Beatrice and Dante by Gustave Doré
Superlatives fail. We are at the threshold, about to enter the Kingdom. You can almost hear the harps and trumpets and the heavenly choirs. But maybe after that there is another Kingdom, and another. Or I’ll get a better thesaurus and find new superlatives. Or perhaps I should try the understated approach: here we have another issue of Numéro Cinq, the usual outrageously varied, scintillating, profound, subversive, cheeky thing we produce here every month.
Tom Jones & Sophia Western from the movie
I am particularly proud of two anchor essays this month. Classicist Wayne J. Hankey has written us a fascinating and scholarly essay on conversion in philosophy and literature, “Conversion: Ontological and Secular from Plato to Tom Jones”. You know how Plato had this idea that in life beauty (love, eros) tutors the soul and leads the way to the love of God, ie conversion. Hankey takes this idea and follows it through the ages (Aquinas, Dante) to the invention of the modern novel (the British greats like Richardson, Fielding and Austen) and shows how a secular version of Plato’s conversion becomes the central figure in the structure of the novel itself. Brilliant, entertaining, and surprising.
Emil Nolde, Masks (still life III), 1911. Nolde was a member of Die Brücke, a group of German “wild” Expressionists.
Then we have Genese Grill’s amazing essay “Primitivisms: (Paradoxically) on Modernism” about the multiform Modernist movement that influenced everyone from Picasso to Chagall and spawned offshoots in folk art, the Bloomsbury craft arts, outsider art, insane art, grotesque art and any number of other beautiful, strange things.
d m spitzer
In the same high art vein we have perhaps the most ambitious poetry yet published on NC, an excerpt from D. M. Spitzer’s magnificent, monumental “Ishmaël: from The Genealogy of the First Person,” a poem that compasses everything from Genesis to Moby Dick and the phenomenology of the self.
James Dickey on the set of Deliverance
In Undersung, this month Julie Larios revisits the great poets — James Dickey and Robert Graves — who also wrote novels. I find this particularly interesting because, of course, I have just been teaching Graves’ great World War One memoir Goodbye to All That and also had my brain forever scarred by watching the film version of Dickey’s amazing canoe trip novel Deliverance.
Brilliant, witty, wise aphorisms in translation from the Slovak writer Róbert Gál. “Borne down by the weight of wings.” Think about it
Newcomer Dan Holmes interviews the British travel writer Richard Grant and introduces an excerpt from Grant’s delightfully titled book God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre.
Our indefatigable Ben Woodard reviews Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret by the exciting young Angolan writer Ondjaki (writes in Portuguese).
We also have a unique hybrid piece this time, cartoons and poetry, by two Vermont laureates Sydney Lea (the poet) and James Kochalka (the cartoonist).
And poems on a medical theme from the remarkable Irish poet/dentist Paula Cunningham featured in this month Uimhir a Cúig, the little part of Numéro Cinq that will always be green (curated by the wondrous Gerard Beirne).
Michael Bryson and familiar
Toronto short story writer, essayist, memoirist, blogger, magazine editor returns to these pages with a brilliant short story, brilliant and devastating (at the end) “The Matter of the Orgasm.” Don’t you love work with the word “orgasm” in the title? Always some promise there.
And we have a terrific review of the Japanese poet Sakutarō Hagiwara’s collection in translation The Iceland by our first-time reviewer Patrick O’Reilly.
And art work from Victoria Palermo, curated and introduced by Mary Kathryn Jablonski.
Sue William Silverman with her paratrooper
And more, much more, as always, relentless, endless — you need a hard hat and a brain on amphetamines to keep up with NC, let me tell you — including also new fiction from Dawn Promislow, a story called “Horse in the Afternoon”, excerpts and photographs from Sue William Silverman’s new memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, and a review of Korean novelist Kyung-sook Shin’s novel I’ll Be Right There by our own Laura K. Warrell.
Call it a billet doux to our readers, not an issue, but a little love note.