ship of fools

I recently participated in Surrealist provocateur Merl Fluin‘s flash fiction game, Ship of Fools. My contribution is entitled ‘Sea Legs’. You can read all of the responses here.

2020 in books and music

The less said about this year the better (at the moment and in this space, at least).

My current total of books read for the year stands at 136 and I’m sure I’ll finish a few more before year’s end, though they probably won’t make this list, so I’m posting it earlier than usual. I will update later if this changes. As it turns out I read more books last year, but I suspect I spent more actual hours reading this year due to the circumstances. I think I read more longer books this year, which probably accounts for the difference. Once Goodreads provides my year-end stats I can compare number of pages read and see if this is the case (Update: turns out my suspicions were off the markso far I’ve read about 10,000 less pages this year than my total for last year. Definitely not going to make up that difference in the next couple of weeks).

Concentration was definitely a problem this year. As a result I found myself switching between books, starting and stopping books, and completely abandoning books more than usual. But reading remained my top leisure activity and provided a safe refuge from the chaos and negative energy in the world.

If you’re a Goodreads user you can view my entire list of books read here.

Top reads (in order within each genre by date read):

Note: in most cases links are to my Goodreads reviews, not all of which are actual reviews)

Novels/Novellas:

The Box Man / Kōbō Abe (review)
Wide Sargasso Sea / Jean Rhys (review)
The Atrocity Exhibition / J. G. Ballard (review)
The Doll / Lukas Tomin (review)
Dézafi / Frankétienne (review)
The Golden Cut / Merl Fluin (review)
The Diary of Mr. Pinke / Ewald Murrer (review)
Mount Analogue / René Daumal (review)
Rogomelec / Leonor Fini (review)
Mangled Hands / Johnny Stanton (review)
The Model / Robert Aickman (review)
The Narrator / Michael Cisco (review)
The Undying Present / Syd Staiti (review)
The Warren / Brian Evenson (review)
Yesterday / Ágota Kristóf (review)
Such Small Hands / Andrés Barba (review)
The Bridges / Tarjei Vesaas (review)
Malicroix / Henri Bosco (review)
The Left Hand of Darkness / Ursula K. Le Guin

Short Stories:

All of Your Most Private Places / Meghan Lamb (review)
Secret Hours / Michael Cisco (review)
The Sleep of the Righteous / Wolfgang Hilbig (review)
Waystations of the Deep Night / Marcel Brion (review)
Unreasonable Hours / Julio Cortázar (review)
The Delicate Prey and Other Stories / Paul Bowles (review)
Morbid Tales / Quentin S. Crisp (review)
The Doll Maker and Other Tales of the Uncanny / Sarban (review)
The Sea-Rabbit; Or, the Artist of Life / Wendy Walker (review)
The Unsettled Dust / Robert Aickman (review)
The Earth Wire / Joel Lane (review)

Poetry:

Autumn Sonata: Selected Poems / Georg Trakl (review)
A Certain Plume / Henri Michaux (review)
Coma Crossing: Collected Poems / Roger Gilbert-Lecomte (review)
The Last Gold of Expired Stars: Complete Poems 1908–1914 / Georg Trakl (review)

Drama:

Complete Plays / Sarah Kane (review)

Cross-Genre:

The House of Illnesses / Unica Zürn (review)
Nights as Day, Days as Night / Michel Leiris (review)
The Star Opens Slowly / Casi Cline (review)
Desire for a Beginning Dread of One Single End / Edmond Jabès (review)
Wasteland / New Juche (review)

Literary Anthologies:

Man in the Black Coat: Russia’s Literature of the Absurd / Oberiuty (review)

Nonfiction:

The Trouble With Being Born / E. M. Cioran (review)
Mutations: The Many Strange Faces of Hardcore Punk / Sam McPheeters (review)

Comix:

The Portable Frank / Jim Woodring (review)
Nijigahara Holograph / Inio Asano
Gast / Carol Swain (review)
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters: Vol. 1 / Emil Ferris (review)

________________________________________________________________

MUSIC

I listened to a lot of mixes this year, as opposed to full albums, so I’m keeping the list short, tailored mostly to bands whose songs I keep replaying. I will note that not much has changed with my favorites over the past few years. Occasionally a new band gets added to the heavy rotation roster, but it’s often within an existing favored genre. Nearly everything Justin Broadrick touches continues to floor me. The drone doom and wider post-metal genres in general are popular zones, supplemented with frequent forays into ambient, post-punk, industrial, and retro trips to hardcore, punk, and 80s alternative rock. Much like with my reading tastes, a solidification seems to have occurred. I blame middle age.

The (very) abridged list of what got me through 2020, in no particular order (links in most cases direct to artist Bandcamp pages):

True Widow
Emma Ruth Rundle
Helms Alee
Thou
Jesu
Final
Transitional
Scorn
Nadja
Pelican
Seefeel
Dead Can Dance

tree of many trunks

A Set of Lines ebook edition

A Set of Lines front cover

At long last the ebook edition of my novel A Set of Lines is available. The book can be downloadedfree for a limited timein a reader’s choice of all the usual formats. Many thanks to GPA archivist-technician Nathan Grover for his amiable tenacity in making this happen. For more information on A Set of Lines, including how to order the paperback edition, please visit Ghost Paper Archives. Reviews of the book can be found on Goodreads and at A Wild Slim Alien.

 

the sleek ones

In a new post on the Ghost Paper Archives site, three GPA archivists collaboratively ruminate on the arrival of ‘the sleek ones’.

midnight special [film review]

[Second in a series of ekphrastic responses to the films of Jeff Nichols. First.]

Opens on unlikely trio in motel room. Two well-armed men. A young boy sits on floor wearing swimming goggles and industrial earmuffs.

Wide open Texas sky at dawn. A speeding Chevelle. On the run.

Agents descend upon a cult. They want the boy. They need the boy. The boy is gone.

Cut back to the road. Feels like a doomed trip. Headlights off, night goggles on.

‘Shots fired! Officer down!’

‘You did the right thing. He’s more important.’

The ranch in Texas. Feels like Waco and Koresh, but a little farther west and instead a preacher speaking a young boy’s channeled words.

FBI, NSA, doing what they do, asking questions with answers they’ll never understand.

‘Y’all have no clue what you’re dealing with, do you?’

The Chevelle pulls up. An old friend offers shelter. But the man can’t resist. Wants to feel the light flow into his eyes one more time. He’ll pay the price.

Watching the news. The men see what’s coming. What they can’t escape, the fear and fervor burning so close behind the boy.

‘Things with that trooper didn’t need to go down like that. Don’t interfere with me again.’

The gaps, the space unfilled. Undefined connections. Omissions speak it louder, drive it forward.

‘Do you miss it, living on the ranch?’ ‘Yeah, very much.’

Twenty minutes in comes the first bright glimpse…feels like it’s been longer, feels like a rupture.

‘A visible spectrum of light came from his eyes.’

Friday, March 6th, the day of our judgment.

They need the boy. ‘If Alton is with us, we will be saved.’

On the road again. Alton reading comics.

‘What’s kryptonite?’

‘I should have never let you give him those. He’s never seen a comic book in his life.’

‘That’s why he needs them.’

‘He needs to know what’s real.’

‘He looks weaker.’

That gas station. Leaving a wake no one could ever miss. The feds closing in.

The light escapes his eyes. Side of the road. Alton on his knees.

‘We need to take him to a hospital! He’s dying!’

‘No, he will not die! He’s meant for something else.’

They’re coming. Alton sees it in the sky. Off to hide underground.

NSA analyst Sevier figures it out. Knows where they’re going. A convergence rising.

Alton finally sees the dawn. He sees what’s above us. It heals him. He’s learning who he is.

The cult brings their guns and their conviction. Their zealous craving for salvation.

Alton and Sevier. A meeting of the minds. Can the boy’s powers persevere.

Roy is on the edge. ‘The only thing I ever believed in was Alton. And I failed him.’

The final run. An overturned car. A stretch of open marshland.

What’s left of what we need to believe (in).

 

newly discovered story by bruno schulz

Dull sleep rolled over me like a heavy wagon, laden with the dust of darkness, covering me with its gloom.

Then the winter night began to wall itself in with black bricks of nothingness. Infinite expanses condensed into deaf, blind rock: a heavy, impenetrable mass growing into the space between things. The world congealed into nothingness.

In late 2019, Ukrainian researcher Lesya Khomych discovered what would soon be declared a previously unknown story by the great Polish writer Bruno Schulz, originally published under the pseudonym Marceli Weron. Entitled ‘Undula’, after its initial republication in Polish in the journal Schulz/Forum 14, the story appeared in English this summer on the website Notes From Poland, translated by the site’s editor Stanley Bill.

Prior to the story’s publication on Notes From Poland, however, the publisher Sublunary Editions had announced it would publish an English translation of the story in paperback this fall. So now there will be two English translations of what scholars believe is likely to have been Schulz’s first published story, a decade before the publication of his first collection of short fiction, Cinnamon Shops (Sklepy cynamonowe).

‘zones without people’

The title track from Oneohtrix Point Never’s 2009 album Zones Without People—perhaps the ultimate soundtrack for 2020, with other tracks to include ‘Learning to Control Myself’, ‘Disconnecting Entirely’, and ‘Emil Cioran’.

an interview with fustus

Now introducing…Fustus!

A Set of Lines review

A Set of Lines has received its first review outside of Goodreads. This perceptive review comes by way of long-time comrade-in-letters and master lipogramist Daniel Williams, aka awildslimalien.

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