Jul 262015

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Fides Krucker

Fides Krucker

It’s NC’s diva issue, named in honour of Julie Trimingham’s luscious, bumptious, delightful interview with vocalist Fides Krucker who plays a mermaid in  DIVE, a work she co-created with writer Richard Sanger and composer Nik Beeson, based on The Professor and the Siren by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. DIVE will be performed in Toronto July 30-August 9. Don’t miss it, but read the interview, too.

The mermaid I play in DIVE is amoral. (With the exception of Disney’s Ariel I imagine all sirens and silkies live somewhere outside of human rights and wrongs). She is fun to inhabit, she gets to break all sorts of vocal rules, and she will have a great costume. In the script she tells us that she is Lighea, the daughter of Calliope. No little mermaid here…she is descended from the biggest muse of all.

You know, a mermaid is utterly undomesticated. She is not domiciled. She inhabits the ocean. She lives far beyond of my idea of ‘house’. To bring her to life I have to use this house, my body. —Fides Krucker

Janice Galloway via The Scotsman

Janice Galloway via The Scotsman

We also have Victoria Best’s wonderful profile of the great Scottish novelist Janice Galloway, whom I interviewed when I had a radio show back in the mid-1990s (before most of you were born). So Janice and I go way back (not that we kept in touch). Victoria Best is a newcomer to Numéro Cinq and will shortly be joining the masthead. We’re looking forward to some fantastic pieces from her.

Janice Galloway was born in 1955 in Saltcoats, Scotland, to a mother who ‘thought I was the menopause’. In the mythic version Galloway tells in her memoir, This Is Not About Me, which might be the true one for all she knows, her mother was unaware of the pregnancy until her waters broke, perhaps in denial of the freedom-busting, life-ending truth. The young Janice is never in doubt about her status as nuisance. ‘If I’d kent, she’d say, her eyes narrowing. If I’d just bloody known.’ —Victoria Best


Greg Mulcahy

Jason Lucarelli, from the wilds of Pennsylvania, makes a return to NC with a insightful and provocative interview with Greg Mulcahy, whose first story collection came out with Knopf in 1993, the same year my novel The Life and Times of Captain N came out with Knopf. Gordon Lish was the editor for both books; Lish sent me a copy of Mulcahy’s bookat the time and I have always kept it in my library. (See it’s a small world and people keep re-meeting in odd ways.)

Mulcahy’s fiction is, as Noy Holland says, “funny, in the way that wisdom, plainly spoken, is funny.” Through his characters’ agonies he reveals the ruse of our surrounding world, and their rock bottom falls propel each consecutive sentence—the content carried through frictive syntax. His sentences slide, stop on a dime, fragment, run on without punctuation, run over you, leave you breathless, bewildered. Sam Lipsyte says, “Reading Greg Mulcahy’s sentences is like watching the best slalom skiers in the world dare the universe a crazy millimeter at a time,” and it’s a ride that leaves you on the other side, as brave and as dangerous, but with new truth. — Jason Lucarelli

Liz Howard

Liz Howard

Natalie Helberg takes a break from the arduous vicissitudes of her doctoral program to review Liz Howard’s first collection of poems.

Liz Howard’s debut collection of poems, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent, is astonishingly capacious: It is an extended metaphor for the mind. It is a fiery, radiant rollick through language. It is a meditation on Indigenous lineage and muted origins. It is the type of hard, crystalline speech which illuminates the social-scape from its gutters, a song gifted by an absolute Other, eerily coalescing at the junction of race, class, and gender. The poems which make it up celebrate the natural world while simultaneously attuning themselves to the toxicity of its rivers. —Natalie Helberg

Louise Bak

Louise Bak

And the Toronto poet and provocateur (also radio personality) Louise Bak has poems in this issue, dense, cumulative, innovative, mesmerizing.

…marquise galloons on card, with longdashed globe. pouter’s
heta uma at weight of breath near to bangle’s ballchain and
adhesive streaked, a cut more inside the edge of a glass tile
over wicking of donut bail’s not fabricated to be repeatedly
opened and closed on below ear hair, in press on square of
agloe, made-up map trap. adjustment of centring hold with
town labels, route lines, to pleated details on shoulder of a
shirt, lain in a used hide-a-bed’s straightening of three way
zip through crotch, in who else was looking and what was
being seen, smooths of agglomerated cork, willable sound —Louise Bak


Jeremy Brunger

Jeremy Brunger, in his second essay for the magazine (and there will be more), has the unmitigated gall to start a disquisition on Nietzsche by mentioning the great one’s small ears.

For a man with such little ears, Friedrich Nietzsche heard a multitude of deep pulses within the heart of European culture. The great despiser of liberalism and humanitarianism was also no less than the great despiser of conservatism and capitalism. As is the case with many important thinkers in the Western canon, Nietzsche’s dislikes greatly outnumbered his likes, just as the contradictions in his thought served to develop them all the better. Adoring power, he hated the powerful of his time for their unearned privileges. Adoring culture, he hated the cultured milieu of his time for their abiding philistinism. Adoring the sanguine bigotry of nineteenth-century society, he hated anti-Semites and the Darwinian biology that Herbert Spencer would later develop into a lethal social philosophy. His reputation in the popular consciousness is inaccurate as often as it is unflattering. —Jeremy Brunger

Amber Homeniuk

Amber Homeniuk

Amber Homeniuk is a modest chicken rancher (she recently adopted my mother’s last hen—more on this another time), also an up-and-coming poet (we published some of her tobacco-farming poems earlier) with a wry wit and a talent for close observation of the southern Ontario countryside where she lives.

Oh old boy

you’ve taught me all you can,
your dousing days are done.

Lie down with your snout at the stream
to rest in woods behind my brother’s house.

Let season’s green weave through your nest of sticks,
set age along the top of your white brow
with sutures fused, full sagittal crest

and quiet
those sore worn teeth. —Amber Homeniuk


Brianna Berbenuik

Brianna Berbenuik used to be a contributor the to the magazine, then took a hiatus, wandered in the wilderness, worked in a police department, and now has returned from the outer dark with amazing, dark, violent fiction.

There are two cameras in the interview room and you are a voyeur. Face view. Full view.

Face view shows only the face of a young man, twenty-something, who killed a woman by beating her, and then throwing her in the trunk of an old car and lighting it on fire after dousing her and the car with gasoline. Before he closed the hood to the trunk, he took one last long look at the girl.

Full view. The girl’s mother is brought into a room to face her daughter’s killer. —Brianna Berbenuik


Louis Armand

Louis Armand contributes an excerpt from his new novel Abacus, evoking a childhood in this native Australia, brash, funny, and real.

The teachers were all standing out the front singing the nation’s praises while all the kids just mumbled along not knowing the words, they’d only ever heard it on the tellie when someone on the swimming team won a medal at the Commonwealth Games. “Australia’s suns let us rejoice,” what was that supposed to mean? But when the spastic girl did her thing everybody suddenly went silent. Three hundred kids sweating under the hot sky in turd-brown uniforms, waiting to see what Old Cricket Bat’d do next.—Louise Armand


Sunrise by the Ocean, Vladimir Kush

Paul Pines continues his  exploration of the nexus of myth, psychology, and poetry with a masterful look at the legend of the Fisher King and Charles Olson’s great poem “King Fishers”.

What enters is as much shape as sound, ideas like iron filings on a magnetic field. The field becomes an ocean, the magnet a star. Fish swim below or break the surface. Constellations in space dance without touching. This ghost in the room I think of as Pedrolino has awakened a ghost in me. I see myself standing beside Amfortas, the Fisher King, in the Pole Star watching a king fisher dive. How did Amfortas end up in my boat, both of us in the stern waiting for Parzival or his equivalent? Olson’s poem, “King Fishers,” which influenced me as a young poet, has set up an inexorable call to the obsession of my later years, the wounded Fisher King! —Paul Pines


Paul Pines

Timothy Dugdale

Timothy Dugdale

Timothy Dugdale has sent another terse, realistic short story. This one tackles of the difficult subject of race and immigration.

The black man exploded. “I will not sit down. I have been sitting down. I’m finished sitting down. This country must not sit down!” He pointed at the father. “You will not infiltrate.” And then he pointed at the women on the chairs. “And you, you will not breed.” He turned and sauntered away in dignified pique.—Timothy Dugdale


Walking Mars: watercolor/oil pastel/graphite on paper 11”x15”.

Kate Fetherson, ambidextrous, as it were, has a hybrid poetry and painting piece in this issue (she sings, too, but not in this issue — literally, a diva. Does that mean she is tri-dextrous or just a multitalented renaissance woman?).

…out of myself, a stranger to the usual
conflagrations, and dream we muscle

through buoyant water as seals slapping
backsides. Our flippers splash each

other’s whiskery snouts as we loll
in sunlight we didn’t earn. When I open

my eyes, there’s music again. I stroke your stubbly
beard and dream of the Sargasso sea. —Kate Fetherston

Kate Fetherston

Kate Fetherston

And, as always, there is more! For sure, we’ll have a new Numéro Cinq at the Movies from the inimitable R. W. Gray and a new Uimhir a Cúig, featuring writing from Ireland curated by the equally inimitable Gerard Beirne.

Jul 152015
Elle at Theatre Passe Muraille

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I checked the Theatre Passe Muraille website this morning and found the 2015-2016 season announcement. And at the top of the announcement page there is this lovely poster announcing Severn Thompson’s adaptation of my novel Elle, which, as you all know, won the Governor-General’s Award and was a finalist for the Dublin IMPAC Award.

This isn’t a surprise, of course. I saw a tiny workshop preview of an opening to the play at a festival in Toronto in August, 2013, and Severn Thompson has been in touch all along. But it is lovely to see the announcement up and the dates set.

Book the date!



Severn Thompson

Severn Thompson

Elle by Douglas Glover

Jul 132015

The Brooklyn Rail

Here’s another dyspeptic comedy, a cracked romance (there is a dark, dark love angle), from the hand of Douglas Glover, just published in the July-August issue of The Brooklyn Rail. What to expect? Well, the protagonist’s name is Drebel, a combination of dreadful and rebel. Click on the link below the teaser or the cover image above to read the entire piece.

Drebel started when he was fourteen organizing a grocery shopping service for the elderly in his neighborhood. He charged a flat rate per bag, accepted gratuities, and handled the cash exchange between the grocery store and the old people. Once he gained a customer’s trust, he would skim a percentage off the change, especially when the old man or woman couldn’t see that well. He would smile winningly while counting out the money; the old folks loved having a young person to socialize with. Seeing themselves reflected in his eyes, they thought they were smart, plucky oldtimers. Later, he was able to arrange a small quid pro quo from the supermarket manager’s petty cash to steer his customers away from competitors. He never bought bulk or generic. When an elderly party insisted on cheaper brands, Drebel would shrug and say the store was out. He watched for customers whose memory was failing and preyed on them, lifting a hundred dollar bill from the open purse or pocketing an expensive watch from the sideboard. Once he swiped a handful of silver cutlery from a drawer, sweeping it into his courier bag and clanking out the door. But he had trouble fencing the forks and spoons, and he was really only interested in the cash. He couldn’t help becoming fond of the old woman who said she would put him in her will, though he knew she wouldn’t. He didn’t take any offer of warmth or affection personally. He knew the old people were wrapped tight in their narrow lives, narrower and narrower as they grew older. They could be just as devious and mean as the next person. Drebel noticed how the codgers took a perverse pride in trying to shortchange him, arguing over the receipts, shaving the tip. “Here’s another quarter, son. Oh, drat. I thought I had another quarter. Next time?” He didn’t care. All he wanted was his cut, the skim.

Read the rest at The Brooklyn Rail.

Jul 122015


Robert Day

Numéro Cinq is always an adventure, a game of firsts. The first this, the first that. Now Robert Day‘s essay series Chance Encounters of a Literary Kind is being published (the end of the month) by Serving House Books and that is a first of a high order, the first ever book composed entirely of work that appeared in Numéro Cinq first (you can see I am obsessing on the word “first”). This is a proud moment for the whole community and an inspiration to the many who have contributed regularly and brilliantly to the magazine. I foresee more such NC-inspired books. (Actually, Robert Day’s novel, Let Us Imagine Lose Love, first serialized on NC, will be published in the fall as well, but I will do a separate announcement about that at the appropriate moment. The man is on a roll!)

I wrote an introduction — entitled “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” — for the Serving House Books edition, an honour and a pleasure (he opines) that you all get to share right now.


Exit, pursued by a bear

Robert Day and I met something like 35 years ago in a University of Iowa classroom. He was the teacher, I was a student. He strode into the room and proceeded to the blackboard where he wrote, in large capital letters, from one side of the room to the other: REMEMBER TO TELL THEM THE NOVEL IS A POEM. Outside of class we got to know each other a bit. He once said, pressing the elevator button instead of climbing one slight of stairs, that if God had meant us to use stairs he would not have invented elevators. I was on the cusp of a truly disastrous relationship just then. Day said to me, “Get out of there. For every day you spend with her now, it’ll take you another year to get out of it.” Ask me if I listened to him. One afternoon we spent kicking tires at a Jeep dealership. And one day he talked to me about the novel I was working on, a conference that must have lasted all of 20 minutes but somehow managed to open up the novel and show me its hot, beating heart, which hitherto had failed to reveal itself to me. That was a lesson I did listen to.

Now, many, many, many years later we have congregated again through the magical intervention of the Internet and the online magazine I materialized Numéro Cinq. We hadn’t been in touch in years; we still haven’t actually seen each other since 1981. But we continue to exert gravitational force upon each other’s lives in ways that are astonishing and delightful. The long and short of it is that I began to publish Robert Day. A short story first. Later the story became a novel. I published the entire novel. Then I published a memoir about his mother, a tender, sweet essay about her suspicion of the French, Day’s love of Montaigne, and the summer she died while he was traveling in France.

Then Day invented a new form, the Chance Encounters of a Literary Kind essays, brief, whimsical, sometimes touching, reminiscences about his brushes (often friendships) with literary greatness. The first one he wrote and tried out on me was about the poets John Ashbery and Tadeusz Rozewicz. He didn’t meet them; they met in his mind, and in a conversation with a friend over a kitchen table in Kansas. But the collision was sparkling in its reverent irreverence and the insights spawned in the erotics of juxtaposition. But it was also airy, gossamer-thin, a playful and informal thing, a little jeu d’esprit that took itself not very seriously, yet with flashes of seriousness and wit. Day asked me if I wanted more of these. He projected a series. He made a list. He wrote: “I’d like to keep the “Chance encounters” real–that is, what I stumble into or on to as I lead my literary life; there should be x of them the rest of the year because I poke around in these matters often these days, and, like any fiction writer, stories (and chance literary encounters) happen to me.

I have my favorite moments. Day and Raymond Carver quoting Jack London back and forth to each other. Day’s sweet evocation of the life-philosophy of poet William Stafford, who once advised his young daughter, “Talk to strangers.” This is in an essay that goes on to ponder our current Age of Fear, the prevalence of surveillance, and our willingness to submit to precautions that cheat us of human relations.

I also adore Day’s piece on screenwriter Walter Bernstein, especially Day’s expert interventions in an early script for the movie The Electric Horseman. Day being from Kansas, Bernstein considered him the expert on cowboys and horses. “Somehow Walter had learned the word hackamore (probably from an East Coast riding friend) and so I had to take the hackamore off all horses and put bridles and bits back in their mouths.” And, of course, the “Exit, pursued by a bear” stage direction from The Winter’s Tale that pops up unbidden and like fireworks in Day’s essay on Sarah Palin and going to see a production of Coriolanus.

The buzzword these days for someone who wanders about poking idly into things (and being brilliant and witty about them) is flâneur. But when I read Day’s essays I think, not of Walter Benjamin, but of the waggish early 18th century essays of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele and the journals they published, The Tatler and The Spectator, whose purpose it was “to enliven morality with wit; and to temper wit with morality.” Day’s essays are intelligent, literate conversation at its best—all too rare these days—written with aplomb in the author’s trademark amiable and self-ironic style.

     —Douglas Glover

Jul 092015

slavoj zizek

From the cradle of democracy, we see a glimmer of defiance in the face of globalization, the IMF, and the so-called rationality of the market. Now if we could just elect Bernie Sanders…

Ah, but this is a story from a day or two ago. This afternoon, Greece looks like caving in.


The No in the Greek referendum was thus much more than a simple choice between two different approaches to economic crisis. The Greek people have heroically resisted the despicable campaign of fear that mobilised the lowest instincts of self-preservation. They have seen through the brutal manipulation of their opponents who falsely presented the referendum as a choice between euro and drachma, between Greece in Europe and “Grexit”.

Their No was a No to the eurocrats who prove daily that they are unable to drag Europe out of its inertia. It was a No to the continuation of business as usual; a desperate cry telling us all that things cannot go on the usual way. It was a decision for authentic political vision against the strange combination of cold technocracy and hot racist clichés about the lazy, free-spending Greeks. It was a rare victory of principles against egotist and ultimately self-destructive opportunism. The No that won was a Yes to full awareness of the crisis in Europe; a Yes to the need to enact a new beginning.

Read the entire essay at The New Statesman



Jul 082015

Fernando SdrigottiFernando Sdrigotti

NC’s inimitable London-based Contributing Editor Fernando Sdrigotti has a new essay on the futility of writing and why he still does it just up at Gorse online.

Book after book after book thrown into this worded jungle—a hoard that could be a waking counterpart to a Borgesian wet dream. Fiction books and books on writing fiction. Photography and art books and books on photography and art. And so on: most forms of expression and myriad words of meta-dialogue, some of them even justified or at least nicely edited and with colourful covers. Nothing escapes this total library: no corner of the universe or the mind is left unaccounted for. It is a hideous totality for it is an ordered totality, filtered through the minds of who knows how many marketing specialists; it is effective as a selling platform but it is a desert of anonymity for the diminished names on the shelves. Were I ever to be asked for a writing tip, something born out of this experience would be my choice: walk into any gigantic bookshop and think whether you can face being one more name lost in this desert of words.

Read the rest at Fernando Sdrigotti “On the futility of writing (and writing in spite of it all)” @ Gorse

Jun 252015

Fernando  Sdrigotti

Numéro Cinq‘s intrepid Contributing Editor Fernando Sdrigotti has a piece in the UK Guardian today, blowing the lid off a frightening literary copyright CRIMINAL case in Argentina. This could happen to you.


More likely than not to be aware of this Borgesian playfulness, Argentine author Pablo Katchadjian decided in 2009 to remix one of Borges’s most renowned short stories The Aleph, keeping the original text but adding a considerable amount of his own writing. The result was the short experimental book called El Aleph engordado (The Fattened Aleph), published by a small underground press in a short run of 300 copies. An unfortunate consequence of Katchadjian’s literary experiments is an ongoing lawsuit initiated in 2011 by Maria Kodama, Borges’s widow and fervent guardian of his literary estate.

Last week the Argentine literary world was shaken by the news that Katchadjian has now been formally charged with the un-literary sounding crime of “intellectual property fraud”.

Read the entire piece at Re-working Borges is a legitimate experiment, not a crime — Fernando Sdrigotti @ Guardian UK

Jun 252015

Lynn CrosbieLynn Crosbie

Call it Summer Heat, the sun stroke issue, because…because, well, it’s hot and this issue sizzles (um, as they all do these days) with the macabre and the dead (not all of it, but some).

This time we have gorgeous, melancholy poems from the Toronto writer Lynn Crosbie, daughter on sickbed watch, the generational situation these days. Who does not identify with this? Sad, sad, sad.

Still stuck between our shoulder blades the knife that says “Your father is almost dead,”

That holds in the blood of remorse and guilt, the vast stream comprised of all of the little losings so far and the red ocean to come.

—Lynn Crosbie

Julian HerbertJulián Herbert

And from fabled Mexico, fiction by the inimitable Julián Herbert, his second appearance in the magazine: a visit to the zombie apocalypse that lends new meaning to the phrase ‘flowers of evil.’ Translated by Brendan Riley.

He talks about professionalism but he’s had sexual relations with a number of his patients, and eventually fell for one of them. And now, for the sake of love, he’s let himself be transformed into a beast. Well, not entirely a beast: a transitional cannibal. I’ve said as much to him and he’s admitted it. —Julián Herbert

Fernando  SdrigottiFernando Sdrigotti

And our own Contributing Editor Fernando  Sdrigotti, from Argentina via London, contributes a mordant little story of domesticity and cat death. (There is a lot of death in this issue.)

A minute later she comes through the door crying with the cat in his cage. I lock myself in the toilet and feed Toto four 5mg crushed Valium mixed with milk in a syringe. He swallows every drop without moaning. I almost feel sad for him. —Fernando Sdrigotti

Lefer by Robin Gibson (2)Diane Lefer

NC’s social conscience, one of our shadow contributors, Diane Lefer has an essay on the military, imperial violence and a visit to a Marine training base where she runs through Iraq combat simulations.

Mike divides us into three groups to try out the Combat Convoy Simulator. Each group is in a separate room with a fullsize Humvee to drive, with gunners armed with M16s to provide security front, rear, right and left. We are to start off from Camp Dunbar and travel Highway 1 to the village of Asmar. Our mission is to get there and return without getting killed. —Diane Lefer

Pierre JorisPierre Joris

Pierre Joris, an extaordinary poet and translator (check out his translations on NC), has written for us a lovely memoir of childhood, of learning to read.

But I wanted to read & read I did or just looked at the first page of print & eventually taught myself the letters with whose help I don’t remember. Parents too busy running a small hospital called St. Pierre’s, my name, my patron saint as I was to inherit it later, be, like father, a surgeon in the capital. But I had already started on the road downhill or elsewhere: lying on the bed reading The Idiot, teaching myself to read. —Pierre Joris

Raymond Carver

Robert Day completes his Chance Encounters of a Literary Kind series with a brief memoir about Raymond Carver. Just a quick note (a more formal announcement will follow): Day’s essays for NC are going to be published in book form by Serving House Press, with a special introduction by dg.

Somehow, some place, for some reason, Ray asked if I’d drive him to the Iowa City airport. Sure. By this time I’d read a number his stories in Esquire (not knowing then about the controversial cuts that had been made by Gordon Lish, the fiction editor there). In those days Ray was drinking. He drank on the way to the airport, offering me a pull. Thanks, but no thanks. Keep the bottle for me, he said as he got out of the car. Sure. —Robert Day

mattj pic 0415Matthew Jakubowski

Matthew Jakubowski, young and up-and-coming, writes a dreamy story of high rise alienation and glass walls.

She liked how the towers swayed and creaked a little in high winds, like old ships rocking the crew to sleep. She liked believing that somehow the green hills weren’t giving in, they were surging back toward the city from the horizon. —Matthew Jakubowski

Genese GrillGenese Grill

Mark Jay Mirsky, author, editor, and founder — along with Donald Barthelme, Jane Delynn, and Max Frisch  — of Fiction, reviews Thought Flights, short essays by Robert Musil, translated by our own Genese Grill.

 I would be remiss in remarking on Thought Flights, if I did not mention the careful notes that illuminate the many specific references to individuals and events in the articles and glosses. These provoke one to return to its riddling moments and read them again as I did in “Page from a Diary” where Musil writes to define what flashes between himself and a woman, M, as they recall fragments of childhood and emotions tied to moments that can no longer be experienced since the context for them has vanished. Learning from the notes that M is Martha, Musil’s wife, I realized that he is giving us access to their intimacy, a sense of what passed between them through the medium of stories. To do so is to catch the writer as his thought turns magical in his mind. —Mark Jay Mirsky

Harvard_Mark Jay Mirsky

R W GrayR. W. Gray

All in-house, as it were (my goodness we have a talented bunch of writers working here!), Richard Farrell reviews  Ectopic, a new story collection by Senior Editor R. W. Gray (NC at the Movies).

In Gray’s stories beauty, hope, and possibility are set in opposition to a backdrop of modern life, hidebound by conventional thinking. Gray refuses the shackles of the ordinary. He privileges imagination over verisimilitude, wonderment over banality, entropy over order. He destabilizes the form just enough to leave us pondering, yearning, and forever searching for the lingering pulse that reminds—there must be something more out there. —Richard Farrell


Julie Larios, whose Undersung essays on poets and poetry are consistently amiable and brilliant, introduces NC readers to the experimental and playful pyrotechnics of the Austrian poet Ernst Jandl. This is an essay about Oulipo and translation as well as Jandl.

With my meager German and a good dictionary, I can discern this loose story in the Otto poem: ottos pug defies / otto: away, pug, away / ottos pug hops away / otto: so so. // otto brings coke [can that be right?] / otto picks fruit / otto listens / otto: pug pug / otto hopes // ottos pug knocks / otto: come pug come / ottos pug comes / ottos pug throws up / otto: ohgodohgod. —Julie Larios & Ernst Jandl

Grandma in Breakheart Reservation 2006Bunkong Tuon’s Grandmother

Also, ALSO, ALSO!!! there is more. Including a stirring homage to his beloved grandmother upon her death by the Cambodian-American writer Bunkong Tuon, Jeff Bursey’s review of David Winters’s Infinite Fictions: Essays on Literature and Theory (Winters is always on the NC radar because of his special interest in Gordon Lish and his proselytes), a review of the new Jeff Parker book by Ben Woodard, a new installment of Gerry Beirne’s Uimhir a Cúig series, and a new Numéro Cinq at the Movies.

And quite possibly more!


Jun 192015

One of NC’s intrepid contributors was eagerly awaiting a review copy of the forthcoming release, by New Directions, of Clarice Lispector’s The Complete Stories but repeated trips to the mailbox yielded nothing but the sound of its squeaky hinge. There’s an expression about a watched pot that bears mentioning here, I suppose.

Weeks passed, New Directions consulted their shipping manifest, everyone scratched their heads, and another drop was poised to send a ripple through the bucket of Life’s Great Mysteries when lo! Behold:

United States Postal Service


Dear Postal Customer:

We sincerely regret the damage to your mail during handling by the Postal Service. We hope this incident did not inconvenience you. We realize that your mail is important to you and that you have every right to expect it to be delivered in good condition.

Although every effort is made to prevent damage to the mail, occasionally this will occur because of the great volume handled and the rapid processing methods which must be employed to assure the most expeditious distribution possible.

We hope you understand. We assure you that we are constantly striving to improve our processing methods in order that even a rare occurrence may be eliminated.

Please accept our apologies.


Your Postmaster

The package’s torn edges, hermetically sealed plastic, and vague message couched under an authoritative insignia did not arrest our contributor nearly as much as did the parcel’s book-lessness. Almost as light as air it was, not a spine to it. Which led us to ponder the all-important question, What is a book package sans book? Yes, yes, it’s a package, sure. But what a package! The rip. The plastic. The message. The insignia. There was a lot in this package, none of it expected. The first wave of comprehension knocked us to the sand with the unmistakable force of indignation. Thievery! We cried. Injustice! (There is far, far, far worse in the world, today of all days.) Harumpf! This here, this right here is a…well…a…deeply unsatisfying experience. We don’t have the book.

And yet.

The tide rolled out, whatever storm brought in that first wave hung a left over warmer waters, and we were left with a curious calm. Someone out there has the Lispector. Someone out there has an excellent addition to her or his summer reading stack. Someone out there—was it someone at the Post Office? We daren’t speculate, for fear of being hermetically sealed—is reading. Is that not worthy of a ripple or two?

—Geeda Searfoorce

Jun 072015

Tom Faure2Tom Faure portrait by 2015 student Emanuel Wickenburg

Below, the lecture I delivered to my high school sophomores in our last class of the year at the French-American School of NY. I tie the fundamental problems explored in our Western Civ curriculum – half history of Western philosophy, half classic literature – to the analogous problems facing this next generation. —Tom Faure


YOU’VE COME A LONG way this year. You’ve encountered bronze-kneed Greeks (Iliad), old and midnight hags (Macbeth), and white bitches from Bronxville (“Virgins”). You’ve met impetuous gods, impetuous angels, impetuous humans. Tragic humans—many tragic humans. Remember Camus’ words: humans are tragic because they are conscious. We’ve journeyed the stormy waters of the history of Western Civilization, noting with irony that history is written by the victors. History is written by the victors—and all too often these victors have been white men. White men who embody primitive instincts like strength and courage. Cruel men. White men too, though, who possess a relative wisdom.

I use this term “relative wisdom” to assure you of a very important fact of human nature: our virtues and our vices are limited, relative. They are relative to our technology, our social conventions, the knowledge and morals of our time. Our paradigms. More on this later.

So yes, the victors have been white men—not white bitches from Bronxville. But, though we have used the dead white men as the spine of our yearlong conversation about human nature and human nurturing, I hope you have seen how frequently the discussion has turned our attention to the non-dead, the non-white, the non-men. What I’m getting at is that notion we have treated both seriously and laughingly this year: privilege. And those who are underprivileged. Privilege—as I have defined it in my own words: access to capital (economic, political, cultural)—privilege is at the center of today’s paradigm about global capitalism. But you might have a different definition for it. It is not a new notion. As we have analyzed this year, the same concepts keep returning wearing new robes—new names. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are like Frank and Claire Underwood. The Iliad explores the psychological experience of war as do “Redeployment” and “The Point.” The Flood of “Gilgamesh” and the Flood of Oryx and Crake. God of the Bible and Satan of Paradise Lost. Everywhere a search for knowledge, for understanding why we were made. Fallen heroes everywhere. The brashly democratic rogues at FIFA are like Agamemnon and, well, like Vladimir Putin. And like Obama and our American democracy. Oh well. The analogies are everywhere. History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. That’s not my line—it’s attributed to Mark Twain, but apparently it wasn’t his line either. History in a nutshell, there. History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. The myths of the epic hero are echoed by the myths of the religious fanatic, are echoed by the myths of the American Dream, are echoed by the myths of the dorm room hacker-ingénue. The morality, logistics, and existential threat of Artificial Intelligence and high-frequency trading are analogues to the morality, logistics, and existential threat of any of the supernatural forces we’ve read about this year—gods, God, witchcraft, the uncanny, the unknowable tricks of nature and fate.

Privilege, it seems, is one of the various threads we could sew through Oryx and Crake, through Gilgamesh, into the Greek Philosophers, around the Saints and the Dantes, up and under Shakespeare, Milton, and the Renaissance, through the existentialists and the contemporary short story writers. Privilege—knowledge, strength, moral righteousness. Access. Our texts invite basic questions: what do we want our leaders to be like? Do we want our leaders to be like us, or better than us? Like gods? What about our gods? Our idols? Do we want our heroes to be made in our image or to transcend it—to whisper of possibilities, to suggest there is more out there? These are some of the questions you will continually return to as you search the world and search within yourselves for a sense of what exactly the hell is going on. Other questions we have asked this year and you will continue to ask—because history does not repeat, but it rhymes: what is the universe? Who are we? How can humans co-exist? Why do we have morality—is it in our nature, as some studies suggest (but have failed to prove), or does it stem from religion, mythology, and other collective responses to what was deemed necessity? A sad truth about most influential people today is that they accept the Hobbesian view that man is biologically bad and so created society to hold this bad nature in check. But a number of the philosophers and writers you studied this year, including the Cynics, Locke, and Rousseau, argue compellingly that man is naturally good—that society is not inherently a regulatory mechanism designed to keep man from his baser nature, but is rather a harmful set of restrictions designed by those in power in order to maintain control. The politicians and scientists who dominate mainstream intellectual discourse do not recognize this. They are a product of Western capitalism, which has a tendency to try to placate the dissenter with the odd reflection: “if it is so, it must be so for a good reason.” Please do not forget the Rousseauian perspective.

Today I want to turn your focus, as I have often done in our classes together, onto you. What will become of you? “The world is your oyster.” That’s an expression suggesting you have limitless potential. The world is within your reach! The world is your oyster. Unfortunately, the oyster has been sitting in the sun a little too long. (That’s a global warming joke.)

The reason I want to bore into you this concept of relative wisdom is because, as I allude to with the oyster gone bad, your generation faces a terrible time. And we have more ways than ever before to learn about how terrible that time is. This global awareness and interconnectedness can trick us into thinking that if we just think BIG enough, we can solve the big problems. It’s very tempting. But I think that, if you think too big, you might despair. You might fall into the black hole Kurt described in “The Point.” So think about RELATIVE success. Because you happen to have been born at a particular time when there is more information available than ever before about how underprivileged most people are. Our world is incoherent: the 1% own 40% of the wealth. Public schools are becoming ghettos for children of the poor. Indeed, the proliferation of private schools in the 20th century is due in no small part to the efforts by Civil Rights Movement reformers to desegregate public schools. White folks—in other words, the people in power—realized the government was going to try to create equal opportunities, so they expanded the small business of elite private schooling and turned it into the de facto segregating mechanism we have today. I’ll make it simple for you: the globe produces enough food for at least, by conservative measures, 9 billion people. There are 7 billion people on the planet. 2 billion people are going hungry. 2 billion people’s worth of extra food. 2 billion people starving. That’s some incoherent math for you.

And yet millions of poor people in the world actually describe themselves in happier terms than the rich do. Yes. It may be a question of ignorance—i.e.: they don’t know better. What do you think? Are they just ignorant? Perhaps they have relative wisdom. They have a moral life as rich as a wealthy Westerner’s, if not more so, yet they do not suffer the angst of the complacent consumer suffering an embarrassment of riches. The sense is that the unhappiest people are those who are physically suffering (which is a significant number of people) and those who, wading through a muck of decadence, have never learned how to actually fight for happiness.

You face a global capitalist economy and a system of geo-political boundaries whose only impartial (nominally impartial—in reality, I don’t know) oversight comes from a weak, castrated United Nations. Socialism is a dirty word for fascism in some parts, democracy is a dirty word for American imperialism in others. We as a country are wealthier than ever and lonelier than ever. Easy consumption and communication further isolate us. Our solution to isolation is to increase our isolation by interacting with digital versions of ourselves, digital and therefore boxed in by the logics of computation. We begin to define ourselves in response to our performances online—our social network avatars take precedence over the spontaneous, creative, freeing capacities that humans possess and computers don’t. You operate in a digitized social network that feeds valuable information to the technocrats of the future. Google, Facebook, and the NSA are compiling enough data to write the next Matrix. Are we still here, or have we finally plugged in too long? The Matrix might be disguised as the next Bible or the Q’ran. Are we the old man who dreamed he was a butterfly? Or are we the butterfly who dreamed of being an old man? I will tell you one thing: I’d rather be a butterfly than a computer algorithm.

Let’s think about our classic texts. On the one hand, technology could have really helped Oedipus out! Imagine if he could have Googled his genetic heritage! Or if he had Twitter! @Oedipus: “Feeling confused. Bad things keep happening around me.” @BlindProphet@Oedipus: “You accidentally killed your Pops. Try not to sleep with your moms now #self-fulfillingprophecy” @Oedipus@BlindProphet: “I see you. (See you. Get it?) Thanks for the heads up. My bad about King Laius.” We might have been robbed of some quality dramatic irony. But more seriously, imagine technology in the hands of Agamemnon. Think of the war shouts he could have delivered if he had data on behavioral trends, your search engine history, your deepest secrets texted to your friend when you thought no one was looking. He would of course exploit that and inspire you and you wouldn’t even know it. Every omen would be a good omen! (Remember his humorous diatribe against Nestor, the seer: “You never give me a good omen!”) Every omen would be good, and it would be evil. You would die for his ego, his empire.

I am frightened by the likelihood that this is close to what goes on now. It’s only paranoia if I’m wrong.

But I’m getting off track. The point is that, yes, it’s fun to think about these things, and joke about the past, and compare Agamemnon to the Most Interesting Man in the World from Dox Equis. By the way, the meme contains its own particularly interesting narrative power and therefore a subtextual dynamic of privilege. But, yes, while you have a series of collective challenges ahead of you (global warming, poverty, inequality, and systematic opacity blocking sound governance) you also have a series of personal challenges you each will face. You are no doubt already aware of some of them. The personal challenges may seem more difficult, though at the same time you may have better luck overcoming your own demons than making the world a better place.

This all comes back to the things we’ve been reading. What is man—this conscious being whose consciousness may be the only thing that makes it unique. Consciousness makes us tragic; it also makes us capable of something computers literally can’t do: think outside the box.

This lecture raises the notion I called “relative wisdom.” I do not want to suggest that everything is relative. Objectivity does exist. This year we have continually explored the difference between absolutes and particulars. 2+2=4. All bachelors are single. Not all bachelors, on the other hand, are happy. It is raining or not raining. Some of our knowledge is true a priori, while some is true conditionally or a posteriori. And SOME of our accepted knowledge is NEITHER true a priori nor a posteriori—it is UNTRUE, we just don’t know it yet ! Yes, some knowledge will be defeated by the progress of knowledge. C’est la vie. The earth is not flat, but it’s also not round—it’s actually an oblong type of flattened sphere, bulging in the middle, like Mr. Faure—kind of like a deflated soccer ball. Somebody call Tom Brady and the NFL. Speaking of corruption.

The point: there is universality. There is objectivity. But you have to accept your own limitations. Relative wisdom. Another concept: the Romantic poet Keats’ negative capability. Recall that this is the ability to accept the fact that some things can’t be immediately known—it is a relinquishing of enormous pressure. It links nicely to Sartre’s call not to give up in the face of radical freedom. A third concept: Nietzsche’s amor fati. Embracing your fate. These all triangulate around a central, primitive emotion: fear of the unknown. I will be the first to tell you I don’t know everything. I don’t even know everything that I DON’T know—that is my personal weakness, my own project. I hope one day to have climbed Plato’s ladder sufficiently to simply understand my own lack of understanding. Yes. You know me fairly well now—you might have noticed my own intellectual confidence. But I actually do possess some humility, I am not all that arrogant—I try to espouse the humility of Socratic self-doubt. I doubt myself. I don’t let others make me doubt myself, I do it myself. And I find that there is so much I don’t know. So step on in. I welcome you to the unknown. It is quite cozy in here.

So let us accept that some things are knowable, and our lives are worth pursuing even if we have stared into the dark abyss of meaninglessness and seen it has a compelling face. Even Nietzsche, to whom we have mistakenly ascribed the label of nihilism, believed life is worth living—in fact, he thought nothing was more essential. What can we do about the problems I’ve mentioned—problems just barely mentioned, and which are just the tip of the iceberg? There are many more problems, universal and personal, you will encounter. I’ve mentioned a few obvious ones. For all this, and in sincere fondness and full acknowledgement that I am just one small, well intentioned but flawed person of thousands whom you encounter in your life journey, I offer you a few parting thoughts, which I won’t go so far as to call lessons:

1) People are generally good.

It’s systems, bureaucracies, institutions, and especially these over the course of time that usually cause the problems. It’s the slow crawl of change. And the essential phenomenological division between individuals and groups—it makes it difficult and frustrating to reconcile individual desires and ideas with the plodding, democratic group’s work. This leads people to frustration and to giving up on the group project. They grab what they can and say “hey, survival of the fittest.” But that doesn’t mean people are bad. Don’t become cynical (small -c) about humans. You can be cynical about humanity, but don’t let that ruin your experience of humans. Humanity =/= Humans.

2) Commune

You need community. The thing about today is you could easily live in a gorgeous expensive luxury New York City apartment and never leave it. You could work from home, shop from home, have sex from home. And this would be your end. Do not hole yourself up inside a world devoid of actual human interaction. I’m not saying this to be anti-social networking. It’s not about that. It’s about the dulling of your senses, your empathy, and your creativity. Empathy, creativity. Because computers are closed circuits. Social networks are not conscious, not tragic, not free. You will be happier if you have people.

3) Relative wisdom.

Maintain an ambition to understand everything and everyone. Accept that you will fail. Accept the unknowableness of being. Accept this even as you study the history of your people and, building on this class, the history of other people. History is written by the victors. But just because history is a construct does not mean we cannot learn from it.

4) There is no perfect painting.

Extending from the previous point: don’t be afraid to fail, period. Not only don’t fear your ignorance. Don’t fear your inevitable failures. Remember what Sartre said. We face—and continually reface—a blank canvas. And we may be tempted to stare at the blank canvas and not add a single brushstroke until we see the endgame, the eventual painting. This is a mistake. You should attack that canvas. We could spend eternity staring at the canvas, unwilling to mark it, searching for the perfect painting. The radical freedom should not render you forlorn. Do not be afraid to mark the canvas. There is no perfect painting.

5) All you need is love.

Not only the Beatles knew this. Some of the most influential engineers and scientists have said the same thing. That the meaning of life is in the ones we love. We have, after all, very little other purpose. Let’s close read that sentence. “All you need is love” sounds like it is defining something via a negative: that ALL you need is love, in other words you need NOTHING except love. But you can read it another way too: “EVERYTHING that you need is love.” Think about that. Everything that you need involves love. Everything you love, you will need. All you love, you need. All you need is love. Woot close reading!

Love is a mystery—we’ve associated it this year with eros, pietas, beatific love, platonic love, familial love…yes, it is probably instinctively as powerful as our fear of the unknown. We biologically need love for the survival of our species. And love has been responsible for the horrors of war and the truth and beauty (another Keats line) of art. Remember Oryx and Crake, the game “Blood and Roses.” Love is a primary motivation for both sides of human history.

I can tell you up front that love is the single greatest thing you will experience, and that on the flip side love will probably cause you great pain. Why? Because human life is short, and the experience of our lives is also myopic, and we make mistakes. We screw up, we hurt people, and, even if we don’t do that, we eventually die. Death is the best case scenario. Grief is the price we pay for love. So yes, love may hurt you. And if it does, then you will be one of the lucky ones—for that pain, though sucky, would be a testament to the greatest feeling a human being can have.

This year I have tried to guide you on your own journey to more critical thinking and reading. I hope the journey has opened your eyes, transported your mind, etc. Maybe even occasionally touched your heart. It has mine. It’s been a pleasure being the Anchises to your Aeneas, the “wise” (hah!) elder who offers the hero knowledge or a weapon so as to obtain the elixir for the hero’s people. I do not take so much credit—you have sought out much more knowledge than I could give. Please, please, keep doing so. Go forth and plunder. Climb the Platonic ladder. Do not forget that the hero’s journey always involves, either directly or indirectly, the seeking of knowledge. Don’t ever let anyone cause you to question yourself. Question yourself. Be well and be good.

—Tom Faure

tom faure

Jun 062015


Larry (Lawrence) Sutin, a memorable recidivist at Numéro Cinq, is the Creative Editor and co-conspirator with friends at the new See Double Press, which specializes in small editions of very special books. He has just alerted us to the publication of An Incarnation of the Now, a never-before-published erasure book by the inimitable Mary Ruefle, who has also appeared in the magazine.

Check out these images from the book.

Check out the press, a worthy and idiosyncratic enterprise, just the sort of thing NC likes a lot.



Jun 042015

Betsy ShollBetsy Sholl photo by Hannah Tarkinson

Betsy Sholl, a double NC contributor (poems and an essay), has won the 2015 Maine Literary Award for Poetry for her extraordinary book Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin Press). Some of the poems in the book were published at Numéro Cinq in our October, 2013, issue. Further proof of the amazing writers we get to appear here and the prescience of the editorial staff. Congratulations, Betsy.

You can read Betsy’s NC poems at The Wind and the Clock: Poems — Betsy Sholl; and you can read her wonderful essay on Osip Mandelstam at The Dark Speech of Silence Laboring: Osip Mandelstam’s Poems & Translations — Betsy Sholl.


Jun 042015


It’s a pleasure to announce that Julian Hanna is joining the masthead of Numéro Cinq as a contributor. He wrote the Renata Adler review we published today in the magazine. He lives on the island of Madeira, off the coast of North Africa, once called by Pliny the “Purple Islands,” a.k.a. in antiquity the “Isles of the Blessed.” It’s terrific to have Julian join the NC community.

Julian Hanna was born in Vancouver and is currently self-exiled on the island of Madeira. His research on modernism and digital storytelling appears regularly in academic journals; his creative writing has appeared in The Atlantic, 3:AM, Flash, Minor Literature[s], Cine Qua Non, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @julianisland.

Jun 032015

captureLaura Kipnis via Talking Points Memo

June 3/15

Here’s a snippet and link to the Laura Kipnis original essay that drew broad complaints from some students at Northwestern and which was exonerated by administrative due process:

Lastly: The new codes sweeping American campuses aren’t just a striking abridgment of everyone’s freedom, they’re also intellectually embarrassing. Sexual paranoia reigns; students are trauma cases waiting to happen. If you wanted to produce a pacified, cowering citizenry, this would be the method. And in that sense, we’re all the victims.

Read the entire essay at Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe in The Chronicle of Higher Education

And here’s Josh Marshall’s latest roundup of the developing scandal at Talking Points Memo. Great reading.

Beyond the underbrush of the overwrought university student life drama, here we have the legal strictures and emotional dynamics of a sexual assault investigation jumping the fences out into a public discussion about sex, sexual assault and due process in university life and life generally. Indeed, we are seeing some of what we saw in the preschool child sex abuse panics in the 80s (McMartin, et al.) wherein advocates create an air-tight logical box in which any evidence challenging a particular accusation actually reinforces the validity of the accusation rather than casting doubt on it.

Read the rest at Thoughts on The Kipnis Clown Show and the Drama of University Life @ Talking Points Memo

And here is a piece from The Nation.

All the same, Baker can’t quite contain his incredulity at Kipnis’s flippant approach to matters that he considers extremely grave. “She seems to think that it’s very silly,” he says about her attitude towards trigger warnings. “It’s not even like, Oh man, I really want to protect these students and make sure they’re safe, but I think the pedagogical value is…” he trails off. “She doesn’t even perceive how trigger warnings would work to make the classroom more safe, or to help students navigate the material in a way that would be better for them psychologically.” He’s right. She doesn’t. And therein lies a generational chasm.

Read the rest at The Laura Kipnis Melodrama @ The Nation

Things are happening fast. Kipnis has written an essay about her ordeal, this again in the Chronicle of High Education, but it’s behind a subscriber pay wall right now. And here is a very recent piece from Huff Post about student complaints.

The student filed a complaint against Kipnis over her February essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education that critiqued student-faculty dating policies. The student complained the article misrepresented a lawsuit involving a philosophy professor. The complaint sparked a Title IX investigation into Kipnis by the university, and she chose Eisenman as a support person in the case. Kipnis was cleared of the charges on Friday.

The student filed an additional complaint against Eisenman for discussing the case, without using anyone’s name, at a faculty senate meeting in May. One faculty member was said to have responded to Eisenman’s description by saying the situation was out of “Stalinist Russia.”

Read the rest at Northwestern Student Drops Complaint Against Professor In Laura Kipnis Case @ Huffington Post

Um, let me get this straight. It is now legal in this country, especially inside the university system, to anonymously accuse someone who is then submitted to a secret trial-like proceeding without legal representation (questioned at first without knowing what she is charged with) and who is also forbidden to talk about her case publicly? Can this be a good thing?

6pm Later the same day. TPM published a second piece, this one by Amanda Marcotte, taking a somewhat different approach, critical of Laura Kipnis’s essay on the one hand, but also critical of the charges leveled against her via the machinery of Title IX. Her point is that certain kinds of charges can actually undermine a good law’s legitimate purpose in preventing assaults and rapes.

Title IX is a good law. Yes, it was abused by two people trying to censor and punish Laura Kipnis for disagreeing with them. But this is hardly the only situation where people misuse otherwise good laws for unsavory personal gain. Nuisance lawsuits and complaints are an unfortunate side effect of having a system that allows people with real grievances to seek justice.

Still, it’s important to minimize the impact of nuisance complaints, both out of a sense of justice and so as not to give rape apologists ammo against Title IX. Part of this is for universities to be transparent with the accused and to clear out obvious nuisance complaints, such as the one against Kipnis, as quickly as possible. But there also needs to be some personal responsibility here. Title IX is there for you if you’ve been assaulted or harassed. It’s not for making you feel better about sexual indiscretions or to censor people you disagree with. The more it’s used to settle personal vendettas, the less powerful a weapon it will be against actual rapists and bullies. Let’s try not to let that happen.

Read the rest at Good Work, Kipnis Critics: You Made Your Enemy A Martyr @ Talking Points Memo


May 312015

In the slider at the Top of the Page for June — what we’re calling the Fictionistas of Numéro Cinq, a selection of edgy, sexy, risky and flat out great fiction by a dozen of the hottest, most adventurous writers around (who all happen to be women). This isn’t a new thing at NC. These stories have been accumulating in the pages of the magazine since the beginning. But when you put them together like this, all you can do is smack your brow and say Holy Shit! This is writing that lives. This is writing with sass and swagger. (And you know what? There’s more of it. Just check out the fiction index page.)

May 312015

NC Logo

FYI, a teensy announcement. We just pulled the complete list of author, translators and artists featured on NC so far. We have put it at the bottom of the Masthead page, where you can see it any time. But right now, you can see it here. It’s very long. It looks mighty impressive.


Authors & Artists of Numéro Cinq

Abdallah Ben Salem d’Aix • Alejandro de Acosta • Caroline Adderson • Laurie Alberts • Taiaike Alfred • Jorge Carrera Andrade • Ralph Angel • A. Anupama • Guillaume Apollinaire • Melissa Armstrong • Tammy Armstrong • Glenn Arnold • Adam Arvidson • Kim Aubrey • Shushan Avagyan • Steven Axelrod • Elizabeth Babyn • Julianna Baggott • Sybil Baker • Martin Balgach • Phyllis Barber • Byrna Barclay • Mike Barnes • Kevin Barry • Donald Bartlett • Todd Bartol • John Barton • Svetislav Basarav • Tom Bauer • Joshua Beckman • Laura Behr • Gerard Beirne • Ian Bell • Madison Smartt Bell • Joe David Bellamy • Leonard Bellanca • Nathalie Bikoro • Brianna Berbenuik • Samantha Bernstein • Michelle Berry • Adam Biles • Eula Biss • Susan Sanford Blades • François Blais • Clark Blaise • Vanessa Blakeslee • Rimas Blekaitis • Liz Blood • Jody Bolz • Danila Botha • Donald Breckenridge • Fleda Brown •Laura Catherine Brown • Nickole Brown • Julie Bruck • Jeremy Brunger • Michael Bryson • Bunkong Tuon • Jeff Bursey • Peter Bush • Jane Buyers • Jowita Bydlowska • J. N. F. M. à Campo • Jared Carney • David Carpenter • Mircea Cărtărescu • Blanca Castellón • Anton Chekhov • David Celone • Peter Chiykowski • Jeanie Chung • Alex Cigale • Sarah Clancy • Christy Clothier • Carrie Cogan • Ian Colford • Tim Conley • Christy Ann Conlin • John Connell • Terry Conrad • Sean Cotter • Cheryl Cowdy • Dede Crane • Roger Crowley • Alan Crozier • Paula Cunningham • Robert Currie • Paul M. Curtis • Trinie Dalton • J. P. Dancing Bear • Taylor Davis-Van Atta • Robert Day • Sion Dayson • Patrick Deeley • Katie DeGroot • Christine Dehne • Tim Deverell • Anne Diggory • Anthony Doerr • Mary Donovan • Jason DeYoung • Jon Dewar • Steve Dolph • Han Dong • Eriak Dreifus • Timothy Dugdale • Ian Duhig • Gregory Dunne • Denise Evans Durkin • Nancy Eimers • John Ekman • Paul Eluard • Mathias Énard • Marina Endicott • Sebastian Ennis • Benjamin Evans • Richard Farrell • Tom Faure • Kate Fetherston • Melissa Fisher • Cynthia Flood • Stanley Fogel • Eric Foley • Paul Forte • Tess Fragoulis • Anne Francey • Danielle Frandina • Jean-Yves Fréchette • Abby Frucht • Simon Frueland • Kim Fu • Mark Frutkin • Róbert Gál • Andrew Gallix • Eugene K. Garber • Gary Garvin • Bill Gaston • Lise Gaston • Noah Gataveckas • Connie Gault • Charlie Geoghegan-Clements • Greg Gerke • Chantal Gervais • Marty Gervais • William Gillespie • Renee Giovarelli • Jill Glass • Douglas Glover • Jacob Glover • Jonah Glover • Douglas Goetsch • Rigoberto González • Alma Gottlieb • Wayne Grady • Philip Graham • Richard Grant • R. W. Gray • Brad Green • Thomas Christopher Greene • Catherine Greenwood • T. Greenwood • Darryl Gregory • Walker Griffy • Genese Grill • Genni Gunn • Nene Giorgadze • Phil Hall • Nicky Harmon • Susan Hall • Jane Eaton Hamilton • Elaine Handley • John Haney • Wayne J. Hankey • Jennica Harper • Elizabeth Harris • Richard Hartshorn • William Hathaway • Václav Havel • Sheridan Hay • bill hayward • Hugh Hazelton • Jeet Heer • Steven Heighton • Lilliana Heker • Natalie Helberg • David Helwig • Maggie Helwig • Robin Hemley • Stephen Henighan • Kay Henry • Julián Herbert • Darren Higgins • Bruce Hiscock • H. L. Hix • dee Hobsbawn-Smith • Andrej Hočevar • Jack Hodgins • Tyler Hodgins • Greg Hollingshead • Dan Holmes • Amber Homeniuk • Drew Hood • Kazushi Hosaka • Ray Hsu • Nicholas Humphries • Christina Hutchings • Joel Thomas Hynes • Angel Igov • Ann Ireland • Agri Ismaïl • Mary Kathryn Jablonski • Richard Jackson • J. M. Jacobson • Mark Anthony Jarman • Amanda Jernigan • Anna Maria Johnson • Steven David Johnson • Bill Johnston • Ben Johnstone • Pierre Joris • Gunilla Josephson • K. Thomas Kahn • Adeena Karasick • Maggie Kast • Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius • Allison Kaufman • Maura Kennedy • Timothy Kercher • Jacqueline Kharouf • Anna Kim • Patrick J. Keane • Rosalie Morales Kearns • John Kelly • Besik Kharanauli • Daniil Kharms • Sean Kinsella • Karl Ove Knausgaard • James Kochalka • Ani Kopaliani • Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer • Yahia Lababidi • Andrea Labinger • Julie Larios • Bruno LaVerdiere • Sophie M. Lavoie • Mark Lavorato • Sydney Lea • Diane Lefer • Shawna Lemay • J. Robert Lennon • Kelly Lenox • Giacomo Leopardi • María Jesús Hernáez Lerena • Naton Leslie • Edourad Levé • Leconte de Lisle • Gordon Lish • Billie Livingston • Anne Loecher • Adrienne Love • Denise Low • Lynda Lowe • Jason Lucarelli • Sheryl Luna • Mark Lupinetti • Jeanette Lynes • Joanne Lyons • Patrick Madden • Randall A. Major • Keith Maillard • Mary Maillard • Edward Maitino • Charlotte Mandell • Louise Manifold • Micheline Aharonian Marcom • Philip Marchand • Nicole Markotić • Julie Marden • Josée Marcotte • Jill Margo • Dave Margoshes • China Marks • André Marois • Jennifer Marquart • Toni Marques • Deborah Martens • Casper Martin • Cynthia Newberry Martin • Harry Marten • Rebecca Martin • Rick Martin • Ilyana Martinez • Melissa Matthewson • Lucy M. May • Stephen May • Micheline Maylor • Marilyn McCabe • Kate McCahill • Thomas McCarthy • Sharon McCartney • Joseph McElroy • rob mclennan • Ross McMeekin • Paul McQuade • Court Merrigan • Joe Milan • Robert Miner • Peter Mishler • Brenda McKeon • Ariane Miyasaki • Quim Monzó • Martin Mooney • Gary Moore • Keith Lee Morris • Garry Thomas Morse • Erin Morton • Diane Moser • Warren Motte • Guilio Mozzi • Karen Mulhallen • Gwen Mullins • Hilary Mullins • Robert Musil • Jack Myers • John Nazarenko • David Need • Rik Nelson • Levi Nicholat • Nuala Ní Chonchúir • Lorinne Niedecker • Doireann Ní Ghríofa • Christopher Noel • Lindsay Norville • Michael Oatman • Gina Occhiogrosso • Susan Olding • Robin Oliveira • William Olsen • Barrett Olson-Glover • JC Olsthoorn • Patrick O’Reilly • John Oughton • Victoria Palermo • Yeniffer Pang-Chung • Alan Michael Parker • Jacob Paul • Cesar Pavese • Gilles Pellerin • Martha Petersen • Pamela Petro • Paul Pines • Álvaro Pombo • Jean Portante • Garry Craig Powell • John Proctor • Dawn Promislow • Emily Pulfer-Terino • Lynne Quarmby • Donald Quist • Dawn Raffel • Victoria Redel • Kate Reuther • Julie Reverb • Shane Rhodes • Frank Richardson • Mary Rickert • Brendan Riley • Rainer Maria Rilke • Nela Rio • David Rivard • Mary François Rockcastle • Angela Rodel • Johannah Rodgers • Pedro Carmona Rodríguez • Lisa Roney • Leon Rooke • Marilyn R. Rosenberg • Rob Ross • Jess Row • Shambhavi Roy • Mary Ruefle • Laura-Rose Russell • Ethan Rutherford • Ingrid Ruthig • Juan José Saer • Stig Sæterbakken • Trey Sager • Andrew Salgado • José Luis Sampedro • Cynthia Sample • Jean-Marie Saporito • Maya Sarishvilli • Natalia Sarkissian • Paul Sattler • Michael Schatte • Boel Schenlaer • Bradley Schmidt • Diane Schoemperlen • Elizabeth Schmuhl • Sophfronia Scott • Fernando Sdrigotti • Mihail Sebastian • Adam Segal • Mauricio Segura • Sarah Seltzer • K. E. Semmel • Robert Semeniuk • Shelagh Shapiro • Mary Shartle • Betsy Sholl • Viktor Shklovsky • David Short • Sue William Silverman • Paul-Armand Silvestre • Goran Simić • Thomas Simpson • Taryn Sirove • Ariel Smart • Jordan Smith • Russell Smith • John Solaperto • Glen Sorestad • Stephen Sparks • D. M. Spitzer • Matthew Stadler • Erin Stagg • Albena Stambolova • Domenic Stansberry • Andrzej Stasiuk • Lorin Stein • Mary Stein • Samuel Stolton • Bianca Stone • Bruce Stone • Nathan Storring • John Stout • Dao Strom • Cardelia Strube • Andrew F. Sullivan • Lawrence Sutin • Terese Svoboda • Gladys Swan • Paula Swicher • George Szirtes • Habib Tengour • Leona Theis • Hugh Thomas • Lee D. Thompson • Melinda Thomsen • Lynne Tillman • Joyce Townsend • Julie Trimingham • Valentin Trukhanenko • Leslie Ullman • Felicia Van Bork • Manuel de Jesus Velásquez Léon • Nance Van Winckel • Louise Lévêque de Vilmorin • Katie Vibert • Robert Vivian • Liam Volke • Laura Von Rosk • Wendy Voorsanger • Paul Warham • Laura K. Warrell • Brad Watson • Roger Weingarten • Tom Pecore Weso • Summar West • Adam Westra • Haijo Westra • Darryl Whetter • Chaulky White • Derek White • Diana Whitney • Dan Wilcox • Cheryl Wilder • Tess Wiley • Myler Wilkinson • Deborah Willis • Eliot Khalil Wilson • Donald Winkler • Dirk Winterbach • Ingrid Winterbach • Tiara Winter-Schorr • David Wojahn • Macdara Woods • Ror Wolf • Benjamin Woodard • Angela Woodward • Russell Working • Liz Worth • Robert Wrigley • Xu Xi • David Zieroth • Deborah Zlotsky

May 272015

A Anupama2A. Anupama

Just like United Airlines, Numéro Cinq double books its flights. This is because, back in the day, we’d have the occasional train wreck (to mix my metaphors) when two, eight or twenty-seven (it seemed) contributors would fall late and I’d have to scramble for work. Now we have train wrecks of a more delightful sort; for the June issue we have a bumper crop (another metaphor, Jesus, I must have lost my mind) of book reviews, a ton of book reviews, with excerpts to go along with them. June is a huge issue. If you printed it out, it would look like War and Peace. Okay, I exaggerate. Call this the hypertrophic issue or the issue with elephantiasis or maybe I’ll think of something better…

A wonderful issue. A stupendous issue. As usual, I just shake my head in disbelief. Where do these terrific writers come from? Who plots this explosion of creativity every month? And it is explosive. Someone on Twitter this month thanked us for all the great reading. It is great reading. All of it.

So, yes, this month. Brand new poems from one of our most popular contributors (see the all time top of the pops list) A. Anupama. Bold, frank, lusty, intricate poems that infect contemporary America scenes with the erotic symbolics of ancient Indian myth. Gorgeous poems. From a woman who is a mainstay here, author of essays, translations, poetry reviews.

So, I go into the kitchen to make curry, and while I am slicing onions
and crying, He comes up behind me and caresses my breasts.

It’s good that He’s impervious to the knife in my hand.
I suppose that I could have told Him to go away,

but it’s God after all, and I like it against the kitchen wall.
He likes this too, and I am hoping that I will not lose all of me —A. Anupama

Maud GonneMaud Gonne

Another of our top ten most popular contributors, Patrick J. Keane, honours W. B. Yeats on his 150th anniversary with a spectacular essay on Yeats, the poems, and his muse/paramour Maud Gonne.

If “that girl standing there” in “Politics” is in any way a “form” of Maud, it would clarify both the old man’s distraction from war and war’s alarms, and the climactic placement of “Politics” as Yeats’s poetic farewell, a last kiss given to the void. —Patrick J. Keane

Victoria KennefickVictoria Kennefick

Our little corner of Ireland, Uimhir a Cúig, features a sheaf of lustrous poems from the inimitable Victoria Kennefick.

I shut the door because we talked in circles, spiralling
into the centre of our own darkness. Your devotion
flattened me. Old friends thought we were lovers.
I could not pick you off, like a plaster I had to rip.
Please know that I am sorry. —Victoria Kennefick

The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas-Caravaggio_(1601-2)The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Caravaggio, detail

And from the redoubtable and equally inimitable critic, poet and culture arbiter (follow him on Twitter at @proustitute) K. Thomas Kahn, we have truly special poems, intense, intimate, personal and despairing.

the trick door open and then close again
but there is no mirth when a hand crashes
down upon a boned key in disrepair

No one knows how to move but you
yet we all see stillness as a weakness
What happens in private remains uncharted

our future wants only a veil to be told. —K. Thomas Kahn

Zoe MeagerZoë Meager

A brilliant addition to the NC pantheon, New Zealand writer Zoë Meager, whom I discovered all by myself (well, after she won the 2013 Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, Pacific Region). We have this month a story, not about New Zealand, but Mongolia. I haven’t looked at the map, but I don’t think they’re close. But the story? Ah, something else.

The cold was creeping tight in his chest as he pulled on his thickest clothes. They blanketed him like a snow drift, softening his angles, rendering him as indistinct as the peasants in the street. He mounted his horse, Hachi, and keeping the village at their backs, together they were hoof prints disappearing.—Zoë Meager

Georgi GospodinovGeorgi Gospodinov

Our brand new contributor Geeda Searfoorce contributes (yes, I used the word twice) a delightful  review of Georgi Gospodinov’s novel-in-translation The Physics of Sorrow (from which we also have an excerpt).

NicoleChuNicole Chu

Nicole Chu offers here a lovely essay on short story plot, which has the virtue of quoting me (bless her heart). Not only that, but instead of just pontificating, she actually does a really helpful close analysis of the plot of three short stories and the stories themselves are brilliant — a fine reading and introduction to the art.

Sydney LeaSydney Lea

Also poems from Contributing Editor Sydney Lea, who also reviews the collected poems of Canadian poet Don McKay in this issue.

Kate McCahillKate McCahill

Kate McCahill, who once wrote for us an amazing travel essay set in India, this time turns her talented pen (keyboard) to New Mexico and American roads.

Cary FaganCary Fagan

Cary Fagan has a short story in this issue. Called, ominously, “Punch.”

When I awoke in the morning, there was a brief, blissful moment when I didn’t remember what had happened. —Cary Fagan

Lady Rojas BeneventeLady Rojas Benevente

We also have poems from the Peruvian-Québecoise poet Lady Rojas Benevente, translated from the original Spanish (and we have the Spanish, too) by Sophie M. Lavoie.

Renata AdlerRenata Adler

From Julian Hanna, who lives on the island of Madeira, we have a review essay, packed with lively biographical detail, on Renata Adler’s collected nonfiction After the Tall Timber just out with New York Review Books.

Mark Jarman Story- St. John RiverMark Anthony Jarman

Lee D. Thompson reviews Mark Anthony Jarman’s pyrotechnic story collection Knife Party at the Hotel Europa, some of which was published here.

…the strength of the writing itself is like magic, few authors can pull this off, and the final impression is absolute: Italy – dry, beautiful, graffiti strewn, tourist ridden, sexy, fake – and the narrator – lost, bored, amused, searching, lustful – are far too complimentary and this is no haven for lost souls seeking redemption, and no one will be rescued from firestorms of ash and lava. Like Pliny the Elder rowing to Pompeii, there’s not much he can do to save the situation, but it’s quite the spectacle and well worth watching. —Lee D. Thompson

In the Mood for Love

And there is more, Lord help me, more! Including R. W. Gray on the movies of Wong Kar Wai at Numéro Cinq at the Movies. Also reviews of new books by Colin Winette (reviewed by Jason DeYoung) and Richard Weiner (reviewed by Frank Richardson). Plus excerpts from Winette and Weiner and a micro story by Mark Anthony Jarman.

And…and…now I need oxygen.

There may be more.



May 262015

NC Logo


1. What It’s Like Living Here — Richard Farrell in San Diego, CA

2. The Senses of an Ending: The Grapes of Wrath, Novel and Film — Patrick J. Keane

3. A Visual Approach to Syntactical and Image Patterns in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: Essay & Images — Anna Maria Johnson

4. Translations of Classical Tamil Love Poetry: Essay & Poems — A. Anupama

5. What It’s Like Living Here — From Lisa Roney in Orlando

6. Nabokov’s Exoneration: The Genesis and Genius of Lolita — Bruce Stone

7. (tie) In Hell We All Burn Brightly: Bret Easton Ellis’s Empire vs. Post-Empire — Brianna Berbenuik

7. (tie) What It’s Like Living Here — Wendy Voorsanger in San Mateo

8. “…novels that feature a woman having sex with a bear…”

9. 7 Things I Learned from Reading 15 List Essays — John Proctor

10. (tie) The Consecution of Gordon Lish: An Essay on Form and Influence — Jason Lucarelli

10. (tie) Translation, Adaptation and Transformation: The Poet as Translator — Richard Jackson

May 262015

Ocean Beach Pier

And so the moment you have all been waiting for  (drum roll, please).

Let me just open the envelope.

And, yes, the No. 1 all time post on Numéro Cinq, after 5 1/2 years and over 3,000 items published, is Richard Farrell‘s What It’s Like Living Here essay set in San Diego: What It’s Like Living Here — Richard Farrell in San Diego, CA (Vol. II, No. 2, February 2011).

That means three of the top ten pieces published on NC have come from the What It’s Like Living Here series. This surprises me and doesn’t surprise me. I started that series as a grounding element in the magazine’s makeup. I wanted something in the magazine that symbolized the fact that literature isn’t some distant object but is grounded in the every day life of people. If it loses that anchor, it begins to float, alien and inhuman. So the What It’s Like Living Here essays offer a major connection with our readers; they talk about what it actually feels like to live where you live.

Rich has been on the masthead of the magazine since its inception. He is primarily a fiction writer but he has reformed himself here as a nonfiction writer of considerable talent. He has a style that is informal, thoughtful, generous and intimate.

Browse all of Richard Farrell’s NC contributions here. And don’t forget that you can submit for this very popular series here (don’t forget to read the series guidelines!)



A popular bumper sticker here reads “No Bad Days.” These words, scribbled in white, tiki-style letters with an accompanying copse of swaying palm trees, seem to capture a pervasive San Diego ethos. Bathed in incessant sunshine and aquamarine skies, it’s easy to believe in such a concept: that there could, conceivably, be no bad days.

But No Bad Days demands a fulltime attitude adjustment to keep up with its endless-summer cheeriness. No Bad Days implies lithe bodies, salt-spray hair and a fountain-of-youth refusal to grow old. It demands that you smile at strangers, sport flip-flops year round,  and stuff board shorts and towels in the trunk, just in case. It constructs a dream landscape built on breakfast burritos, noontime margaritas and PCH kisses against a backdrop of spinnakers and sunsets. No Bad Days proffers paradise as if it was a tangible thing, a widely available commodity cast in bright ceramic tiles forever walling-off real life. A place where complexity reduces itself to surf reports and the nearest tamale stand.

But nothing is that simple, not even here. The false front of No Bad Days crumbles upon even the most elementary examination. Still, it’s an easy first-glance impression of life in San Diego.

Read the entire essay at What It’s Like Living Here — Richard Farrell in San Diego, CA » Numéro Cinq