A bunch of stink


The Paris Review has an old interview with W.S. Merwin, who just won the Pulitzer prize for Poetry. The New York Review of Books had a great  piece on Merwin, and the consequences of the choices he makes with regard to form and punctuation, but peversely, stupidly and really quite bafflingly, there is no electronic version of this even for print subscribers. Exclamation marks all round!!! I don’t mind it only being available to subscribers (as with the LRB, Harpers, almost every other decent literary publication) but to ask for an extra $20 a year to read online is, to my mind, a real bunch of stink.

Found #2


This is the front cover of a Christmas card found in a paperback copy of Huysmans’ Against Nature. It is in all likelihood from Christmas 1963. Inside, once, the pleasantries are disposed of, the writer bemoans the state of the nation.


The analysis continues on the reverse:


Whilst the thought of the US ‘falling back to the level of some South American republics or the Congo’ must have been chilling for Pat, one hopes she was comforted by the excellent work of the CIA in makng sure that other people’s elected leaders met broadly similar fates.

Found #1


My work at a charity bookshop (that cannot be named) mainly involves selling books I don’t care for to people who ask me questions like, ‘So, do you read much?’

My other main duty is going through bags of donations, finding what can be sold, then disposing of the chaff (all of which gets recycled). For the next few posts I’ll be sharing some of the things that have slipped from the pages. Today’s involves the photo above, that came from a 1982 Blue Peter annual. Though obviously some kind of photo collage, it is all the more impressive for being pre-Photoshop, as attested to by the inscription on the reverse.


Morbid anatomy



anatomicaltheatre042These images are from the La Specola Museum of Anatomy in Florence, which has a large collection of wax models. Though these are mostly of individual limbs and organs, there are several full figures, which are arranged with particular care (the pregnant woman, whose stomach is opened to display the baby, has long, brown, sensuous hair and wears a string of pearls).

If you have an interest in such things, Morbid Anatomy, which surveys “the Interstices of Art and Medicine, Death and Culture” has an embarassment of such riches (kudos to the cats at Fox and Comet for bringing this site to my notice).

Mason & Seidel


From a recent piece in the New York Times

One night after Christmas last year, in a dark, well-upholstered restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the American poet Frederick Seidel, an elegant man of 73 with an uncommonly courtly manner, told me a story about poetry’s power to disturb. “It was years ago,” Seidel explained in his measured voice, “in the days when I had an answering machine. I’d left my apartment, briefly, to go outside to get something, and when I came back there was a message. When I played it, there was a woman’s voice, a young woman’s voice sounding deeply aroused, saying: ‘Frederick Seidel . . . Frederick Seidel . . . you think you’re going to live. You think you’re going to live. But you’re not. You’re not going to live. You’re not going to live. . . .’ All this extraordinary, suggestive heavy breathing, getting, in the tone of it, more and more intensely sexual, more gruesome, and then this sort of explosion of sound from this woman, and: ‘You’re . . . not . . . going . . . to . . . live.’ ”

Wyatt Mason, the author of the piece, writes a very fine blog for Harpers (which also has a fun piece on Seidel that casually bashes Garrison Keillor). I first came across Mason’s work in the LRB, where he wrote an article about DFW, in which he expressed doubts about the level of patience and close reading required to fully appreciate the stories in Oblivion, DFW’s last collection. Though he did not doubt the quality of the pieces, in his opinion an average, literate reader could be forgiven for being unwilling to make the considerable effort required. At the time I disagreed with him, perhaps in the belief that this made me more than an average reader. The fact that DFW’s last few published pieces (particularly Good People in the New Yorker) seemed to eschew such tricks or puzzles suggest that DFW had become aware of the diminishing returns of such forms.

At the risk of being thought helpful…




Here’s a handy list of publications to send stories to (thank you Bookfox)  most of them in the US. Those who only accept postal submissions will want a SAE for a reply- which means finding US stamps (94c), messing around with International Reply Coupons (expensive and a hassle for all concerned) or contacting the editor directly and pleading that you are resident in the UK where the postal system is run by jackals and bears. The latter can actually work.

The list is by no means exhaustive, and I would question the inclusion of Epoch in the ‘Highly Competitive’ Section, as it’s just starting out and has a somewhat fresh-faced look (so says the old man of the sea). Otherwise it’s a good place to start, and will be invaluable in helping you to decide how bad you should feel about a given rejection.

http://www.thejohnfox.com/bookfox/ranking-of-literary-journ.html (you’ll have to paste this one in- it resists becoming a link).

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