Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Featured: Three From Wakefield Press

Pataphysical Essays, Rene Daumal

Pataphysics: the science of imaginary solutions, of laws governing exceptions and of the laws describing the universe supplementary to this one. Alfred Jarry’s posthumous novel, Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician, first appeared in 1911, and over the course of the century, his pataphysical supersession of metaphysics would influence everyone from Marcel Duchamp and Boris Vian to Umberto Eco and Jean Baudrillard. In 1948 in Paris, a group of writers and thinkers would found The College of ’Pataphysics, still going strong today. The iconoclastic René Daumal was the first to elaborate upon Jarry’s unique and humorous philosophy. Though Daumal is better known for his unfinished novel Mount Analogue and his refusal to be adopted by the Surrealist movement, this newly translated volume of writings offers a glimpse at an often overlooked Daumal: Daumal the pataphysician. Pataphysical Essays collects Daumal’s overtly pataphysical writings from 1929 to 1941, from his landmark exposition on pataphysics and laughter to his late essay, “The Pataphysics of Ghosts.” Daumal’s “Treatise on Patagrams” offers the reader everything from a recipe for the disintegration of a photographer to instructions on how to drill a fount of knowledge in a public urinal. This collection also collects Daumal’s little-known column for the Nouvelle Revue Française, “Pataphysics This Month.” Reading like a deranged encyclopedia, the articles describe a new mythology for the field of science, and amply demonstrate that the twentieth century had been a distinctly pataphysical era.
Poet, philosopher, and self-taught Sanskrit scholar René Daumal (1908–1944) devoted himself to a lifelong attempt to think through death by means of what he called “experimental metaphysics”: an attempt to address metaphysical questions through scientific methodology. After co-founding the iconoclastic journal Le Grand Jeu and rejecting overtures from the Surrealist movement, he abandoned the literary path to become a disciple of the spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff.

The High Life, Jean-Pierre Martinet

Adolphe Marlaud’s rule of conduct is simple: live as little as possible so as to suffer as little as possible. For Marlaud, this involves carrying out a meager existence on rue Froidevaux in Paris, tending to his father’s grave in the cemetery across the street, and earning the ghost of a living through a part-time job at the funerary shop on the corner. It does not, however, take into account the amorous intentions of the obese concierge of his building, who has set her widowed sights on his diminutive frame, and whose aggressive overtures will set the wheels in motion for a burlesque and obscene tragedy. Originally published in 1979, The High Life introduces cult French author Jean-Pierre Martinet into English. It is a novella that perfectly outlines the dark fare of Martinet’s vision: the terrors of loneliness, the grotesque buffoonery of sexual relations, the essential humiliation of the human condition, and the ongoing trauma of twentieth-century history.
Jean-Pierre Martinet (1944–1993) wrote only a handful of novels, including what is largely regarded as his masterpiece, the psychosexual study of horror and madness, Jérôme. Largely ignored during his lifetime, his star has only recently begun to shine in France, and he is now regarded as an overlooked French successor to Dostoyevsky. Reading like an unsettling love child of Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Jim Thompson, Martinet’s work explores the grimly humorous possibilities of unlimited pessimism

The Perpetual Motion Machine: The Story Of An Invention, Paul Scheerbart

In the last days of 1907, the German novelist and exponent of glass architecture Paul Scheerbart embarked upon an attempt to invent a perpetual motion machine. For the next two and a half years he would document his ongoing efforts (and failures) from his laundry-room-cum-laboratory, hiring plumbers and mechanics to construct his models while spinning out a series of imagined futures that his invention-in-the-making was going to enable. The Perpetual Motion Machine: The Story of an Invention, originally published in German in 1910, is an indefinable blend of diary, diagrams and digression that falls somewhere between memoir and reverie: a document of what poet and translator Andrew Joron calls a “two-and-a-half-year-long tantrum of the imagination.” Shifting ambiguously from irony to enthusiasm and back, Scheerbart’s unique amalgamation of visionary humor and optimistic failure ultimately proves to be a more literary invention than scientific: a perpetual motion of a fevered imagination that reads as if Robert Walser had tried his hand at science fiction. With “toiling wheels” inextricably embedded in his head, Scheerbart’s visions of rising globalization, ecological devastation, militaristic weapons of mass destruction and the possible end of literature soon lead him to dread success more than failure. The Perpetual Motion Machine is an ode to the fertility of misery and a battle cry of the imagination against praxis.
Paul Scheerbart (1863–1915) was a novelist, playwright, poet, newspaper critic, draughtsman, visionary, proponent of glass architecture, and would-be inventor of perpetual motion. Dubbed the “wise clown” by his contemporaries, he opposed the naturalism of his day with fantastical fables and interplanetary satires that were to influence Expressionist authors and the German Dada movement, and which helped found German science fiction. After suffering a nervous breakdown over the mounting carnage of World War I, Scheerbart starved to death in what was rumored to have been a protest against the war.

These books, and thousands of others, can be purchased from:

Brickbat Books
709 South Fourth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

215 592 1207

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Sunday: 11am to 6pm
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