Thursday, February 11, 2010
NEW ARRIVALS: Literature
Gerard de Nerval, Aurelia and Other Writings
Aurélia is a document of dreams, obsession, and insanity. An account of Nerval’s unrequited passion for an actress and subsequent descent into madness, this book was a favorite of artist Joseph Cornell’s, and its author was championed by both Marcel Proust and André Breton. One of the original self-styled "bohemians," Nerval was best known in his own day for parading a lobster on a pale blue ribbon through the gardens of the Palais-Royal, and for his suicide in 1855, hanging from an apron string he called the garter of the Queen of Sheba. Geoffrey Wagner’s translation of Aurélia was first published by Grove Press in 1959, but has remained out of print for nearly twenty years. Included are previously untranslated stories, and poet Robert Duncan’s version of the sonnet cycle "Chimeras"— making this the most complete collection of Nerval ever published in English.
"Nerval possessed to a tee the spirit with which we claim a kinship." — André Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism
"Each time I re-read Aurélia, a new shock of certainty in the pit of my stomach opens the eye to my heart: so I was observed! I was not alone in this world!" — René Daumal
Alfred Jarry, The Supermale
Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) was the original transgressive author; the first word of his famous play Ubu Roi — "Shittr!" — changed the course of art and drama forever. Jarry’s novels are equally outrageous, and the best of them are now again available in English. Where Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician is philosophical, The Supermale is carnal. André Marcueil, gentleman and scientist, has the ability to make love an infinite number of times in succession. Like a mock Jules Verne, Jarry describes the manner in which this Supermale proves his claim; after 82 times with a woman, attending doctors finally hook him up to a machine instead, with whom he merges in the book’s — and the Supermale’s — final climax. Barbara Wright’s excellent translation, first published by New Directions, has been long out of print.
Unica Zurn, Dark Spring
Dark Spring is an autobiographical coming-of-age novel that reads more like an exorcism than a memoir. In it author Unica Zürn traces the roots to her obsessions: the exotic father she idealized, the "impure" mother she detested, the masochistic fantasies and onanistic rituals which she said described "the erotic life of a little girl based on my own childhood." Dark Spring is the story of a young girl's simultaneous introduction to sexuality and mental illness, revealing a different aspect of the "mad love" so romanticized by the (predominantly male) Surrealists.
Unica Zürn (1916-1970) emigrated in 1953 from her native Berlin to Paris, in order to live with the artist Hans Bellmer. There she exhibited drawings as a member of the Surrealist group, and collaborated with Bellmer on a series of notorious photographs, of her nude torso bound with string. In 1957, a fateful encounter with the poet and painter Henri Michaux led to the first of what would become a series of mental crises, some of which she documented in her writings. She committed suicide in 1970 — an act foretold in this, her last completed work.
Masuji Ibuse, Black Rain
Black Rain is centered around the story of a young woman who was caught in the radioactive "black rain" that fell after the bombing of Hiroshima. lbuse bases his tale on real-life diaries and interviews with victims of the holocaust; the result is a book that is free from sentimentality yet manages to reveal the magnitude of the human suffering caused by the atom bomb. The life of Yasuko, on whom the black rain fell, is changed forever by periodic bouts of radiation sickness and the suspicion that her future children, too, may be affected.
lbuse tempers the horror of his subject with the gentle humor for which he is famous. His sensitivity to the complex web of emotions in a traditional community torn asunder by this historical event has made Black Rain one of the most acclaimed treatments of the Hiroshima story.
Four Crime Novels of the 50s: American Noir
(David Goodis, Chester Himes, Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson)
"This Library of America volume, along with its companion devoted to the 1930s and 40s, presents a rich vein of modern American writing, works now being recognized for the powerful literary qualities and their unique, sometimes subversive role in shaping modern American language and culture.
The five novels here are authentic underground classics:
-Published as a paperback original in 1952, Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, is one of the most blistering and uncompromising crime novels ever written. Written from the point of view of an outwardly genial, privately murderous Texas sheriff, it explores the inner hell of a psychotic in daring and experimental style.
-Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) likewise adopts a killer's perspective as she traces the European journey of an American con man with a taste for fine living and no conscience about how to attain it. Highsmith's gift for diabolical plotting is matched only by the cool irony of her characterizations.
-In his nihilistic early novel Pick-Up (1955), Charles Willeford follows the pilgrimage of two lost and self-destructive lovers through the depths of San Francisco, from cheap bars and rooming houses to psychiatric clinics and police stations.
-David Goodis's Down There (1956) is a moody, intensely lyrical novel of a musician fallen on hard times and caught up in his family's criminal activities; it was adapted by François Truffaut into the film Shoot the Piano Player.
-With its gritty realism, unrestrained violence and frequently outrageous humor, The Real Cool Killers (1959) is among the most powerful of Chester Himes's series of novels about the Harlem detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones.
Surender Mohan Pathak, The 65 Lakh Heist
"Vimal never wanted to get involved in the heist. Now that he's been roped in, he just hopes he can finish the job without getting caught. His partners have other plans, however, and soon Vimal finds himself playing a deadly game with the kingpin of the Punjab underworld.... First published in 1977 and reprinted over fifteen times, THE 65 LAKH HEIST is the fourth book in Surender Mohan Pathak's hugely popular `Vimal' series, the book that launched a whole genre of anti-hero Hindi crime fiction."
V. Nezval, Prague with Fingers of Rain
Czech writer Vitezslav Nezval (1900-58) was one of the leading Surrealist poets of the 20th century. Prague with Fingers of Rain is his classic 1936 collection in which Prague’s many-sided life – its glamorous history, various weathers, different kinds of people – becomes symbolic of what is contradictory and paradoxical in life itself. Mixing real and surreal, Nezval evokes life’s contradictoriness in a series of psalm-like poems of puzzled love and generous humanity.
Nezval was perhaps the most prolific writer in Prague during the 1920s and 30s. An original member of the avant-garde group of artists Devetsil (Butterbur, literally: Nine Forces), he was a founding figure of the Poetist movement. His numerous books included poetry collections, experimental plays and novels, memoirs, essays and translations. His best work is from the interwar period. Along with Karel Teige, Jindrich Štyrský, and Toyen, Nezval frequently travelled to Paris, engaging with the French surrealists. Forging a friendship with André Breton and Paul Éluard, he was instrumental in founding The Surrealist Group of Czechoslovakia in 1934 (the first such group outside of France), serving as editor of the group’s journal Surrealismus.
Boris Vian, The Dead All Have The Same Skin
Boris Vian, who passed away in 1959, lives on in the world where personality, wit, great writing, and a man who embraced the 'pop' culture of his time and place (Saint Germain des Pres, Paris) is the supreme ruler. Sadly in a world where one has to compromise to eat and enjoy just the basic comforts, in this context, Vian's work is so much more powerful and meaningful--the concept and enjoyment of youth, jazz, dark nightclubs, bent-up paperbacks that fit in your back pocket, alcohol, the pleasure of sexual encounters, the first sting of love, the beauty of destruction, the sensual pleasure of reading a text and holding a book.
Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories (Penguin Classics Deluxe)
cover by Tatsumi Yoshihiro, Paperback, $15.00
Frank O'Hara, What Is Modern Art?
Paper wraps, $5.00
In the process of gathering material for his marvelous comprehensive bibliography of Frank O'Hara's writings (Garland Publishing, 1980), Alexander Smith, Jr. (1948-1987) discovered Teens Quiz a Critic What's With Modern Art? He also retyped practically all of the short reviews O'Hara wrote for Art News. Alex's typescripts formed the basis from which the present selection was made. (from Acknowledgments) This delightful book includes a small but wide-ranging assortment of art reviews by Frank O'Hara, from paragraphs on Jane Freilicher, Paul Klee, and Bob Rauschenberg to comments on Fairfiled Porter, Joseph Cornell, and Robert De Niro (the actor's father). Robert De Niro is one of the most orginal and powerful younger painters showing today ... (March 1955). Includes O'Hara's response to the Teen Quiz "Is art on its way out?"
Rene Crevel, My Body and I
Crevel's novels carry a Proustian surrealism; confessional, evocative tales of illusion, disillusion, desire, memory, possibility, impossibility, sensuality, sexuality, poetry, truth, and the wilderness of the imagination. Originally published in 1925, MY BODY AND I begins an attempt to discover the geography of a being with only words, a meditation on the tension between body and spirit.
"He will be read more and more as the wind carries away the ashes of the 'great names' that preceded him" - Ezra Pound.
"Without Rene Crevel we would have lost one of the most beautiful pillars of Surrealism" - Andre Breton.
Bernard Noel, The Castle of Communion
When Le Château de Cène (here translated as The Castle of Communion) first appeared in France in 1969, under the sonorous pseudonym of Urbain d’Orlhac, it created a sensation. Immediately recognised as being among the finest works of French literary eroticism (along with, say, Bataille’s Story of the Eye, or Reage’s Story of O), its author was soon identified: the poet and essayist Bernard Noël, born in 1930.
The author recounts an intense initiatory sexual quest which occurs on a mysterious remote island. Chosen as the moon’s lover the hero undertakes a Dantesque voyage through sucessive levels of pain and ecstasy. The book’s climax is a beatific rite of sexual purification in the Castle of Communion, which is described in a poetic language at once incantatory, crude and almost mystical. The intensity of the book matches its method of composition: dictated into a tape recorder and finished in only 3 weeks, and written as a partial response to the atrocities of the French authorities in Algeria.
This edition is postfaced by Noël’s essay The Outrage Against Words, his thoughts on the government’s unsuccessful attempts through the courts to supress the novel for “outraging public morals.” He illuminates the intimate connection between writing and censorship in general.
Alberto Savinio, The Lives Of The Gods
A selection of Savinio’s early stories, many of which appeared in Surrealist magazines in the thirties. Savinio was the brother of the artist Giorgio de Chirico and an associate of Apollinaire.
Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility
Penguin Books' special hardcover edition. Very nicely done. (other titles available)
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