Jan 312015
 

Nance Van Winckel

Time to consider Nance Van Winckel’s tremendous contributions to Numéro Cinq. Amazingly generous with her time and energy, she has single-handedly defined the magazine as a haven for hybrid art, book art, cross genre art, and off-the-page art. This is what happens here. A person joins the masthead and suddenly his or her part of the magazine expands in the direction of personal interests and taste. Rob Gray became synonymous with NC at the Movies, Julie Larios has her Undersung series, Gerry Beirne became our Irish wing. But there is something especially meaningful about Nance’s pieces because they match the vaguely piratical, genre-bending, and rebellious ethos we began with, a way of thinking embodied in Nance’s neologism pho-toems (photographs + poems). So for the month of February we are featuring some (not all) of Nance Van Winckel’s work on NC.

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Nance Van Winckel is the author of six collections of poems, including After A Spell, winner of the 1999 Washington State Governor’s Award for Poetry, and the recently released Pacific Walkers (U. of Washington Press, 2013). She is the recipient of two NEA Poetry Fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, Poetry, and Prairie Schooner. Recent poems appear in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, Crazyhorse, Field, and Gettysburg Review. She is also the author of four collections of linked short stories and a recent recipient of a Christopher Isherwood Fiction Fellowship. Boneland, her newest book of fiction, is just out with U. of Oklahoma Press. Her stories have been published in AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, The Sun, and Kenyon Review. Nance’s photo-collage work has appeared in Handsome Journal, The Cincinnati Review, Em, Dark Sky, Diode, Ilk, and Western Humanities Review. New visual work and an essay on poetry and photography appear in Poetry Northwest and excerpts from a collage novel are forthcoming in Hotel Amerika and The Kenyon Review Online. She is Professor Emerita in Eastern Washington University’s graduate creative writing program, as well as a faculty member of Vermont College of Fine Arts low-residency MFA program. She lives near Spokane, Washington with her husband, the artist Rik Nelson. Her personal web page is here.

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Jan 302015
 

I was just working on an essay (another one) about Alice Munro and came upon this lovely little set of photographs and quotations in the Globe and Mail. Quotations from her stories matched with photographs of the town of Wingham, where she grew up. So just for fun, here it is. Where I come from (Norfolk County, also in southwestern Ontario, but more south) is the same but different; for example, the style of white-brick ornamentation you’ll see is, in my mind, quite distinct to Huron County, not the same in Norfolk County. The land is different, too. Our farm is at the bottom of an ancient seabed. Huron County is higher, rockier countryside, poorer for farming, settled later.

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She may have left when she was 18, but Nobel laureate Alice Munro’s native Huron County – she grew up on a farm outside of Wingham – influenced her life’s work, both in setting and sensibility. Photographer Deborah Baic visited the Southwestern Ontario community behind her exceptional writing about the lives of ordinary girls and women.

via A literary tour through Alice Munro’s hometown of Wingham, Ont. – The Globe and Mail.

Jan 282015
 

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I noticed on Twitter that Nicholas Carlson had a piece up about how he wrote his new book Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! in six weeks, 93,000 words in six weeks. His actual discipline is interesting (it’s the brute force method, very useful in times of dire need) but not as grabby to me as the fact that he used the note-taking app Evernote instead of a standard word processor. I’m a bit of a tech geek; I love this nugget of information. I used to use Evernote before it went to the cloud; it was a free note taking and web clipping program at that time. Then I migrated to something called Treepad and lately I have reluctantly started using OneNote. The first love of my life, XYWrite, still lives inside DosBox on my computer, though I can’t figure out how to print out of it (I have to open the files in WordPerfect to print them). I go to XYWrite for deep focus early writing. Anyway, read Carlson’s piece and the smaller one on Evernote which is here. They’ll get you fired up to write.

Aside from the geekery, it’s useful to remember, when you read this, what Zola said about deadlines: “One forges one’s style on the terrible anvil of daily deadlines.”

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I worked in hour-long, concentrated bursts and took frequent breaks. When I got back to my desk about 8:30 or so, I would set a timer for an hour. As soon as the timer started I would force myself to either write or stare at the screen until the hour was over. (I would pause the timer if I needed to make coffee or tea or go to the bathroom.) Then, when the hour was over, I would get up from my desk, go outside and walk around a city block — leaving my iPhone behind. Then I’d come back to my desk and do another hour of writing and staring. Then another walk. Then one more hour.

via How I Wrote A 93,000-Word Book In 6 Weeks | Nicholas Carlson | LinkedIn.

Jan 282015
 

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In 2005 I was the McGee Professor of Writing at Davidson College in North Carolina, a distinguished old college with a somewhat privileged student body that often lived up to its privilege by also being graceful, well-read and very hard-working. I grew fond of my students there; I still have some of their stories around just to remind me of how good even undergrads can be. One of those stories is by Nicholas Carlson: “Scrambled Eggs”; a story replete with egg imagery, a pregnant girlfriend, and a college kid who learns a thing or two.

Nicholas Carlson was a student in my English 3o4  Senior Fiction Workshop, not the only one to have kept in touch, but the first out with a book. My copy came in the mail a couple of weeks ago, with a lovely inscription and a shout out in the acknowledgements. I take a certain paternal pride in these things. It’s very nice to see someone you have a stake in make good.

See below for a link to the NY Times review, just published.

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Mr. Carlson, the chief correspondent for Business Insider, a website that covers technology and finance, doesn’t waste words lingering over details or musing on bigger themes — leadership, technology, the nature of innovation. He favors the short paragraph and the brief biographical sketch. “She was a pompom girl and a debater,” he writes in his précis of Ms. Mayer’s childhood. “She was on the precision dance team.” The result, to borrow the digital media cliché, is corporate history as snackable content.

Read the rest of the review at the NY Times.

Jan 252015
 

Gary, Indiana via UK Guardian

Ordinary people are always at the mercy of deep transformations of wealth and technology, changes you can’t see at ground level, except that suddenly your income seems to drop, moving to another city seems like a good idea, the value of your retirement fund shrinks instead of growing, that mortgage payment seems a lot more onerous than it once did. The advent of industrial capitalism in the 18th century saw millions of ordinary people wrenched from an apparently age old rural existence and funneled into  vast working class slums (called a pool of free labour — unemployment is necessary for the efficient operation of industry, think about it). I grew up in the 50s and 60s, which, looking back, now seem to be the peak of late capitalist middle class we now feel declining. We are being wrenched from that wonderful (fantasy) life and funneled into something new. What it will look like is difficult to tell. I suggest you all read Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation to give you a sense of the forces of economic change and what we might be in for (not the same but something like).

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220px-Chrystia_Freeland_-_India_Economic_Summit_2011Chrystia Freeland via Wikipedia

Surging income inequality is a symptom of a broader transformation in how capitalism is working in the 21st century. This change has brought tremendous benefits – it has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the emerging markets and provided cheaper goods and services, and many brand new ones, for us in the industrialised world. But it is also hollowing out the incomes and wealth of the western middle class, even as it enriches those at the very top.

This distributional shift is the great economic and political challenge of our time. It will tear some societies apart. The successful ones will be those that figure out how to solve it together.

The technology revolution, which has been turbo-charged by globalisation, is an economic upheaval comparable in its scale and scope to the Industrial Revolution. Just as the Industrial Revolution did not bring the end of farming, the technology revolution won’t bring the end of manufacturing. But just as the agricultural sector shrank as a share of the overall economy, particularly in terms of employment, the relative size of the industrial sector will decline, too.

Mike Moffatt, an economist at the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario, likes to use the example of Gary Works, in Indiana, to illustrate what is going on. It was once the world’s largest steel mill and remains the largest integrated steel mill in North America. At its postwar peak, Gary Works employed 30,000 people and could produce 6m tons of steel a year. Today, Gary can produce more than 7m tons of steel working at full capacity, but it takes just 5,000 workers to do that.

The same forces that have transformed Gary Works are changing every sphere of human activity. This isn’t just about the assembly line any more – 99% of us are, metaphorically, Gary steel workers.

via Even plutocrats can see profound inequality isn’t in their interests | Chrystia Freeland | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Jan 242015
 

Keane3
When is a good time to think about death? asks Lawrence Sutin in his dab (as in dab handed) little essay of the same name in the coming issue, and I think NOW! Dead of Winter, armpit of the year (this does not apply in California where you sybarites escape the annual backbone inducing death and resurrection of Nature of the northeast), long night of the Soul (Seasonal Affective Disorder), Melancholy, Dyspepsia, and, yes, Thoughts of Death. So why not the Death Issue? And after that it’ll be March and things will get better.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALawrence Sutin and Murphy

Others look forward to death because they’re convinced it’s lights- out oblivion, a blissful rest from life. Still others say that we’re all dead already and just don’t know it, the afterlife is here and now and you can call it heaven, hell, the bardo, the liminal, the astral, the timeless dream in which the universe become us and us it. A sizable subgroup avoids thinking of their own deaths but relishes thinking of the deaths of those they hate. (Lawrence Sutin)

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From Contributor Tom Faure, a video/music performance thingie (a word we use around here) on death and the spam filter. Not to be missed.

Ian ColfordIan Colford

Ian Colford, a librarian in Halifax, has been publishing in Numéro Cinq since nearly the beginning, essays and fiction. This time he offers his mass death story, reminiscent of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez title, “How the Laughter of the Nation Led to the Pitiable Deaths of Claudia and Francisco Cordoba’s Ten Children” — each death has its own little chapter.

…Luis and Alonzo were not interested in fairness, and when the blade penetrated the tender flesh between Pedro’s ribs and punctured his lung, and his blood had left its stain on the grass of the empty lot, both boys felt that justice had been served. As for Pedro, whose only regret was that he would never have the chance to tell a soul what it was like to die at the peak of his youthful form beneath a blazing afternoon sun, the moment was everything he had longed for. (Ian Colford)

BraddBradd Allen Saunders

And then we have a full length prize-winning play by the inimitable Bradd Allen Saunders entitled “Detective Nicky Carruthers is Dead,” a kind of Eugene Ionesco-meets-David Mamet sort of play, an existential police procedural comedy of identity, the sort of thing we specialize in here at NC. (Time also to remind readers that we are one of the few — if any — magazines that publish full length plays and screenplays, not huge number so far but a gradual accumulation well worth looking through.)

CARILLO

So you’re a positivist. That’s just another philosophy.

CARGNISCENTI

You cannot be in two places physically at one time you asshole!

CARILLO

What if I was standin’ on the border and had one foot in California and the other in Arizona?

(Bradd Allen Saunders)

Patrick J Keane 2Patrick J. Keane

What happens after death? Always a mystery. Death and judgment are the chief causes of insomnia (and loss of faith). Our brilliant and indefatigable Contributing Editor Patrick J. Keane has an essay on death, judgment and the smug schadenfreude of  the elect. As usual, brilliant,  erudite, and witty.

I was struck, in reading The Iliad, by those panoramic scenes of the Homeric gods looking down from Olympus, taking pleasure in the entertainment provided by the spectacular carnage of the Trojan War. I was aware, too, of a famous passage in a favorite text, De rerum natura, where Lucretius captures the emotion of Schadenfreude in an extended image: Suave, mari magno turbanti aequora ventus, e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem [It is pleasant to watch from the land the great struggle of someone else in a sea rendered great by turbulent winds]. (Patrick J. Keane)

Susan Paddon2Susan Paddon

Patrick O’Reilly reviews  Susan Paddon’s new poetry book Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths.

As the mother’s death draws urgently near, it becomes clearer and clearer to Susan that she is not going to get it, that whatever secrets, stories, even anecdotes her mother has will go with her. Like anyone else, the mother is both finished and uncompleted, leaving Susan with the fragments of a story and no satisfying conclusion. (Patrick O’Reilly)

Two Tragedies cover

arthur and sl at soccer gameSydney Lea and grandson Arthur

But not all thoughts of death need be lugubrious and another stalwart contributing editor Sydney Lea has in this issue a lovely little essay about standing by the grave plot his wife has just bought.

Now, from the plot she’s just bought, my wife sweeps an arm at the view again: looming above all else, there’s our favorite mountain to eastward, purple with May but still holding snow at the summit. An eagle appears before it as if the woman had willed it there, the bird’s reflection complete in the river’s languid oxbow. Sun-spangled, it skims the treeline along the near shore. My love claps hands in witness, eyes joyous. (Sydney Lea)

RW with troutRobert Wrigley (with a dead fish so as not to depart from the issue theme)

Also in this fabulous issue—did I mention it was a fabulous issue? none better? we rise and rise—an amazing handful of poems by the esteemed Robert Wrigley (I have had my eye on him so long now, first mentioned him on NC in 2010).

How The Blind Dog Perceived Human Sadness

was a mystery no less than her willingness
to attend to it. The way she nuzzled a hand,
so that it might be extended to her and washed clean

of whatever it was that afflicted it, which she smelled.
It had to be, for she was deaf too, there was no way to tell
her of it otherwise,…

(Robert Wrigley)

Dao StromDao Strom

Also in this issue, not all death-related, a gorgeous hybrid photo/page layout/memoir from Dao Strom, inspired at least in part by the Chaulky White piece we published two issues ago.

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And (superlatives are beginning to fail) did you know that Ludwig Wittgenstein and Robert Musil used to live on the same street? One of the little known facts of Modernism revealed in Genese Grill’s magnificent essay on modernity, philosophy and literature: “‘Ethics and Aesthetics are One': Living Language, Experimental Ethics, and the Earnestness of High Modernist Conduct of Life in Wittgenstein and Musil,” which is a mouthful but continues in depth Grill’s exploration of Modernism on these pages. To be brief: it’s an essay about the problem of the relativity of knowledge and the incompleteness of art (both Musil and Wittgenstein never completed their great works).

Genese GrillGenese  Grill

Desktop2Wittgenstein & Musil

And that’s not all, by any means (remember, we do this once and month!). You will love Benjamin Woodard’s delightful interview with the young Angolan writer Ondjaki.

OndjakiCloseOndjaki

Luanda is still home for me. It’s a place that stays inside, though I’m not sure if it’s still the real Luanda. I don’t write exactly about the places I visit. Usually it’s more about the remains of those places in me. People. Moments. Trees. Colors. Shadows. Dreams. Hands. Shoes. Fogs. (Secret: sometimes I think I live somewhere in a lost bridge between now and the past.) I spend too much time not in the present. And I pay the price. (Ondjaki)

Plus, yes, poems from the Irish poet Thomas McCarthy;

I watch the timeless candle burning at both ends.
At one end it must be my mother’s face
And her infinite correlation with my own fate.
There’s no other end that I would put in place

a review of the great Charles D’Ambrosio new book of essays Loitering by Melissa Matthewson;

D’Ambrosio’s essays are small journeys—episodic, anecdotal, rambling—but, also ruminant and ironic. They are addictive not only for the strength of D’Ambrosio’s humor and insights, but also for the language, syntax, and rhythm of each sentence. Let’s take the title essay “Loitering,” in which D’Ambrosio takes us to Belltown in Seattle lingering as a bystander in a standoff between police and a gunman who has taken hostage his girlfriend. The opening sentence exemplifies how D’Ambrosio decides to portray himself as a narrator for the entire collection to come. “This is totally false, but for the sake of the story let’s say the events in question begin around 2:00 a.m., just because that’s when I show up on the scene.”

and a review of Jay Rogoff’s new book of poems, Venera, by our own Mary Kathryn Jablonski (taking a break from curating art posts for the magazine);

…a book of love poems with a capital L. Yes, lover to lover, parents and children, but also love of – and honor, respect and compassion for – the earth and all it contains: art, music, birdsong, poetry. Love of the spiritual too  – life itself, including birth and death.

and last but never least a new NC at the Movies.

Jan 202015
 

Caroline Adderson

Caroline Adderson first published her terrific story “Your Dog Makes Me Smile” here at NC. Now it’s just out in the new edition of the annual Best Canadian Stories (Oberon Press).

I wrote at the time:

This is a treat, a gorgeous, frank, lusty, ever so subversively comic (it’s always slightly comic when women take a good look at a man) love story about — no, not that kind of love, but about a woman and her dog. I have known Caroline Adderson since, oh, before 1992 when I included three of her stories in that year’s edition of Coming Attractions (co-edited with Maggie Helwig). I will never forget that experience — I read five lines of a story and KNEW I’d found a writer, not just someone who pushed words around on a page efficiently but someone who ELECTRIFIED the language. And she has never disappointed since. Later I also put her in Best Canadian Stories. So we have an editorial past together, Caroline and I, and a friendship, and that makes it doubly pleasurable to bring her into the Numéro Cinq fold.

The story is gorgeous, yes, I should repeat that. It is stocked with felicities, large and small. One of the loveliest is the way Caroline weaves in a reading and rereading of Chekhov’s classic short story “Lady with a Lapdog” — a tale of a woman, a man and a dog, though as Caroline’s protagonist notices, the dog is not altogether considered as a character and seems to fade out of the story, a shortcoming that is rectified in the present story. (And to nail the point we have, above, a photo of the author and dog.) Caroline further complicates the story by introducing a younger male lover, a former husband and a wonderfully irate new wife (there is an amazing set of scenes around this pair — the author does not make the mistake of hiding the fact that the protagonist and her ex have slept together since the ex married his new wife, the new wife knows, her hatred is dramatic and comic, the scenes are charged with mischief).

And, of course, the dog can read.

The story, after its appearance here, went on to become a chapter in Adderson’s novel Ellen in Pieces, published last year to wild acclaim.

Ellen_in_Pieces_Cover-300x439

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Jan 172015
 

Charlie Brooker is a British controversialist, comedian, and satirist. Here’s his take on 2014, admittedly from the British perspective and featuring British politicians. But if you give it half a thought, you’ll see that by the principle of analogy what he says extends to this side of the Atlantic as well. Don’t we have quantitative easing and a declining economy, too? Of course, the most interesting aspect of the video is the segment about Vladimir Putin’s confusionist-in-office Vladislav Surkov, who uses marketing techniques and devices of conceptual art to confuse and demoralize the opposition (see “Putin’s Rasputin” and “BBC’s Adam Curtis On The “Contradictory Vaudeville” Of Post-Modern Politics” and “The Hidden Author of Putinism” — Surkov may actually have published a novel as well!). The  video, as I say, is intriguing but probably misleading because, of course, the avant-garde deliberately confuses the reader/viewer in order to provoke thought, to lift the veil of illusion as it were (what is a work of art?) whereas no one seems to want to provoke thought amongst the constituent public, only keep it confused.

 

 

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Jan 132015
 

Tom-McCarthy-006Tom McCarthy

From “Writing Machines” by Tom McCarthy, published in London Review of Books

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about reality in fiction, or reality versus fiction. Take the many articles about the ‘true’ writings of Karl Ove Knausgaard, or the huge amount of attention paid to David Shields’s polemic Reality Hunger. Time and again we hear about a new desire for the real, about a realism which is realistic set against an avant-garde which isn’t, and so on. It’s disheartening that such simplistic oppositions are still being put forward half a century after Foucault examined the constructedness of all social contexts and knowledge categories; or, indeed, a century and a half after Nietzsche unmasked truth itself as no more than ‘a mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms … a sum of human relations … poetically and rhetorically intensified … illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions’ (and that’s not to mention Marx, Lyotard, Deleuze-Guattari, Derrida etc). It seems to me meaningless, or at least unproductive, to discuss such things unless, to borrow a formulation from the ‘realist’ writer Raymond Carver, we first ask what we talk about when we talk about the real. Perhaps we should have another look at the terms ‘the real’, ‘reality’ and ‘realism’.

Let’s start with ‘realism’, since it’s the easiest target of the lot. Realism is a literary convention – no more, no less – and is therefore as laden with artifice as any other literary convention.

Read the rest here.

—Jason DeYoung

Jan 092015
 

Savage Love

Gary Garvin spotted this anomaly on Amazon earlier today and sent me the link. At least I think it’s an anomaly, a wrinkle in the space-time continuum or a computer glitch that moved the decimal over several places to the right. OR! Another possibility is that I am sitting on a gold mine in the form of a box of books in my bedroom closet. I can easily let you have one for $4,000, mint condition, and I will drive it over. Copies with coffee and spaghetti stains or dog foot prints cost more.

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Jan 082015
 

Jeff Bursey, NC’s new Special Correspondent, has a new review up at The Winnipeg Review. He’s a reviewer reviewing a reviewer this time as he tackles John Domini’s collection of essays and reviews The Sea-God’s Herb.

At the risk of putting a word in Domini’s mouth, I suggest that some literary critics surprise themselves by assuming the role of pamphleteer for a movement or a subset of authors. There are dangers for creative writers (Domini is a poet and novelist) in being an advocate as they “often grumble about how higher impulses get diffused when they have to generate the low-level noise of a book review,” and there is, too, the fact that “any honest writer has to recognize how his or her arguments can become glib, a kind of shrink-wrap that risks suffocating the artwork under consideration.” Yet Domini persists, and his book “as a whole amounts to a defense of artists taking chances.” This is, simultaneously, also a celebration of those who take risks in imagining and publishing books that are not in the mainstream. Domini does this without pretension and without submitting his likes and dislikes to a critical ideology.

via Deepening the Conversation: On John Domini | The Winnipeg Review.

Jan 082015
 

Steven  Axelrod

The second novel in Numéro Cinq contributor Steven Axelrod’s Henry Kennis Mystery series, Nantucket Five-spot, arrives from Poisoned Pen Press this week.  Publisher’s Weekly calls it “A satisfying follow-up to 2014’s Nantucket Sawbuck and goes on to praise it as “an enjoyable, fast-paced read.” Read the press release from Poisoned Pen.

Here’s how the book begins:

Finally, I was having dinner alone with Franny Tate. It was a mild summer night, we were dining at the Cru, over-looking Nantucket harbor. I was leaning across the table to kiss her when the first bomb went off.

A hole punched into the air, a muffled thump that by-passed my ears and smacked straight into my stomach, like those ominous fireworks that flash once and leave no sparks. The blast wave hit a second later, shaking tables and knocking over glasses, rattling windows in their frames. Franny mouthed the word ‘bomb’, her lips parting in silence and pressing together again, not wanting to say the word aloud, or thinking I couldn’t hear her through the veil of trembling air.

I pushed my chair back, pointing toward the Steamship Wharf.

We ran out into a night tattered by running feet and sirens. Our romantic evening lay across the stained tablecloth behind us, tipped over and shattered with the restaurant stemware

Something bad had arrived on my little island, an evil message, both a violation and a threat, like a dog with its throat cut dropped on a front parlor rug. It was up to me and my officers to answer that threat, to make sense of it and set things right. I didn’t explain this to Franny. I didn’t need to.

She was running right beside me.

I thought it all began with the first bomb threat, two weeks earlier, but now I know better. It takes a long time to make a bomb from scratch. Lighting the fuse is the quick part.

I can tell you the exact moment when the match touched the cord: it was a bright humid morning in June. A ten-year-old girl named Deborah Garrison stepped off the boat from Hyannis, and skipped ahead of her mother down into the crowded seaside streets. As it happened, I was at the Steamship Authority that morning, picking up my Assistant Chief, Haden Krakauer. We actually saw Debbie in her pony tails and Justin Bieber t-shirt. She didn’t seem special, just another adorable little girl on a holiday island crowded with them.

And Debbie didn’t actually do anything. Nothing that happened later was her fault. The simple, irreducible fact of her presence was enough. Even years later, the consequences and implications of Debbie’s arrival seem bizarre and implausible, far too weighty to balance on those thin sunburned shoulders.

It was like setting off an avalanche with a sigh.

NANTUCKET FIVESPOT cover

Jan 022015
 

David_Harvey_on_Subversive_FestivalDavid Harvey via Wikipedia

I came to thought in the 1960s more or less, watched the civil rights conflicts in the US, the Vietnam War, the worldwide student movements; I went on marches, protested this and that (including the premonitory rumblings of Thatcherism under Edward Heath in the UK). I’ve lived a good deal of my life in a mind-set built around that time, a bit of a fossil now, really. Lately, I’ve been trying to crack the shell, nosing around for new ideas and ways of  explaining the force vectors that seem box me in on every side. You all know the feeling; we’re all working harder for less money, finding less security, mystified by the gyrations of governments, the accumulation of money by a few lucky individuals, the general degradation of our cultural experience. Numéro Cinq is part of this venture, a practical experiment into the new world of cyber-publication that has upset the apple cart of traditional publishing economics.

Lately, I’ve discovered the  Anglo-American thinker David Harvey who has written a brilliant series of books on capitalism, neo-liberalism and post-modernity. Last year he published a book called Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism. Truth is something difficult to come by, so I always plump for what I call hermeneutic vigor, the capacity of an explanation to creatively and ingeniously organize experience. Harvey has hermeneutic vigor.

To help you ease your way into reading him, I have put together three videos. The first is an edited version of a Harvey lecture done with cartoons. Lovely to watch. The second is, I think, the complete version of the lecture, basically an outline of the most recent crises of capitalism. And the last is a longer lecture plus a question and answer period at the London School of Economics last April, called “The Seventeen Contradictions of Capitalism.”

At least watch the first one. It’s a hoot.

dg

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image
Dec 312014
 

helberg pic

In the slider at the Top of the Page this month — the work of a relative newcomer to the masthead, Natalie Helberg, who wrote her first piece for NC for the November, 2013, issue. I didn’t know her. She came to us through a recommendation from Eric Foley. And never has a tip like that worked so well. Natalie is smart and erudite, well read in critical theory, with a taste for the experimental and the avant garde. She writes like a dream, clear and complex, with a touch of the mimic in her approach (you can see her trying out the techniques of the authors she is writing about). She’s contributed a wonderful series of reviews, interviews and review essays. A perfect fit, in other words.

Natalie Helberg is from Edmonton, Alberta. Some of her experimental work has appeared on InfluencySalon.ca and in Canadian Literature. She recently completed an MFA in Creative Writing with the University of Guelph. She is currently pursuing a PhD in philosophy at the University of Toronto.

 

Dec 292014
 

Vitruvian Me from the series The Body Ineffable (Les maux non dits), 88.9 x 81.3cm, Inkjet Print (2008)Chantal Gervais: Vitruvian Me from the series The Body Ineffable (Les maux non dits)

The conception of Numéro Cinq was serendipitous. It came from nowhere. Like Athena leaping from the mind of Zeus (um, without the part about Zeus eating her pregnant mother). It became something totally unexpected. I mean totally. (See! It’s turned me into a Valley Girl.) It’s been around for five years now. This is our anniversary. I can remember our excitement (amazement) when we clocked our first 10,000 views. Oh, how young and innocent we all were! Some time in the last year we crossed the million mark, and I didn’t even notice. That’s as it should be because, of course, the real meaning of NC is in the people who participate in the community, the writers, artists, editors, curators, collaborators, and readers. The connections forged and reforged, the old friends brought into the fold, and the new friends made (impossible a few years ago without the magazine and the Internet) will all last longer than the magazine itself. And this is not to speak of the background buzz of books published, contacts made with publishers, new jobs found—all as a result of Numéro Cinq. But, for me, always, the greatest pleasure has resided in my interaction with our little cadre of contributors and editors, the masthead; the energy, intelligence and taste collected there is just, well, you know, totally… (dg, choked up, turns away from the camera and gazes at the horizon: cue the wild horse stampede).

January, the new beginning of the New Five-Year Plan (we are going to free the serfs): It begins with dazzling art and video from Canadian artist Chantal Gervais (see image at the top) curated by NC masthead newcomer J C Olsthoorn.

One thing does lead to another and several vectors converge in Chantal Gervais’ body of work from over the past twenty or so years. Look at the big picture of Gervais’ mostly photographic art projects. A strange inter-connectedness emerges starting with her studies of the human body. Through photography she exposes its external strength and frailty in Duality of the Flesh (1996-1997), The Silence of Being (1998-2000), Without End (2003), and Between Self and Others (2005). She then focuses on her own body, starting on the outside using a flat bed scanner to create her version of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and with a further shift from photography to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to expose herself from the inside out in Les maux non dits (2008 – present).

Chantal Gervais, Karsh Award 2014 recipient. Photo Credit: Jonathan NewmanChantal Gervais

NathalieNathalie Bikoro

Also an essay and images by South African writer Yvette Greslé celebrating the traditional Dutch Wax fabric prints of West African artist Nathalie Bikoro.

In Pitt-Rivers, Oxford, Bikoro makes a flag, not for the purposes of a specific country, geography or political affiliation but rather for the sake of her own memories, those of her ancestors, and those who wish to enter into a dialogue with her: ‘I am creating a flag to contest the idea of freedom. What gives you the freedom to say how I must look, how I should speak, what my voice is? What gives you the freedom to represent me as a flag with these colours?’

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Rivard 2012 CR 2David Rivard

The poet David Rivard contributes a brilliant, scathing, even scandalous  review essay on new books of poems in translation by Gottfried Benn and Patrizia Cavalli, taking a tour through earlier collections of translations that influenced generations of North American writers while noting the singular narrowing of focus lately.

Solipsistic, driven by social media and the marketing campaigns of publishing companies and academic trade groups like AWP, ensconced in print and digital affiliations that function like gated-communities, monetized by the promotional efforts of well-meaning institutions such as the Academy of American Poets and bien-pensant congregations like The Dodge Festival, American poetry no longer seems as open to the influence of work in translation, despite the fact that more of it is being published than ever.

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Our indefatigable Julie Larios reviews Peter Turchi’s must-read new book on the art and craft of writing, which is a work of art in itself, a masterful collection of serendipity and insight.

So A Muse and a Maze is not a textbook, nor is it a manual. It is not divided into the usual craft-book chapters addressing point of view, voice, syntax, setting, characterization, plot (Turchi’s analysis of work by Chekhov suggests we think hard about whether stories are really just about events), and structure, though the book addresses all of those and then some over the course of its six offbeat sections (plus introductory notes entitled “The Contemplation of Recurring Patterns”)…

Fernando  SdrigottiFernando Sdrigotti

We have also divine new fiction—“The Idiot and the Telephone Box”—from Fernando Sdrigotti, the Argentinian ex-pat living in London, now one of our contributing editors;

Manu drove fast and the cars driving towards us drove fast too. Once or twice in the space of a hundred metres we narrowly avoided a crash, but everything seemed calculated, precise – there was a prearranged agreement. Mika was quiet, her mind focused on her camera and the camera was focused on me. Or maybe she was just filming the passing cars – I didn’t turn around to find out.

Rob McLennanrob mclennan

And a personal essay on composition by rob mclennan—“Life is Too Short for a Long Story”;

Afternoons in pubs or coffeeshops away from laptop, during those periods my mother-in-law enables childcare. What my days have shifted into, and my next few years. During bursts of baby-sleep I rush to office desk and tinker. Move another set of words, aside. Attempt to figure out what else the story requires.

IMG_0002Michael Bryson & Kate

And Michael Bryson’s ineffably sad (nothing else to be said) memoir of his grief after the his wife’s death from cancer last year. Many of you will remember the story because I often linked to her treatment blog in the months preceding her death. A brave, vivacious, smart, lovely woman.

We sat in the sun outside the hospital, and I told her I wished we could just stay there forever. It wasn’t the disease that was the problem; it was time. We said some other things to each other also. It was really beautiful. Then we had to go home and re-enter reality and play the drama out. Three days later she was no longer speaking. She died two days after that.

ian-duhigIan Duhig

From Ireland (part of our special feature Uimhir a Cúig, our own No. 5 in Irish) we have poems by the great Ian Duhig, who writes:

I was the eighth child in my family and the first born in England where they’d moved to so my father could find work – he’d served in the Irish army but there was nothing for him in 50s Tipperary when he left. My Mother knew a huge amount of Irish poetry by heart, which was how they learned it at school in her youth. I grew up listening to that in a London-Irish community where poetry was still valued and however often we visited “home” (as Ireland was always called) the place for me was made out of words more than earth.

michel-de-montaigne-006Montaigne

Robert Day contributes another in his delightful series Chance Encounters of a Literary Kind, this time waxing rhapsodic and whimsical on his brushes with the spirit of Michel de Montaigne.

Where are we all going at our 21st-century cosmic pace?—a pace that is not only to be contrasted with the R&P limits of 1950s Kansas roads, but with the walk-along rate of the Dordogne River that flows in the valley below Montaigne’s tower: past the village of Lamothe, Montravel, then west to Castillon, Branne, Libourne and Fronsac—after which it joins the Gironde near Bourg. Then to sea. Where is the strong brown god of the river going? At what speed? Are we flowing with it? What do we know?

PicsArt_1413674718519Roger Weingarten

Also, from my old friend Roger Weingarten, we have brand new poems of surpassing grace and complexity, on the cusp of publication in book form next month.

…………………….To the day

when I ask the Joseph smile if he
speaks English, and he nods. Then ask
this woman if it’s easier

to die if you
are already dead. Who, he asks,
going pale, the hell are you,

then lifts the tattered
beggar into his arms
and walks away.

 ducornet01_bodyRikki Ducornet

Senior Editor Jason DeYoung reviews the new Rikki Ducornet book The Deep  Zoo.

Subversive at heart and acutely perceptive, The Deep Zoo celebrates the fact that “Nature loves order, the beautiful, and the anomalous.” It plies us to savor the spiritual and the scatological, and not to whither in mortal certitude.

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And our new Special Correspondent Jeff Bursey reviews J. Robert Lennon’s story collection.

It is impossible not to be intrigued by some of the plights featured in this or that story, thanks in part to the kinetic and assured momentum of the sentences and word choices, but thankfully, there is no pressure or encouragement from Lennon to regard any character as a person.

And there is MORE! For a new Numéro Cinq at the Movies is percolating in the brain of R. W. Gray (currently on a beach in Thailand en route to Uruguay).

Avanti!

Dec 172014
 

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NC’s new Special Correspondent Jeff Bursey has a very smart review of Lance Olsen’s new book in the new Winter Issue at Quarterly Conversation.

Inside, Olsen adds to the buffering by using two forms of punctuation to protect the words from the white margins (and/or vice versa), and makes clear early on what he thinks he’s going to be writing: “:::: A week before you leave, you decide to keep a trash diary: a constellation of sense, thought, memory, observation, fast fact scraps.” Those are almost the opening lines, they occur on the second page, but we have to get used to two things immediately: that brace of colons (what Olsen thinks could indicate “what cannot be articulated accurately”), as if “fast fact scraps” will be tough on the digestion, like fast food—unless the whole thing is a verbal Instagram of today’s America—and references to other artists that can, at first, look like name-dropping. On the first page Koestenbaum, Heidegger, and Derrida are brought in, while on the second there are quotes (unsurprisingly, not set within standard punctuation) from Guy Debord and Leigh Gilmore. A not-quite-scientific count yields, from page eight (epigraphs by two Germans, W.G. Sebald and Friedrich Kunath) through 139 (the last page filled with text), about 11 pages in which artists are absent. Many pages have three or more, and some are in the double-digits. As visiting writer at the American Academy in Berlin for the first five months of 2013, Olsen naturally drew strength and insight from other artists to assist with the cultural shift and, as time went on, to understand better what it means, and has meant, to live in Berlin (which at times is a synecdoche for Germany).

 

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Read the review at [[there.]] by Lance Olsen | Quarterly Conversation.

Dec 172014
 

K. T. Kahn invited a list of my favourite reads of 2014 for his site at A la recherche du temps perdu. Not a single new book on my list. Two are rereads. Click the link to his site to see.

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Dec 142014
 

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For your Sunday morning delectation, along with coffee, croissants and the crossword, you can follow the link below (or click the image) to a page containing two lectures I gave at Vermont College of Fine Arts on reading. Like a broken record, I am always saying that 80% of what I teach when I teach writing is how to read (and to write about what you read). I have twice lectured at VCFA on reading and managed to record both for a possible future essay. Go to the page, and you’ll find the recordings plus all sorts of amusing goodies (um, lecture handouts) including some hilarious examples of VERY BAD readings, a marked up reading copy of Elizabeth Tallent’s little story “No One’s a Mystery,” a reading rubric I give to students, and a 90-page pdf of excerpts from my letters two students on reading (evidence of a deeply compulsive personality).

For my money, the first lecture is more fun (it has the bad examples). The second lecture is rather more pointed at students in the program who are struggling with their critical papers.

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The lectures are here! 

 

 

 

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Dec 132014
 

eric foley2

Eric Foley used to write for NC. Click on his name at the front of this paragraph and you’ll find a page of links to his many accomplishments. And, now, after years of wandering in the wilderness (and the Far East of Europe among the post-Soviet mini-states), he has returned. All right. Maybe not “years.” Maybe just a year, a little more. I hate to lose a good writer to Moldova. It just seemed like a long time. I am very happy he’s back. He’ll be taking up his old position as Contributor.

dg

Eric Foley holds an Honours BA in English and Literary Studies from the University of Toronto and an MFA from Guelph University. He was a finalist for the Random House Creative Writing Award and the Hart House Literary Contest, also winner of Geist Magazine and the White Wall Review’s postcard story contests. You can see his work at Numéro Cinq and InfluencySalon.ca. He divides his time between Toronto and Eastern Europe.