Jul 282014


I’m writing an essay about Camus’ novel L’Étranger, which has sent me off on delightful tangents. I was up till 5am this morning polishing off André Gide’s Strait if the Gate. I read it years ago, but sometimes you have to learn to be a better reader before the full charms of a text become available to you. Then I found this site, and was further cheered to discover  how many of these books I had actually read, including the great Breton novel pictured above. I read that last autumn.


France has consistently maintained its place as one of the most active hotbeds of literature. Like many other countries, its cultural sphere is devoted to understanding and challenging social mores, and novelists like Balzac, Zola, Flaubert, Camus and Sartre have blended their art with politics, philosophy, sociology. Here is a list of some of the most influential French novels from the past 350 years:

Read the rest via Le Mot Juste: 25 Classic French Novels | Qwiklit.

Jul 282014

Genese Grill

It’s a huge pleasure to announce that Genese Grill has joined the NC masthead as a Special Correspondent. She has already contributed mightily to the magazine, essays on Primitivism and Modernism (in the current issue), on Proust and Musil, and her impressive Apologia one why we write. Look forward to her brand new Robert Musil translations coming in September and a major essay on Musil and Ludwig Wittgenstein currently in the works for January.


Genese Grill is an artist, writer, German scholar, and translator living in Burlington, Vermont. Her first book, The World as Metaphor in Robert Musil’s ‘The Man without Qualities’: Possibility as Reality (Camden House, 2012), explores the aesthetic-ethical imperative of word and world-making in Musil’s metaphoric theory and practice and celebrates the extra-temporal moment of Musil’s “Other Condition” as a transformative aesthetic and mystical experience informing a utopian conduct of life.



Jul 282014

drugsDetail from Bad Medicine by Adriaen Brouwer (1606-1638), Musée Des Beaux-Arts, Dijon. Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images via aeon.co


Witches, doctors, Newton! Willow bark! Quinine! LSD! Snail water! Coffee!

Catching up on our reading, we wonder how many of the above we’ve ingested today, and note that the traditions of 17th century apothecaries, Enlightenment scientists, and psychedelic enthusiasts are not so different. Be it in 21st century laboratories or 18th century poets’ homes, Benjamin Breen reminds us that drug experimentation has always served both recreational, medicinal, and inspirational ends, at least since the Renaissance.

The fun of the piece is in the stories and ancient recipes, but the thesis is sound: “The clash between alternative and Western medicine might not be a clear-cut contest between ancient, ‘traditional’ remedies and modern, scientific ones.”

Read the entire romp @ Under the Influence: How did enlightenment thinkers distinguish between ‘drugs’ and ‘medicines’? And how should we? — aeon.co

—Tom Faure


Jul 272014

GrisGris Slate

It’s the Carved in Stone issue, one to last the ages. After the Ebola virus clears the earth of the human vermin, this issue will still be there to be read by those who come after (some form of intelligent insect life, hopefully; bees seem to get along with each other — I am betting on bees). Have you noticed — it’s true — how saved we are, even temporarily, from the world’s pathologies by a book, a picture, a song, or a verse, how settling to the spirit it is to contemplate clarity and order (or just a good sentence)?

But let me not dwell too long upon current events and instead turn happily to the beauties of Numéro Cinq, the August edition, which includes stunning poetry-on-stuff images from the inimitable Jody Gladding, herewith also interviewed for us by the intrepid Darren Higgins.

Seal Rock

Jody headshotJody Gladding

Contributor Adam Segal interviews the cnf star Eula Biss on the subject of her forthcoming book On Immunity: An Inoculation.

Eula BissEula Biss

Sebastian Ennis reviews the new Shane Jones novel Crystal Easters. Writes Sebastian: “Here’s the thing about Jones and Kafka though: they both know how to do ‘fucked-up and beautiful.’”

author pic Shane JonesShane Jones


From the amazing Leslie Ullman, poet, skier and merengue dancer, we have a gorgeous piece of non-fiction prose conerning her recent trek in the Himalayas (plus photographs by the author).

leslie-ullman_09Leslie Ullman

MattheaHarvey_NewBioImage_Credit-RobCasperMatthea Harvey

A. Anupama reviews the new Matthea Harvey poetry collection If The Tabloids Are True What Are You? “Evolved far beyond the snip-and-paste of collage, this hybrid poetry and visual art collection encompasses prose poems with intriguing and crystalline photographs for titles, poems with invented constellations for titles, embroidered models of imagined inventions to accompany a long poetic sequence, and silhouettes of mermaids with tools for tails, including a Swiss Army knife and a hole-punch.”

Harvey thumbnail

VollmanWilliam T. Vollmann

Jason DeYoung review the latest William T. Vollmann collection Last Stories and Other Stories.

lthompsonLee D. Thompson

And Lee D. Thompson pens a strange and charming story —”A Serpent” — about difficult love and a sea monster. Somehow that seems like a line that could describe every story we publish here. Every story is (or should be) about difficult love and a sea monster. Or every young couple in love should have a sea monster.

It is hungry, was what Chiara said, after they had wandered to the shore.

It was green-black, serpentine, had a dog’s head and fur here and there where its stubby limbs joined the body. The fur was more a bronze colour, and thick.  It didn’t look real.  It had nostrils that flared and closed, like a seal, and Chiara said it is just a weird sea lion, George, and George remembered her way of saying weird, and other strange inflections.  Its mouth, when it opened its mouth, was wide, sucker-like.  OK, it is not one of those, said Chiara.

I do not like it.

But we should feed it.


The poet Paul Pines contributes a trenchant, timely essay on the distemper of our cultural times, the roots of High Culture in the ancient spiritual structures of oral societies that flourished long before the invention of writing, and the possibility of a remedy, a pharmakon.

Plato talks about the pharmakon as both a remedy and a poison. It is the cure in the disease and the disease in the cure. That medicine had a double nature was well known to Galen and Asclepius as well as Paracelsus and Derrida. The pharmakon may be the Objective Psyche or the submerged center. By the same token Post Modernism, with its claim of absolute relativism married to Faustian promise of technology and instant information may be the poison in which the panacea is secreted. Caught between the dreams of virtuality and globalization, a wounded poetic imagination bombarded by packaged images for consumption, symbols replaced by brands, we must not retreat in grief and anger, or to easy answers.

Paul Pines

Paul Pines

 dancersPhoto by John Oughton

Canadian poet/photographer John Oughton contributes, yes, poems and photos.

Before the human eye can catch the light
birds call up the sun,
each giving a separate secret name
understood only by them and the awakening star.
One robin calls: warmer-of-lost-eggs
and a cardinal: bleeds-the-eastern-sky
a jay announces: shards-you-can’t-look-at
and whipporwill: courser-of-clouds

OughtonJohn Oughton

BattleofIssus333BC-mosaic-detail1Alexander at the Battle of Issus

Senior Editor Patrick J. Keane, scholar, horse racing fan, jazz aficionado, and cat lover, suffered a creative seizure and, instead of an essay, wrote for us a blazing short story on Alexander the Great and his legendary horse Bucephalus. But not just about Alexander and his horse. “The Alexander Debate and the Murderous Innocence of Bucephalus” is a wicked satire on the epic testosterone-driven struggles of scholarly debate, a satire that becomes a comedy of sexual infidelity, jealousy, envy and, finally, murder.

Patrick J Keane 2Patrick J. Keane

Debbie1Deborah Willis

We have, for the first time in ages, a new What It’s Like Living Here essay from Deborah Willis in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, a city  that lives beneath the ash cloud of a volcano. Deborah writes: “…on the church steps, Mayan shamans burn pine resin or swing metal cans that release white, aromatic smoke. In jeans and sneakers, they are nothing like the shamans of my imagination. Tomasa says they are hired by families to pray for luck, or happy marriages, or better job opportunities. Across town there is a smaller, darker church that represents death, says Tomasa.”

SaerJuan José Saer

Senior Editor Richard Farrell  reviews the translation  of Juan José Saer’s La Grande. ” This mystery is one of ontology, of the deep, mystical, convoluted experience that is life, with all its secrets, its intrigue, its tragedies and its triumphs. At the very bottom, on the murky river floor where memory resides, where so much has been lost to time—betrayals, desires, the forgotten war, love, passions—here we find the source material for Juan José Saer’s La Grande. Saer reassembles the fragments. He reconstructs experience through memory, where nothing is ever quite what it appears, and yet where everything that appears is luminescent, like gold flakes panned from the silt, polished, crafted and forged into a ring”

We also have a excerpt from the novel.


Nela RioNela Rio & friends

And more! Including brand new translations of poems by the prolific Argentianian-Canadian poet Nela Rio;

Rio_Laberinto_vertical portada

 imageDavid Hayden

Uimhir a Cúig features fiction by the Irish author David Hayden — “Memory House.”

I am the broken plate lying on the kitchen floor. Eight main pieces are grouped together on the yellowed linoleum that is cool beneath my bare feet. Scores of fragments are scattered in the greasy shadows, or wedged under the heels of the table.

The warped, lemon-shaded light is my mother’s eye. It gives off a gentle heat and can see nothing. Each chair is a misplaced friend. If I sit down I will remember who, and why they became lost and, perhaps, where they are today.


And last, but never least, R. W. Gray at NC at the Movies does his usual brilliant gloss on the movie of the month — David Cho’s Where We Are.

“Do you wonder where I am?” “Do you miss me?” The woman on the call persists with her questions. When the man suggests the woman should come to him, however, she replies, “I’m happy here.” On the most overt level, this is the woman defining her contradictory desires, where she seeks the answer to “Do you miss me?” before she will assert “I am happy here.” Come here / go away. This is Anne Carson’s “sweetbitter,” cultivated by the woman who wants longing more than having.


Jul 252014

Nuala reading Dub Writers' Fest

Interesting commentary today from Nuala Ní Chonchúir (Uimhir a Cúig, April 2014) on the need to anglicise her name to Nuala O’Connor for marketing reasons (her newest novel Miss Emily is to be published by Penguin USA and Penguin Canada).

Have a read here 

(and here if you need help in pronouncing the Irish version – SPOILER (from her own explanation): “the second part sounds like HOOR (as in ‘she’s a mad hoor’)”).

—Gerard Beirne

Jul 232014

cover image by Jerry Cassidy

cover image by Jerry Cassidy

“When reviewing, the composer’s invective was extreme. He is no less frank when writing about his own life, alcoholism and recovery.”

Uimhir a Cúig recently featured an interview with Irish composer Raymond Deane (by fellow Irish composer Siobhan Cleary) and an extract of his new memoir In My Own Light. Today’s Irish Times has an interesting review of his memoir by music critic Michael Dervan:

“When I was editing Soundpost magazine, I invited him to contribute reviews. From the start, his invective was extreme. He had a go at Shostakovich, who, he wrote, “richly deserves our critical spittle”; and Colman Pearce, who in Mahler’s Third Symphony “dashed through the piece as if he was hurrying home to watch Dallas”. The conductor big-heartedly bore no grudge, and even recorded a CD of Deane’s music in 1997.

There was such a ruckus that I gave him a back-page column, Tailpiece, as well as his reviewing work.”

You can read the entire review here: Raymond Deane, one-time writer of acidic reviews, turns his pen on himself

Jul 222014

dg & dog2DG (right) and Lucy (left) on the farm (art shot — yes, I know it’s annoying).

DG and Lucy were just on the farm in Ontario, you know, for a brief visit, a drug intervention with his mother, a fight with a young gun investment advisor trying to get his hands on his mother’s cash, a movie with Jonah (we went to see the latest Planet of the Apes extravaganza; very funny since he is moving to San Francisco in the fall and dg would keep saying, See, there’s your BART station and there’s your apartment without a roof), flea bombing the tenant house, and dinner with a dear old friend who had a heart attack a month ago and was put in an induced coma and quick frozen, apparently, with no ill effects. (The part about the drug intervention is a joke. Do I have to tell you everything?)

Jean w the girlsJean communing with her hens.

He found a treasure trove of old negatives and discovered that you can make pictures from old out-size negatives by using a laptop screen as a light box and taking a picture of the negative. Then he used photo software to invert the negative to a black and white photo. You should be impressed with his ingenuity.


Jean at beach from negativeJean somewhat earlier in life.

The nearest town is Waterford, where dg went to high school, about two miles from the farm.

DSCF8150Alice Street, Waterford, rush hour. DG’s bank since childhood on your immediate right.

Here’s one of the town appliance stores. What’s interesting is that this used to be a movie theater. You can tell by the shape of the building. DG saw his first ever movie here, a documentary about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. The fact that this was the first movie he ever saw and that it is burned into his memory tells you a lot about what is wrong with him.


After it was a movie theater, it was a pool hall, den of sin (according to Jean). Nothing but failed individuals and juvenile delinquents frequented pool halls. Then it was a lunch restaurant where farmers used to convene to drink coffee and talk about bad weather. DG can remember going there with his father and having hot turkey sandwiches with french fries and chocolate milkshakes. No better food has been invented since (he avers, nostalgically).

DSCF8133-002The old movie theater.

Another major landmark, sign of long gone industrial prosperity, is the old knitting mill (underwear factory), now given over to antiques.

Old Knitting Factory

Alice Street runs east-west. The movie theater was at the east end and the knitting mill was at the west end hard by the train station. The train from New York to Detroit used to run through Waterford parallel to Alice Street behind the bank and the theater. Now the former rail line is a hiking trail, and next to it is a rather peaceful series of ponds and lakes.

DSCF8156About 100 yards from the knitting mill.

While dg was taking pictures he ran into a nice, depleted young man in a black leather pants, a Harley t-shirt and a black leather vest who opened up the conversation by saying he had a brain tumor but that his life had turned around recently when he began seeing UFOs. Apparently, crowds have gathered to watch the fiery lights go up and down the Grand River in Paris, Ontario, a nearby town. But even Waterford has had its visitations. (DG has always had a suspicion that he is not of this world. They are sending ships back for him.)

Capture3A recent local sighting.

New word learned on this trip: earthing. It means to walk barefoot.

tomatoesField of tomatoes on the farm.

DSCF8284 cropped twice bwOne of the chickens, looking a bit like an alien.

Lucy2 w curvesLucy.


more dg among the chickensDG with the chickens (photo by Jean; this is her first photo credit, a milestone at 93).


Jul 222014

Cunningham-Heimlichs-manoeuvre (1)

Congratulations are due to Paula Cunningham (who featured in this month’s Uimhir a Cúig). Her poetry collection Heimlich’s Manoeuvrepublished by Smith|Doorstop in 2013, has just been shortlisted for The Shine/Strong Award 2014. The collection was already shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh Best First Collection Prize 2013 and the 2014 Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for First Full Collection.

The Shine/Strong Award is presented annually for the best first collection of poems published by an Irish poet.  The Award will be presented at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival on Sunday 14th September 2014.

Jul 152014


As a child, my father lived at a curve in the road and often woke to the grinding of automobiles against maples. He says the death of James Dean had inspired everyone to race. Most of the smashups resulted in bloody noses, bruised ribs: minor injuries. But one bastard hit the trees so hard he sheared his One-Fifty in half. When the police arrived, they discovered his right arm twenty yards from the wreckage, lodged in a wayward passenger’s seat. His hair had shocked itself a faint alabaster.

— Read the rest at Cheap Pop

Jul 142014

Young Skins Front Cover - web

Colin Barrett became the second Irish writer, after Edna O’Brien, to win The Frank O’Connor Short Story Award (€25,000) for his debut collection Young Skins. The shortlist also included Lorrie Moore and A L Kennedy (the longlist, of course, included Numéro Cinq’s own “mad genius of Can Lit”, Douglas Glover, for his collection Savage Love). Set mainly in the fictional County Mayo town of Glanbeigh, the stories “explore the wayward lives and loves of young men and women in contemporary post-boom Ireland”.   The judges described Barrett’s collection as having “all the hallmarks of an instant classic”. Alison MacLeod, one of the judges, stated, “His stories are a thump to the heart, a mainline surge to the core. His vision is sharp, his wit is sly, and the stories in this collection come alive with that ineffable thing – soul. How dare a debut writer be this good?”

Why not judge for yourselves – read his story Diamonds here in The Guardian.

—Gerard Beirne

Jul 142014

Captured by slave hunters in her youth, the nameless protagonist in Wilma Stockenström’s The Expedition to the Baobab Tree (Archipelago Books, 2014) details her erstwhile life in slavery, as a possession: a position that stripped her of identity, history, and native language. It is a darkly imagined narrative, with occasional hopeful turns as the narrator strives to hold onto her sense of self, but is ultimately doomed.

Set during the time when the world was thought to be flat, the novel opens with the narrator already taking refuge in the trunk of a baobab tree, a genus of the great Adasonia trees of South Africa. Her existence is defined by that which surrounds her: the eponymous tree, the veld, its other inhabitants—“I found too that I was plucking, digging, picking [food] in competition with animals.” Freed from bondage after her owner mysteriously abandoned her and her fellow slaves on a failed trading expedition, the narrator is now isolated and malnourished, and the present tense action of the novel never ventures far form the baobab tree. She leaves for water and food, returns, and does little else aside from ponder her situation. Her only contact with other humans is through the “little people” (perhaps a group similar to the Pygmy) she sees, who worship her as a tree spirit but will not communicate with her.

Read the rest at A Review of The Expedition to the Baobab Tree — The Austin Review.

Jul 132014

Nuala Ní Chonchúir author photo

I recently had the pleasure of publishing a new short story, Tinnycross, by Nuala Ní Chonchúir in April’s Uimhir a Cúig. Since then her second novel, The Closet of Savage Mementos, has been published by New Island Press.


Read an interview with Nuala here from The Dublin Writers’ Festival about  the novel and her next, Miss Emily, already signed with Penguin in the US and Canada. 

—Gerard Beirne

Jul 122014


One of the best readings I’ve recently had the pleasure to witness came from Jamaal May during the summer MFA residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts. May’s poems pinballed through the room with an electric energy, an energy that’s often nonexistent at author readings. The audience reacted with enthusiasm, erupting in applause at the end of each piece. It was a dynamic event.

So it’s no surprise that, when Leah Falk decided to write an essay on performance anxiety in poetry for The Millions, she used May as one of her examples of how to shine. Here’s a snippet from the piece, which you can read in full here.

Jamaal May, a Detroit poet with deep roots in the slam scene there, is among those who have started the campaign to make “page” poets better performers. Before the publication of his first book, Hum, he wrote a blog post for Poets & Writers called “On Giving a Not Terrible Reading.” “Writers tell me they don’t want to perform or be seen as performative,” he writes, but “I would argue that an overly dry, disengaged reading is in fact a performance. No one speaks that way.” With this criticism, May hit on the irony that underlies so many tepid readings by “page” poets: poets may fear that an engaged, even dramatic performance may come off as inauthentic; but as with wooden acting, not allowing the poem’s elements to guide a reading of it can seem far more false than reading with passion.

And here’s a brief video of Jamaal May performing live:

— Benjamin Woodard

Jul 122014

Bill Drummond. Photograph by David Rose

From British art provocateur Bill Drummond, we have the Ten (actually Eleven) Commandments of Art, forged during his “forty years in the wilderness,” as compared to Moses’ forty days and nights on Mt. Sinai. Drummond says, “Not that I can remember climbing a mountain and coming down with two tablets of stone. Mind you, I do recall a golden calf that had to be smashed, or slaughtered, or something. Or was it a dead sheep?”

Read Drummond’s Commandments, including “Don’t make punk rock,” “Let your lone ranger ride,” and “Burn the bridge” at The Guardian.

Along with writing and painting, Drummond founded a chart-topping band in the 1980s called the KLF, then publicly destroyed the band’s entire cash profit (one million pounds) in a bonfire. After declaring “recorded music has run its course,” he created a choir called The17, then deleted all its recordings. He is currently on a twelve-year world tour until 2025, or until “the Reaper sinks [his] raft.” Drummond will visit a different city each year, where he will display his “25 Paintings” and perform “direct actions,” like making beds (constructing them from wood), sweeping streets, and baking cakes.


The 25 Paintings—works on canvas, also advertisements for Drummond’s direct actions. Photograph by thecornpoppy.

A head painting, Black, White & Black. Photograph by The Guardian.

Before leaving Birmingham, England, where he has begun his tour, Drummond will chisel his Commandments into two tablets of stone. After watching the K Foundation burning one million pounds (that’s cash money), I think he might just as well take a sledgehammer to them and start over.

YouTube Preview Image


—Martha Petersen

Jul 112014

In a time when Amazon discounting has become so steep, hardly anyone is buying a book for the cover price, should the U.S. consider combating Amazon with fixed book prices?

These prices give independent booksellers a chance in a competitive marketplace, and would give publishers the opportunity to count on net numbers that are closer to, you know, the price it costs to publish a book, rather than a number an online retailer has made up.

Read the rest @ Are the French right? Should we fix book prices in America? » MobyLives.

Jul 102014

France, meanwhile, has just unanimously passed a so-called anti-Amazon law, which says online sellers can’t offer free shipping on discounted books. (“It will be either cheese or dessert, not both at once,” a French commentator explained.) The new measure is part of France’s effort to promote “biblio-diversity” and help independent bookstores compete. Here, there’s no big bookseller with the power to suddenly turn off the spigot. People in the industry estimate that Amazon has a 10 or 12 percent share of new book sales in France. Amazon reportedly handles 70 percent of the country’s online book sales, but just 18 percent of books are sold online.

The French secret is deeply un-American: fixed book prices. Its 1981 “Lang law,” named after former Culture Minister Jack Lang, says that no seller can offer more than 5 percent off the cover price of new books. That means a book costs more or less the same wherever you buy it in France, even online. The Lang law was designed to make sure France continues to have lots of different books, publishers and booksellers.

Read the rest @ The French Do Buy Books. Real Books. – NYTimes.com.

Jul 082014

Sobering stats. Makes one feel like an Endangered Species.


A typical full-time writer earns £11,000 a year, according to research commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Society (ALCS).

The number of those working as full-time writers has also dropped from 40% of all writers in 2005 to 11.5% now.

Chief executive of the ALCS, Owen Atkinson, said the research by Queen Mary University of London, suggested these are “concerning times”.

The typical income of a professional writer in 2005 was £12,330.

Read the rest BBC News – Typical writer ‘earns £11,000 a year’, research reveals.

Jul 042014

Patrick OReilly

It’s a pleasure to announce that Patrick O’Reilly, whose poems were featured in NC’s May issue, is joining the masthead as a Contributor. His first poetry review is coming out in the current issue.

Patrick O’Reilly was raised in Renews, Newfoundland and Labrador, the son of a mechanic and a shop’s clerk. He just graduated from St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, and will begin work on an MFA at the University of Saskatchewan this coming fall. Twice he has won the Robert Clayton Casto Prize for Poetry, the judges describing his poetry as “appealingly direct and unadorned.”



Jul 042014

NC Logo

Ben Woodard, not all that long a member of the NC Masthead, but in light of his mighty and varied contributions to the magazine, has taken a step up the Celestial Ladder and assumed the new position of Associate Editor. Click on his name and take a look at his NC Archive Page to see what he’s brought to the magazine. Notably and recently, that interview with Lydia Davis, but also review of the new translation of Ondjaki’s Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret in the current issue.


Benjamin Woodard lives in Connecticut. His recent fiction has appeared in decomP magazinE, Cleaver Magazine, and Numéro Cinq. His reviews have been featured in Numéro Cinq, Drunken Boat, Rain Taxi Review of Books, and other fine publications. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can find him at benjaminjwoodard.com.