Wes Anderson’s short film “Hotel Chevalier” is a lean, bruised and naked tale in a Paris hotel room. Anderson shot the short with his own funds (and the actors, Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman, donated their time) two years prior to his feature The Darjeeling Limited but it was often screened at the same time and is referred to by many as a prologue to that feature film that followed it (as mentioned in this previous NC at the Movies entry). The two are aesthetically consistent, but that’s not surprising as most of Anderson’s films belong to the same visual palate and characters seem descended from the same family tree.
- Numéro Cinq at the Movies: Wes Anderson’s “Hotel Chevalier,” Introduced by R. W. Gray
- Zola’s Horse: Using a Reporter’s Techniques to Strengthen Fiction and Creative Nonfiction — Russell Working
- Revisiting Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet — Paul M. Curtis
- The Dark Speech of Silence Laboring: Osip Mandelstam’s Poems & Translations — Betsy Sholl
- Elephants Can Remember | Childhood — Hilary Mullins
- Desecration & Reconciliation in Shirley Falls, Maine: Review of The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout — Steven Axelrod
- A Mother I Cannot Find Again: Memoir — Robert Day
- Graffiti Art: Photographs — David Helwig
- Grade | Short Fiction — Stephen Henighan
- Disciples of Friction: Poems — Jordan Smith
- Mark Twain, Nietzsche, and Terrible Truths that can Set Us Free — Patrick J. Keane
- Underground Man Revisited | Review of My Struggle: Book Two, A Man In Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard — Eric Foley
- The Connoisseurship of the Word | Interview with David Ferry — Peter Mishler
- From Smallness to Greatness: The Forgotten Poetry of Lorine Niedecker — Anne Loecher
- Use & Beauty: Furniture as Art — Leonard Bellanca
- What It’s Like Living Here — Donald Quist in Bangkok
- Albatross: Fiction — Simon Fruelund translated from Danish by K. E. Semmel
- Nabokov’s Exoneration: The Genesis and Genius of Lolita — Bruce Stone
- NC Top of the Pops
Zola’s Horse: Using a Reporter’s Techniques to Strengthen Fiction and Creative Nonfiction — Russell Working
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, here’s a practical look at the utility and felicities of research from a former journalist and Pushcart Prize-winning fiction writer, Russell Working. Russell won the Iowa Short Fiction Award for his first book The Resurrectionists and then spent six years as a freelance reporter in the Russian Far East and the Middle East. His fiction and humor have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, TriQuarterly Review, Zoetrope and Narrative.
Like Paul Curtis, as a young writer I was enthralled by Lawrence Durrell’s four astounding novels — Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive & Clea — together known as The Alexandria Quartet. I can’t count the vivid snippets of scene and dialogue that still float up in my mind: especially the end of Clea when the painter’s wounded hand can suddenly “paint” as here healthy hand had never been able to do or the moment when the feckless journalist (a minor character throughout) returns from war in the desert, a tan, golden warrior who has suddenly found his place in existence. Yes, I love the transformations at the end of the quartet, when time suddenly moves forward. I loved the mysterious and ineffably sad hand prints on the brothel walls, Justine’s mad search for her stolen child, and Pursewarden’s epigrams
There is an intimacy in Mandelstam’s voice that carries a quality of purity, as if the poems welled up from within and were first whispered to himself as provisional stays against the chaos around him. The words are like boulders allowing him to cross a difficult river, one bank being his own interior life, the other the outside world of Soviet life. Even in translation the intensity of his language comes through, a sense of the physicality of his words, an almost palpable voice. His genius for metaphor is clear: in the rapidity of association images have that quality of transformability or convertibility, which he admires in Dante, whose “similes that are,” he says, “never descriptive, that is, purely representational. They always pursue the concrete goal of giving the inner image of the structure or the force… (Conversation about Dante).”
Be that as it may however, much of my grandmother’s talk was more than chatter in overdrive: it was conversation, for she was a woman who had things she wanted you to know. And yet, for all her intense need to convey this or that or the next hundred things, there was also a way I began to understand she was not exactly communicating, at least not in the hopeful sense of the word. For that was the other thing: when it came to my grandmother and her talk, I often had this sense of her standing back behind the flood of words as if behind a tree at a river, calculating what she intended, peering out from her shelter to gauge your response.
Desecration & Reconciliation in Shirley Falls, Maine: Review of The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout — Steven Axelrod
So how does a writer working long after Virginia Woolf and Alain Robbe-Grillet, a writer of best-selling fiction in 2013, reconcile the demands of story-telling with this higher calling, this need to reveal that which stories, by their very nature, conceal? For Elizabeth Strout, it involves animating the machinery of her plot with moments of pure consciousness from the interior lives of her characters. It’s an uneasy compromise, and it certainly does not address the modernist need to “write against” and comment on the artificial constructions of the novel form. But it works. It lifts her book above the middle-brow pack, and lets the reader take away something surprising and ineffable, beyond the homely satisfactions of a tale well told.
My mother always wanted to live in a French Provincial house–but the house she imagined was in Fairway Manor, Kansas not in rural France. And her idea of “French Provincial” was not a southwest peasant Perigord but a Midwest suburban ranch. A shake shingle roof, wide soffits, and something called “weeping mortar” could turn a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie House into a domesticated Mansard. Decorate the inside in late fifties chartreuse drapes and upholstery, put identical lamps on identical tables on either side of a three cushion couch (with a matching “coffee table” in front–on which you never had coffee, and in a living room in which you did not live), and you were in my mother’s Midi.
David Helwig, author of over 35 books, who has contributed translations, poems, and fiction to NC over the years, an insistent and constant recidivist in other words, herewith changes genre and turns photographer, offering a collection of graffiti art he has discovered, mostly in Canada but as far away as China and Venice. Graffiti art is folk art, hybrid art, amateur art, uneasy art — rebellious, dramatic, inappropriate (often), underground, illegal (sometimes), piratical, dangerous (how do they do those highway overpasses?), a sign of life.
A little parable about race, narrow opinions, false assumptions and having your head so far up your own ass you can’t see the woods for the trees (to mix my clichés). The characters here are mostly low end manual labour doing the traditional low end Canadian job of pulling young trees for replanting. Grading is the act of evaluating, of deciding which trees to keep and which to leave behind. Ah, yes, but in life, with people, we are always deciding which to keep and which to leave behind — it’s an ugly aspect of human society; mostly we congratulate ourselves on not being too obvious (this is called being polite). In his fiction, Stephen Henighan has an awkward (brutally honest) habit of poking holes in that facade of politeness, culture and sophistication.
I’ll say it once: read these poems. Sombre, eloquent beauty marching by the words, line after line. I have known Jordan Smith since we were students at the Iowa Writers Workshop together, yea, these thirty or more years ago. He has only gotten better (can’t say the same for myself). Just look at “Brevity” which in one long sentence seems to compass life and mystery and the dwindling of self (“…we disciples of friction, know how each little slip/ Undoes becoming, becomes undoing…”) and the flight of wisdom (“that great, awkward/ (Scrawled in the margins) auk”). Beautiful poems. Nothing more to be said.
Increasingly in his final, “dark” years, Twain felt there was a “truth” he had to tell—a hard and lonely truth. Isabel Lyon, reading the “What is Man?” manuscript in 1905, and adopting Twain’s “Gospel” as her own Nietzschean “gospel,” thought that, for at least “some,” it could “put granite foundations under them and show them how to stand alone.” On the morning of August 31, 1905, after she had played the orchestrelle for him, Twain invited her to his upstairs study, where “he read aloud to me a part of his Gospel—his unpublishable Gospel. But Oh, it is wonderful…full of wonderful thoughts—beautiful Thoughts, Terrible Truths…”
Underground Man Revisited | Review of My Struggle: Book Two, A Man In Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard — Eric Foley
What ultimately matters is the magnitude of Knausgaard’s investment in his project, the sense that here is a man writing to save himself, writing to survive, writing because these things mean so much to him. Somehow, he is able to make them mean almost as much to us. Like all great art, whatever the genre, one leaves these books with a renewed feeling for what life and art can be.
Herewith the definitive interview with David Ferry, winner of the 2012 National Book Award for his collection Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations. It’s an interview that will surprise you, teach you and maybe change your life, especially if you are a poet. It is replete with compositional and technical information invested with passion and deep reading. Ferry will say things such as “In that line, for the first time in the poem, in the third foot, there’s an anapestic variation, and that felt so much like a kind of a panic in the way it is said, as if the voice saying that the line is experiencing this act that’s happening “Once by the Pacific.” That way of thinking about lines: what happens in the lines coming as a surprise to the reader, and coming as a surprise, in a way, to the poem, itself––I knew I wanted to talk about this stuff for the rest of my life…”
Anne Loecher shines a floodlight on the obscure and all but forgotten midwest poet Lorine Niedecker whose life, poetry and poetics are a surprise to me: where you might least expect it (the periodically flooded Blackhawk Island, Wisconsin), a resolute soul emerges. I love her word “condensery” that describes the exact and terse language of her poems. I am exhilarated by the adventurousness that led her to blast out of Blackhawk Island to New York and the arms (and poetics) of Louis Zukofsky. But her subsequent abortion and the return to Blackhawk Island are sad to read about. The poems, forged in the fire, are extraordinary.
We forget beauty; the age inspires that. Things are things, cool and sleek. Stylish is what the market aims for. It’s a throwaway world. Leonard Bellanca is an old friend from Greenfield, New York, a furniture maker, an artist, a man who tilts against windmills with names like Ikea and Walmart. He builds beautiful things that are also useful, a pleasure to use, things that have symmetry and motion, that draw the eye like a painting and will last till someone sticks them in a museum. He works out of traditions that don’t just date back to 2010.
Donald Quist just moved to Bangkok, oh, a few months ago after graduating with an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, making a new home and giving NC a chance to add a fascinating new city/country to our growing list of What It’s Like Living Here essays. These essays have been part of the NC package from the beginning, adding a wonderfully human and personal aspect to what the magazine offers (which is, well, normally human and personal anyway). Take time to look through the whole list and then think about where you live, how beautiful it can be just stepping out your door.
Alan Cheuse, book critic for National Public Radio, recently wrote about Fruelund’s work: “[he] is a master of the short form, importing some designs from our own Raymond Carver, applying them to the interstices of the European everyday, and making them his own.” “Albatross” is typical of Simon Fruelund’s style. A sparse, subdued story about two brothers, one of whom sets fire to his father’s rye field. With unassuming details and carefully fine-tuned images, “Albatross” is the type of story that sneaks up on you, and I found myself thinking for days after first reading it about the boy/arsonist perched atop the silo watching the adults scramble to put out his fire and harvest their grain.
The Cossacks are coming! The Cossacks are coming! Or in this case the lorn remnant of salacious and mischievous critics who continue to dredge up the infamous accusation that the author of Lolita was, if not a pedophile himself, at least advocating for pedophilia. No less a commentator than Martin Amis has suggested that the theme of child sex crops up so often in Nabokov’s entire work as to promote suspicion. In his definitive and replete essay on the subject, our writer Bruce Stone faces Nabokov’s accusers head on and demolishes them, not without heaping upon their heads some appropriate invective.
Vol. IV, No. 3, March 2013
- Art as a Category Mistake: Numéro Cinq’s March Issue — It’s Up and Complete!
- To Give Ourselves Over: A Conversation — China Marks and H. L. Hix
- The Ossington Bus: Fiction — Russell Smith
- Numéro Cinq at the Movies: Igloolik Isuma Productions and Félix Lajeunesse & Paul Raphaël’s “Tungijug: What We Eat” — Erin Morton and Taryn Sirove
- Library Romance: Micromemoir — Jonah Glover
- Apothecary: Hybrid Art — Paul Forte
- Gordon Lish: Photographs — bill hayward
- Unruffled: Essay — Fleda Brown
- Manipulatives: Letter Press Art & Interview — Terry Conrad & Mary Kathryn Jablonski
- Hadean: Fiction — Paul McQuade
- A Visual Approach to Syntactical and Image Patterns in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: Essay & Images — Anna Maria Johnson
- The Sally Draper Poems: A Poem Cycle by Jennica Harper | Introduced by Tammy Armstrong
- RUN FALL RUN: Original Music & Choreography — Ariane Miyasaki & Elizabeth Schmuhl
- Childhood: Essay — Richard Farrell
- A Heart in the Outside World: A Review of Revenge, Eleven Dark Tales, by Yoko Ogawa — Steven Axelrod
- A Little Mysterious Bleeding: Play — Robert Vivian
- Death By Oranges: Ivrea at Carnival — Natalia Sarkissian
- Race & Art in America: The Invisible Man meets Django Unchained — Laura K. Warrell
Vol. IV, No. 4, April 2013
- The Art of the Book & the Book as Art: Numéro Cinq’s April Issue — It’s Up and Complete!
- Numéro Cinq at the Movies: Woodkid’s “I Love You,” Introduced by R. W. Gray
- The General Indifference of Sand: Poems — Jean Portante Translated by Pierre Joris
- Soundings: Poems & Photographs — Richard Jackson
- The Cosmic Conversation, A Note on Plato’s Timaeus — Jacob Glover
- End of the Fire Cult: Fiction — Angela Woodward
- Seeing Jane and Don | A Visit With Artist Jane Buyers & Playwright Don Druick — Ann Ireland
- Sweet to my heart | Translations of Tamil Love Poems — A. Anupama
- Poetry’s Om | Essay — A. Anupama
- Laundromats, Lucky Charms and the Labors of Herakles | Review of Anne Carson’s Red Doc> — Richard Farrell
- Leconte de Lisle’s Les Roses d’Ispahan | Translation & Performance — Marilyn McCabe
- Essay as Evolutionary Advantage (après Borges) — Patrick Madden
- A Short Film About My Father | Fiction — rob mclennan
- Laughing at Despair | Review of The Fun Parts by Sam Lipsyte — Benjamin Woodard
- Chance Encounters of a Literary Kind: John Ashbery and Tadeusz Różewicz — Robert Day
- How Should A Writer Be? | Interview With Sheila Heti — Jill Margo
- Books as Art, Books as Sculpture, Sculpture as a Poem: Marilyn R. Rosenberg Interviewed by Nance Van Winckel