Sunday, January 25, 2015

Turquoise Truck for Mendicant Bookworks

I'm excited to announce that in addition to published paperbacks of Over Fifty Billion Kafkas Served and Auggie's Revenge, I'll also have "Turquoise Truck," a car-lot story, published as a stand-alone e-book at Mendicant Bookworks by summer of 2015. Mendicant is known for gritty realism and has published Gerald Locklin, Mark SaFranko, Ben Tanzer, and other small-press stars in the past. This will be my second foray into the world of e-book singles; my first was a short novella (or long story), The Betrayal of Times of Peace and Prosperity.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

books: 20 + 1

Lying on my couch at an uncommon angle, I looked up at a shelf with a small selection of paperback fiction and saw these ten titles in order: Lorrie Moore's Anagrams, Toni Morrison's Beloved and Sula, Murakami's Hard Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World, Arthur Nersesian's The Fuck Up and Chinese Takeout, Chris Offutt's Out of the Woods, Yuri Olesha's Envy, Pynchon's V, and Roth's The Human Stain.

I have so many books in storage and in piles on the floor or shelves in other rooms, yet, possibly, these ten represent in exacting proportion all the fiction I read. Having said that, I soon realize that 30% women might be high, sadly enough, and 20% in translation is low, I think, and it would be weighted more toward fiction from Europe and Russia, not 50/50 between Europe/Russia and Asia. Also, because I anticipated teaching contemporary literature, after 1945, when I drove down to South Carolina, I left most of my titles written before World War II in storage space in Philadelphia.

I do have the white whale and friends, Pierre, etc. on hand, at least a couple of the same Penguin paperback editions I read in college. Of the ten I just named, only Olesha's Envy is one I was assigned to read as an undergrad, but the copy on the shelf is one I procured years later. The British Picador paperback V is one of two editions I've owned, and I bought it in England when I was working as a busboy in Paris and then traveling in Europe the summer and autumn before the Berlin Wall fell. The Crying of Lot 49 rests on a different shelf where I keep the books I've been teaching most recently.

What's on the shelf above the first ten, you ask?

Ha Jin's Waiting, Denis Johnson's Angels and Jesus' Son, Edward P. Jones's Lost in the City, two different editions of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and then four Kafka Schocken Classics w/Dad's Kunderas leaning against them. Kerouac's On the Road rests horizontally on top the paperbacks just named.

When Over Fifty Billion Kafkas Served, my bilingual stack of stories, arrives from Romania, I'll let the copy I keep rest in its alphabetical place, between Kafka and Kundera, on the higher plane of shelf.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

tweeting about John Gardner like the wild and krazy guy i am

Sunday, January 11, 2015

jose kozer

Daniel Dragomirescu of Contemporary Literary Horizon sent me this poem:


My father, who is still alive,

I don’t see him, and I know he has shrunk,

he has a family of brothers burned to ashes
            in Poland,

he never saw them, he learned of the death of
           his mother by telegram,

he didn’t inherit even a single button from his father,

what do I know if he inherited his character.

My father, who was a tailor and a Communist,

my father who didn’t speak and sat on the

to not believe in God,

to not want anything more to do with men,

sullenly withdrawing into himself against Hitler, against Stalin,

my father who once a year would raise a glass
              of whisky,

my father sitting in a neighbour’s apple
              tree eating its

the day the Reds entered his village

and made my grandfather dance like a
           bear on the Sabbath,

and made him light a cigarette and smoke it
          on a Sabbath,

and my father left the village for ever,

went away for ever muttering his anger against
         the October revolution,

for ever hammering home that Trotsky was a
         dreamer and Beria a criminal,

abominating books he sat down on the
            terrace a tiny speck of a man,

and told me that the dreams of men are
           nothing more than a
           false literature,

that the history books lie because paper
         can take anything.

My father who was a tailor and a Communist.

*When I followed the Jose Kozer link above, I noticed that he is the age my father would be (b. 1940), and both had immigrant parents from Czechoslovakia.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

other writers' Slovaks

And, finally, near the end of Journey, Celine arrives at his Slovak beauty, a far cry from the meth-infested psychotic "no-neck Slovak" of Robert Stone's "Helping":

Quite a few fine-looking girls applied for the job. In fact, so many strapping young women of all nationalities flocked to Vigny as soon as our ad appeared that we were hard put to it to choose among them. In the end we picked a Slovak by the name of Sophie whose complexion, energetic yet gentle bearing, and divine good health struck us, I have to admit, as irresistible.

In my imagined, or real, life of a Czech Kudera passing as a Slovak Soska (my father's father's true last name), my first literary sighting of any characters from the old country was late in high school and concerned the Czech girls on the American plains of Willa Cather's My Antonia, a book I remember enjoying very much. And, of course, Stone's "Helping" remains a favorite story nevertheless or because of its Slovak grace and wit.

As is our habit at L.U.S.K., we'll leave it to the next blogger to deconstruct the false binarism between the essential Slovak and constructed Czech in every man, neck or no.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Celine on people from our past

"He went on talking to me in the darkness, while I retraced the steps of my past with the sound of his voice as a charm with which to open the doors of the years and months and finally of my days, wondering where I could have run into this man. But I found nothing. No answer. You can lose your way groping among the shadows of the past. It's frightening how many people and things there are in a man's past that have stopped moving. The living people we've lost in the crypts of time sleep so soundly side by side with the dead that the same darkness envelops them all."

~~ Celine, Journey to the End of the Night

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