A Break in the Flow

This past week was one of those rare stretches of time where no new reading material arrived at the Library of Winkelman Abbey. That’s fine. I have more than enough unread books and magazines laying around to last me a decade.

Now that I have finally made it to the end of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Giorno’s Great Demon Kings, I have turned my attention to shorter books, which is easy, because I can count on my fingers the books I own which are longer than The Brothers Karamazov.

For the past five years or more I have had subscriptions to the catalogs of various publishers of books in translation, which means for the past five years or more I have accumulated these books much faster than I have read them, and at this point I have well over a hundred works from Open Letter Books, Deep Vellum, Restless Books, And Other Stories, Two Lines Press, and Ugly Duckling Presse awaiting my attention.

In the past couple of years, as my lifestyle and available spending money have fluctuated, I have allowed my subscriptions to all but And Other Stories and Two Lines Press (and possibly Restless Books – it’s difficult to tell sometimes here in the Covid Years) to lapse. So now I have these shelves full of books sitting around unread as I slowly accumulate books from other places, and now I find that I need to archive some of the books on the shelves. As I only archive books I have completed, now is a good time to work through the backlog of these translated books.

In the past week I have finished three books – The Imagined Land by Eduardo Berti (Deep Vellum), Party Headquarters by Georgi Tenev (Open Letter Books), and Lion Cross Point by Masatsugu Ono (Two Lines Press). I am currently reading Permafrost by Eva Baltasar (And Other Stories), and hope to get in one more book before the end of the month. This is easy when the books are only 100 to 130 pages long, and at most 50,000 words, making most of them novellas or very short novels. For contrast, The Brothers Karamazov is approximately 364,000 words.

In writing news, I haven’t written anything new in the past week beyond some journaling, but I am beginning a round of edits for a couple of short stories which I hope to have in shape for submission by the beginning of May.

On the whole, the world is not necessarily a better place than it was a month ago, but some of the worst parts of it are gone, and sometimes a lack of bad things can be as energizing as the presence of good things. Selah.

The Turbulent Uncertainty of Ordinary Days


Right now I have two small recently-fed orange cats soundly asleep on my lap. The comfort derived from this state of being stands in sharp contrast to a week of chaos in the immediate, local, regional, and national levels, as the banshee/specter/mummy hybrid which is 2020 refuses to let go of the flow of history and is increasingly infecting 2021 with its fatal toxins. We can only hope that with the turning of the Lunar New Year things will start to look up.

An interesting mix of reading material arrived this past week at the Library of Winkelman Abbey.

On the left is the new release from Two Lines Press, Rabbit Island, which was written by Elvira Navarro and translated from the Spanish by Christina McSweeney. This specific book came in a subscriber-only boxed editing wrapped in white faux-rabbit fur. I love it!

Second from left is The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter, which I ordered from the best bookstore in Grand Rapids, Books and Mortar.

Third in is David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years, also arriving courtesy of Books and Mortar. I ordered this after receiving from Semiotext(e) The Making of the Indebted Man and Governing By Debt, both by Maurizio Lazzarato. This line of study follows the recent forays into the varying aspects of carceral capitalism, and the racist roots, trunk, branches, twigs, leaves and fruits of America, from its first day to the eternal now.

On the right is the January 2021 issue of Poetry Magazine, which arrives a week after the February 2021 issue of Poetry Magazine. Such is the nature of the postal system here in the 2020s.

In reading news, after six weeks (and about 30 years) I finally finished The Brothers Karamazov. This is a big deal because I have attempted to read it at least twenty times since my first Russian Studies class back in September of 1990. The farthest in I made it before 2021 was about a hundred pages. I guess my attention span is finally long enough to tackle 800-page books written in the 1800s.

Then again, I read Anna Karenina back in the mid- 1990s.

I am also close to the end of John Giorno’s Great Demon Kings, and will likely finish it on Monday. The writing is a little uneven, but the story of Giorno’s life is fascinating, and his view into the art and writing scenes in the fifties, sixties and seventies is both remarkable and valuable.

With these books out of the way, I think I will read short book for the next couple of months. Like, nothing longer than about 250 pages. And given the density of Dostoyevsky’s prose, one Brothers Karamazov if equal to about a dozen of any novel written in the past 50 years.

In writing news, I have written drafts of a poem or two, which is the most creative work I have done since early November 2020. Feels pretty good.

Another January, Done and Gone

(Poe approves of genre fiction and books in translation)

Here we are at the last day of the first month of 2021, and wow, did it feel like 2020 would never end. Up until inauguration day we seemed to be in some sort of eternal November 3, which I suppose made President Biden’s first day November 78, or something.

But the transition has been made, less peacefully than hoped but about as peacefully as could be expected. And with the slow lengthening of days it does seems as if a weight has been lifted from the world. A small victory when measured against the existential crises of the COVID pandemic, global warming, and the slow worldwide morphing of capitalism into neofeudalism, but we take what we can get.

Two new, somewhat-ordered collections of words arrived at the Library of Winkelman Abbey in this past week.

On the left is the latest release from And Other Stories, Permafrost (in the snazzy subscribers-only cover), written by Eva Baltasar and translated by Julia Sanches.

On the right is the December 2020 issue of Dreamforge. This is, alas, the last issue of Dreamforge which will be released in print format. Due to the state of the world and the instability of any and all methods of delivering physical goods to physical addresses, Dreamforge is switching to a digital-only format called Dreamforge Anvil. This is ultimately a good thing, as to do otherwise would likely doom them to going out of business. And there is enough of that going around right now.

In reading news I am well over 200 pages into The Brothers Karamazov, which is about four times farther than I have ever made it in before. I hit my stride a week ago and expect to be able to continue reading a chapter or two a day for the duration. So far I like it. I really, really like it.

I am a little over 100 pages into Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of our Discontents, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that feudalism was never dismantled; it was merely rebranded, and swapped ownership of property for control over capital.

In writing news, there isn’t much to report, other than that I am preparing things today to be able to re-start the writing habit first thing tomorrow morning. The many and varied deadlines are approaching and it is past time I released some work into the wild.