually trapped in their own world, trapped in their made-up self-constructed narratives, not the youth. It was the older people like Lillian and her Grandma Carol and most well-off retirees that just told the same origin stories over and over again regardless of whether or not they were even true.
These stories play at the boundary between work that is thought-provoking and work that is thoughtful. A consequence of the utter lack of sentiment in this volume is the sense that although the reader may be fascinated, it’s hard to say if the author or the characters are. The characters often seem to act out of boredom or routine, and the author seems implacable to the point of incuriosity. Such clinical distance reveals the ineffable from a philosophical perspective but without human warmth.
Yet, again, warmth is not necessary for exceptional fiction, just as likability is not a necessary trait of female characters, and this clinical distance is generally an asset that makes Bullwinkel’s stories appealingly alien. In “Black Tongue,” for example, the narrator performs a gruesome act and muses on her brother’s inability to cope:
[T]here are the types of people who constantly envision what it would be like to be beheaded, and there are those who don’t. My brother is the latter. He is very satisfied with his veins and the work they do to keep his blood within him. He never thinks about what would happen if they exploded and it all went wrong.
It’s hard to find fault with such skillful sentences. Still, what would these stories sound like if they had heart? In Belly Up, a profound talent has manifested, one that is experimental in the best sense. All of these stories unspool in an atmosphere of exploration. But are Bullwinkel’s future explorations going to remain remote dissections of the outside world, her pen as sharp as a scalpel? Or will she, one day, decide to crack her own sternum to see what’s under there? - Katharine Coldiron

Rita Bullwinkel doesn’t write about the usual things. Her debut story collection, “Belly Up” is filled with the offbeat and the unexpected.
The worlds she creates — and the thin membrane called “reality” that separates them — seem to captivate the San Francisco author, whose stories have been described as surreal, fantastic, dark and often very funny.
For Bullwinkel, the line between real and unreal is where her interest lies. And she says those things aren’t necessarily in conflict.
“I think something different about this collection is that it does inhabit many different worlds,” Bullwinkel recently explained over coffee near the city’s waterfront. “Some of the stories do take place in a world that looks like our own, and others immediately pronounce themselves as being of another world.”
Indeed, there’s a wide range in “Belly Up.” The first story, “Harp,” begins with a woman witnessing a car accident, which leads to her become obsessed with the sound of harps tuning. “Arms Overhead” introduces two girls who fantasize about turning into plants. “Burn” features a desirable bachelor skilled at exorcising the ghosts of dead husbands. “God’s True Zombies,” set in Florida — well, let’s just say it involves brain-suckers in strip clubs amid the palm trees and pink flamingos.
In each story, Bullwinkel’s writing is characterized by an exquisite sensitivity to language, one that allows her to explore the borders between her characters’ inner and outer lives.
“We do live our lives as both interior and exterior people, but we are so rarely asked to articulate our interior lives,” said the author. “For me, reading books that are set in the interior is always a very moving experience. It’s something that no other art form really does. The opportunity to experience life as another, the way another person thinks, is really something you can only do in fiction.”
Bullwinkel, 28, was born in Redwood City, but her family moved to Portola Valley when she was a young girl. Her grandfather and two uncles owned Lombardi Sports — the longest-running business in San Francisco, she says — until it closed after 66 years.
Growing up, she was deeply involved in sports. As a competitive water polo player, she participated in eight Junior Olympics. “You are pretty much trained to disassociate from your body, which becomes this tool that you wield for results,” she recalls.
Those experiences affected her view of the body, she adds. As a result, many of her stories deal with mind-body questions such as how and what we consume.
“The book does circle around that — consumption, and what we require to survive in terms of emotional need and also just physical need,” she said. “The superb strangeness of having a body in general: I find it a very strange experience.”
Bullwinkel, a graduate of Brown University, admits that for much of her life, literature didn’t interest her.  “I had very talented teachers,” she said, “but the common core and what ‘needs to be taught’ did not speak to me.”
She credits writer Joanna Howard, a professor in Bullwinkel’s sophomore year, with opening her eyes to fiction: works such as Jesse Ball’s “The Way Through Doors,” which Bullwinkel says was “the most beautiful book I had ever read.”
From there, she became a fellow in an MFA program at Vanderbilt, where her teachers included acclaimed author Lorrie Moore, who introduced her to stories that were “really radical and intense.” It was Moore and others, says Bullwinkel, who gave her the sense that a career in writing was “attainable.”
Since then, Bullwinkel’s work has been published in Tin House, Conjunctions, Vice, NOON and Guernica. Both her fiction and her translations have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes.
Bullwinkel, who lives in the Inner Richmond with her partner, musician Alex Spoto, enjoys writing nonfiction as well. She’s an editor-at-large at McSweeney’s, the nonprofit San Francisco publishing house founded by Dave Eggers, and has interviewed other writers.
But fiction is her passion. Bullwinkel is currently writing a novel about a youth women’s boxing tournament in Reno. She’s been working on it for about two years.
“I really do love language,” she said. “I compose almost everything out loud. Other writers I know have different reasons for coming to writing. But fiction moves me more than any other art form. It completely consumes me and alters the way I walk through the world.” -

Belly Up, the title of Rita Bullwinkel’s debut collection, feels like a wave of the hand, beckoning us to cross the threshold of a serving house, walk over to the bar, and lift a shoe onto the brass footrest – and if the bartender standing on the other side of the sticky varnished surface is Rita, then settle in. She has a few stories to tell.
Even if accidental, the allusion to a serving house as a metaphor for a work of fiction fits Bullwinkel’s sensibility, as she affirms the value of physically sharing time and space in order for us to not feel so alone in the universe. Conversation helps. Argument even. However, nothing replaces the energy transfer that occurs when one body touches another. Otherwise we risk getting trapped in our mindspace, where things can get rather strange in a hurry.
Because of their focus on the transcendent possibilities of human interaction, the pieces in Belly Up are all, in a way, love stories, or their opposite, which is sort of the same thing. From this starting premise the narratives typically progress in one of two ways: after having drifted into the fantastical, they relax back into a more mundane moment in which existential pain is alleviated, to some degree, by connection; or they move from a common situation to the mystical, which often feels like a phantasmagoria in which the characters’ increased isolation is expressed through a grotesque vision of the physical body.
Consider “Clamor,” the final story in the collection, where the perspective shifts across the minds of nine characters, eight of whom – Phyllis, Carol, Lillian, Izzy, Olivia, Anna, Cliff, and Sam – have gone to experience the performance-art of the ninth, a medium, in order to contact their dead. Most of them, like most of us, have a cynical appreciation of the psychic’s game, which involves vaguely describing a ‘presence’ of some sort, allowing the people who have agreed to submit themselves to the ritual to project their unresolved traumas into the middle of the circle. We sense the reluctance of the participants to being spritzed with “holy water to keep the ghosts from following them outside her home.” But then, suggesting there indeed might be something to it, the medium seems to see those who are absent more clearly than those with her in the trailer – hence her fantasy of cutting open her clients’ “brain containers” and “dipping into each of their brain buckets with a ladle and pulling out from the depths of their bowls their thoughts, which looked like sticky thick woolen thread.” Has there ever been an image more opposite to the idea of an ethereal soul?
While these are not linked stories, it does feel that Bullwinkel’s characters have something to say to each other. At first blush, Joe from “Burn” seems like he’d be the type to get how to cope with the vagaries of intimacy, as he has a history of helping widows when the ghosts of their dead husbands won’t leave them alone, in part by feeding their grief with his delicious food. When Nick King dies, Joe marries his wife Miranda, cooks for her, and then when Joe himself dies it turns out Nick’s ghost had been there the entire time, in the attic. When Joe says, “What did you really want me for, Miranda?” he means, Why can I not be everything? It seems Joe could stand for a shot of whimsy contained within the advice Austin gives to his girlfriend in “God’s True Zombies” on how to zig-zag in order to escape an alligator: “They’ll never catch you if you run like a goon.” She proves she understands the metaphorical gist of this idiom when she talks about Austin having dated a stripper who worked at the “world-famous Mons Venus.” These strippers, these experiences, are always there, like a demented ghost: “They dance in your brain…Dancing, dancing till the rest of the plastic lining your brain cracks under the weight of their tiny feet, splintering into the bloodstream, and God decides it’s time for you to leave Florida, it’s time for you to go home,” which means back to her and the more normative life she provides.
It comes down to perspective. Nick King’s ghost doesn’t have a problem with Joe, because he’s preferred. Whereas conversely the unnamed protagonist of the opening story “Harp” has a problem with her own marriage because she can’t accept the selfless affection of her husband, who, like Joe, expresses love through preparing food. Bemoaning her lack of reciprocation, she says, “Why couldn’t I just take my new feeling and give it to him?”—the ultimate fantasy of the solipsistic introvert. (Oh that we all could subscribe to that service.) She experiences a halting epiphany that allows her to come to terms with the fact that she can’t ever be fully known because she is more than one thing, that it is okay for the halves that comprise her whole to remain unknown to each other. The presence of love in her life will not make her complete, but at the same time this love doesn’t necessarily have to fall apart in concert with the chaos of the universe. However, after a pleasant morning of love making and her husband then serving her “a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon,” she finds herself again riding the rhythms of her moods, honking at a couple taking too long to cross the street, making “her eyes bulge and look out at them.” We understand. Morning commutes can derail all of our best intentions.
The “Harp” woman is young. In a later story, “What Would I Be If I Wasn’t What I Am,” Franny, an aging woman coping with the loss of her husband, with whom she had shared over four decades of her life, proves the best love can survive even the death of the person providing it. Franny has gained the wisdom that another’s mind is always, in part, unknowable – and she understands the importance of the physical taking over when language fails. “When we had sex,” she says, “I knew I was coupling with some combination of Ray’s mind and his body, but mostly I just liked thinking of us as two bodies. It was simpler that way and easier for me to understand.” Ray’s presence within her speaks to how we don’t need a frank vocabulary to feel how bodily impulse transcends conscious thought. In the denouement, Franny is by herself at her artist’s residency in Yellowstone, in Cottage 18. She sees “creep in” at the edges of herself “only a wanting, only a desire to not be left…a desire to be more than a single person trembling, a wish to be forever coupling so that [she is] not just simply alone.” Amazing how that “only” feels thankful, that she is able to feel what was right in her long marriage to Ray, despite its problems. Her wish, a prayer, is not just for herself, but for all of us. - Trevor Payne

(...) There are too many great first sentences in the book to pick just one. So I want to show you several, to demonstrate what is possible with the opening line of a story. Here is the first sentence from “Burn”:
“People kept dying and I was made to sleep in their beds.”
One of the things that Bullwinkel has in spades is a wry, understated tone. That’s a strategy that works best when there is something to understate, which means the story has to be about something grander than a slice of dry-toast life. Clearly, this story has got that. The distance between premise and tone is the first thing the sentence does well (and you’ll see that again and again in the story in Belly Up). 
It also introduces the premise as an ongoing routine. In workshop, we often talk about starting stories in media res, and the bad version of that is something like “So there I am, fighting a wildcat with laser eyes, and I’m thinking, who’s going to have the coffee ready when my stupid husband wakes up.” Such a sentence might start in the middle of the action, but it has a kind of artifice to it that can drag the story down eventually. In real life, nobody tells stories like that. We start at the beginning. The trick is to make the beginning sound as if the story is really about to launch into something good.
I also love how matter-of-fact the sentence is. The temptation in stories that reach beyond the bounds of usual happenstance is that they reach into the realm of the stories that third-graders tell: “And then the ninjas popped out. And the dinosaur ate the school. And aliens landed.” Bullwinkel starts with people dying and then moves to an essential part of any life: sleeping.
The story “What I Would Be If I Wasn’t What I Am” starts like this:
“I had a husband.”
In that sentence, Bullwinkel has managed to create suspense and intrigue out of one of the most boring verbs in the language. In this sentence, have would be unremarkable. But had is weird, a tense nobody would choose. Even if you were divorced or your husband was dead, you probably would say this particular combination of words. As writers, it’s tempting to reach for the fireworks, but anything unusual, no matter how small, can grab a reader’s attention.
The story “Hunker Down” starts this way:
“By the time my daughter came of age, the economy was so bad that it was cheaper to hire someone to hold her breasts up than it was to buy her a bra.”
As with the opening sentence from “Burn,” there’s a level of understatement at work here. But there’s also a razor-sharp wit, something that George Saunders has and Paul Beatty and a whole lot of grandmas and grandpas: the ability to cut someone (often you) down with only a few words. They do it by making it personal. Imagine all the ways a sentence starting, “The economy was so bad that…” could end. It’s like one of those old-school comedian jokes. The challenge is to finish it well, and Bullwinkel does it by moving toward the personal and physical. As Tim O’Brien wrote in “How to Tell a True War Story,” in a good story, the body knows what’s true before the brain does.
In “Decor,” she starts this way:
“There was a period of my life in which my primary source of income came from being a piece of furniture.”
Again, there’s that wry, understated tone. There’s also the joke set up (my primary source of income came from…” and the finish that swerves in a direction you couldn’t have predicted. Again, it implies the physical: what does it mean to be a piece of furniture? And also the mental and moral: what does it mean to be a piece of furniture?
Finally, she starts “Fried Dough” like this:
“A particular type of love story takes place in twenty-four hour donut shops.”
The understated tone, the joke setup and…the sense of place. One of my high school English teachers liked to say (just as yours did, no doubt) that nothing original had been written since Shakespeare; this sentence proves that statement wrong. There are plenty of unexplored places in fiction, places that your readers know so intimately that to be reminded of them is to smell them, to touch parts of them. A 24-hour donut shop is a place that lingers in your brain the way bad smells attach to your skin and clothes. When you find a place like that, stay there. Put the reader there as quickly as you can. And then bring life to that place. There’s no better way to do so than to start a love story. - readtowritestories.com/2018/05/16/how-to-write-a-great-first-sentence/

'All Jobs Are Odd in Their Own Way': An Interview with Rita Bullwinkel ...

Weird Fiction Is Alive: Decades apart, the stories of Robert Aickman and Rita Bullwinkel channel an eerie spirit. by Josephine Livingstone

Rita Bullwinkel | Remember What the Doorman Says

Intervies (Swimmers Club)

Hover Above the Body: An Interview with Rita Bullwinkel

One story in Rita Bullwinkel’s debut collection Belly Up (A Strange Object) opens thusly: “By the time my daughter came of age, the economy was so bad that it was cheaper to hire someone to hold her breasts up than it was to buy her a bra.” Other stories feature a medium with unruly clients (“What gives you the authority to tell me who these spirits belong to?”) and a man who comforts widows by baking food and fighting their husbands’ ghosts. These are fantastic and surprising premises, but what is even more surprising is the way Bullwinkel employs these surreal set-ups to expose the connections and disconnections in our daily lives. The expertly crafted stories in Belly Up veer between surrealism and realism, present day and the past, short and long, but they always leave the reader with a new way to look at the world. I talked to Bullwinkel about reading, writing, and imaging your soul in a head of lettuce.
Feeling Changed: Rita Bullwinkel Interviewed by Lincoln Michel


Emily Holmes Coleman portrays the post-partum psychosis of Marthe Gail, who after giving birth to her son, is committed to an insane asylum. Believing herself to be God, she maneuvers through an institutional world that is both sad and terrifying

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Emily Holmes Coleman, The Shutter of Snow, The Viking Press, 1930.

After bearing her first child, Marthe Gail has a nervous breakdown and begins to believe that she is Jesus Christ returned to earth as a woman.

In a prose form as startling as its content, The Shutter of Snow portrays the post-partum psychosis of Marthe Gail, who after giving birth to her son, is committed to an insane asylum. Believing herself to be God, she maneuvers through an institutional world that is both sad and terrifying, echoing the worlds of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Snake Pit.
Based upon the author’s own experience after the birth of her son in 1924, The Shutter of Snow retains all the energy it had when first published in 1930.

Alone in her room at night she stood and pressed her face against the window.  It was the end of March and turned cold again.  And all the thumbs of ice began to whirl in shaking circles, keeping with the wind.  I shall have snow on my glassy fingers, and a shutter of snow on my grave tonight.
“There was no light in the room. Only a dull red ligth in the hall. Someone was walking back and forth back and forth passing her door a captive.  The voice on the other side of ter wall was shouting for someone.  It never stopped all night.  It became entangled in the blankets and whistled the ice prongs on the wind. The rest of the voices were not so distinct.”
 - excerpts  from The Shutter of Snow by Emily Holmes Coleman, 1930.
Although she published only one novel, The Shutter of Snow is remarkable in both subject and technique.   Its author Emily Holmes Coleman is now unjustly forgotten. The novel's title originates in Coleman’s intuitive poetic conceit, likening "heat with destruction and cold with freedom”  and draws on Coleman's experience after the birth of her son John in 1924.
The novel's protagonist is Marthe Gail, a young mother  unable to  care for her baby, who is confined in a mental hospital when she begins to hear voices.  Visits from Marthe's widowed father are occasions of emotional turmoil;  his aggressiveness suffocates her. Frantic as she is to escape memories of their shared past, she retreats into silence.  And yet,  she needs to speak her mind to the  important people in her life, her husband Christopher and her psychiatrist Dr. Brainerd.   Marthe's struggle to regain a stable sense of self  is reminiscent of another first person narrator in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic The Yellow Wallpaper (1892).
For an obscure author, Emily Holmes Coleman had an illustrious career. Born in Oakland, California in 1899, she lost her mother as a young girl, first to mental illness and then to death. Lonely years at boarding school were followed by four demanding years at Wellesley College. Soon after graduation Emily Holmes married Lloyd Ring Coleman, a psychologist, in 1921.  Three years later she gave birth to a baby boy.  The joyous event became a descent into nightmare; Coleman was stricken with puerperal fever and then, overwhelmed by what we now understand as post partum depression, she suffered a nervous breakdown and was confined to the Rochester State Hospital in western New York.  Insanity was a catchall term used as a blanket to cover many kinds of suffering, inadequately understood. In 1824, Monroe County had founded the hospital as a poorhouse to care for "the raving maniac, the young child, the infirm old man, and the seducer’s victim.” 
Coleman found in writing, whether in novels and poems or in her voluminous diaries, a refuge where she was able to order her experiences and gradually take control of her life.  For both Colemans, the move to France in 1925 came as a fresh start; Emily became  the society editor for the Paris Tribune and Lloyd worked in advertising.  Coleman began to publish her stories and poems in transition, a literary magazine where her work rubbed shoulders with that of Hart Crane and Kay Boyle.   Founded in 1927 by the husband and wife team of Eugene and Maria Jolas. transition was a literary magazine devoted to experimental work in all the arts. Her novel The Shutter Of Snow got a negative reception when it was published in 1930.   Coleman's modernist experiments, her use of shifting viewpoints and her subject matter made critics uneasy. They expressed annoyance at the lack of quotation marks to set off conversations, forgetting that these same techniques had been used by Jane Austen and Gustave Flaubert.
Following the publication of The Shutter of Snow, Coleman lived for a year in St. Tropez where she worked with Emma Goldman, editing the anarchist's autobiography Living My Life (1931).  She also became friends, albeit of a somewhat competitive and critical kind, with the heiress Peggy Guggenheim.  Their friendship continued throughout the years that Guggenheim was engaged in assembling one of the major collections of modern art. Back in Paris, Coleman read the manuscript version of Nightwood by fellow. Djuna Barnes. Few people remember that it was Coleman who engineered the publication of Nightwood in 1936. Her skills at suggestion and persuasion worked so well that its editor T.S. Eliot and the general public believed its publication had been Eliot's idea. His enthusiasm for the book led him to call Nightwood "the best book written by a woman in the 20th century."  The Shutter Of Snow should have been so lucky.
Coleman returned to the United States in 1939 and in 1944 she converted to Catholicism, with the encouragement of her friends Jacques and Raissa Maritain.  She became friends with Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, and spent time in several of their communities.  At the time of her death in June, 1974, Coleman was being cared for at Rose Hill, a Catholic Worker farm on the Hudson River in Tivoli, New York.
The Shutter of Snow is a short novel; for some it may be difficult to read for its style or its content but it is deeply worth the effort.  - Jane Librizzi


Rough Draft: The Modernist Diaries of Emily Holmes Coleman, 1929-1937. Ed. by Elizabeth Podnieks, University of Delaware Press, 2012.
read it at Google Books

Rough Draft: The Modernist Diaries of Emily Holmes Coleman, 1929-1937 is an edited selection, published here for the first time, of the diaries kept by American poet and novelist Coleman during her years as an expatriate in the modernist hubs of France and England. During her time abroad, Coleman developed as a surrealist writer, publishing a novel, The Shutter of Snow, and poems in little magazines like transition. She also began her life’s work, her diary, which was sustained for over four decades. This portion of the diary is set against the cultural, social, and political milieu of the early twentieth century in the throes of industrialization, commercialization, and modernization. It showcases Coleman’s often larger-than-life, intense personality as she interacted with a multitude of literary, artistic, and intellectual figures of the period like Djuna Barnes, Peggy Guggenheim, Antonia White, John Holms, George Barker, Edwin Muir, Cyril Connolly, Arthur Waley, Humphrey Jennings, Dylan Thomas, and T.S. Eliot. The book offers Coleman’s lively, raw, and often iconoclastic account of her complex social network. The personal and professional encouragements, jealousies, and ambitions of her friends unfolded within a world of limitless sexual longing, supplies of alcohol, and aesthetic discussions. The diary documents the disparate ways Coleman celebrated, just as she consistently struggled to reconcile, her multiple identities as an artistic, intellectual, maternal, sexual, and spiritual woman. Rough Draft contributes to the growing modernist canon of life writings of both female and male participants whose autobiographies, memoirs, and diaries offer diverse accounts of the period, like Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company, and Robert McAlmon and Kay Boyle’s Being Geniuses Together.

Emily Holmes Coleman was an American-born poet, novelist and diarist of the 20th century who lived much of her life in France and England. In 1930 she wrote one remarkable novel called The Shutter of Snow which was the story of a woman incarcerated in a mental hospital. She used her own experience of being similarly confined as valuable research for the novel.
She was born Emily Holmes on the 22nd January 1899 in Oakland, California. She was educated at Wellesley College, graduating in 1920, and within a year was married to a psychologist. The couple went to live in Paris in 1926, by now with a child in tow, and Emily found a position with the Paris Tribune magazine, the European edition of the Chicago paper. She was editor of the society columns. She was also a writer of poetry, short stories and articles which found their way into magazines such as transition.
One of the things that she is best known for is an account of her time in Europe over many years written in a “Diary of an ex-patriate American” format, covering her experiences in both France and England from the 1920s to the 1940s. She had many friends and colleagues in the art and literary world over this time including the socialite and major art collector Peggy Guggenheim who invited her, and others of course, to regular meetings at her grand country house, Hayford Hall. This group of visitors became known as the “Hayford Hall Circle” and included the likes of Antonia White, Edwin Muir and John Holms.
While the diary entries contained factual snippets about famous people, they were also a mirror of her own life and anxieties suffered along the way. She seemed to live her living constantly striving to be a better writer, a more passionate lover and to attain a higher state of spiritual being. She was on a “spiritual odyssey”, leading to her conversion to the Catholic church in 1944. Her growing faith led to entries such as the following, dated the 5th May 1947:

Curiously, although she wrote a great deal, she only had one book published – the semi-autobiographical novel The Shutter of Snow (1930). This was much praised by the critics who realised that this “authentic and vivid” tale was written from the heart. Her poems and articles, of which there were many, only came to light in magazines such as transition and New Review, amongst many others. The influence of her newly-found Catholic faith led to descriptions of her work being “mystical” and “fanatical.”
Here is a good example of this kind of material. It is the opening verses of a poem called The Liberator and appears to be based on her mental hospital experience:

She was married for a second time to a rancher from Arizona but this lasted only from 1940-44 but this was disavowed following her religious conversion. From this time the church seemed to be her guiding light and she became much involved with the Catholic left wing. She took up residence in communities run by the church and was, at the time of her death, under the care of nuns at The Farm in Tivoli, New York.
Emily Holmes Coleman died on the 13th June 1974 at the age of 75.


A Quantum City - We follow the fictional narrative figure, Orlando, beginning in 320 BC, on his odyssey through the Western world up to the present time.

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A Quantum City, Ed. by Vera Bühlmann and Ludger Hovestadt, Birkhäuser, 2015.

read it at Google Books

We know the specific strengths of various cities, are aware of their ranking, are able to discuss their density and growth. But what do all cities have in common, what do we know about the "lowest common denominator"?
The "city as a species," the "primal genetic material of the city" this is the subject of A Quantum City. This colossal work is a love letter to the city and intellectual culture.
We follow the fictional narrative figure, Orlando, beginning in 320 BC, on his odyssey through the Western world up to the present time. The book is divided into four interrelated chapters and can be read page by page in a discursive manner, however randomly browsing through the book also offers new and multi-faceted interpretations. Great intellectual achievements are compared with obscure and mundane events. A Quantum City offers an inspiring view of the city that is in us and around us.

Can we find the City in today’s urban landscapes?
Can we accommodate the urban in the City?
How can we come to terms with the theorem central to information science, that information cannot be acquired without paying a price, that the nature of information is negentropic (Leon Brillouin, Michel Serres) ? What does that imply for understanding the cultural role of “communication” ?

Oleg Woolf - Reminiscent of Bruno Schulz, a vivid, surreal evocation of a liminal world. The characters follow the trajectories of elementary particles, disappearing in one dimension only to reappear in another.”

Oleg Woolf, Bessarabian Stamps: Stories , Trans. by Boris Dralyuk, Phoneme Media, 2015. Reminiscent of Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocod...