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tearing the rag off the bush again
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David Eagleman, Sum, Forty Tales from the Afterlives, Vintage Books, 2009. 

Horia Dulvac, Effect Doppler, Editura Scrisul Romanesc, Craiova, Romania 2009.The dead are in in fiction now, not that they were ever out, but they are in differently. In Horia Dulvac’s spectacularly and beautifully written short novel, the narrative voices who turn out to belong to dead or nearly dead people, are hypnotic. What makes them great is that the effects death has had on these characters are dire and minimal, though poetic and concentrated. This book, written in Romanian, is too good to be translated, but it will be, and I pity the poor translator. For instance, the narrator declares at one point that, “Once I rose to the sky during a prayer, and looking outside as if through a lens, I saw my face on the other side. I was about to be terrified of my face, and was about to fall. ‘Why in hell do I look like that,” I was asking myself.” Dulvac plays with tenses and creates unforgettable images of utter otherworldliness. For instance, “You have to run away on time. I remembered when I was going to have my first heart-attack, the dilating aorta, the body flying up...” Remembering the future is just one in Dulvac’s seemingly bottomless bag of necro-fic-tricks. It took me two years to get to this slim tomette, but it was worth detaching from top of Tower 12 of Unread Books.Incidentally, David Eagleman’s book followed Dulvac’s like the next pancake in the 30 ft stack. A series of brief essays on possible afterlives, this book is smart, true, and often surprising. The writer is a neuroscoentist, which has something to do with his metaphysics, but the prose owes the beauty to the fragmentary philosophical literature of Calvino and Borges. The afterlives he describes are plausible and purportedly informed by brain research and information techne, but they are actually updated medieval speculations in "scientific" masks. Each one is worth reading twice, though I myself, who am familiar with some of these scenarios, caught on pretty quick to the thinking mode and the essay technique –which didn’t prevent me from enjoying and taking seriously Eagleman’s fancies. I met the author in his role as moderator at a 2011 Diva artistic salon in Houston -- he was a ball of young energy, optimistically invested in the brain. Such faith is hard to come by, so take it second-hand from me. I think Eagleman knows his stuff. And if you die while reading the book, be sure to be on a page where things sort of turn out OK, because mostly they don’t. (8.3.2011) 

(rereading) Isabella Eberhardt, The Oblivion Seekers, translated by Paul Bowles. City Lights, first published in 1972, fourth printing 1982. Laura read this for the first time and I reread it. Fabulous character, this Isabella Eberhardt who disguised herself as a man and joined the Sufi sect at the Qadriya monastery in North Africa, had an affair (as a man) with the chief moqaddem, and wrote cryptic reports of her adventures for the Algiers newspaper Les Nouvelles. She wrote numerous letters and published a now-mostly-lost book, Dans l'Ombre Chaude de l'Islam, about her many adventures in love and war writings. She died at the age of 27, swept away by a flash flood at Ein Sefra. If Paul Bowles didn't invent her, and the evidence says that she didn't, Isabella Eberhardt is one of the great figures of the feminist modern feminist pantheon wherein dwells Amelia Earheart, George Sand, Sarah Bernhardt, Emma Goldman, and Boxcar Bertha. I wish that City Lights would issue all her extant writings, not just these excerpts translated and chosen by Paul Bowles. She did write in eminently translatable French, after all.

 

 

Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky, New York: New Directions. This is a contemporary German novel, a field we haven’t kept up with since Gunther Grass. We trust New Directions, however, so go Erpenbeck!
 
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Dominique Fabré, The Waitress Was New, translated from French by Jordan Stump, Brooklyn, NY: archipelago books, www.archipelagobooks.org. We love this press. They make beautiful books. This is a charming little novel about the marginalised working people of Paris, a light intersection of Queneau and Zola.

Vincent Farnsworth, Theremin, selected poems, Prague: Litteraria Pragensia Books, 2011. "Vincent Farnsworth makes the cacophony of the band-rehearsal next door into a manual for gracefully ageing," said Codrescu on the back cover, featuring also a wind-blown scowling Pragueno ready to go out or take down a UFO, and this quote by Tom Clark, "Brute sage of destiny." Such show-offs blurbers, poets, publishers! But, in this case, everyone is correct. Vincent is great!

Fèlix Fènèon
, Novels in Three Lines, translated from French and with an introduction by Luc Sante. OK, we notice that the author kept his aigues, but the great Sante (we are big fans!) dropped his. What up? Otherwise, we love the three-line novels of this clerk who discovered Seurat and attended Mallarmè’s salon. New York Review of Books. We also love these re-issues by the NYRB. More!

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Coney Island of the Mind, Fiftieth Anniversary Edition with CD of the poet reading. New York: New Directions, www.newdirections.com . Has it really been fifty years? This major American poem sold millions of copies and was, along with Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," the companion of a whole restless generation. Dog-eared copies passed from rebel high-schoolers into hitch-hikers' backpacks into decades of parka pockets and second-hand jackets, and then into the 21st century and the suited academies. For all that handling, the chaplinesque burlesque and the magrittine and duffy-goofesque freshness of the verses keeps us doing summersaults. This edition's destination? ebay, of course (after downloading the cd)

Carmen Firan, Puterea Cuvintelor (The Power of Words), Craiova: Editura Scrisul Romanesc. www.scrisulromanesc.ro. This essay by the prodigious poet, fictioneer, anthologist, and ambassador for Romanian poetry, is a good insight into the understanding (nearly lost in the over-mediated West) of the power of words.

Steven Johannes Fowler
, Minimum Security Prison Dentistry, anything anymore anywhere, 1 Spence Street, Edinburgh, EH 165 AG, www.anythinganymoreanywhere.co.uk . I know "minimum" is in the title but it still hurts. Fowler's poetry hurts a little more, in a good way: there is living and thinking in these generous breaths of fresh lyric air. "sensitive to the next day regret & poverty/ melancholy northern soul, false and twisted/ moisture menagerie -- human ear alchemy," simultneously a report on the poetic state of the colder areas of Europe, a critique of the (cultural) climate, and an urging to listen. There are some very fun sexy poems in here too, like "buff my pylon," which must be Brit for "spank the monkey." The man is alive, his poetry, too.

Peter Freund, A Passion for Discovery, New Jersey: World Scientific, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . A wonderful series of anecdotes about great physicists, by Corpse contributor, string-theorist and distinguished theoretical physicist Peter Freund.
 
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