Ann Quin’s novel Passages collapses hierarchies of center and margin

Ann Quin’s third novel Passages (1969) ostensibly tells the story of an unnamed woman and unnamed man traveling through an unnamed country in search of the woman’s brother, who may or may not be dead. The adverb ostensibly is necessary in the previous sentence, because Passages does not actually tell that story—or it rather tells that… Continue reading Ann Quin’s novel Passages collapses hierarchies of center and margin

A review of Berg, Ann Quin’s grimy oedipal comedy of horrors

Ann Quin’s 1964 novel Berg begins with one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read: A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father… This opening line encapsulates the plot of Berg, its terminal ellipses pointing to the radical indecision that propels the novel’s central oedipal… Continue reading A review of Berg, Ann Quin’s grimy oedipal comedy of horrors

Ann Quin’s Passages (Book acquired, 30 Jan. 2021)

A new edition of Ann Quin’s third novel Passages is out in a few days from indie juggernaut And Other Stories. The new edition (the first in nearly two decades) features a new introduction from Claire-Louise Bennett, whose book (novel?) Pond was a favorite of mine a few years back. Ann Quin’s first novel Berg was one of the… Continue reading Ann Quin’s Passages (Book acquired, 30 Jan. 2021)

A review of Berg, Ann Quin’s grimy oedipal comedy of horrors

Ann Quin’s 1964 novel Berg begins with one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read: A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father… This opening line encapsulates the plot of Berg, its terminal ellipses pointing to the radical indecision that propels the novel’s central oedipal… Continue reading A review of Berg, Ann Quin’s grimy oedipal comedy of horrors

Cells tighter than shells, you spinning into spirals, quick-silver, thrashing the water, making stars scatter (Ann Quin)

Beyond these, illuminated by past summers, one summer remained that stayed the sun long into the night after you had watched the others; others with their fathers knee-deep, belly-button unconcerned, roly-poly mothers stretching out of the sea. Whiter than starch hands on bat and ball, you failed to catch. Tents, buckets, spades; others that went… Continue reading Cells tighter than shells, you spinning into spirals, quick-silver, thrashing the water, making stars scatter (Ann Quin)

“Dreams like machines in the head” | A review of NYRB’s new Anna Kavan anthology

Machines in the Head, new from NYRB, compiles twenty-three Anna Kavan stories that were originally published between 1940 and 1975, as well as one previously unpublished story. The stories here, culled from five previous collections, show not so much a stylistic evolution over three decades of Kavan’s writing as they do a writer pushing herself… Continue reading “Dreams like machines in the head” | A review of NYRB’s new Anna Kavan anthology

Annotations on a probably incomplete list of books I read or reread in full in 2019

The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman, Angela Carter Deeply horny and deeply deprave. Hoffman sprints along with an out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire energy. It’s a picaresque adventure with narrator Desiderio taking on titular mad scientist Hoffman and his war against reality. Wild shit happens and each chapter feels like it could stand on its own as a… Continue reading Annotations on a probably incomplete list of books I read or reread in full in 2019

A place must be made for innocence | Gravity’s Rainbow, annotations and illustrations for page 419

In a corporate State 1, a place must be made for innocence, and its many uses 2. In developing an official version of innocence, the culture of childhood has proven invaluable 3 . Games, fairy-tales, legends from history, all the paraphernalia of make-believe 4 can be adapted and even embodied in a physical place, such as at Zwölfkinder 5. Over the… Continue reading A place must be made for innocence | Gravity’s Rainbow, annotations and illustrations for page 419

Breakfast was not suspected. No prophecy, no type of breakfast had been published. (De Quincey)

No such discovery as “breakfast” had then been made: breakfast was not invented for many centuries after that. We have always admired, and always shall admire, as the very best of all human stories, Charles Lamb’s account of the origin of roast pig in China. Ching Ping, it seems, had suffered his father’s house to be burned… Continue reading Breakfast was not suspected. No prophecy, no type of breakfast had been published. (De Quincey)

“As books multiply to an unmanageable excess, selection becomes more and more a necessity for readers” (Thomas De Quincey)

As books multiply to an unmanageable excess, selection becomes more and more a necessity for readers, and the power of selection more and more a desperate problem for the busy part of readers. The possibility of selecting wisely is becoming continually more hopeless as the necessity for selection is becoming continually more pressing. Exactly as… Continue reading “As books multiply to an unmanageable excess, selection becomes more and more a necessity for readers” (Thomas De Quincey)

Four novels by the sixties avant-garde novelist B.S. Johnson (Books acquired the first week of May, 2021)

I think the first time I heard of the British experimental novelist B.S. Johnson was some time around 2008 or so, when New Directions republished his “book in a box,” The Unfortunates (1969). I thought it sounded like a cool but maybe gimmicky idea at the time, and then Johnson dropped off my radar until more recently.… Continue reading Four novels by the sixties avant-garde novelist B.S. Johnson (Books acquired the first week of May, 2021)

Mario Levrero’s The Luminous Novel (Book acquired, 30 March 2021)

Mario Levrero’s The Luminous Novel is forthcoming in English translation by Annie McDermott from the good folks at And Other Stories. It’s a big ole book! Here is And Other Stories’ blurb: A writer attempts to complete the novel for which he has been awarded a big fat Guggenheim grant, though for a long time… Continue reading Mario Levrero’s The Luminous Novel (Book acquired, 30 March 2021)

Things I have been reading that are not Moby-Dick

I have been rereading Moby-Dick. I have also been reading things that are not Moby-Dick.  I have been reading emails. I have been reading and very much enjoying Anakana Schofield’s novel Bina. I should have finished it by now—there’s just one remaining section—but I’ve been reading it exclusively in the bathtub. And I only take baths on Sunday. But… Continue reading Things I have been reading that are not Moby-Dick

Two Books (Books acquired, 7 and 14 Feb. 2020)

Robinson by Muriel Spark. Penguin Books, 1964. Cover drawing by Terence Greer. I have not yet read Muriel Spark, but I’ve noted she’s been compared to Ann Quin and Anna Kavan. Robinson looked more interesting to me (and shorter) than her more famous novels The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori, and I love this cover. Alchemy by Titus Burckhardt.… Continue reading Two Books (Books acquired, 7 and 14 Feb. 2020)