Feature – From “Good Warm Sad Blood Spilling Out in the Forest”

Heather Christle, Matthew Rohrer, Zachary  Schomburg, and Matthew Zapruder talk about surrealism.

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MZ: Basing the “hardness” or “softness” of surrealism on whether or not it challenges “poet-reader relations” and the “power relations of writing,” is not only ahistorical but beside the point. It’s like saying, “I like grandma’s meatloaf better than your meatloaf because your meatloaf is too coercive.” Coerciveness may or may not be an important value in meatloaf-eater relations, but it’s not what grandma or you were thinking about when you were making your meatloaves. Likewise, you can say “poet-reader relations” and the “power relations of writing” are the most important things to think about in every act of writing—I mean, that’s an opinion you can, tragically, have—but it wasn’t what Breton or James Tate or anyone else under discussion was thinking about.

Continue reading “Feature – From “Good Warm Sad Blood Spilling Out in the Forest””

Friendship and Survival: Individual Stories Behind the French Resistance

‘Resistance, Friendship and Survival’ are the central themes in the work of two writers; Caroline Moorehead and Michèle Roberts who focus on the individual stories behind the French resistance. In their works Ignorance and A Train in the Winter, these two writers explore the ways in which conflict impacts on the lives of ordinary people in a myriad of different ways.

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Caroline Moorehead’s book, A Train in the Winter, tells the story of a group of French women, deported because they were communists and active participants in the Resistance, who experienced the atrocity of German concentration camps. Although her female characters are passionate enough to get close to mythology, her story cannot offer a different, positive ending. Her message deals with survival and friendship, fundamental ingredients of all political Resistance. The old paradigm of history being made by men and narrated by men, is radically overturned by Moorehead. With her, history has female speakers with female points of view, and unveils aspects of European history which tend to be underestimated.

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Wrestling With the Gods: A Private Conversation With Nick Nolte

nick-nolteIn shooting the documentary ‘Nick Nolte: No Exit’ (available On Demand via Sundance Selects), director Tom Thurman concocted a rather existential ploy to bring out the burly, intimidating seventy-three year-old actor’s vulnerable side: he assigned Nolte to literally interview himself. Hopefully, this oddball tactic would uncover the true Nolte, who in the past notoriously relished in embellishment.

“I’m known for being a liar,” Nolte said. “I lied for a living and I lied in my interviews. It got boring after twenty years. People have said to me, after interviews, ‘I really wished you answered that motherfucker’s question!'”

To avoid that escapism, Thurman and Nolte, who became friends while filming Thurman’s ‘Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S. Thompson on Film,’ developed a series of deeply intimate questions, several of which would probably catch Nolte off guard if an actual journalist posed them. In one day, Thurman shot footage of Nolte as slick reporter, sheepishly grilling Nolte the actor; the very next day, he filmed a wearier-looking Nolte answering his own questions, sometimes wistfully, sometimes sarcastically. Nostalgic slides of Nolte in his salad days were projected at random onto a computer throughout the “interview,” further derailing him.
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German authors — Did Jörg Fauser deserve such a prosaic death?

Jörg Fauser was a prolific novelist, essayist and journalist. Born in Frankfurt/Main in 1944, he broke off his academic studies to work and travel, with longer stays in Istanbul and London, working as a casual labourer, airport baggage worker and night watchman. He also supported himself as a journalist, and was acquainted with Charles Bukowski.

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He developed a heroin habit which he was able to shed at the age of 30, and spent much of the rest of his working life with an alcohol addiction. Fauser was heavily influenced by Beat literature and American crime stories, producing three successful novels, including ‘Der Schneemann’ (The Snowman), and a plethora of short stories. Fauser also translated English works by John Howlett and Joan Baez, and as well as translating Rolling Stones lyrics into German. Acclaimed as the best crime thriller ever written in German, The Snowman sold over 200,000 copies and was made into a film starring German rock musician Marius Westernhagen. Fauser also wrote and recorded music – one of his songs made it into the German top ten in 1981. But like his contemporary Hunter S. Thompson he was also deeply disillusioned by the failure of the ideals of the 60s, and his writing remained that of a driven man searching for something that is always just a few inches from his grasp.

On 16 July 1987, Fauser had been out celebrating his 43rd birthday in Munich. At dawn, instead of going back home, he allegedly stripped naked and wandered down a stretch of highway where, by chance or by choice, he was struck by a heavy-goods truck. He died instantly.

Germany may only be renown for their high brow writers such as Grass and Hesse, but there is no denying the talent of Borche, Ledig and Fauser. With their writing embodying the worse of human conditions, these writers manage to represent Germany in it’s best with all the worse that has happened.

Books from Finland, in Search of Spirit

Author Tuomas Kyrö
Author Tuomas Kyrö
In this series, Finnish authors discuss the difficulties of their trade. Attempting to write a novel on the basis of his successful television series, Tuomas Kyrö – author of the extraordinary novelistic chronicle of the birth of capitalism Benjamin Kivi, which we featured in the old print version of Books from Finland and which you can read here – found himself lost for words. Liberation came with the realisation that, unlike in television, in books it is the writer, and the reader, who are in charge, and the only limits are those of the human imagination.

In May 2009, after a year of writing, I held in my hand the manuscript of a novel whose plot and characters were complete. There was a subject, theme and the occasional good passage, but something was badly wrong.

When I swapped roles, writer for reader, I realised that my text did not touch the skin, and certainly did not get under the skin. I had wanted do more than raise a smile; I had thought I was writing a book that would make its readers want to turn the page, I had wanted to provoke, to cause laughter and even perhaps tears. Now all that my text provoked in the reader – me – was embarrassment and boredom.

What was wrong?

English Medieval Texts and Studies

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Drawn from Aelfric’s Old English Lives of the Saints, this is an edition of the lives of the little-known virgin spouses: Julian and Basilissa, Cecilia and Valerian, and Chrysanthus and Daria. As well as the Old English original texts, it provides the reader with modern English parallel-text translations. As a useful comparison, their closest Latin source texts are also reproduced – again with English parallel-text translations. As a leading churchman writing at the time of the Viking raids at the end of the first millennium, Aelfric wrote his Lives to bolster the faith of English Christians. These three stories of couples who marry but do not consummate their unions point to an ideal of marital celibacy in Aelfric’s programme of pastoral care. Taken together, the group provides an opportunity to emphasise different but related points about literal and figurative types of chastity and purity appropriate to the laity.