Two new pieces up over at Numéro Cinq this week—an interview with George Singleton and a review of his new book Stray Decorum.
Numéro Cinq recently posted my review of Shane Jones’s Daniel Fights a Hurricane.
“Beauty in novels is important to me,” Shane Jones says in a recent BOMB interview. “I really don’t care for novels that have an agenda, a political statement, a sassy take on contemporary society. Give me something fucked-up and beautiful.” Wistful yet playful, Shane Jones’s novel Daniel Fights a Hurricane wrings out an unsettling story about madness and suffering for love. It’s a novel reminiscent of Don Quixote, some stories in the Christian Bible, and accounts of other eccentrics, but it’s remarkable on its own merits for breaking with narrative orthodoxies while uncovering what is soulful and heartbreaking about its characters. And, yes, it has that hallucinogenic combo of being fucked-up and beautiful. Read the rest here.
My story “The Funeral Bill” is out in The Best American Mystery Stories 2012. It originally appeared in the New Orleans Review.
Numéro Cinq recently posted my review of Autoportrait by Edouard Levé
Edouard Levé took his own life ten days after delivering his final novel Suicide to his publisher. Assembled pointillisticly, Suicide is without much narrative, but Levé holds your attention through insights regarding the act of suicide and his patient rendering of a man who takes his own life at the beginning of the book. There is a lot of guesswork on the part of the author in Suicide, but Levé manages to give a poignant depiction of this young man, his personality, eccentricities, and motivations. Autoportrait and Suicide resemble each other in style, except the former is about Levé himself, and Autoportrait is without the latter’s lucidity, which is in keeping with Levé’s philosophy, as he writes: “Only the living seem incoherent. Death closes the series of events that constitutes their lives. So we resign ourselves to finding a meaning for them.” When it was written, Autoportrait was about a living person. The rest is here.
Numéro Cinq recently posted my review of Zona by Geoff Dyer
Geoff Dyer is a British-born essayist and novelist. While he has written a number of smart novels—probably his best being Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi—his nonfiction (written mostly as book-length essays) is thought of as especially original and brilliant. Dyer’s broad intelligence and charm make the work addictive. He has a gift for putting oddly diverse cultural touchstones—Hakim Bey to Wordsworth, Thievery Corporation to Miguel De Unamuno—together with his own offbeat insights to create keys to contemporary culture (and personal understanding).
In a recent Bookforum interview Dyer was asked if was fair to say that his work is written in part “against clichés of genre, clichés of convention.” Here’s what he said:
Oh, indeed. Absolutely. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve drifted away from fiction as a reader as well as a writer…[S]ome novels can actually be conceived at the level of cliché. The whole idea of what we want from a novel sometimes is for it to conform to a very familiar set of conventions.
Dyer’s nonfiction often falls within two categories. While he has written books on serious subjects such as The Missing of the Somme (about World War I) and the Ongoing Moment (about documentary photography), he also has a cannon of playful and irreverent books such as Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It (a collection of travel writings) and Out of Sheer Rage (a quasi-memoir devoted to Dyer’s own desire to write a “sober academic study” of D. H. Lawrence —he never does; he just writes one about wanting to write one).
Zona—a book devoted to writing a gloss on Stalker, a ’70 Russian art-house film—seems to belong somewhere in that whimsical column. The rest is here.
Numéro Cinq recently posted my review of Dukla by Andrzej Stasiuk.
“There’ll be no plot,” Andrzej Stasiuk writes in Dukla, “with its promise of a beginning and hope of an end. A plot is the remission of sins, the mother of fools, but it melts away in the rising light of day. Darkness or blindness give things meaning, when the mind has to seek out a way in the shadows, providing its own light.” Rigorous and striving in his efforts to communicate a personal and complex vision, Stasiuk’s doesn’t dither with plots in the traditional sense. Read slowly and taken intimately, however, Dukla teaches one how to see. With delicate and precise prose, Stasiuk’s narrator seeks a “resurrection” of his experiences, experiences that at once seem universal but all take place on a small stage—in a small town, in a creek bed, in a roadside ditch. With a narrator drawn to light and with just about every paragraph brimming with glowing descriptions of things high and low, I often thought of Allen Gingsburg’s “Footnote to Howl” while reading Dukla and wondered if its narrator knew it—“Holy… everything is holy.” Read the rest here.