lungfish – hallucinatorium

 

My wife has a head of smoke
My wife has a leg of flame
My wife has a hand of bone
My wife has a silent name
My husband walks upon the walls
My husband is ten miles tall
My husband is the atmosphere
My husband is a living prayer
My daughter sleeps up in the trees
My daughter is a complex creed
My daughter keeps a shaft of light
My daughter moves in degrees of might
My son has invisible eyes
My son laughs as though he cries
My son maintains a perpetual stride
My son wanders in dreams at night

My sister waits behind the moon
My sister binds her mind in books
My sister’s voice must crush the sun
My sister snaps the shepherd’s crook
My brother’s face is a hexagon
My brother revolves at increasing speed
My brother heals as he harms
My brother decries what he has decreed
My mother excretes a reality
My mother puts her torch to sleep
My mother spreads her ribcage wide
To guide the trumpet blast inside
My father is my mother’s bride
My father resides in rocks and stones
My father has fins and wings and claws
My father is my husband’s throne.

Fun fact about this song: It was originally recorded as an instrumental, but Dan Higgs decided he wanted to add vocals. Problem was the song as recorded was too short for what he had to say, so producer Ian MacKaye suggested slowing down the tape near the end to provide enough time for Higgs to fit in all the lyrics. So that is why the song sounds all trippy near the end.

weighing souls with sand: a response

Touched through by a white wing she stands defiant (or is it expectant) above the crashing waves. Orange storm sky rages above the rocky coastline. Thundering in her ears. Birds soar overheadtheir frantic cries pierce the heavy air. I don’t want to leave, I don’t want to leave. The darkening sky. The diminishing hour. A throat clogged with fear. The golden orb sinks toward a depthless chasm, loss radiating from its rim. There is only heavy sand belowsand to weigh a soul down. Perched on the rock, though, perhaps she will ascend, the feathers of the wing lessening her load, her arms open and her soul rough with sand, aching to be brushed clean.

oxbow – letter of note

elm – on golden wings

scorn — exodus

emma ruth rundle ‘medusa’

2017 in books and music

Snow Bunting at North Point State Park, Maryland, USA. © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Snow Bunting at North Point State Park, Maryland, USA. © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Following surgery to repair a pelvic fracture in January I was unable to put weight on my left leg for three months. One might think this would have resulted in a higher read count than usual for the year, but in fact my total fell short of my average over the past few years. Part of this was actually due to a concerted effort to slow down and read more leisurely. However, another reason was that once I was fully mobile I simply did not want to sit around reading, so I ended up reading much less in the second half of the year, though toward the end as bird migration tapered off and the weather grew colder my pace did pick up again.

Below is the list of books I assigned 5-star ratings on Goodreads in 2017. A number of books I rated 4 stars probably deserve a place here, too, but I had to draw the line somewhere. In the 4-star category I will mention the two Julien Gracq novels I read as being particularly noteworthy (The Castle of Argol and The Opposing Shore). Regrettably I believe both of these are out of print in English translation. However, I’m happy to report that NYRB has just reissued Gracq’s moodily atmospheric novel A Balcony in the Forest, so there’s hope now for future republication of his singular work in English.

In general this year was a good one for reissues of some of my favorite buried writers. Mid-20th century British avant-garde women writers fared especially well in 2017. Much of Leonora Carrington’s writing finally came back into print as part of the centennial celebration of her birth year, including short fiction collections in both U.S. and British editions, as well as her harrowing memoir Down Below and her children’s book The Milk of Dreams. A biography by Joanna Moorhead also appeared in the spring.

A 50th anniversary edition of Anna Kavan’s novel Ice came out from Penguin in the U.S. this fall. As the 50th anniverary of Kavan’s death approaches there has been a small surge of interest around her work. For example, the journal Women: A Cultural Review devotes its entire current issue to exploring various themes in Kavan’s work. Hopefully this new scholarship will help prompt Peter Owen to finally reprint Kavan’s mysterious novel Eagles’ Nest and the kaleidoscopic short fiction collection  A Bright Green Field, both of which have inexplicably been languishing out of print for years. (For more on Anna Kavan visit the House of Sleep).

Finally, the brief but bright shooting star of Ann Quin’s literary career received a much-deserved coda when the subscription-based UK publisher And Other Stories released a collection of her unpublished stories and fragments, which includes the powerful (though incomplete) manuscript The Unmapped Country. This fragment had previously appeared in shorter form in the long out-of-print Beyond the Words anthology. (Note that non-subscribers will need to wait until mid-January 2018 for the official publication of this volume). While the publication of this book is a boon for Quin fans, it’s probably not the best place to start with her writing. In fact, her four published novels are all quite different, so it’s tough to suggest a starting point with Quin. On an initial recommendation, I began with Tripticks and actually did not care for it but still sensed there was something drawing me to Quin. I found that in Passages, which I consider to be her masterwork. Three comes in second place, followed by her debut, Berg. Thankfully, all of Quin’s novels remain in print courtesy of Dalkey Archive Press, bless their dedicated hearts.

I will just mention one other reissue of note, tangential to Ann Quin. In April, the micro press Verbivoracious Press (VP) published the first volume of an omnibus edition of Alan Burns’ novels. Burns was part of a loosely connected band of British avant-garde writers in the 1960s that included Ann Quin, as well as B.S. Johnson, Eva Figes, Rayner Heppenstall, and others. His novel Europe After the Rain draws interesting parallels to Kavan’s Ice and the relationship between the two novels is investigated in an article by Leigh Wilson in the previously mentioned issue of Women: A Cultural Review. In the past, VP, which specializes in reprinting ‘exploratory literature from Europe and beyond,’ also reissued a volume collecting two of Heppenstall’s novels (review), and many other experimental gems, including much of Christine Brooke-Rose‘s output.

2017 5-star books (in order read):

Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts / Reb Anderson
The Passion of New Eve / Angela Carter (Review)
The Poor Mouth / Flann O’Brien (Review)
The Plains / Gerald Murnane (Review)
The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington (Review)
When the Time Comes / Maurice Blanchot (Review)
Snow Part / Paul Celan (Review)
S.S. Proleterka / Fleur Jaeggy (Review)
The Way of Chuang Tzu / Thomas Merton (Review)
The Rings of Saturn / W. G. Sebald (Review)
Alejandra Pizarnik: A Profile / Alejandra Pizarnik (Review)
Old Rendering Plant / Wolfgang Hilbig (Review)

Full list of books read in 2017 can be found here.

2017 soundtrack:

Barn Owl (and solo work by Jon Porras and Evan Caminiti)
Belgrado
Drab Majesty
Emma Ruth Rundle
Gate
Goat
Grails
Grouper
ISIS
Keluar
Kodiak
Marriages
Nadja
Neurosis
Portion Control
Scorn
Tim Hecker
Yellow Swans
…and too much post-punk to list (mostly by way of this finding aid)

drab majesty • not just a name

tim hecker – hatred of music i & ii

r.i.p. grant hart

Musician Grant Hart, drummer/vocalist and co-songwriter with Bob Mould and Greg Norton in the band Hüsker Dü, died from cancer yesterday at age 56.

Hüsker Dü was one of the more important bands discovered in my youth and one that I have never stopped listening to through both good and bad times.

You will be missed, Grant.

 

If there’s one thing that I can’t explain
Is why the world has to have so much pain
With all the ways of communicating
We can’t get in touch with who we’re hating (Who we’re hating)
And now we can’t get in touch with who we’re hating

So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news
So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news

I hear it every day on the radio
Somebody shoots a guy he don’t even know
Airplanes falling out of the sky
A baby is born and another one dies
Highways fill with refugees now
Doctors finding out about disease
With all this uptight pushing & shoving
That keeps us away from who we’re loving (Who we’re loving)
That keeps us away from who we should be loving

So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news
So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news

(Words and music by Grant Hart)

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