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.

§

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

dscf0601

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.

.

(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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

2-max_schmitt_in_a_single_scull-large

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.

4-monet-use

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.

5-gerome-use

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.

6-ms-portrait

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

Nov 132016
 

ullman-book-cover-image

background-el-salto

Leslie Ullman is a multiple recidivist at Numéro Cinq, having contributed poems (Consider Desire: Poems) and an  essay (Altitude). And she has new poems in this month’s issue. We love her work.

So it’s delightful to be able to announce a new book, something for poets, poetry apprentices, and readers — Library of Small Happiness: Essays, Poems, and Exercises on the Craft of Poetry (A Taos Press, 2016).

Nov 032016
 

isaura

Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, but the emperor of the Tartars does continue listening to the young Venetian with greater attention and curiosity than he shows any other messenger or explorer of his. 

The cities in Italo Calvino’s novel are metaphors for cities. And for our experiences, alone and together, within the walls we construct around ourselves, walls being metaphors themselves. And are metaphors for other metaphors. And for much else our walls cannot contain, what escapes our most rigorous designs, what exists within, beneath, and above the surface of our intentions. As Marco Polo tells us,

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”

Karina Puente, an architect and urbanist based in Lima, Peru, who has worked on plans for the Lima of the future, has also begun illustrating each of Calvino’s 55 cities. The drawings capture much from the text, but they also have a magic of their own. Her progress can be found at her site here, and you can learn more about Karina and the project in this interview at Kindle.

Above, Isaura, the city of a thousand wells, whose borders are determined by a subterranean lake beneath, its design by all that is needed to extract the water.

Consequently two forms of religion exist in Isaura. The city’s gods, according to some people, live in the depths, in the black lake that feeds the underground streams. According to others, the gods live in the buckets that rise, suspended from a cable, as they appear over the edge of the wells,

And live in all the other apparatus and construction that brings the water to the top. It is a city “that moves entirely upward.”

tamara

Tamara is a city of signs:

You penetrate it along streets thick with signboards jutting from the walls. The eye does not see things but images of things that mean other things: pincers point out the tooth-drawer’s house; a tankard, the tavern; halberds, the barracks; scales, the grocer’s. Statues and shields depict lions, dolphins, towers, stars: a sign that something—who knows what?—has as its sign a lion or a dolphin or a tower or a star.

The city explains itself in these signs. Yet:

However the city may really be, beneath this thick coating of signs, whatever it may contain or conceal, you leave Tamara without having discovered it.

anastasia

Anastasia has concentric canals and much in it streets that captures our senses and feeds our desires.

The city appears to you as a whole where no desire is lost and of which you are a part, and since it enjoys everything you do not enjoy, you can do nothing but inhabit this desire and be content.

However for those who work to give shape to these desires

your labor which gives form to desire takes from desire its form

And we end being Anastasia’s slaves.

As for Kublai Khan, as for all of us, the narrator tells us,

In the lives of emperors there is a moment which follows pride in the boundless extension of the territories we have conquered, and the melancholy and relief of knowing we shall soon give up any thought of knowing and understanding them.

Gary Garvin

Nov 022016
 

capture

Still tracking threads from German Sierra’s essay “Deep Media Fiction” I came upon a series of lectures from this symposium on the inhuman. This one was absolutely riveting, not the least because the phrase “pesky women” echoes the “nasty woman” crack in the last presidential debate. Difficult women, women and work, women’s work and the replacement of women by machines. You have to watch this. Helen Hester takes stray trends and lines of thought and makes them fit, makes the world a little bit clearer. Brilliant mind. Just fun to watch her make sense.

dg

Nov 012016
 

 

You must read Walter Johnson on slavery, capitalism & American history. Here’s a new essay in Boston Review teased below by way of introduction. But read his books River of Dark Dreams and Soul by Soul. Change your life.

dg

 

Indeed, the history of capitalism makes no sense separate from the history of the slave trade and its aftermath. There was no such thing as capitalism without slavery: the history of Manchester never happened without the history of Mississippi. In Capitalism and Slavery (1944), Eric Williams gives a detailed account of the supersession of British colonial interests by manufacturing ones and the replacement of cotton with sugar as the foundation of capitalist development. Williams argues that Great Britain freed its slaves, but did not free itself from slavery. British capitalists simply outsourced the production of the raw material upon which they principally depended to the United States. 

Source: To Remake the World: Slavery, Racial Capitalism, and Justice | Boston Review

Oct 302016
 

princevaliant

Davidson College is a small school in Davidson, North Carolina, part of suburban Charlotte now but years ago a crossroads town that quickly trailed off into the country. You could see a French professor get his hair cut next to a farmer. All the barbers in town were black, and by convention for many years they served blacks only after hours. But they had a thriving business, which they wanted to protect. One or two years of ROTC was mandatory back then, not an uncommon practice. Also there was a war going on, so even after the requirement was dropped many students still enrolled in ROTC. They all had to get haircuts, and a haircut, like much else then, was simple. Keep it short and straight. It was students who protested the policy and finally got the barbers to change, though not without a fight.

When I attended, however, the Vietnam War was winding down. We let our hair grow. Our basketball team wasn’t very good, but they probably had the longest hair in the NCAA. At least they beat Harvard. The barbers were having a hard time and could be seen standing idly in empty shops.

One day, impossibly maned, I paused at one and debated. Christmas break was coming up and I would soon be going home. I started to turn away when a black hand grabbed me.

“Where you going?” the barber asked.

“I guess I’m going to get a haircut,” I said.

And I did.

I didn’t know what I wanted or what to tell him and he didn’t know what to do with me, but something was managed. He was a good guy, who had kids.

“You are the all-American boy,” he said when he finished and spun me around to look at myself in the mirror.

My philosophy professor said I looked like Prince Valiant, the one in the comics.

Gary Garvin

Oct 282016
 

The morning started like this: Views from the NC Bunker.

this-morning2

this-morning-3

this-morning-4

Then I slid my car down the back hill to Barre to get it undercoated at a place called Yipes. Went to Espresso Bueno to write then slipped down Granite Street, over the railway tracks, to visit the Socialist Labor Party Hall (aka the Old Labor Hall). Hallowed ground. Emma Goldman used to live on Granite Street.

goldman

Big Bill Haywood who led the IWW spoke at the hall. He’s the big guy below, leading a strike parade in Lowell, MA, in 1912.

haywood

Also the legendary Red Flame, Annie Burlak (National Textile Workers Union).

burlakvia Five College Archives

The great Anarchist Luigi Galleani lived a block or two away on Blackwell Street and published his internationally influential newspaper Cronaca Sovversiva (The Chronicle of Subversion). How I love that name, Chronicle of Subversion.

galleanivia Wikipedia

And the young brilliant stone carver Elia Corti was famously shot to death (by another Anarchist) on the front doorstep in 1903.

corti2

It did me good walking there. I felt the hairs go up the back of my neck a bit. I was more moved than I care to talk about. I think I fell in love a little with the Red Flame. I could feel the big hall packed with voices.

And yet it’s a functioning community hall and social centre. I went back to Yipes to get my car and the woman at the counter told me how she has a small foster child who had never had a birthday party in his life. So she rented the Socialist Party Labor Hall and threw him the biggest party ever just a few weeks ago.

It did my heart good, as I say, — in the midst of this tawdry election cycle — to find myself suddenly in the presence of such kind, dedicated, hearty people (the current ones and the ghosts).

Nice day.

dg

Oct 272016
 

czech

Milan Kundera begins The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by telling the story of the pictures above:

In February 1948, Communist leader Klement Gottwald stepped out on the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague to address the hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens packed into Old Town Square. It was a crucial moment in Czech history—a fateful moment of the kind that occurs once or twice in a millennium.

Gottwald was flanked by his comrades, with Clementis standing next to him. There were snow flurries, it was cold, and Gottwald was bareheaded. The solicitous Clementis took off his own fur cap and set it on Gottwald’s head.

The Party propaganda section put out hundreds of thousands of copies of a photograph of that balcony with Gottwald, a fur cap on his head and comrades at his side, speaking to the nation. On that balcony the history of Communist Czechoslovakia was born. Every child knew the photograph from posters, schoolbooks, and museums.

Four years later Clementis was charged with treason and hanged. The propaganda section immediately airbrushed him out of history and, obviously, out of all the photographs as well. Ever since, Gottwald has stood on that balcony alone. Where Clementis once stood, there is only bare palace wall. All that remains of Clementis is the cap on Gottwald’s head.

I had a Czech student decades ago who told me the story of how her mother, a schoolgirl at the time, again in Prague, I think, performed this act of historical revision. Her teacher instructed the class to open their books, pull out their pencils, and erase one of the men. Except by mistake she told them to erase Gottwald, not Clementis. So they had to go back and erase Clementis as well. Then no one was on the podium. There wasn’t even a hat.

My student was bright and beautiful, as her mother must have been.

Gary Garvin

Oct 262016
 

captureClick on the image to go to the Canada Council site.

Congratulations and felicitations to Steven Heighton for winning this year’s Governor General’s Award for Poetry. Steven has been a friend of the magazine since very early in its history. I have always admired and supported his work. He’s the real thing. And now he has the endorsement of official public acclaim. Truly well deserved.

You can check out Steven’s work (poetry, translation, aphorism, and fiction) on the magazine here:

The Devil’s Dictionary for Writers

Herself, Revised

Four Approximations of Horace

from Every Lost Country

A Right like Yours

 

And here is the NC interview with Steven:

Bushwacked by Inspiration: An Interview with Steven Heighton — Richard Farrell

 

 

Oct 192016
 

beirne3

Gerry Beirne, former Senior Editor at NC, long-time curator of our Irish series Uimhir a Cúig, still a member of the family, has just been longlisted for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Writing.ie Short Story of the Year for 2016 for his short story “What the River Remembers of its Course” published on NC in February. We also nominated the story for the prize.

The countdown to the list of finalists begins!

ie

Oct 182016
 

Marilyn-McCabe

We’ve had so much great news to share lately that it’s hard to keep up, so we’re a little past due in announcing that Marilyn McCabe has a new book out from The Word Works titled Glass Factory.  McCabe is a poet, translator, singer, and regular contributor to Numéro Cinq, and we’re so excited to get our hands on her latest collection.

glass-factory

 

Here’s a teaser poem, which she turned into a video poem that was featured on WMHT’s TVFilm series:

.

The dark is shifting almost imperceptibly

.
toward you. I know that much
of endings. As usual I’m mistaken,
though, about what’s moving.
.
Not the dark onward but you
and I falling toward it, and sometimes
it is beautiful, fanned in flame,
.
and some days, as today, obscure.
Hymn so cautious will lead you
humming. I hope.
.
—Marilyn McCabe
.

Get your copy of Glass Factory through The Word Works or Small Press Distribution. For more from Marilyn McCabe, check out her many NC contributions at Archive Page here.

 

Oct 172016
 

ulysses

Fiction is a construction that arranges space and has a structure that defines spatial relationships. As such it is a kind of architecture, but its structure, especially in our more challenging, more exploratory fictions cannot be pictured as the simple pyramid Freytag gave us years ago. Matteo Pericoli, architect, author, and illustrator, has students explore these relationships and make them visible in models they build in his Laboratory of Literary Architecture, a workshop he has taught around the world. As he says:

In any real architectural project, there are ideas that need to be designed and conveyed, a supporting structure, sequences of spaces, surprises and suspensions, hierarchies of space and function, and so on. In creative writing, many of the challenges seem to be similar. For example, how should different strands of narrative be intertwined? How can chronology be rearranged in a plot sequence? How is tension expressed? What do certain narrative sequences and omissions convey or mean? How do characters connect?

And he cites Alice Munro, from her Selected Stories:

A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.

Above, Katherine Treppendahl’s model of Joyce’s Ulysses.

This model represents my interpretation of the structural relationships within James Joyce’s Ulysses. While the novel occurs over the course of just one day, the text is lengthy, rich and exhaustive. The central story is that of salesman wandering Dublin. But revolving around and within that story are thousands of others—both internal stories developed within the novel and allusions to stories external to the text. The primary external text is, of course, Homer’s Odyssey, and the chapters and characters in Joyce’s novel reflect scenes and characters from Homer’s story. I developed an architectural language for translating multiple aspects of the structure of the novel. This language takes into account the progression from realism to abstraction in the text, the shifting roles of and intersections between key characters, the passage of time, the interior stylistic parallels, and the reader’s journey through the text.

Her full analysis of the model is extensive and can be found at her site here.

rings-of-saturn

W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, by Joss Lake in collaboration with Stephanie Jones.

The structure is a tall and narrow space, reflecting both the vast scope of the book as well as the intimacy of the reading experience. An uneven path is suspended along metal supports, and gradually rises and falls across the entire length of the structure. The path’s shape is dictated by the fragmented and surprising nature of the narrative, in which the novel leaps from subject to subject through unconventional avenues, such as the documentary playing in the narrator’s hotel room … The darkness of the tall and narrow space is broken by clusters of light bulbs. The constellations of lights are not comforting; they too are disconcerting … These light bulbs are the core of the novel, the details that Sebald, and his narrator, use to recover the past.

hempel

Amy Hempel’s essentially plotless story “The Harvest” derives its motion and containment elsewhere. Ytav Bouhsira, Barbara Clinton, Silvia Jost, Eithne Reynolds created this solution.

The different planes of understanding cause discomfort for the reader. So compelling was the story that reading it was likened to being on a fast train and unable to get off.

We developed models to better reflect our understanding of what the structure of the story would look like and to give the story its spatial form. What emerged were models with airy layers, corners and angles. Through discussion, we realized that we were more comfortable with a form that shows that the author tries by different planes to adjust the story again and again.

While our structure is layered, these layers to not overlap. Rather than giving the reader more information, they show a different attempt of place-making. They have connection and are built one upon the other. There are no pillars or stairs that hold the building together. The space and the structure are the same.

What makes our building inhabitable is that the ground and roof are speaking the same material language. They create a system that allows the narrative to work. The different layers connect with the roof at just one single point–which reflects the moment in the narration where the author talks to us directly in the text and disrupts the narration.

The models are interesting in their own right and take on a life of their own. They could serve as starting points for other fictions.

All text from his site, all pictures © Matteo Pericoli, with his generous permission. More pictures of these models and other models can be found there. Matteo also, along with Giuseppe Franco, has begun a series of Literary Architecture projects in The Paris Review Daily that can be found here.

I had to try my own, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

hd15

The first thought is to make a winding corridor into density and darkness. But really the stalled trip up the river only provides an intensification of what we see in glimpses at the beginning. The plot does not develop anything we haven’t seen before and resolves nothing. It is not a novel of action, but of Marlow’s discovery and perception.

My model, like the novel, rests on water. Marlow tells his story while on the Thames waiting for the tide, makes his trip on a river, and the novel ends with the narrator’s gaze on “the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth.” Instead of a plot line my model takes its structure from a rational grid of streets the color of blood. Rising from the grid a crystalline city, or a section of one. The novel shows us almost nothing of Africa or its people. What we most see instead, and what I show, is the western imposition and exploitation. As Marlow tells us, “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz,” and it was the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs who commissioned him to write the report on which he later scrawled “Exterminate all the brutes!”

hodcloseup

“The meaning of an episode,” the narrator tells us of Marlow’s story, “was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze.” Marlow’s encounter with Kurtz throws “a kind of light on everything about me—and into my thoughts.” My model captures this glow in reflected lights, but instead of the sought transcendence we have transparency of motive. There is no green in the model. I rejected Conrad’s notion that darkness was inherent in nature. We largely see nature in the novel as an obstruction or source for plunder. The darkness in the heart of Africa comes from ourselves, our contradictions, our corrupt projections.

Gary Garvin

Oct 132016
 

As if we needed more evidence of the quality of writing that appears here and of the prescience of our editors, Cordelia Strube has just won the $10,000 Toronto Book Award for her novel On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light. You will all no doubt recall that in our March issue last year we ran an excerpt from the novel along with an interview with the author by our eminent contributing editor Ann Ireland.

Now we would like to heartily congratulate Cordelia for her amazing achievement.

§

Cordelia Strube has won the 2016 Toronto Book Award for her novel On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light (ECW Press). Strube, a playwright and the author of nine other novels, including Alex & Zee, Teaching Pigs to Sing and Lemon, is a past winner of a Toronto Arts Foundation Award, a nominee for the Governor General’s Award and the Trillium Book Award, and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Source: Cordelia Strube wins 2016 Toronto Book Award | Toronto Star

Oct 122016
 

Douglas Glover, Theatre Passe Muraille

capture

I have an essay in the new issue (July/August — just out though) of American Book Review. It’s called “The Literature of Extinction” and in something like 1,500 words covers the entire history of experimental literature to the present. One of the fascinating things about writing this essay was the insight I derived from Germán Sierra’s essay “Deep Media Fiction,” which we published here in the magazine in January. I keep going back and rereading that essay. It has driven a good deal of my current reading.

American Book Review is a print publication. You’ll have to buy a copy or find it in your library or download, if you can, from Muse. But here is a short passage.

dg

 

We see the world more clearly now (we think). It’s very small, dirty, crowded with people, and heating up. The Anthropocene is the new name given to the period of time (roughly beginning with the Neolithic) human beings have had a significant impact on the environment. Now we know there is no free lunch, and the hubris of our assumption that the earth was an infinite, free resource specially catered for us by the gods is beginning to look like a monumental gaffe.

Nor are we essentially different from the other orders of being (say, trees, rocks, newts); consciousness may be a neural anomaly, or as the A.I. researchers like to say, an emergent property, that is, a side effect of our neural interaction with whatever we are interacting with (just as the colour of an object is not a property of the object but a side effect of the wavelengths of light interacting with eye neurons). Not a self, a soul, a ghost in the machine, but a whisp of smoke, dream-like and temporary.

from Douglas Glover “The Literature of Extinction” American Book Review, Juy/August 2016.

Oct 042016
 

capture

capture2

captureThe GG Poetry Finalists for 2016 (Click on the image to go to the announcement page.)

A nice bit of news. Two of our authors have been shortlisted for this year’s Governor-General’s Award in Poetry, Steven Heighton and Garry Thomas Morse. (Click on their names to see what they published here.)  Steven, of course, has appeared several times in the magazine, aphorisms, fiction, and translation as well as poetry. He started with us very early in the magazine’s career.

But, ahem, just another proof of the quality at NC.

Sep 282016
 

m-beck-bio-pic

Yes, yes, yes, yes, the neighbours are complaining about the constant racket, the raucous cheers, the freeflowing Talisker, dogs and revelers staggering in the public road outside the NC Bunker. There has been altogether too much celebration lately, and now Melissa Beck has arrived to take up a position as production editor and the NC Pipe Band & Glee Club lost count during the 87-gun salute (I believe this is Fernando’s fault) and had to do it twice over.

We are so pleased, despite the confusion at the Bunker, to have Melissa join us. Early indications are that her duties here will extend beyond production. She has already taken dg to school on certain matters regarding classical authors. She also writes book reviews, specializing in books in translation, and conducts interviews. She’ll be a wonderful addition once we settle down.

Two things are worth mentioning. 1) There are still more jobs open. Check the page under the ABOUT button in the nav bar at the top of the page. 2) When you look at our vast and growing masthead, remember that we don’t normally take submissions. The magazine is generated from within. Many people on the masthead write regularly for the magazine — reviews, occasional essays, interviews. They also curate, edit, and package work we’ve invited from outside. And they have to produce an issue 12 times a year. It’s amazing we do it with so few people.

§

Melissa Beck has a B.A. and an M.A. in Classics. She also completed most of a Ph.D. in Classics for which her specialty was Seneca, Stoicism and Roman Tragedy. But she stopped writing her dissertation after the first chapter so she could live the life of wealth and prestige by teaching Latin and Ancient Greek to students at Woodstock Academy in Northeastern Connecticut. She now uses the copious amounts of money that she has earned as a teacher over the course of the past eighteen years to buy books for which she writes reviews on her website The Book Binder’s Daughter. Her reviews have also appeared in World Literature Today and The Portland Book Review. She has an essay on the nature of the soul forthcoming in the 2017 Seagull Books catalog and has contributed an essay about Epicureanism to the anthology Rush and Philosophy.

Sep 262016
 

Riiki Ducornet

Rikki Ducornet burst onto the Numéro Cinq scene in July, a scant two months ago, with CRAZY HAPPY: Painted Scrolls by Rikki Ducornet & Sculpture by Margie McDonald. Then she sent a poem, then we published a novel excerpt, then she sent an essay (forthcoming), then she introduced me to the delights of artists Dave Kennedy (see the current issue) and Anne Hirondelle (forthcoming). She has entered the spirit of the place. She’s made herself at home (and made the home a better place, which is the way it’s supposed to work around here). She brings an inestimable panache, a resplendent joy in the protean excesses of art. It’s an immense pleasure to welcome her to the masthead as a Contributing Editor.

§

The author of nine novels, three collections of short fiction, two books of essays and five books of poetry, Rikki Ducornet has received both a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award For Fiction. She has received the Bard College Arts and Letters award and, in 2008, an Academy Award in Literature. Her work is widely published abroad. Recent exhibitions of her paintings include the solo show Desirous at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2007, and the group shows: O Reverso Do Olhar in Coimbra, Portugal, in 2008, and El Umbral Secreto at the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende in Santiago, Chile, in 2009. She has illustrated books by Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Coover, Forest Gander, Kate Bernheimer, Joanna Howard and Anne Waldman among others. Her collected papers including prints and drawings are in the permanent collection of the Ohio State University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago Chile, The McMaster University Museum, Ontario, Canada, and The Biblioteque Nationale, Paris.

Sep 232016
 

susan-gillis-photo-by-alexandra-pasian

Things are very hot in the poetry department at NC. We have already announced that Susan Aizenberg is our poetry editor, but now we’ve brought on Susan Gillis as well. Susan Aizenberg will handle the American poetry scene, and Susan Gillis (inevitably, they will be the Two Susans) will handle the Canadian side. (There are other sides and scenes, of course, poetry in translation, for example, and God, Ben Woodard, Dylan Brennan, and dg will be handling them.) We are extremely pleased to have Susan join us. The only downside is she expressly forbade me not to mention the human sacrifices during the new hire celebrations. So I won’t. Let me just say there will be vivid  scenes at the NC Bunker tonight.

§

Susan Gillis has published three books of poetry, most recently The Rapids (Brick Books, 2012), and several chapbooks, including The Sky These Days (Thee Hellbox Press, 2015) and Twenty Views of the Lachine Rapids (Gaspereau Press, 2012). Volta (Signature Editions, 2002) won the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. She is a member of the collaborative poetry group Yoko’s Dogs, whose work appears regularly in print and online, and is collected in Rhinoceros (Gaspereau Press, 2016) and Whisk (Pedlar Press, 2013). Susan divides her time between Montreal and rural Ontario.

Sep 222016
 

antique-store

I recently relocated to the St. Johns neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, and have been trying to get my bearings. “Gritty” St. Johns, as Portlanders say, or “up-and-coming” St. Johns, as Realtors tell us, was once an independent city built on its port and a few industries. It was incorporated into Portland a century ago. The other day I walked by a display, pictured above, in the windows of a store that had just closed. Free verse, public art—Sharon Helgerson tells her story and St. Johns’. Age 79, she is third generation St. Johns and a former Longshoreman, once a member of ILWU Local 8.

sharon-1

sharon-2

sharon-3

sharon-4

sharon-5

sharon-6

Nolan Calisch and Nina Montenegro joined to put her words up, part of People’s Homes, a collaborative art project. The store is across the street from James John Grade School, where Sharon began attendance in 1942.

The other morning I searched online to see what I else I could find about Sharon and ran across this casual picture she took in 1968:

bobby-kennedy-st-johnsVia the St. Johns Heritage Association.

Bobby Kennedy, campaigning in Portland, made an appearance in St. Johns after their May parade, just a block away from the school, the store with the sign, and the place where I now live. Ethel and John Glenn were there as well. Two weeks later Bobby was shot.

The coming elections are in mind, and I’ve been thinking about ways to repair the break in time and the rent in our social fabric, as well as imagine what words I might put in a public window some day, without success.

Gary Garvin

Sep 212016
 

This has been a long time coming. No drumroll, just the satisfaction of a circle closing, a sense of rightness. Gary Garvin has been part of the magazine’s history since the February, 2010, issue. He helped design the site. He went away for a while, his wandering in the wilderness years, then came back and has been working prodigiously on his essays and fiction for us ever since. Now he has agreed to come out publicly as a Numéro Cinq co-religionist and join the masthead as a special correspondent. You can check out his many contributions if you click on his name below. But there will be more.

§

Gary Garvin lives in Portland, Oregon, where he writes and reflects on a thirty-year career teaching English. His short stories and essays have appeared in TriQuarterly, Web ConjunctionsFourth Genre, Numéro Cinq, the minnesota reviewNew Novel ReviewConfrontationThe New ReviewThe Santa Clara ReviewThe South Carolina Review, The Berkeley Graduate, and The Crescent Review. He is currently at work on a collection of essays and a novel. His architectural models can be found at Under Construction. A catalog of his writing can be found at Fictions.

Sep 202016
 

Laura Michele Diener author photo

We would have the usual 91-gun salute, but the NC Drum & Bugle Corps ran out of ammunition skeet shooting on the weekend. Nonetheless we are celebratory, we are raising our glasses, we are being rowdy. Laura Michele (who has already appeared twice on these pages) will be contributing essays, book reviews and blog posts in an ongoing effort to make us a better place. What makes the moment all the more auspicious is that Laura Michele just learned that she has an essay in the Notable Essays list in the 2016 Best American Essays (edited by Jonathan Franzen).

§

Laura Michele Diener teaches medieval history and women’s studies at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. She received her PhD in history from The Ohio State University and has studied at Vassar College, Newnham College, Cambridge, and most recently, Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her creative writing has appeared in The Catholic Worker, Lake Effect, Appalachian Heritage,and Cargo Literary Magazine, and she is a regular contributor to Yes! Magazine.

Sep 192016
 

Author's Photo color

Time for the usual 97-gun salute by the NC Regimental Battery, three cheers, toasts in fluted glasses to be smashed against the andirons of the clubhouse fireplace, plus the (now de rigeur on such occasions) human sacrifice for luck*. We’ve never had a poetry editor before. Now Susan Aizenberg has chosen to fill that deficit. We are gratified and optimistic. The mood in the bunker has risen. We’ve found the key to the Talisker locker. In truth, we are very, very pleased.

For those who need a introduction, Susan has poems in the current (September) issue.

*Um, we don’t actually do the human sacrifice thing anymore, not lately anyway. There were complaints.

§

Susan Aizenberg is the author of three poetry collections: Quiet City (BkMk Press 2015); Muse (Crab Orchard Poetry Series 2002); and Peru in Take Three: 2/AGNI New Poets Series (Graywolf Press 1997) and co-editor with Erin Belieu of The Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women (Columbia University Press 2001). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals, among them The North American Review, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Blackbird, Connotation Press, Spillway, The Journal, Midwest Quarterly Review, Hunger Mountain, Alaska Quarterly Review, and the Philadelphia Inquirer and have been reprinted and are forthcoming in several anthologies, including Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier UP) and Wild and Whirling Words: A Poetic Conversation (Etruscan). Her awards include a Crab Orchard Poetry Series Award, the Nebraska Book Award for Poetry and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Levis Prize for Muse, a Distinguished Artist Fellowship from the Nebraska Arts Council, the Mari Sandoz Award from the Nebraska Library Association, and a Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner award. She can be reached through her website, susanaizenberg.com.