Feb 122017
 

I don’t know Lincoln Kaye, but anybody who calls me a “CanLit superstar” is okay in my books and will no doubt find a special spot waiting for him in Heaven. The reviews coming out of Vancouver have been great, but this might be the best (and not just because he calls me a “CanLit superstar”). Here’s a quote. Follow the link below to read the rest.

And it’s as “Elle,” an unnameable, unimaginable “she”-bear, that she impossibly manifests in a Paris cemetery to maul to death the perfidious uncle decades after that ill-starred outbound Canadian voyage.

In Thompson’s commanding stage presence, all these “Elle” avatars nest within each other like Matryoshka dolls. Her body language and her stream-of-consciousness narrative slide fluidly backward and forward along the story-line, just like the text of CanLit superstar Douglas Glover’s novel from which Thompson herself adapted the script.

Read the rest of this scintillating  review at the Vancouver Observer.

Feb 122017
 

Here’s a generous and smart take on Elle, the play, from a critic and writer — Colin Thomas — who saw it the second night in Vancouver. I like the part where he says the audience was “deliriously appreciative.”

As if that starting point weren’t already thrilling enough, Glover and Thompson have wrought a magical realist telling of Marguerite’s story in which they explore—poetically and with great humour—themes of female sexuality, colonialism, and our spiritual relationship to nature. As Marguerite struggles for survival, killing birds and eating books, as she starves and hallucinates, as she rubs up against First Nations cultures and experiences the pull of a different world view, the shadow sides of patriarchy and colonialism gain force. Marguerite’s femaleness, her untamable libido, the relentless beauty of the wilderness, and her growing understanding of the fluid relationship between humans and animals, between waking reality and dreams; all of this pulls Marguerite apart and reshapes her. She has heard, vaguely, of a First Nations god, whose help she solicits—at a price. “One god guarantees my faith is true,” she says. “Two makes it a joke.” Marguerite begins to turn into a bear. “You cannot inhabit,” she says, “without being inhabited.”

The play’s language is as rich as its ideas—and it’s unpretentious. The fog off the coast is “as thick and oily as fleece.” “The smell of this new world is so fresh it has almost no smell at all.” And I mentioned humour. When Marguerite sees human footprints in the snow, she says, “A man was here. And now he is gone. I am suddenly not dead. It feels like a social life.”

Read the rest at Mapping the Intuitive.

Feb 122017
 

More press out of Vancouver. Here’s a quote, Severn Thompson talking about the process of adapting the novel.

“It’s the story of survival that most of us missed in our history classes,” Thompson explained.

An admirer of historical fiction, the actor quickly saw the potential of showcasing Elle on the stage.

“It was very visceral and rude and funny in a way that historical fiction isn’t usually allowed to be, especially when involving women,” she enthused.

It took more than two years for her to adapt the work. Full of literary references and philosophical tangents, Elle is a complex book.

“That was the hardest part, really: whittling away at all these wonderful aspects of the novel,” Thompson said. “But the play hopefully brings it even more to life. From what I hear from people who see it, they feel spent but inspired by the end of the piece.”

 

Read the rest 24HRS Vancouver.

Feb 112017
 

Here’s a teaser from an interview Severn Thompson did with the Vancouver Sun.

Q: Elle opens with the main character engaged in what one review called “frantic fornication.” Was that also part of that early version?

A: Yes, with a chair. (Except for one other small part, Elle is a one-woman play, with Thompson occasionally using props). And he (Glover) came with his son. And my family was there too. I tried not to think too much about it.

Read the rest at the Vancouver Sun.

Feb 112017
 

Outside the Old Town Hall Theatre in Waterford

The 2017 winter tour of Elle, the play, started in the Old Town Hall Theatre in Waterford, Ontario, January 26 – February 4. I’m a little reticent about the experience. More than I can translate into words. My ancient mother got to see the play for the first time (she remembered 2003, making the trip to Ottawa to see the Governor-General’s Award ceremony). My sons came on closing night. The play was better than a year ago. I thought I might be impervious, but it sucked me into the dream. There were standing ovations. There was a champagne reception. Keith Rainey came up to me after and I reminded him that when I was in Grade One, in the little stone one-room school house at Dundurn (eight grades in one room), he had played Bob Cratchit to my Tiny Tim in the Christmas concert. My father made me a crutch and a leg brace out of soup cans and old horse harness and we drank apple juice for wine and I got to say the words, “God bless us, every one!” My first brush with theatre.

dg

Severn Thompson as Elle

DG and Amber Homeniuk during the talkback after the last performance

Taking pictures during the champagne reception after the show

Top row l-r: Severn Thompson, Paul Thompson (legend of Canadian theatre, Severn’s father), dg, and Amber Homeniuk, master of ceremonies. Bottom row: Claire Senko, Old Town Hall Theatre artistic director, and Jonathan Fisher

DG with multiple NC contributors Jonah Glover and Jacob Glover

Feb 112017
 

And here’s another review of the Vancouver production of Elle, at the Firehall Arts Centre till February 18.

Thompson is a riveting performer with a rich voice and big emotional range, and director Christine Brubaker’s minimalist approach to the staging offers many pleasures. In Jennifer Goodman’s set, a structure of bent bars looms at the back of the stage, and a single piece of cloth becomes a sail, a hut, a fire, a bear cub, and so much more. Lyon Smith’s spare, otherworldly music is performed live by Jonathan Fisher, who also plays Itslk. And Goodman’s textured lighting enhances the magic-realist qualities of Elle’s story.

Read the rest at The Georgia Straight.

Feb 112017
 

Delightful review of the Vancouver production of Elle, the play, at the Firehall Arts Centre. This is in Room, the fine and venerable feminist literary magazine.

dg

Playing Elle—who is something of an antihero, never without her flask—Thompson is a powerhouse from start to finish. Five minutes in and we see her energetically miming a sexcapade with her somewhat inadequate, tennis-obsessed lover, and from then on her energy (and healthy libido) hardly wavers. She delivers ninety minutes of vibrant, darkly funny text (it’s nearly a one-woman show) and though her character is desperately exhausted throughout, Thompson herself is not.

Read the rest at Room Magazine.

Feb 092017
 

CaptureSevern Thompson as Elle via Now Magazine.

I’m a little slow on this. The story came out in December. But it’s a huge vote of confidence for Severn Thompson to add the to Dora Award nomination for Elle, the play, earlier in the year.

dg

You only had to watch Thompson, off to the side in a scene from Breathing Corpses, weep silent tears to realize how committed she is to her roles. She had a wider emotional scope in the terrific historic feminist script Elle, which she adapted as well as starred in. As talented a director as she is an actor, she co-created and helmed Madam Mao, which focused on another strong female character, and later directed a light, inventive staging of Peter Pan, set in various breweries around town.

Read the whole list at Now.

Feb 092017
 

elle7

Elle, the play based on dg’s novel, just opened in Vancouver last night at the Firehall Arts Centre after a two-week run in Waterford, Ontario. I was there. I have more to say but am processing. I saw the play several times last year when it premiered at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto. It was stunning then, better now. Mesmerizing, magical, mythic. Severn Thompson looks eight feet tall on stage. Subtle changes in the script and staging and music have clarified and strengthened the production.

But here is what The Georgia Straight had to say — more anon.

dg

It’s been almost 500 years since Marguerite de la Rocque de Roberval, a French noblewoman, was abandoned by her colonizer uncle, Jean-François de la Rocque de Roberval, off the coast of Newfoundland. Her crime? Being a wild woman—the kind of wanton lady who dared take a lover on a transatlantic journey in 1542.

Her story of survival became the stuff of legend, and has inspired numerous artists over the years, including Canadian writer Douglas Glover. His book, Elle, a fictionalized account of de la Rocque de Roberval’s time marooned on the so-called Isle of Demons, won a Governor General’s Award, and it’s also the basis of Severn Thompson’s Dora Award–winning stage adaptation of the same name.

Read the rest at The Georgia Straight.

Feb 092017
 

Daniel Davis Wood

We’ve snagged another good one here, folks. Daniel Davis Wood is a prolific writer and literary critic, and the author of three books including Blood and Bone, his debut novel and the winner of Australia’s 2014 Viva La Novella Prize.  Currently, he’s working hard behind the scenes alongside our amazing staff of production editors, but we expect (hope!) he’ll be contributing essays before long.  In the meantime, you can read some of his work. Check out his long list of publications and lectures at danieldaviswood.com.

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Daniel Davis Wood is a writer based in Birmingham, England. His debut novel, Blood and Bone, won the 2014 Viva La Novella Prize in his native Australia. He is also the author of Frontier Justice, a study of the influence of the nineteenth century frontier on American literature, and the editor of a collection of essays on the African American writer Edward P. Jones. He can be found online at www.danieldaviswood.com.

 

Feb 012017
 

Jason Lucarelli

This month we’re featuring the contributions of our resident Gordon Lish expert, Jason Lucarelli. Jason has been writing for the magazine since February, 2013, when we published his magnificant essay “The Consecution of Gordon Lish: An Essay on Form and Influence.” Since then he has written about Diane Williams, Robert Walser, Sam Lipsyte, Gertrude Stein, Jean-Philippe Toussaint and Gary Lutz. He has also interviewed Greg Mulcahy and Diane Williams. Mulcahy, Williams, Lutz and Lipsyte are all members of the illustrious corps of authors influenced by Lish’s theories of composition. Jason has single-handedly made us a singular go-to source for all things Lishian. He’s an exceptional literary analyst with a smart, graceful  style all his own.

Jan 262017
 
1 Ramon Alejandro

Ramón Alejandro’s Combustion Espontanea, 2016 — oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in.


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We’re calling this the sun, fire and lightning issue, because it’s February, and here at the NC Bunker, there is only drear and ice, while in the digital ether we are hosting the brilliant sun-drenched paintings of the Cuban-born painter Ramón Alejandro. Alejandro now makes his home in Miami but has lived in Argentina, Uruguay and Paris. He has been written about by no less than Roland Barthes, but he is also an immensely amiable, erudite and energetic personality (I have gotten to know him a bit as we interacted over his appearance in Numéro Cinq) who accesses an ancient Mediterranean wisdom at the drop of a hat. The Alejandro paintings we’re showing you this month are barely dry, just finished for an exhibition opening tomorrow (January 27) at Miami’s Latin Art Core gallery.

Ramon Alejandro

Ramón Alejandro

2 Kate Evans

But this is a truly international issue with contributions from Romania, England, Mexico, Ireland, Canada, the U.S. and Afghanistan plus a special appearance by a Nitsitapi Blackfoot writer.

What the current news reminds us of especially is the fate of refugees worldwide and to honour that we have this month gorgeous, sad graphic nonfiction by the English artist Kate Evans who has given us a brilliant graphic essay on the refugee camps in Calais much in the news in the past year.

3 Kate Evans

Kate Evans at work.

Everywhere there is an air of expectation, of impermanence. People who have been on the move for so long are stuck in limbo, tantalisingly close to their destination but the wrong side of those cruel fences, still so very far. —Kate Evans

4 Julie Trimingham

And an equally brilliant essay from Julie Trimingham on Utopia and utopias, those strange, hopeful human attempts to establish otherworldly harmony in fractious world. Just what we have come to expect from Julie — a combustible mix of whimsy, serious intent, and brilliant writing.

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Julie Trimingham

You can’t promise the child a just, or kind, or beautiful world. But you can teach him where to find it, in snatched glances and in-between spaces. You can teach him how to look. —Julie Trimingham

sonnet-l'abbe

Sonnet L’Abbe

And from Sonnet L’Abbé, prose poems inspired by Shakespeare but inimitable and surprising, not the Shakespeare we remember, something reforged in the present author’s heart.

Would that William’s verse animated our dinner conversations, or that his love’s eloquence seeped into family get-togethers! If only Gertrude’s jingles were intoned in the malls! People might buy back their lost selves, by paying visionary attention. Tonight may I give that sweet duende to those sad-hearted, whose gifts reach out hopefully toward undeserving takers.
—Sonnet L’Abbé

allan-cooper-cropped-image

Allan Cooper

Also poems by the eminent, prolific (review and interview with Donald Hall in the January issue) Allan Cooper, who, yes, has a new book coming out.

I swear my small body rose above the house
and looked down on the black roof,
the winglike shadows cast across the lawn
as if someone would come and carry me

—Allan Cooper

Jamaluddin Aram

Jamaluddin Aram

For fiction this month, we have several very special treats including a short story by the Afghani writer Jamaluddin Aram.

The fighting went on. The boy cupped his ears with the palms of his hands and the shooting was drowned as if in a wind tunnel. As soon as he lifted his hands the sound of gunshots came back, loud and ludicrous. He closed his ears with the tips of his fingers this time and pressed them hard. The sound of war seemed as distant, as unbelievable, as a dream. —Jamaluddin Aram

Erika Mihalycsa

Erika Mihálysca

The Romanian translator, essayist and fiction writer (she has contributed all genres already to the magazine) Erika Mihálysca has a piece called “Sealocked” on the Italian Adriatic ports of Brindisi and Trani with pictures — not what you expect, not the tourist-crowded beaches, a beautiful otherness.

The foam whipped by the creatures short of sea and the pungent smell is all we hear of their agony; above them, bitten-off, close-vowelled words, with an intonation swinging to the rhythm of the rocking, narrate about sea weather. —Erika Mihalycsa

ingrid-valencia-photo-by-pascual-borzelli

Ingrid Valencia

From Mexico, our Numero Cinco series, we have poems by Ingrid Valencia.

It is not the flesh but the destruction,
the slight sound of machines
which form circles in the plaza of the body.

We are merely eyelids
which open to the night,
to the endless noise
of urgency

—Ingrid Valencia

Billy Mills

Billy Mills

For our Irish series in February, Billy Mills contributes new poems.

sap flows
answer ascending
ask what it is
light eases through

the surface of things
as they awaken
as they arise
imperceptable heat

—Billy Mills

abigail-allen-500px-may-be-replaced

Abigail Allen

From Abigail Allen — a beautifully crafted short story — “Small Creatures” — by Abigail Allen. Watch the lovely patterning, starting with the tiny aquarium fish in the pet store in the opening paragraph.

I looked away from whatever I was watching, wondering whether I’d locked the front door, and saw the shadow of his head slowly rising behind the lace curtain on the window in the door. This was right after my divorce was finalized. It was only much later, shortly before his death, that I found out who he was. —Abigail Allen

sarah-scout

Sara Scout

And from the Canadian west, fiery poems by the activist-artist Sarah Scout, a Nitsitapi Blackfoot writer.

Paper dreams of my mother
Dream of my mother on paper
My mother dreams on paper
On torn scraps from colonial
and Government funded
assimilated magazines
long discarded
and unsubscribed

—Sara Scout

Mark Jay Mirsky

Mark Jay Mirsky

In February, also a lovely new short story by Mark Mirsky.

Gale, how much he had been attracted to Gale, despite the sour shake of her head. The brusque, self-assured carriage that she brought from the snobbish world of her college campus; her slightly disheveled appearance at times, her disapproval of his manners, which reminded him of his mother; made him think there might be a link between them. —Mark Jay Mirsky

And there is more. Reviews by Laura Michele Diener, Jason DeYoung and Melissa Considine Beck plus a brand new NC at the Movies from Rob Gray.

Maybe even more! The dust hasn’t settled yet…

Jan 202017
 

1984-image

Michelle Kuo in “The Shining,” Artforum, cites Siegfried Kracauer who tells us that the artist’s “tasks multiply in proportion to the world’s loss of reality.” Our sense of reality has been stretched to the limit this past year:

The power of the visual has ascended to ever-greater heights, even in a world of invisible networks of control, of flexible and tentacular streams of surveillance, biopower, and microregulation. But at the same time, the top-down dissemination of information via mass culture in the twentieth century has been hyperdiversified, splintered. Today, we confront the spectral atomization of disinformation throughout the dark reaches of the internet, the most esoteric voices flowing like microscopic particles into the lifeblood of the media apparatus. Technological networks can amplify these bits and flows—exponentially, monstrously, radically. And the most effective vehicle for these streams is the image: the appearance of truth, or of might.

Kuo accordingly offers this solution:

Just as other disciplines have, art must think the unthinkable. Art must counter image with image—constructing pictures but also precipitating their undoing, their disruption, their unmooring. Just as Trump’s image seems to usher forth a world of risk, a state of chaotic volatility, art has long fomented the contingent, the unprecedented. Like spectacle, art seduces, frightens, incites, deranges; it glows.

Her proposal needs debate. The essay, however, is a must read for anyone who wants to look ahead. The full text can be found here.

The image above, via rogerebert.com, is a still from the movie version of 1984, with Richard Burton in the role of O’Brien.

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.

Orwell’s simple contradictions have been surpassed, his ironies shattered.

Gary Garvin

Jan 192017
 

Alyssa green background

2016 is behind us. It was a great year for NC, middling to catastrophic for everyone else. Now we’re setting ourselves up for a superlative 2017 with the latest addition to the masthead, Alyssa Colton. Alyssa comes to us with a wealth of writing, editing and teaching experience, not to mention she was dg’s student at the University at Albany, yea, these many years ago. She is joining our all-star team of production editors to help keep things running smoothly (at Numéro Cinq, anyway — we have thus far resisted calls to send an aid-team to the Trump transition HQ). And, let it be said, things ARE running smoothly ably captained by our prodigious managing editor Deirdre Baker and with the help of Mary Brindley and Jason DeYoung, among others.

Alyssa Colton has a PhD in English with creative dissertation from the University at Albany, State University of New York. Her fiction has been published in The Amaranth Review and Women Writers. Her essays have appeared in Literary Arts Review, Author Magazine, Mothering, Moxie: For Women Who Dare, Iris: A Journal about Women, and on WAMC: Northeast Public Radio. Alyssa has taught classes in writing, literature, and theater at the University at Albany, the College of St. Rose, and Berkshire Community College and blogs about writing at abcwritingediting.wordpress.com.

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Jan 142017
 

Here’s a brilliant lecture by the late Mark Fisher. Pre-Brexit and Trump, I take it. But predicting the breakdown of things. It explains the demise of the heady ideas of my youth in ways I had not conceived before.

Jan 102017
 

mirabelli

The Burning Air, Hutchinson, London, 1960
The Way In Viking, New York, 1968
No Resting Place Viking, New York, 1972
The World at Noon, Guernica Editions, Montreal, 1994

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Eugene Mirabelli has written four novels which form a significant oeuvre. They are not singular, but interrelate in complex and delightful ways to form a unique (and, one assumes, unfinished) collectivity connected by a set of thematic concerns: family, marriage, Italian heritage, Cambridge, mutability and death; and structural articulations: the dominant male point of view that modulates briefly into the female at climactic junctures, the subtle fracturing and dislocating of time, and the interpolation of what Milan Kundera calls novelistic essays.

Literary comparisons are often invidious, but the names that come to mind as I read Mirabelli’s work are Philip Roth and Saul Bellow. The Burning Air is very much an Italian American “Goodbye, Columbus” and also reminds one of Bellow’s brief, tightly controlled early novels. Almost immediately, though, this comparison breaks down: Roth and Bellow share an era and a set of social concerns with Mirabelli, but their work falls into a Jewish American tradition (with roots in Yiddish literature) which is male-oriented, materialistic (i.e., of this world), intellectual, and comic. Mirabelli’s Italian American mental syntax is quite different: he builds his literary universe around an Augustinian dichotomy. His books are like long, careful sessions in the confessional, talking to God, enumerating small and large sins. His protagonists have one eye on the woman (wife and lover — Mary and Mary Magdalene) and one eye on death. He sees this world as an anxious and frustrating place, a place where his protagonists vain attempts at control are always being defeated by their own sinfulness and the fleeting nature of existence. Redemption comes only in the chaotic embrace of the family, the constricting yet reassuring bonds of love. A Mirabelli character may crack up and take anti-depressants, but one could never imagine him taking Roth’s detour into psychoanalysis or filing for multiple divorces as in Bellow.

Reading through Mirabelli’s novels in sequence one also begins to admire his technical ingenuity. He does lovely things which might not be noticed unless one treats the books as an on-going production. For example, he links his novels by taking a thematic note or plot segment from one and using it again in the next. The Burning Air is about a man who proposes to a woman and then never sees her again. In The Way In, the next novel, Frank Annunzio has proposed to a woman named Alba and then lost her. The Way In ends with Nancy’s premature and difficult delivery which is echoed darkly by Marianne’s miscarriage at the opening of No Resting Place. And, of course, Marco’s affair with Carol Crispin in No Resting Place is echoed in Nicolo’s affair with Roxanne in the last novel, The World at Noon.

Beginning with The Way In, Mirabelli also makes telling use of the novelistic essay. In The Way In, this takes the form of background essays on the Puritans who built New England and on the Shakers who built the school at which Frank begins his teaching career. The latter — mystical, other-worldly craftsmen — become a moral-spiritual counterpoint to the sad emptiness of Frank’s life before marriage and career. In No Resting Place, the device ramifies and extends itself into interpolated essays on Brook Farm, a running Sacco and Vanzetti sequence, and a tiny chapter on historic Albany. And in The World at Noon, the novelistic essay and family history combine and foliate in a delightful series of comic-mythic stories about the ancestors of the Cavallus. These interpolated essays and stories function like classical epyllions (one of Marshall McLuhan’s hobby horses) and give Mirabelli’s books what Yeats, in his essay on sub-plots in King Lear, called “the emotion of multitudes.”

This repetition of technical and thematic elements results in the odd sense one has reading these novels that the twenty-year gap between the publication of No Resting Place and The World at Noon ceases to exist in the experience of the reading. Mirabelli’s novels seem to form a perfectly logical sequence of growth, mutation and expansion. Each novel has been an advance in terms of technical virtuosity, thematic complexity and, for want of a better phrase, metaphysical accommodation. The Burning Air is taken up with George’s failed effort of control over the mysterious and fearful Giulia Molla. In The Way In, Frank Annunzio’s existential emptiness is the aftermath of that kind of loss of control (over women and/or the dark, shiftingness of things in general). Briefly, Frank is reprieved through marriage to Nancy and the community of friends he finds at the (Shaker) school (note especially the wonderful and redemptive chapter on kite flying), only to be plunged back into insecurity by the difficult birth of his child.

In No Resting Place, Mirabelli’s Manichean tour de force (the light of Brook Farm warring with the darkness of Sacco and Vanzetti), Marco Falconieri almost drowns in the slough of mid-life (and post-1960s) burnout which, really, is nothing but the final realization life itself will never redeem us, that things will not miraculously get better: “All our desire has been to carry through time, to stand on firm ground, reach out and stay the changes. Love leads us from ourselves to the things of this world, but in time these same things alter and pass away, no matter how much we cling to them. Here is no steady place.” In No Resting Place, Mirabelli grants us for the first time full access to the mental states of his protagonist as befits the overtly confessional mode of the narration. Mirabelli, as author, is himself beginning at this point to move deeper into his unique Italian-Catholic-American psyche, turning away from the vaguely modish, existential angst of the first two books toward a more chaotic (less controlled) vision of worldly and domestic uncertainty (the sinfulness of the flesh).

This is a dark, brave book which, in many ways, points toward its successor The World at Noon while yet not preparing us for the surprising shift of tone, the operatic and magical comedy of this most recent Mirabelli production. The World at Noon, as I have mentioned, replicates some of the plot articulations of No Resting Place — the extramarital affair, the reconciliation at the end. But the material is handled in a completely different way. It is as if, in delving always more deeply into who he is, Mirabelli has reinvented the peculiarly Italian, extravagantly melodramatic and often comic vision — the opera — in the novel form. By fusing the tale of American mid-life domestic woe with the mythical family histories of the Cavallus, he has created a wonderful interplay of now and then, this and that (the epyllion structure again). And he has coupled this complexity with a new sense of tranquil acceptance; not a superficial shrug but a genuinely comic (loving) accommodation. When Nicolo Pellegrino calmly invites his wife’s naked lover to climb down from the tree where he is hiding we know we have arrived at a totally new (for Mirabelli) and special literary place. And at the end of the novel, the double wedding of Gina and Aurora echoes the wedding at the close of The Tempest when Prospero throws his books of magic away and the world is renewed in the ritual sanctification of love and sexual regeneration.

—Douglas Glover

This essay originally appeared in Italian Americana Vol. 13, No. 2 (Summer 1995)

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Dec 312016
 

 

We are coming out of our Christmas hibernation, running up the the January issue starting tomorrow. But FIRST! The de rigueur 892-gun salute from the Numéro Cinq Drum and Bugle Corps for our newest contributor, Dorian Stuber. Dorian is a smart, erudite, and graceful writer who blogs about books with impressive regularity and made his NC debut in our December issue with his review of Henry Green’s Loving. We are delighted and humbled at the prospect of more of his work in our forthcoming issues.

Dorian Stuber teaches at Hendrix College. He has written for Open Letters Monthly, The Scofield, and Words without Borders. He blogs about books at www.eigermonchjungfrau.wordpress.com.

Dec 272016
 

reamymark_portfolio-page-004Michigan (2016) —Mark Reamy

 

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This is the first issue of the eighth year of publication for Numéro Cinq, an astonishing and unexpected turn of events, neither foreshadowed nor forwarned in the long gone early days when we thought we’d do this for six months tops. The cover image for the issue is from Mark Reamy, a brilliant discovery brought to us via the scouting efforts of Contributing Editor Rikki Ducornet. Reamy’s unsettling, hybrid images are both surreal and prophetic, counting the days before the ice caps melt completely the the oceans quietly lap the sandy shores of Utah. This fits the issue line up in more ways than I can list.

Headliners this month include the illustrious Dawn Raffel doing a stint as a guest reviewer at NC, writing about Samuel Ligon’s Among the Dead and Dreaming, and the legendary poet Donald Hall interviewed for us by Allan Cooper, who also contributes a review of Hall’s The Selected Poems of Donald Hall.

From Ireland this time, we have a gorgeous, lively story by Mia Gallagher about an eccentric Dublin hooker, her biscuit-tin money box and a snake named Kaa.

But besides the Gallagher story, we have an epic haul of fiction in this issue — stories by John Madera and David Huddle and a novel excerpt from Eugene Mirabelli. And a first publication by Laura Fine Morrison who wrote for us a delightfully winsome makeover of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” — a little African boy turns into a yam.

We also have poetry — an epic haul, a veritable flood — from the inimitable Kathy Fagan, also Mary di Michele from Canada, Stuart Barnes from Australia, and Alison Prine. And our translation this month is a selection of poems by the Slovenian poet Marjan Strojan (scouted for us by Contributing Editor Sydney Lea).

Gary Garvin contributes an essay on Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” that cannot escape contemporary parallels. Laura Michele Diener has a poignant essay about her  beloved father, ailing with dementia. And Noah Getavackas, who has been here before, continues his satiric progress through the great philosophical and religious works of the West.

We have more reviews. Frank Richardson on Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marias, Jason Lucarelli on Assisted Living by Gary Lutz.

And there is more! Late and or feverishly awaited. Perhaps this month we’ll get a new NC at the Movies.

As usual, it’s a miracle we made it.

mia-gallagher-photographed-by-robbie-fryMia Gallagher

I picture her not on the canal, but across the city, on the other strip; the Golden Mile near Heuston train station. Sun slants over the low roofs, striping the Liffey gold. A man pulls up in his Punto, winds down his window. Another girl is nearer but the man beckons to Susie, smiling his slow, investigative punter’s smile. Susie leans over. A waft of fag smoke, sweat and Magic Tree. —Mia Gallagher

kathy-faganKathy Fagan

I went out looking
at Europe & all its stones
its diagonal churches & bronze
horses my shoes clattering like their
shoes my eyes as wild

If the heart is a cup
if coins are diamonds
well then we are
full & we are rich

—Kathy Fagan

Samuel Ligon

In Ligon’s world, every emotion and impulse shimmers with its opposite, every moment is saturated with the consciousness of others, and every boundary is subject to erasure—as when Mark says of Cynthia, “Her presence was everywhere and then her absence, and then her presence again, so that her presence and absence felt like the same thing.” —Dawn Raffel

Dawn RaffelDawn Raffel

hall-collageDonald Hall

My lowest point coincided with my divorce and five years of booze and casual promiscuity before I met and married Jane. When we were first married, it took me a while to get started. Actually I wrote the first parts of The One Day, although I couldn’t bring it together for another dozen years, and started “Kicking the Leaves” (the poem not the book) before leaving Ann Arbor to move into this New Hampshire house. Here the place and the marriage to Jane flowered, and I wrote the book Kicking the Leaves, with my horses and my cows et cetera. It was my breakthrough. —Donald Hall

allan cooperAllan Cooper

laurafm2Laura Fine Morrison

My body began to transform anew. Dark blotches established themselves on my skin. A crack developed in my side, with a crusty edge that flaked off to reveal more discolored tissue below.

At Mother’s request, Grandfather came by to evaluate my condition. He ran a thickly calloused finger along the fissure. “Yam rot,” he confirmed.

Mother twined her fingers. “Can he be saved?” —Laura Fine Morrison

Gary GarvinGary Garvin

We contemplated her gaze and that gesture, at least for a while, as she faced us, the smiling Army Specialist Sabrina Harman, who aided in the gathering of intelligence at her station, Abu Ghraib, the prison deep inside occupied Iraq. Or rather we saw her in pictures brought to light after years of subtle horrors in a war we thought was going well and whose mission we were sure of, the pictures bringing a clarification, an obviousness, a relief, their own kind of rightness. She does not look at what she smiles over or what she thumbs up but we see them, the pile of grotesquely hooded, naked men, the blackened corpse. —Gary Garvin

Unknown

newyearsatthedinerLaura Michele Diener & father

About the time when my father, Abraham Morganstern, started to lose his memory, he began to sort through the household trash on a daily basis, picking out with surprising care bent hangers, sole-less shoes, cracked mirrors, unattached buttons, and other items he deemed worthy of resuscitation. His triumphant scavenging at first irritated my mother, Hadassah Morganstern, and me when I happened to return for a visit to the ever-more-cluttered house of my childhood, but after a while we both accepted it as a permanent facet of his new personality. I suppose if you are falling away into some sort of mental darkness, you hold onto anything concrete, even if it’s broken. —Laura Michele Diener

mark-reamy-portfolio-page-015-croppedBeach Day (2016) —Mark Reamy

I believe every photograph is a memory, an exact moment of time and space. By combining photographs, I am conflating accounts, adding them together and forming new stories. Domestic interiors are overrun with something unexpected, something other. The incredibly banal shifts into the transcendent, and so on. I’m interested in how the present influences the past, and I’m investigating why we selectively remember or forget. I’m fascinated that our history is constantly changing, that something so seemingly concrete can slip away. I welcome the surreal, psychedelic and uncanny. —Mark Reamy

mark-reameyMark Reamy

Marjan StrojanMarjan Strojan

So, in the cobwebs of Saint Petersburg’s
Railway Station (in snow) Madame Karenina
still waits to throw herself under a train.
And I’ll probably never find out what Vronsky
could have done at the time, if anything.
Tatiana never finished her letter, though I presume
she had turned down the poet, who ages ago,
in his small neat hand, had been scribbling
in his notebook the names of his lovers.

—Marjan Strojan

mary-di-micheleMary di Michele

when my mother started to lose her memory she kept
this photo in her pocket; it’s folded into quarters
and badly creased. Some might say it was ruined. Red mail truck, red

mailbox, it’s a cheerful colour on a dull day in No
Damned Good. How did I get here? I grow old, I grow old, I
will wear the bottoms of my blue jeans rolled.

—Mary di Michele

alison-prineAlison Prine

You said, watch the wood storks as they circle,
their grace disappears so utterly when landing.

Hard to decipher the dank smell of the paper mills
from the old salt of the marshland.

Soon we’ll forget both and in our absence
the nests of these egrets will fall, stick by stick.

—Alison Prine

stuart-barnes-480pxStuart Barnes

High tide: the drunk drops a line where salt
water, fresh converge: subtropical trompe
l’oeil: honeyeaters squeak on asphalt,
stab redly at chalk grapes: the Coral Sea, salt
like speech, scallops trawlers, fault on fault:
sudden whoosh, O God! from mangrove swamp:
the meth head rehydrates the brat: sugar, water, salt:
the black hour pitches: four thousand bats tromp.

—Stuart Barnes

david-huddleDavid Huddle

After I moved out, I got pretty crazy and went into what I’ve thought of as my “Sound of Silence” phase. I listened to that song a lot, but it was “The Boxer” that I fixated on. The verse of it about the whores on Seventh Avenue just kept ripping my heart out. For several months I was at its mercy. I needed to feel the pain of it again and again. —David Huddle

gary-lutz1Gary Lutz

Sort of heartbreaking is the girl’s response if you fuss with it, and you must because meaning-making is up to you. Has it been years since she loved only once? This is as funny as it is sad. Her phrase widens the gap that has been there from the beginning. She shows her age, her lack of experience. The narrator’s hurts turn out to be worse than hers. —Jason Lucarelli

javier-marias-author-photo-1Javier Marías

We all have secrets. We all have secrets we would never divulge and secrets we wish had never been revealed. That we cannot fully know another is axiomatic, that we deny our own history and the histories of others, commonplace. Where, then, the place for truth? We live in a time when the Oxford Dictionaries awarded “post-truth” word of year. —Frank Richardson

mirabelliEugene Mirabelli

It’s a privilege to love someone and I loved Alba. “I’m so happy you found me,” she used to say. I was handsome, her man from the sea, and the one she loved best in the whole world. She’s gone, so I’m not handsome anymore. I’m an old man driving home with a pizza and I’m sobbing because some cheerful asshole is singing on the radio about his love who is gone beyond the sea and the moon and stars, but she’s waiting and watching for him, and someday he’ll find her there on the shore and they’ll be together and he’ll embrace her, just as he did before.—Eugene Mirabelli

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Dec 182016
 

coca-cola-selfie-bottle-designboom-02

Then in a flowry valley set him down
On a green bank, and set before him spred
A table of Celestial Food, Divine,
Ambrosial, Fruits fetcht from the tree of life,
And from the fount of life Ambrosial drink,
That soon refresh’d him wearied, and repair’d
What hunger, if aught hunger had impair’d,
Or thirst, and as he fed, Angelic Quires
Sung Heavenly Anthems of his victory
Over temptation and the Tempter proud. 

Image by the Gefen Team, via designboom:

Tel Aviv-based creative agency gefen team has come up with a series of limited-edition bottles that can snap a picture of you while you sip your soft drink … gefen team’s vision for the coca-cola selfie bottle brings the brand closer to a generation of younger buyers, who would undoubtedly enjoy selfie-taking while they sip. users were able to seamlessly upload the pictures to their phone or computer for easy social media sharing across their own, and the company’s platforms.

Text for Paradise Regained from The John Milton Reading Room, Dartmouth College.

See also: Paradise Lost

Gary Garvin

Dec 122016
 

Here’s the new trailer for the Waterford production of Elle, the play based on my novel, which is actually the Theatre Passe Muraille touring production, bound later for Winnipeg and Vancouver. But the Waterford performance is first on the tour, my home town, champagne extravaganzas on the first and last nights. I will be there, possibly not standing upright.

In other news, it turns out Goose Lane Editions, Elle‘s publisher, is rolling out a new print run to keep up with demand. Nice news.

dg

Elle by Douglas Glover

Dec 072016
 

sadie-mccarney

For those of you who have been losing sleep over our need for another production editor, rest easy. We are delighted (and relieved) to announce that Sadie McCarney has joined the masthead to help us keep the behind-the-scenes chaos under control. No small task, but she brings a great deal of skill and enthusiasm to the magazine, and we’re confident that things can only go up from here. Not the least of her charms, it’s worth mentioning, is that she’s already had a poem in the annual Best Canadian Poetry in English.

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Sadie McCarney has had poems published in Grain, The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, Room, The Puritan, and The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2015, as well as one short story that appeared in PANK Magazine. In 2010 she received the Nova Scotia Talent Trust Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Artistic Achievement. Sadie has worked as a social media manager and as a tour guide at a National Historic Site, but she prefers to tinker with words and websites. Twitter: @Sadiepants

Nov 302016
 

piratesSome of NC’s staff seven years ago, l-r Jason DeYoung, dg, Natalia Sarkissian, & Rob Gray.

Jonah put this song in my mind; now it won’t go away. Recalls to me the piratical impulse that led us to start the magazine in the first place. And then, yes, after seven years — a broken, lonely man on a Halifax pier. Ah me.

Maybe it’s not that bad.

With this in mind, knowing full well the catastrophe that awaits you, I want to remind one and all that we still need production editors. We found one very competent person (soon to be announced) last week, but we’d be more comfortable with another (spreads the work around and provides reserves).

Here is the HELP WANTED PAGE. Please take a look and throw your bodies onto the pyre.

Also let it be noted that the SUBMISSIONS PAGE for Childhood, My First Job, and What It’s Like Living Here essays has been reopened for a while. We got a gorgeous Childhood piece this morning from County Mayo in Ireland.

dg

Nov 242016
 

boulee-centopath-low-res

The scale of Étienne-Louis Boullée’s cenotaph for Sir Isaac Newton is enormous. The sphere alone has a diameter of 500 feet. Cypress trees, symbols of mourning, circle the monument on three levels, tightly spaced. A cenotaph is a monument honoring a person whose remains lie elsewhere.

Boullée was the son of an architect, a brilliant student who went on to teach and become a first-class member of Royal Academy of Architecture in Paris. It is late eighteenth century. Neoclassicism was in full bloom and ideas of the Enlightenment were in the air.

Holes are cut in the exterior to simulate inside the points of light of stars in the universe, the interior otherwise black:

new-interior-copy-low-res

At night a central hanging light illumines:

centpath-interior-700

O Newton! With the range of your intelligence and the sublime nature of your Genius, you have defined the shape of the earth; I have conceived the idea of enveloping you with your discovery. That is as it were to envelop you in your own self.

Boullée says about his monument in a treatise.

The cenotaph rests on a solid foundation, a belief in reason and basic truths and the truth of basic forms, in an orderly fitting together of parts, the power of architecture to reform. It was never built, however, because practically it was unfeasible. Boullée was a visionary.

The French Revolution was around the corner.

Postmodernists took a liking, for a while.

centopath-exterior

Almost no one was there the day we went, so we had it to ourselves. We climbed the broad stairs and entered through a round opening, large yet still dwarfed by the sphere. Then we walked through a long tunnel that took us to the interior, to the center, where rested the empty sarcophagus. We glanced at the sarcophagus, then looked up at the stars.

Newtonian physics still works well enough for us, day to day. Of course the universe is expanding, of course it is made of stuff we only somewhat understand, but we were content to see it fixed on the ceiling and we spent the rest of the day enveloping ourselves in ourselves and each other, reaching out into a space that seemed endless.

Night, when the light went on, we were blinded.

Gary Garvin

Nov 212016
 

Dylan Brennan is a peripatetic Irishman living in Mexico City. He’s been curating posts for our Numero Cinco (Mexican Lit.) feature. So it’s a great pleasure to announce that he is ascending to the gods, er, joining the masthead as a regular contributor. The NC Regimental Drum and Bugle Corps would have performed a fanfare but refused to leave barracks this morning on account of snow. The rest of you can raise a glass.

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Currently based in Mexico City, Dylan Brennan writes poetry, essays and memoirs. His debut collection, Blood Oranges, for which he won The Patrick Kavanagh Award runner-up prize, was published by The Dreadful Press in 2014. His co-edited volume of academic essays Rethinking Juan Rulfo’s Creative World: Prose, Photography, Film is available now from Legenda Books (2016). In addition to his work as Mexico Curator for Numéro Cinq, he regularly contributes to the online Mexican literary site Portal de Letras. Twitter: @DylanJBrennan

Nov 202016
 

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

More exciting news about Elle, the play (based in my novel Elle). If you have been tracking this you are aware that Severn Thompson and Theatre Passe Muraille are taking the play on tour this winter (tour details here). But it’s just been announced that this tour will actually start with performances in my home town of Waterford, Ontario, at the Old Town Hall Theatre, under the aegis of the most charming artistic director ever, Claire Senko (passionate, fierce, scarily competent, friend of Fred Eaglesmith).

I went over to meet Claire Friday afternoon and wander around the place. All strangely familiar because I grew up just outside of town, and once even strummed a guitar with my brother’s band during a rehearsal on the theatre stage in the early 70s.

There will be performances on January 26, 27, 28 and 29, and on February 2, 3, and 4.

There will be an opening night champagne gala and a talkback session with the playwright and actress Severn Thompson and Theatre Passe Muraille’s artistic director Andy McKim (who fed me incredibly intelligent questions about the novel and play when we did an onstage interview together last January).

And closing night (February 5, Saturday) there will be ANOTHER! champagne gala and a talkback session with me after the show. (Amber Homeniuk will be the facilitator, as they call it.)

You can buy tickets here.

dg

old-town-hall-postcard-waterford

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This video slideshow was produced by an old friend, Alison Bell. (Her brother Ian Bell has appeared in the magazine.)

 

Nov 172016
 

eve

Haste hither Eve, and worth thy sight behold
Eastward among those Trees, what glorious shape
Comes this way moving

adamcloseup

Ah, why should all mankind
For one mans fault thus guiltless be condemn’d,
If guiltless?

adam

But from mee what can proceed,
But all corrupt, both Mind and Will deprav’d,
Not to do onely, but to will the same
With me?

satanintro2

Either to disinthrone the King of Heav’n
We warr, if Warr be best, or to regain
Our own right lost: him to unthrone we then
May hope when everlasting Fate shall yeild
To fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife

satans-hotrod

High in the midst exalted as a God
Th’ Apostate in his Sun-bright Chariot sate
Idol of Majesty Divine, enclos’d
With Flaming Cherubim, and golden Shields

battle-1

So under fierie Cope together rush’d
Both Battels maine, with ruinous assault
And inextinguishable rage; all Heav’n
Resounded, and had Earth bin then, all Earth
Had to her Center shook.

battle-2

The rest in imitation to like Armes
Betook them, and the neighbouring Hills uptore;
So Hills amid the Air encounterd Hills
Hurl’d to and fro with jaculation dire,
That under ground, they fought in dismal shade;
Infernal noise; Warr seem’d a civil Game
To this uproar; horrid confusion heapt
Upon confusion rose: and now all Heav’n
Had gone to wrack, with ruin overspred

angelchariotuse

Go then thou Mightiest in thy Fathers might,
Ascend my Chariot, guide the rapid Wheeles
That shake Heav’ns basis, bring forth all my Warr,
My Bow and Thunder, my Almightie Arms
Gird on, and Sword upon thy puissant Thigh;
Pursue these sons of Darkness, drive them out
From all Heav’ns bounds into the utter Deep:
There let them learn, as likes them, to despise
God and Messiah his anointed King.

bendedkneeuse

. . . a noble stroke he lifted high,
Which hung not, but so swift with tempest fell
On the proud Crest of Satan, that no sight,
Nor motion of swift thought, less could his Shield
Such ruin intercept: ten paces huge
He back recoild; the tenth on bended knee

end

Hence then, and evil go with thee along
Thy ofspring, to the place of evil, Hell,
Thou and thy wicked crew; there mingle broiles,
Ere this avenging Sword begin thy doome,
Or som more sudden vengeance wing’d from God
Precipitate thee with augmented paine.

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(Paradise Lost text via The John Milton Reading Room, Dartmouth College. All pictures by the author from the 6th Annual Pattie’s Cruise In, a car show and street festival in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Special thanks to the guys at NWA Blue Collar Wrestling.)

(— Gary Garvin)

Nov 152016
 

capture

capture2

DG and his intrepid close relative RG, who has appeared earlier on these pages, went for their usual pre-winter canoe trip on Big Creek (see Google map above: southern Ontario where Long Point juts into Lake Erie). RG fell in first unwisely trying to clear a snag. Then they went to another put in spot and realized they’d left the paddles back at the first put in. RG made DG stay with the canoe in the mud while he drove in his warm car (with heated seats) back for the paddles. DG, the creative mind behind NC, passed the time taking selfies. Then RG rammed DG into a thorn bush and his hand was bleeding. When they got back to the landing DG’s bare feet were so cold he fell over.

Actually, it was quite stunning (aside from the nature and brother-on-brother violence). Immense labyrinthine marshlands, many threatened species holding out there. Fascinating to me because in 1670, on Easter Sunday, two Sulpician priests, François Dollier de Casson and René de Brehant de Galinée, were struggling to cross Big Creek in flood when they heard above them the shrieks of horses, the jangling of harness, war cries and the sounds of battle. According to their journal, they knew exactly what it was, King Arthur’s Hunt. King Arthur’s Hunt is one name/a version of the legend of the Wild Hunt (also Charlemagne’s Hunt), which John Irving used in the short story “The Pension Grillparzer” in the The World According to Garp. Ghostly, wraithlike warriors riding and battling endlessly in the sky. Terrific to be in exactly that spot.

I have an anthology of quotations about Long Point and Norfolk County, including that journal entry, which you can read here.

dg

DG intrepidly negotiating hazard.

RG after his dip.

DG.

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RG.

DG selfie.

—Photos by dg, rg & google maps

Nov 132016
 

Working Title/Artist: The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull)Department: Am. Paintings / SculptureCulture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: Working Date: 1871 Digital Photo File Name: DT86.tif Online Publications Edited By Steven Paneccasio for TOAH 06/08/15

Max Schmitt and his reflection have been with me some sixty years, almost my entire life. I first saw him as a child, browsing through the only art book we had on the shelves, Modern American Painting, by Peyton Boswell, Jr., published in 1939. My mother’s influence, but perhaps my father’s. Schmitt gazed towards but not directly at me, with a look that wasn’t recognition or identification yet which made contact and left an opening I haven’t yet closed. With the opening, a proposition that I couldn’t understand then but may have felt, or maybe just a simple statement I still don’t wish to refute. I bought a print some fifteen years ago and he has been on a wall as I’ve moved around the last years, a protracted season of dislocation.

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The painting is Thomas Eakins’s The Champion Single Sculls, also known as Max Schmitt in a Single Scull, completed in 1871. Click the image above for full enlargement. Schmitt, a friend of the painter, was Philadelphia’s single-scull champion several years. Rowing was popular then, and he was a well-known and well-loved figure in amateur sports across the nation, forgotten now. But I did not know that until much later, nor does Eakins show crowds teeming on the shores cheering him on at the height of victory as he crosses the finish line. He doesn’t even show him demonstrating his strength and skill executing a hard pull on the oars in tense, charged exertion. Rather he presents him dressed in casual gear during a practice session on a crisp autumn day, by himself, in a nearly deserted scene made luminous by a clarifying late-afternoon sun. Schmitt has just made a turn on the Schuylkill River and now relaxes, the wakes from his scull and oars leaving broad trailing curves that take us into the painting and set its composition, giving it its energy. To me, for so many years, he was only a man named Schmitt and he was just there, resting above the still water, looking out, balancing the oars in one hand, which more and more I realize is a marvelous feat.

Working Title/Artist: The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull)Department: Am. Paintings / SculptureCulture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: Working Date: 1871 Digital Photo File Name: DT86.tif Online Publications Edited By Steven Paneccasio for TOAH 06/08/15

The bridges are rendered in sharp, accurate perspective—Eakins was a master of the technique—but other painters had already begun to flatten space and dismantle it, taking art in rapid acceleration on an unknown path. And we see on the horizon the developing technology of the time, the train about to cross one bridge, a steam boat to pass under, this when our technology was taking off, with it, our mounting wonder.

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Nor does Eakins show influence of the Impressionists, who had already begun exploring the transience of light and stating the primacy of paint, of colors. Above, Claude Monet’s Bathers at La Grenouillère, painted in 1869.

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There is no evidence Eakins even visited the Salon des Refusés, and he had his chance. He was in Paris at the time, studying under Jean-Léon Gérôme, an academic painter who enjoyed considerable popular and critical success, for example with his Ave Caesar! Morituri te salutant (Hail Caesar! We Who Are about to Die Salute You).

Eakins has done nothing to alter the esthetic course of art or change our perceptions. He presents the world as solid, and academic rigor anchors his work. Yet the painting is alive, in the shimmering blur of brush along the shore, the erratic reach of the trees, the brisk scrape of clouds above. It succeeds at what makes any work endure, working within a form and giving it life and expression. I have never tired of looking. Each time it is fresh and vital.

He does make a break, however, and it comes from his subject matter, which was rejected by the official salons of Paris and shocked established Philadelphia. He has given us a common man not posing but relaxing in informal clothes, performing an everyday behavior without ceremony, without appropriation of past claims and pretense, in an ordinary place without hierarchy of space or institution. We have begun to look at ourselves and it is liberating.

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Perhaps Schmitt is looking at someone on the shore, perhaps he is taken in a thought, or perhaps he is deflecting one. There’s a severity in his face and he seems to scowl, but he’s only frowning in the glare of the sun. His look did not put me off as a boy and must have instilled this note back then, that whoever, wherever we are, whatever we hope to be, we need to maintain vigilance, skepticism, and a measure of reserve.

Really, Eakins doesn’t give us much to identify him as an individual, but his portrait is made in the whole landscape, of which he is a part but where he keeps his separation. There is light. And there is transcendence, but where it takes us is back to exactly what we see, the clouds, the trees, the brush, the trailing curves in the river, and Max Schmitt resting above still water, looking out, balancing oars in one hand.

I have looked at the painting several times this past week, for confirmation, or reassurance, or to restore a definition, and I realize how the painting has always stood for me, that it shows me what it means to be American, vigorous and assertive yet relaxed and open, and free of historical encumbrance; self-assured but not self-possessed and not afraid.

Failing that, it is a picture of what it means to be alive, to be oneself by oneself, and not be alone.

There’s a kind of idealism in realism, or can be, a belief that the simple fact of our existence is worth stating and preserving.

Gary Garvin