“Useful Knowledge is pleasant and therefore it is very much to be enjoyed,” writes Gertrude Stein in her “Advertisement for this Book”—an apt characterization of the experience of reading it sixty years after its disappearance from print…
Useful Knowledge is pleasant and therefore it is very much to be enjoyed,” writes Gertrude Stein in her “Advertisement for this Book”—an apt characterization of the experience of reading it sixty years after its disappearance from print. Despite her long expatriation, she “always remained” in her words, “firmly born in Allegheny Pennsylvania.” Indeed, physical detachment from her homeland seems only to have deepened her love for the country, a passion very nearly erotic, that blossomed in this private remembrance that is both tender and humorous. War, Woodrow Wilson, Chicago, Sherwood Anderson – such is the range of her intimate concerns. As for the significant questions to which her writings respond: “Wherein Iowa differs from Kansas and Indiana” and “Wherein the South differs from the North,” useful knowledge indeed, when the thought is opened along with the word in these extraordinary prose inventions. Keith Waldrop’s introduction furnishes new insight into the process and development of Stein’s infamous style as always more intricately evolving than is recognized. And Edward Burns provides “useful knowledge about Useful Knowledge,” the kind of information about Stein’s text that we rarely find when we most want it.
“These early parables of Maurice Blanchot provide a rewarding introduction to a modern master…”
“These early parables of Maurice Blanchot provide a rewarding introduction to a modern master; they also illuminate with hallucinatory intensity certain consequences of the hopeless and irresistible human longing to communicate through language. The world is still haunted by the ghosts of unspoken and unspeakable words emanating from the deaths here recounted almost fifty years ago.” -Harry Mathews
An unusual novel form is created by the use of an actual crisis inside and around the author’s life as subplot to the fiction. The time span in the fiction is meshed to a contiguous time span of autobiographical time by a voice situated in the curious ethics of “gut time.” A powerful conceptual framework grounded in dark, personal despair, the startling first novel forgoes a new language. Lust bends syntax to follow the emotions that range from the simple to the impenetrable. In this process, pronouns, prepositions, and adverbs are altered – as illustrated by the absence of the suffixial adverb and the preposition “of” in the narrative prose. Despite its innovations Violence and Defiance, through its electrifying story, can be read like a conventional novel.
WHEN THE TIME COMES ostensibly chronicles the troubled relations between the narrator – a very ill man – and the two women whose lives he invades…
WHEN THE TIME COMES ostensibly chronicles the troubled relations between the narrator – a very ill man – and the two women whose lives he invades. As in all of Blanchot’s intensely subjective fiction, the true subject of the work is the narrator’s consciousness and the process by which his tale emerges through its telling. Powerfully affected by the slightest of events, the narrator responds with a violence that, most disturbingly, appears inevitable.
“Holst has long been treasured in the underground New York literary scene. His impish delivery is filled with a childlike delight in tale-spinning, and yet his work is recognized for its inscrutable mysteries. Containing every story Holst has ever written, nearly a third of them never before published, this collection should establish Holst’s reputation among a wider public. If there is a single aesthetic preoccupation in these tales, it is with storytelling itself. In the title piece, a Siamese cat speaks ‘Zebraic,’ bewitching zebras so that he is able to kill them, until he meets the zebra storyteller who has already imagined a Siamese cat speaking Zebraic. This allows him to kill the cat, and ‘that is the function of the storyteller,’ Holst concludes. Such postmodern concerns, however, do not become boorish. Above all, Holst seeks to entertain, not lecture; imagination and language receive no especial privilege here, but humor always does. In ‘The Language of Cats,’ at the end of one rather long and unsuccessful attempt to describe a confused state of mind, the narrator resorts to: ‘imagine how the world would appear to a person after finishing such a ridiculously lengthy, pointless sentence.’ Such authorial winks give a hint of what it is like to be in the presence of this master of the told tale.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“The fertile imagination of fable-fabricator Holst (The Language of Cats, etc.) appears in all its glory in his latest collection of 64 far-fetched stories and fragments, 18 of which are making their publishing debut. Juggling mind-bending juxtapositions in his eclectic view of the world, Holst often rearranges familiar scenes or institutions into terra incognita, but leaves enough of the old in place to serve as an unsettling reminder of how easily the known becomes strange. Cats and their inscrutable ways are a favorite subject, as Sherlock Holmes and Watson take on human guise at will and use their furry logic (‘Adventure of the Giant Rat of Sumatra) to solve a brutal killing of a fellow feline, while ‘The Cat Who Owned an Apartment’ discovers that patience, and a quick pounce, can bring unexpected but richly deserved rewards. New York City and other jungles of the world are used to good effect, with a mound of garbage proving the death of a family that inadvertently threw its life savings out in the trash (‘Finders Keepers’); but Africa is no more hospitable to a legendary jazz drummer, who leaves fame behind to search for a tribe of drummers only to find his death when he recalls his past at an inopportune moment (‘Tom-Tom’). The most sustained (though incomplete) saga here, ‘The Institute for the Foul Ball,’ features a bold new look at baseball, with a visionary young superstar proposing – at a time when club owners are keen to bolster sagging profits – a paradigm shift that would allow a batter only one strike. Whimsical but with a full complement of death and decay: a selection of primordial melodies and fantastic ‘tudes played with a master’s touch.” – Kirkus Reviews