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 deathbed watch, the generational situation these days. Why 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, translated by Brendan Riley, we have a drug cartel short story by the inimitable Julián Herbert, his second appearance in the magazine.

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

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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

May 252015

Grapes of Wrath-002

No. 2 spot on the NC All Time Top Ten list goes to Patrick J. Keane, our redoubtable and prolific Contributing Editor, for his magnificent essay on the three endings of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck ended his novel with a mysterious scene (Steinbeck uses the word “mysteriously”) in which Rose of Sharon tenderly gives her breast to a starving stranger to nurse. When it came time to make the movie, that scene obviously had to go. Pat Keane does a masterful and compassionate job of dissecting the motives and results of the various endings (there were two in the movie version). I saw “compassionate” because posterity has not treated Steinbeck well as a novelist; Keane acknowledges this while carefully unfolding the roots of the novel’s final grandeur.


Movie poster


Having begun with drought, the novel ends in flood, with the Joads at the end of their tether in a rain-soaked barn. There they encounter, crouching in the darkness, a starving man and his son, a boy to whom the father had given their last scrap of food. The dying man needs soup or milk to survive. The eldest Joad daughter, Rose of Sharon, abandoned by her husband, has lost her baby, a stillborn child fleetingly glimpsed as a little “blue mummy.” Now the remnant of the Joad family gazes at the starving man and his son. Following a meaningful exchange of glances between Ma and Rose of Sharon, in which “the two women looked deep into each other,” the girl says “Yes” (Steinbeck’s perhaps conscious echo of Molly Bloom’s final word in Joyce’s Ulysses). Having effected what Nancy Chodorow calls “the reproduction of mothering,” Ma smiles, “I knowed you would. I knowed.” Once the men and children have been ushered out of the barn, Rose hoists her tired body up and, drawing a blanket about her, moves slowly to the corner. She stands

looking down at the wasted face, into the wide, frightened eyes. Then slowly she lay down beside him. He shook his head slowly from side to side. Rose of Sharon loosened one side of the blanket and bared her breast. “You got to,” she said. She squirmed closer and pulled his head close. “There!” she said. “There.” Her hand moved behind his head and supported it. Her fingers moved gently in his hair. She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously. (619)

Many readers have been deeply moved by this ending, others have been confused, even repulsed. Though the novel had been enthusiastically received by Viking Press, there were deep reservations about the ending. Even Steinbeck’s editor, Pat Covici, who thought the final “symbolic note” of “love and sympathy” profoundly moving, wanted the scene changed, at the very least altered so that the gaunt old man would not be a total stranger, but someone the family had earlier encountered. Steinbeck was adamant; the whole point was that the starving man “must be a stranger.” He would not, he could not—Steinbeck insisted—“change that ending….The giving of the breast has no more sentiment than the giving of a piece of bread. I’m sorry if that doesn’t get over. It will maybe. I’ve been on this design and balance for a long time and I think I know how I want it. And if I’m wrong, I’m alone in my wrongness.”

Read the entire essay at The Senses of an Ending: The Grapes of Wrath, Novel and Film — Patrick J. Kean » Numéro Cinq

Patrick J Keane smaller


May 242015

pilgrim epigraph page

The surprises keep coming, at least for me. Who would have thought that a long essay on close-reading (and by “close-reading” I mean INTENSE, PASSIONATE, next door to OBSESSIVE) Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek would have made the No. 3 spot on our all-time top ten list (that’s out of 5 1/2 years of publication, something over 3,000 items)? Anna Maria Johnson’s essay —A Visual Approach to Syntactical and Image Patterns in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: Essay & Images — Anna Maria Johnson (Vol. IV, No. 3, March 2013) — (with her hand-drawn, hand-painted annotations of the text) is literary analysis made into art. It is a unique work of literary criticism. It is analysis turned into personal essay, and an object lesson in how to engage with a text.

Here is what I wrote the last time I posted about this essay:

Virginia Woolf, in her diaries, once said that she didn’t know how anyone could read without a pencil in his hands; Anna Maria Johnson doesn’t just use a pencil, she uses lines, paint, a self-created concordance and icons to mark the patterns when she is reading. Johnson is an artist-writer-reader who has an uncanny instinct for making visual and synchronic what in a text seems abstract and sequential. After she is done with a paragraph, a page, a sequence of pages, you suddenly SEE the text come alive as a trembling matrix of vectors, internal references, and visual rhythms; reading, Anna Maria Johnson, renders text into a startling work of visual art. This is a wonderful ability and not just a parlor trick; reading for pattern is a key element in understanding authorial intention. Repetition is the heart of art. Too many readers skim a work once and never get to appreciate the tactile, erotic quality of great prose, the physical impulses of tension, insistence and resolution that form its inner structure. Anna Maria Johnson’s “reading” of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a delightful and astonishing work of hybrid art in itself, but it’s also a terrific lesson in HOW TO READ.


Read the entire essay at A Visual Approach to Syntactical and Image Patterns in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: Essay & Images — Anna Maria Johnson » Numéro Cinq.

Anna Maria and the box turtle

Anna Maria Johnson

May 232015

A Anupama2

At the No. 4 spot in the NC ALL TIME TOP TEN list is A. Anupama’s essay on translating classical Tamil love poetry with five poems she translated herself — Translations of Classical Tamil Love Poetry: Essay & Poems — A. Anupama (Vol. II, No. 9, September 2011). This should surprise you. It surprises me. We have two essays on the art of translating poetry on the all time top ten list. What kind of readers do we have at NC? Who the hell are you people? Apparently, you don’t get outside much and are too poor to have cable. That, or you are just really smart and curious. (You pick.) It’s also true that when you look at the stats showing where our readers come from it seems that Anu, all on her own, has opened a small but significant readership for the magazine in India, which is terrific and I wish I could expand on it. Whatever the case, it is fitting that one of her pieces makes the top ten. A. Anupama has been a dependable, exciting writer for the magazine for several years. For a long time, she was the only poetry reviewer I could trust. And her translations have been delightful — those ancient Tamils were kind of sexy. You can find all of her work for NC (there’s a lot) on her NC Archive Page.



Poem from the blue lotus seashore

Talaivi says to her friend—

My heart aches, my heart aches!
My eyelids burn from holding back these hot tears.
My love, who alone comforts me, is called unworthy
by even the moon. My heart aches.

Kamancer Kulattar
Kuruntokai, verse 4

Read the essay and translations via Translations of Classical Tamil Love Poetry: Essay & Poems — A. Anupama » Numéro Cinq

May 232015


Delighted to announce that Geeda Searfoorce has just joined the masthead at Numéro Cinq as a Contributor, this on the strength of a great review she wrote of Georgi Gospodinov’s novel The Physics of Sorrow for the June issue. Also she’s figured out the magazine’s WordPress software and can upload and format posts. Let me tell you (ad nauseum) how much NC loves people who can write book reviews and post on WordPress, the two skills contemporary writers should acquire as a matter of course. Basic survival tools, which, along with knowing how to start a fire in the woods on a wet day, will stand you in good stead all your lives. In the months to come, I am sure we will be pleasantly surprised by her contributions to the magazine.



Geeda Searfoorce is a graduate of the MFA in Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and the two-year Meisner training program at The Acting Studio in New York. She writes fiction and plays, performs sketch comedy, and teaches through the Vermont Young Playwrights program. Her work is forthcoming in Short Fiction in Theory and Practice.

May 222015

Lisa Roney Merritt IslandLisa Roney

No. 5 — yes, we’re at No.5! out of over 3,000 published items in 5 1/2 years — on the NC ALL TIME TOP TEN list is another What It’s Like Living Here essay, this one by Lisa Roney and set in Orlando, Florida (Vol. III, No. 6, June 2012). Lisa teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida and she’s the author of three books including Serious Daring: Creative Writing in Four Genres (New York: Oxford University Press), which just came out last year.

Also: Remember that NC takes submissions for What It’s Like Living Here essays.


I live in the sky. Though it is crisscrossed with wires and impeded by billboards that sell big-breasted waitresses at the Wing House, it still dips its bruises in gold, not brass, then blushes at its own riches before waving good night. As I drive from yet another late neurology appointment along one of many six-lane roads that traverse the city, I search above it all, let the fading light guide me home.

Beyond the billboards, the barbequed chicken wings give way to the wings of hawks, eagles, herons, egrets. This evening eight ibis circle stunningly white against the blue, blue sky over the roadway, catching the last light of the day. Last week two bald eagles swooped ten feet above my head as I strolled my neighborhood. Cardinals and titmice flutter around the feeder in front of the kitchen window at morning and dusk, while the barred owls show themselves after midnight in their hilarious song. My husband and I lie in bed sometimes and mimic their “whoo, whoo, hah, whoo-who-oo-ahhh.” It helps my insomnia when my heart is lightened this way at bedtime.

Read the rest via What It’s Like Living Here — From Lisa Roney in Orlando » Numéro Cinq

May 212015

From Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita

No. 6 on the Numéro  Cinq all-time top ten stats list is Bruce Stone’s passionate and erudite defense of Vladimir Nabokov in the face of posthumous attacks against his novel Lolita and imputations of sexual scandal in the author’s makeup. This is a must-read essay for Nabokovians and for all writers who write risky work, opening themselves to the possibility of personal attack. It is fiction after all, but some readers and self-serving critics will always forget that.



Beyond the artificial provinces of literature, the real world also supplied the writer with no shortage of material. First, there is the actual crime of Frank Lasalle, mentioned by Humbert in Lolita, and tracked down by scholars; in 1948, Lasalle abducted thirteen-year-old Sally Horner and traveled with her cross-country for over a year, just as Humbert does with his captive. Then, there is the case of Professor Henry Lanz, Nabokov’s colleague during his brief stint at Stanford in 1941 and possible model for both Gaston Godin, the chess-playing pederast in Beardsley, and maybe Humbert himself; in the words of Leland de la Durantaye, Lanz “married his wife in London when she was fourteen” and “allegedly revealed to Nabokov the wild array of his pedophile adventures.” In the same vein, Cornwell notes Nabokov’s close reading of Havelock Ellis’ famous case history, “The Confession of Victor X,” whose Russian narrator “develops from precociously over-sexed adolescent debauchery […,] through a lengthy period of abstinence in Italy, which finally degenerates into paedophilia, voyeurism and masturbatory obsession amid Neapolitan child prostitution.” Cornwell even cites Nabokov’s reaction to the confession, in a letter to Edmund Wilson, who had introduced him to Ellis’ work:

I enjoyed the Russian’s love-life hugely. It is wonderfully funny. As a boy, he seems to have been quite extraordinarily lucky in coming across girls with unusually rapid and rich reactions. The end is rather bathetic.

Read the entire essay at Nabokov’s Exoneration: The Genesis and Genius of Lolita — Bruce Stone » Numéro Cinq