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1/16/17

Maria Fusco - Combining fact and fiction, traversing scales of distance and intimacy, shifting registers to oscillate between creative and critical modes of engagement, Fusco offers an embodied, performative and imaginative relation to the Pombal Palácio in Lisbon

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Maria Fusco, Legend of the Necessary Dreamer, VanguardEditions, 2017.                                
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mariafusco.net/


'A modest epic written in real-time, Maria Fusco’s Legend of the Necessary Dreamer records some weeks in June 2013 when her narrator went every day to Lisbon’s Palácio Pombal in order to write about it. But 'it', of course, isn’t only the building, but the wraparound sensual act of perceiving. As she writes, I am trying to turn myself into a recording device…. Fusco’s book brilliantly examines what it means not just to look, but to think, feel and remember. Legend expands the bounds of discursion. It’s a new classic of female philosophical fiction.' —Chris Kraus

Legend of the Necessary Dreamer is an excellent work of spatial imagination. Fusco writes one-to-one scale between body and building. Producing space through her critical habitation of the extreme close-up, decelerating engagement, recycling history into atmospherics. A new taxonomy of site-based address.' —Eyal Weizman

 'Legend of the Necessary Dreamer is an extraordinary book. Combining fact and fiction, traversing scales of distance and intimacy, shifting registers to oscillate between creative and critical modes of engagement, Fusco offers an embodied, performative and imaginative relation to the Pombal palacio in Lisbon. Here, and following along each tightly-wrought sentence, we are encouraged to empathise with objects and materials, experience the everyday ‘made strange’, and follow lines of thought into the open. This is excellent writing. This is writing for our time.' —Dr. Kristen Kreider

 '"Where are the places I may more easily adapt to my own scale?" Maria Fusco, ghost phenomenologist, fuses dust and memory in her account of a residency at an ancient palacio in Lisbon. What's stucco; what's skin? And what are the kinds of work we can do on either? An ecstatic, lyrical investigation into the layers of the personal, historical and mythic past.’ - Joanna Walsh




Give Up Art
New Documents, 2017

Notes on Comic Face
If a Leave Falls Press, 2016   

  • Sailor extract
    Animals: Documents of Contemporary Art, 2016
  • Ordinary People: Knowing the Answer is Worth Nothing
    Gorse, 2016
  • Med A Bao A Qu – en läsning av When Attitudes Become Form
    Kritiker, Stockholm, 2016
  • some object writings
    Test Centre 6, 2016
  • Master Rock
    Artangel & Book Works, 2015
  • The Hare's Course
    Vanguard Anthology of Short Stories, 2015
  • Hoi Theatai
    The Burning Sand, 2015
  • Thirty-five Hundred Years of Consecrated Objects
    The Persistence of Objects, 2015
  • The Disappearance
    Grafter's Quarterly, 2015
  • unfinished odes to a video cassette, playing cards, a microphone, a vinyl record
    A Set of Lines, A Stack of Paper, 2015
  • The Two Roberts
    frieze, 2015
  • An Amateur's Prolegomenon
    Parse, 2015
  • machine oil smells sweet
    Vestoj, 2014
  • Denkmal
    Kate Davis's film, 2014
  • Donald
    Going on about Donald Sutherland, 2014
  • The Disappearance: fifty-nine seconds
    SIC zine, 2014
  • Glasgow International
    frieze, 2014
  • How Imagination Remembers
    The White Review, 2014
  • Three Stories
    2HB, 2014
  • Story of the Grid System
    New Reproductions, 2014
  • Art School
    Interview with Paul Winstanley, 2014
  • With A Bao A Qu Reading When Attitudes Become Form
    On the affect of reading, 2013
  • Populating Her Sparseness
    But We Loved Her, 2013
  • Start the Revolution Without Me: notes on comic face
    E.R.O.S., 2013
  • Gonda ciné-roman
    Sternerg Press, 2012
  • 1982, DOOM KNOTS
    Keine Zeit Busy, 2012
  • Notes on Three Happy Hypocrites
    Again, A Time Machine: From Distribution to Archive, 2012
  • Signed, Your Arm
    2012
  • Field Notes from the Urban Pastoral
    Beyond Utopia, 2012
  • Gonda film
    Screenplay, 2012
  • Death Park
    Blast Counterblast, 2012
  • The Myth of the Airborne Warrior
    Art Monthly, 2011
  • Poor it is
    Waking Up from The Nightmare of Participation, 2011
  • Therefore. Because.
    If Mind Were All There Was, 2011
  • Copulation Méchanique
    The French edition, 2011
  • I Love Dick
    frieze, 2011
  • Orton, Halliwell, Gillam
    frieze, 2011
  • Black
    Gimpel Fils & The Agency, 2011
  • The Mechanical Copula
    The collection of my short stories, 2010
  • Say Who I Am: Or a Broad Private Wink
    Judgment and Contemporary Art Criticism, 2010
  • FLUFFERS II
    2010
  • The Strange Power of Reality
    Forms of Imagining, 2010
  • Mardi
    Centre Pompidou, 2010
  • The Future is Primitive
    Mousse, 2010
  • How Hard It Is To Die: The Artist’s Novel
    Metropolis M, 2010
  • How You Lost the Stars
    Kadist Art Foundation, 2009
  • Their Nocturnal Poioumenon
    City of Women, 2009
  • The Personal Game
    MATERIAL, 2009
  • Re: Fictions
    Fillip, 2009
  • Ideal Syllabus
    frieze, 2009
  • The Incunabulum and the Plastic Bag
    A Manual for the 21st Century Art Institution, 2009
  • Don’t Say Yes - Say Maybe! Fiction Writing and Art Writing
    Telling Stories: Countering Narrative in Art, Theory and Film, 2009
  • MF Interview
    Metropolis M magazine, 2008
  • SPUME
    ICA, 2008
  • Review of Hunger
    Art Monthly, 2008
  • The World in your Head & The World in your Hand & The World Tomorrow
    Fully Booked: Cover Art and Design for Books, 2008
  • Window Strikes
    Copy Work, 2007
  • The Penalty for Perfidy
    Fillip, 2007
  • Burger King Drinking
    Producta, 2004


  • Maria Fusco is an award winning Belfast-born writer working across fiction, criticism and theory, her work is translated into ten languages. Recent works include: Master Rock, an experimental radio play performed and recorded inside a granite mountain on the west coast of Scotland, commissioned by Artangel and BBC Radio 4 and the solo-authored books With A Bao A Qu Reading When Attitudes Become Form, 2013 (Los Angeles/Vancouver: New Documents, 2013), Gonda, 2012 and The Mechanical Copula, 2011 (both published Berlin/New York: Sternberg Press). She is currently a Reader at the University of Edinburgh and was Director of Art Writing at Goldsmiths.

    1/4/17

    duncan b. barlow - Gilles, dreamer of dark and beautiful dreams, spinner of strange syntax, copper biter, spark shooter, cat chaser, tunnel explorer



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    duncan b. barlow, Of Flesh and FurThe Cupboard, 2017.
    www.duncanbbarlow.com/


    When even the inner parts of a heart squall with want, calling out a compulsion to procreate, to propagate, to continue the family line with a child, a child—then a child must be had, by any means necessary. But in duncan b. barlow’s Of Flesh and Fur, what was once so wanted twists towards its own toothy hunger, smacking counter slabs and shrieking out the wrong words for a father's love. Squirrels scatter. The coyotes are closing in. There is only so much meat.


    Of Flesh and Fur is an ancient fable that comes from the not too distant future. Its fevered coyotes worry the bones of fathers who don't have sons, of those who are abandoned and abandon in turn. There's only hunger in these pages, fantasies of manliness that make thin feed. Barlow's spare prose spares us nothing. Read or be eaten. — Joanna Rucco


    Part post-modern creation myth, part eerie feral parable, duncan b. barlow’s Of Flesh and Fur is a viscerally stunning and unnerving novelette rendered in corkscrew-tight lines that silver-spiral their way deep into the raw meat of the reader’s psyche. In terse, hallucinatory, meditative chapters in which an accountant attempts to care for a blood-hungry baby cloned from his own genetic material, the story meditates upon fatherhood, melancholia, loneliness, and monstrosity with deft language and razor-sharp imagery. This primal howl of a story is disturbingly tender in all the best possible ways.
    Lee Ann Roripaugh


    This new chapbook from frequent Vol.1 Brooklyn contributor duncan b. barlow taps into threads both primal and futuristic. It tells the story of a solitary man who uses flawed technology to create a child; strange and bleak happenings ensue. It’s a disquieting read, and has us eager to read Barlow’s forthcoming novel. - Lidia Yuknavitch



    duncan b. barlow, The City, Awake, Stalking Horse 2017.


    “Barlow’s metaphysical noir The City, Awake is a novel of chemically induced amnesia, doppelgängers, fanatics, and killers. Saul, a man without a history, awakes in a hotel room with a note in his pocket. Hunting for answers, he must survive rival assassins, a millionaire with an axe to grind, a shape-shifting femme fatal, a silent hit man, and a psychotic who is only looking for an exit. Barlow evokes a vast mid-century modernist cityscape in prose that is by turns hard-boiled, then unexpectedly psychedelic and delicate. With temporal and spatial distortions reminiscent of A. E. van Vogt’s The World of Null-A, the novel that inspired Godard’s Alphaville, this is a vivid investigation of identity, scientific speculation, and Biblical Apocrypha. The City, Awake is a mirror maze of dark streets and darker secrets.” – James Reich


    Labyrinthine, lyrical, and provocative, The City Awake is part philosophical mystery, part dream-like meditation on what it means to be human, all wrapped up into a beguiling postmodern puzzle. Buttressed by Barlow’s luminous prose, The City Awake takes us on an astonishing journey through the darkened bars and hidden alleyways of an expertly-constructed, claustrophobic cityscape where hitmen are sometimes helpless, where femme fatales are seldom what they seem, and where grit and the angelic mingle on every page —a gorgeous surprise. McCormick Templeman





    duncan b. barlow, Super Cell Anemia, Afterbirth Books, 2008.


    "A man who is obsessed with germs is obliged to bite on copper strips to keep from electrocuting himself - or others. While chased by a mutant cat man, suspected by the police, and desperately searching for a cure, it's no wonder that dating presents a particular challenge."

    “In Barlow’s Cincinnati-gone-strange, a germ-obsessed electrified man finds himself at the mercy of a mutant cat man, an odd doctor, misguided policemen, and (perhaps worst of all) the terrors of dating. Unrelentingly bizarre and mysterious, unsettling in all the right ways, Super Cell Anemia is a strange and powerful debut.”— Brian Evenso











    “Prepare yourself, good reader, for you are about to have the great fortune of meeting Gilles, dreamer of dark and beautiful dreams, spinner of strange syntax, copper biter, spark shooter, cat chaser, tunnel explorer, vigilant neighbor and, most importantly, hero of this knockout novel. Go ahead, try it, see for yourself (the guy, like the book, is high-voltage)... shake his hand...” —Laird Hunt









    "In Cincinnati, there lives a man who sometimes emits an electric spark so strong that it burns holes in fences and household furniture. He spends his days and nights either at the office of a somewhat dubious occultist physician, with a Russian dancer who works at a sex shop, or in pursuit of a mutant half-man/half-cat through the abandoned subway tunnels beneath the city. The man’s name is Gilles and he is the protagonist of Duncan B. Barlow’s mysterious and strange new novel, Super Cell Anemia. Through first-person journal entries, third-person narrative, and the occasional tract of modern anthroposophy, Super Cell Anemia offers a wide-ranging jaunt into a gnarly and somewhat schizophrenic urban universe.
    Set over a period of thirteen days, the novel follows its main character through an extraordinary series of events and acquaintances. Gilles, an obsessive-compulsive young man afflicted by a rare illness that causes his muscles to generate large amounts of electricity, has moved to Cincinnati in order to be close to Dr. Moore, the only physician who has been able to help his suffering (all the others just sent him to a psychiatrist, assuming the illness to be psychosomatic). Dr. Moore has suggested that Gilles is in need of a muscle transplant and has prescribed copper strips for him to chew on as a way to control the potentially lethal electric surges in his body.
    Although the novel utilizes some conventions of speculative fiction, the premise of Super Cell Anemia owes as much to the legacy of Kierkegaard and Kafka as it does to H. G. Wells and Edgar Allen Poe. Questions regarding illness and perception figure heavily into the novel’s conceit, providing an intriguing search for rationality in a world generally characterized by irrationality and medical confusion. The language of the novel is often laden with a gothic lyricism:
    Gilles attempts to sit up, but four thick, black tentacles slither from the growing darkness and wrap around his chest. He can feel the bed sinking, and as it gains speed, he fears that his stomach might tear up through his mouth. For a moment, he can see himself with his stomach dangling out between his lips like a dripping wet balloon.
    Between visits to his physician, Gilles lives a nervous and unconventional existence. He develops a fledgling, if somewhat challenged, romance with Charlie, a Russian immigrant’s daughter who was trained to be “the nation’s best dancer” but who now works in a sex shop. Part of Gilles’s time is spent attempting to understand why there is a mutant cat-man (whom Gilles dubs Calicoman) climbing up the side of his building at night. After some investigation, Gilles comes to believe that Calicoman is the leader of a local conspiracy to harvest human eggs and that two of Gilles’s neighbors are involved in the scheme—one of whom is sculpting regurgitated walnut seeds into small nests to serve as incubation chambers for the harvested eggs. Not all the people who live in Gilles’s apartment building are in on the conspiracy, however; Gilles’s landlord, an ingenuous and unexpectedly normal character named Roger, seems to be as surprised as the reader to find that one of his tenants is hiding nests made of regurgitated walnut seeds in heating ducts throughout the building.
    The character of Gilles’s physician plays a central role in the novel. Because of his position, we might assume he is able to provide some answers for Gilles, whose world is characterized almost entirely by uncertainty. But Dr. Moore is also an outcast among the scientific community because of his passionate advocacy of the theories of Rudolph Steiner, the anthroposophist whose theories of education founded the Waldorf Schools and whose agricultural ideas were the first attempts at biodynamic farming. The novel has sporadic excerpts from Moore’s writings regarding “Spirit-Science” (the coming together of divine and corporeal realities that he believes Gilles’s electro-magnetic muscular condition embodies), as well as his social theories on community building. But the writings of Gilles’s physician are in a curiously antiquated dialect, and read like 19th-century religious tracts of an aristocratic prelate: “If a human lacks a connection to his spiritual side, he might never come to experience his full potential as a functioning member of society. Just as a blind man will never see, a percentage of degenerates will never come to good.” Although the doctor is represented as honest in his enthusiasm for his medical and spiritual causes, he also appears out of touch and not quite trustworthy in his analysis of Gilles’s condition or his own medical and theoretical pontifications.
    Constructed as a story of intrigue, Super Cell Anemia relies less on questions of narrative suspense than on its own inexplicable oddness to drive the plot. The reader is not so much compelled through the pages to find out whether someone will catch the Calicoman in the act of harvesting human eggs or whether the police (who have it out for Gilles after he called them on a false alarm) will arrest Gilles for a crime he never committed. Instead, a progression of poignantly bizarre circumstances cause Gilles (and the reader) to keep pushing forward in the hope of arriving at some explanation for what is happening. Despite the surreal quality of the novel, Gilles’s quest for understanding is at root a human one, and the reader consistently identifies with Gilles’s sense of unease and desire to get a firm grasp on his bizarre existence. But Barlow hedges in proffering any physical rationale for the narrative’s obscurity; rather than hone in on a “solution” to the novel’s mysteries, he instead drives the story deeper into its own uncanny nightmare. Gilles’s search for answers over the course of the book develops from being generally hopeful to one characterized by insecurity and paranoia. One night, he follows Calicoman into the subway tunnels beneath the city and observes a woman there he believes is Charlie’s co-worker, becoming convinced that even Charlie is involved in Calicoman’s conspiracy. As Gilles’s suspicions about those around him increase, the reader is forced to question the “truth” of the narrative, giving rise to the possibility that the story is less a recounting of events than a psychic contrivance of its protagonist—a sort of oneiric travelogue of a paranoid subconscious struggling to live in multiple realities. The final pages of the novel bring this issue of diegetic reliability to the fore, when Gilles’s confesses to Charlie his reluctance to trust people and his fear that everyone in the world is against him. Although Charlie suggests this fear is understandable considering his relationship with his mentally ill mother, for the reader, this admission addresses an issue that has dogged the story since the first paragraph, which indicated that all the doctors Gilles had ever seen said his afflictions were psychosomatic. Although the question of which reality is the “real” one is never entirely resolved, the novel does deal with Gilles’s own lack of mental self-control. Without giving away the surprise of the book’s ending, suffice it to say that the last moments of the novel are intensely unexpected and force the reader into reconsidering the events of the last 236 pages.
    A striking and often gripping debut novel by a writer with a prolific and energetic imagination, Super Cell Anemia is charismatic, intelligent, and driven by an intellectual curiosity that substantiates its extreme imbrication of dream, illness, and reality." - Christopher Lura
    "Super Cell Anemia is the first novel by author Duncan b. Barlow. From doing some snooping online, I found several of his short stories, a few critical articles, and a ton of sources about his former music career (he was a touring punk musician for many years before he quit and got his PhD in English). The novel was recommended to me from a friend who is an avid follower of Brian Evenson's work (Evenson does a quote for the back jacket of this book). This book plays with many genre conventions, but never completely commits to the genre, making it a strange but enjoyable read.

    The book centers around a strange, germ obsessed character named Gilles. Gilles has a problem whereby his body produces way too much energy and as a result of this, he begins shocking things. He fears that he may explode and begins to see a strange doctor name Dr. Moore. Gilles' paranoia begins to get the best of him and he believes that the doctor and his newly acquired love interest, Charlie, are out to get him. Throw in a strange hybrid Calicoman, a group of homeless ruffians, two misguided policemen, a man who regurgitates sunflower seeds to make sculptures, and an abandoned subway system and one can begin to see how deep and rich the world Barlow creates truly is.
    Duncan b. Barlow has a strange prose that reminds me of Franz Kafka's later work. It is dark but abounds with hope. It is political but in a very subversive way. Simply by choosing not to give into genre, is a political statement. "How is this?" you might ask. Barlow takes good care to walk a very difficult line between the real and the unreal. His work requires the reader to read actively, to make decisions and not expect the author spell it out for him. If you are expecting Barlow to tell you in the end "it was all a dream" or "he is insane," you won't get it. Barlow wants his readers to decide if Gilles is sane or insane. Whether or not Gilles is sane in an insane world or insane in a sane world is not an answer he wants to give easily; honestly, I don't think it matters because the end result is the same-Gilles is isolated.
    Super Cell Anemia is a journey. The language and lovely dark images Barlow creates makes it a journey worth taking. If you are anything like me, you'll never want the story to end. I hope to read more from this author soon." - Donovan Mansfield









    "Somewhere along the way, I read Super Cell Anemia by Duncan Barlow. Not that it is at all relevant to Thailand or this trip, but he gave me the book a long time ago and I hadn't gotten around to reading it and figured this was as good a time as any. Upon cracking the cover, I even discovered that he thanked me in the credits. Brian Evenson and Laird Hunt both blurbed the book, which was appropriate enough, as to me Duncan's writing style is like a hybrid between the two—macabre as Evenson, while being noir-sleuthy like Hunt.
    Gilles is the electrically charged (literally), obsessive-compulsive, germophobe hero/anti-hero. He periodically needs to chomp on copper strips to diffuse excess charge that builds up in his body. This strange condition provides a certain tension to the book—when you're reading for a while and he hasn't discharged, you almost feel yourself charging with him, in need of release. In a paranoid and hyper-aware state, Gilles navigates through a world of bizarre characters including a calico-cat man, a strangely sympathetic landlord and his confidante Dr. Moore who strives to understand Gilles' ailments, though he appears to have ulterior motives of his own, to use Gilles as his guinea pig. And there's his love interest, Charlie, through which Duncan exposes the strangeness of human dating (when you stop to think about it) by breaking "contact" down to a molecular, germ-obsessed level.
    I actually finished and left the book down on the beach in Krabi for some unsuspecting soul, the day after Xmas which was the fourth anniversary of the Tsunami, and I was watching a show on Thai TV on how animals can predict Tsunamis. In light of this, some of the wisdom Dr. Moore imparts on Gilles was especially interesting:
    "Not quite, Gilles; you will find that when one is completely in touch with his body that it will send small electric impulses to the mind when there are movements that might affect him—specific movements that directly relate to the future of the said individual. I'm not saying I can predict the future, but I have learned to develop certain certain reliable hunches from the information my body generates by way of its electro-bodily reactions."The book is full of such interesting well-researched anecdotes, that usually don't seem too forced or tangential. And even if they distract from the "story," what is it we read for anyway, these morsels of sensory interest? At times it was almost like reading an archaic lecture, or one or those old juju-science books like Devils, Drugs and Doctors. He even lists out categories in the book such as anthroposoph, psychosophy and pneumatosophy, which further break down into sub-categories of
    understanding the senses
    supersense in the human
    inner forces
    creative principle
    electric currents and the senses
    Appropriate enough for the censory name of this blog. There's even a bar in the book called the Frayed Knot—I'm assuming an inside reference to my favorite joke about the piece of the string that walks into a bar and orders a beer. Though the first mention it's called the Fayed Knot. There were a number of distracting typos in the book actually, which reflects on Afterbirth Books more than anything, and there's twelve pages of unsightly ads at the back of the book. Somehow this otherwise literary object got pulped, which I guess might make sense for it as it does fall somewhere in between (i.e. not overly pretentious or high-brow, but not mindless trash)—making it a good poolside read." -
    Derek White
    "A few summers ago I visited Cincinnati. I found it boring, quiet, placid. There were parks and museums and golf courses everywhere. I saw families riding their bikes together. I saw happy children at the zoo, waddling along with ice cream cones. Moms in minivans zooming to Kroger. Cincinnati is the sort of place described as "globally aware" or "old world" or "charming." In short, it was nothing like the Cincinnati portrayed in Duncan Barlow’s debut novel, Super Cell Anemia. Barlow’s Cincinnati is much stranger and darker. It’s more like Cincinnati’s psychotic doppelgänger.
    I cannot summarize the plot of Super Cell Anemia. For one thing, it is too complex—a beautifully meandering work—and for another, it contains too many surprises. Suffice it to say that the novel begins with its protagonist, Gilles, waking with an abnormal pain—thunderous electrical jolts rumbling through his body. It concludes with a disturbing and unexpected disaster brought on by another kind of pain (the ending is the biggest surprise, so I cannot tell much). In between, Gilles controls the jolts by biting down on copper strips given to him by the enigmatic Dr. Moore; he constantly worries about germs, going as far as to clean his cuticles every night with a microscope and a thin sliver of wood soaked in isopropyl alcohol; he chases, and is chased by, a mutated cat-like man (the Calicoman); he struggles to find love with an attractive sex-shop worker and ballet dancer named Charlie; and he evades some suspicious policemen. Put together, it tells a story of fear versus desire, faith versus reason, and reality versus illusion.
    But, ultimately, this fantastic debut novel succeeds not because of its plot or its characterization or its ideas; what makes Super Cell Anemia such a remarkable reading experience is its mind-jolting language. High-voltage similes crack and spark on the page, and there are enough electrifying vivid details in the book to light up a small room. I throw you a few instances: the Calicoman’s eyes peering through Gilles’s window are likened to "black coins floating in orbits of crème brûlée." The leaves of a tree are said to "clap together like an audience of tiny hands." Gray weather "creeps into the apartment like an old and sleepy white tiger." And a whisper in Gilles’s ear is "a breeze of peppermint laced with vodka." This is poetry of the most zestful and animated order; at the same time it is lucid and easily read. Barlow’s language has the sweet toxicity of a plum dipped in kerosene.
    Overall, the result is an absorbing novel with a special appeal for readers who yearn for something exotic and challenging. Super Cell Anemia is one of the finest first novels I’ve read in a long time." - Jason Moore
    "This is a debut novel, but I’ve been following the work of Duncan Barlow the artist for many years. My senior year of high school I would travel all over the Midwest to watch him play guitar in the legendary Louisville hardcore band Endpoint. On the surface Endpoint was just another hardcore act but their emotional shows and genre bending records played with convention. Barlow himself has said it seems like another lifetime. Duncan also played in bands such as the Lull Account, Step Down, By the Grace of God, Dbiddle and my favorite Guilt.

    The most important thing for those of you unfamiliar with Duncan’s musical work is that it was always powerful, original and deeply creative. So the when the news came that one of my favorite presses was set to release barlow’s first novel I was excited. The novel Super Cell Anemia proves in the medium of prose that Duncan Barlow is an artist that values creative expression.
    SCA is about Giles a germ-a-phobe who is so electrified that he relies on an experimental treatment (involving biting copper) to deal with his rare illness. Giles has moved to Cincinnati to continue this treatment and be close to his doctor. As you read the book you begin to wonder how much you can trust the journal entries that often competes with the present tense narrative.
    There are two great strengths to this book. The first is the subtle nature of Barlow’s take on the absurd. I enjoy the over the top whacky-ness of some Bizarro authors like Bradley Sands (also an afterbirth author) and D.Harlan Wilson Especially but this book has different take. Like a slow burn gothic horror novel the moments of the absurd are peppered brilliantly through the first hundred pages. From there the strangeness of the book expands like lungs sucking in a deep breath.
    The second strength is the structure. Giles neighbors get stranger, his doctor goes off on convincing pseudo scientific monologues and most unsettling is the half man calico cat Giles knows is stalking him.
    This is an unsettling debut in all the right ways. Effectively organized through journal entries, narratives from shifting perspectives, and chapters focused on the various rooms and neighbors in Giles building are an inventive touch that relates to the character nicely. My favorite was room 104 where Giles obsesses over the sound of his neighbors late night pisses.
    Super Cell Anemia is a doozy of a character based Bizzaro novel. Excellently written and everything I hoped for when I started it. Duncan Barlow has transcended my perceptions of him as an artist. He is a great novelist who happens to also be a pretty good musician. If you like a strange read this book needs to be on your TBR pile." - David Agranoff




    Places to read other stories: 
    "The Light for Both of Us" -- Banango Street
    "Phone Etiquette" -- The Denver Quarterly
    "Unintended Consequences of Utterances"
    -- The Collagist 
    "Nonconcentric" -- Matter Press
    "The World Dimmed" -- Masque and Spectacle





    1/3/17

    Albertine Sarrazin - a cult rebel classic. Fear of capture, memories of her prison cell, claustrophobia in her hideaways: every detail is fiercely felt.


    Astragal - Serpent's Tail Classics (Paperback)


    Albertine Sarrazin, Astragal, Trans. by Patsy Southgate, New Directions, 2013.

    Patti Smith on the long-lost novel she’s carried with her for almost 40 years.


    As if the reader were riding shotgun, this intensely vivid novel captures a life on the lam. “L’astragale” is the French word for the ankle bone Albertine Sarrazin’s heroine Anne breaks as she leaps from her jail cell to freedom. As she drags herself down the road, away from the prison walls, she is rescued by Julien, himself a small-time criminal, who keeps her hidden. They fall in love. Fear of capture, memories of her prison cell, claustrophobia in her hideaways: every detail is fiercely felt.
    Astragal burst onto the French literary scene in 1965; its fiery and vivacious style was entirely new, and Sarrazin became a celebrity overnight. But as fate would have it, Sarrazin herself kept running into trouble with the law, even as she became a star. She died from a botched surgery at the height of her fame. Sarrazin’s life and work (her novels are semi-autobiographical) have been the subject of intense fascination in France. Patti Smith, who brought Astragal to the attention of New Directions, contributes an enthusiastic introduction to one of her favorite writers.




    'My Albertine, how I adored her! Her luminous eyes led me through the darkness of my youth. She was my guide through the nights of one hundred sleeps. And now she is yours.' At the age of twenty-one, a sad and hungry Patti Smith walked into a bookshop in Greenwich Village and decided to spend her last 99 cents on a novel that would change her life forever. The book was Astragal, by Albertine Sarrazin. Sarrazin was an enigmatic outsider who had spent time in jail and who wrote only two novels and a book of poems in her short life - she died the year before Patti found her book, at the age of twenty-nine. Astragal tells the story of Anne, a young woman who breaks her ankle in a daring escape from prison. She makes it to a highway where she's picked up by a motorcyclist, Julien, who's also on the run. As they travel through nights and days together, they fall in love and must do whatever they can to survive, living their lives always on the edge of danger. A bewitching and timeless novel of youthful rebellion and romance, this new edition of Patsy Southgate's original translation includes an introduction by Patti Smith.


    Astragal is amazing ... Anne is a wonderful anti-hero - a rare role for a woman - and her journey is thoughtfully and poetically expressed. She is the best of the bad girls: spend time with her. - Anna Fielding


    Astragal, originally published in France in 1965 and translated by the Paris Review's Patsy Southgate in 1967, evokes a grittier 1960s than Americans might be familiar with, a 1960s that evolved, eventually, into the revolution and revolt of 1968. Albertine Sarrazin was dead by 1968. She died in July of 1967, having just experienced the leading edge of literary fame, dead of a botched kidney surgery. The fear she expresses in Astragal, when Anne, the autobiographical heroine, is finally hospitalized for her broken ankle, a serious fracture of the astragalus bone, rings chillingly true in light of the author's tragically short, rough life. Sarrazin's novels, written during her own imprisonment, invoke lives as ill-starred and adventurous as her own. Born in Algeria, abandoned, adopted, abused, and eventually incarcerated, she was certainly no less revolutionary than her student inheritors. Anne and Sarrazin share lives of criminality and precocious intellects that, finally, can't save either. Sacrificial heroes, these wild radical girls prefigure the potential of 1968's revolutions, abandoned, like Sarrazin herself, in its nascence.
    Indeed, perhaps the most lyrical and melancholy chapter of Astragal evokes one of the Situationist slogans of the summer of 1969: "Under the paving stones, the beach." Anne travels on le train bleu from Paris to Nice, after some success as a prostitute. Yet Anne's unruly presence within this world of leisure and luxury seems truly revolutionary, especially because a successful heist has enabled Anne's leave, walking from the paving stones of Paris to the beaches of Nice.
    Until this point, Anne has persisted in such a fever pitch of fear and desperation that readers need her vacation on the beach as much as she does: "The warmth of the sun stores itself up in me, not yet radiating out: soon I'll be going back up into the cold again. I'll need my supply." After the beach, Anne gently confronts the Algerian heritage and the nearly-debilitating injury she shares with her ill-starred author,
    I could easily stay here until fall, stretched out, lazy... Shake yourself, girl, you're black enough, your teeth have whitened in your smile, and when they approach you people will ask: "Do you speak French?" Julien won't find the pale child of that first night, I will be a Negro and beautiful and I will please him like a new woman. Even the scar on my foot which has gotten tanned.... My asymmetry? Pff, I am a charming mulatto who limps a little, that's all.
    This suntanned disguise relaxes Anne because she is, throughout the book, a fugitive escapee whose ankle has been shattered by the ultimate leap, from imprisonment to freedom.
    As much as Anne is dogged by her status as a fugitive, she is also literally hobbled by her broken ankle. Kept from medical care for too long, she receives medical attention almost too late, and is told, in terror, "You know, you might lose it..." Through traction, surgery, pins, and various casts, Anne keeps her fugitive state secret, even as she senses that, especially in the institutionality of the hospital, her years in prison betray her: "I had also obeyed quite thoroughly, from habit, the 'Get undressed' of the nurse. Prison still surrounded me: I found it in my reflexes, the jumpiness, the stealth, the submissiveness of my reactions. You can't wash away overnight several years of clockwork routine and constant dissembling of self."
    This disassembling, and constant reassembling, of self that Anne must perform necessitates the beach vacation. She must always stay one step ahead of her pursuers: both the police and the men from whom she tries to maintain autonomy even as they pay her for intimacy -- and indeed, these pursuers seem to meld into the same kind of man. The walking that Anne spends the first part of the book yearning to be able to do becomes a minimal degree of freedom as she struggles to live outside the law. "Where can I find you?" asks an enamored client. "Oh me... I just keep walking," replies Anne.
    Astragal touched readers who were living through the cataclysmic years after the book's publication. Patti Smith's introduction to this new edition, "My Albertine," characterizes Sarrazin and her autobiographical heroines as "Not passing angels but the angels of my life." In Anne, the young Smith found both a kindred spirit and an icon, "armed with the discerning wit of Joan of Arc on trial." Smith's introductory essay not only situates Astragal in her own early life as an artist, but also, in a luminously elegiac tone, revisits Astragal's resonance in her artistic maturity.
    As the young Smith treasured her ninety-five-cent copy of Astragal and carried it as a talisman in her suitcase, so readers of this new edition will, I think, find in Albertine and her alter-ego Anne saints "of the disposable pen and the interminable eyebrow pencil," and bright stars of a 1960s too little recalled. Smith's essay and Sarrazin's crackling and incandescent prose make Astragal a gift, a memento of a decade that was both rough and radical, yet full of potential, and the testament of two astonishing lives, one real, one fictive, both self-invented and utterly extraordinary. - Madeleine Monson-Rosen






    French-Algerian author Albertine Sarrazin’s 1965 novel Astragal is the kind of slim volume so immediately captivating that one might easily feel compelled to read it straight through in one breathless afternoon. But it’s not so much the story — of a young, injured girl’s anxious days on the lam — that keeps the pages turning. Rather, it’s the girl herself. Astragal seduces through the intimate voice of its fugitive narrator, 19-year-old Anne. The story — drawn from Sarrazin’s own life — of Anne’s escape from prison, subsequent incapacitating ankle break (the book is named for the bone she snaps), and arduous recovery, is so alive with Anne’s voice that reading it, one wants simply to remain in her presence, to sit by her bedside as she squirms, frustrated, towards recovery. Anne makes good company.
    Anne and her lover and rescuer Julien live precarious lives. He pulls heists to pay for her care while she anxiously awaits his return, and later, when she can walk, she supports herself as a prostitute on the streets of Paris. But much of the book is more quiet, invoking the feeling of being submerged in the mind of someone who has been too long alone, thoughts circling round and round. We know all of Anne’s momentary cravings and discomforts. As she sits anxiously at dinner, she’s unable to go to the bathroom because she can’t walk on her broken foot. She writes:
    Since the beginning of the meal, I’ve reminded myself of a kid jiggling about shyly on a grownup’s chair: I dream of rising discreetly and with dignity, saying, ‘Excuse me a moment,’ and of walking, casually, as though there were no particular hurry, to the back of the ballroom where the corner “Toilet” has lost its neon but kept the letters.
    Later, in another hideaway, she sits deprived of cigarettes, attempting to listen to her host speaking to her, but instead thinking, desirous and distracted, of “the warmth of the smoke which flows, liquid, with a slight bitter edge, into your throat and chest, making your blood tingle . . . ” and “all of the ashtrays I’ve emptied in my life.”
    She spends much of her time thinking of Julien: what he is doing, what she owes him, in what ways she loves him. In this sense, Astragal is something of a love story. But Julien always remains shadowy. He is a protective and comforting — but also unpredictable and frustrating — figure, coming and going and saving Anne’s life while she’s stuck in bed. Anne sometimes wonders whether her love is just circumstantial: “Do I really want this man so much? He eases my idleness and pain, he is my joy, yes, but . . . If I were able to hope for something else, some other form of pleasure, would I have chosen him?”
    This sense the book gives, of a friend telling a story, is perhaps what lent Astragal such a talismanic quality for Patti Smith, who writes the introduction to the new reissue of Patsy Southgate’s 1967 translation. Smith writes of finding her worn copy years after having first read it in the early 1970s, and, strongly feeling the presence of Albertine herself, wrapping the book in a handkerchief: “It was as if I had Albertine, a battered blossom, beneath my twenty-first century version of sweat-stained tee shirts.” This sense of delicacy and damage comes partly from the fact that Sarrazin died at the age of 29, just a few years after her book was published. It becomes impossible to read Astragal or know its heroine outside of the context of Sarrazin’s own tragic story. Through Anne, Sarrazin emerges as a person fragile and vulnerable, yet full of a fierce energy, leaving some of the substance of herself behind in the form of her writing.
    Anne represents a kind of free and rebellious spirit that might, in the mold of Dean Moriarty of Jack Kerouac’s On the Roadpresent a tantalizing sense of dangerous possibility to young readers, as it did for Patti Smith. But this gets to an odd tension in Sarrazin’s story. Everywhere Anne goes she somehow finds herself confined to a “rectangle” of one kind or another. While Astragal at times recalls such tales of lovers on the run as the films Breathless and Bonnie and Clyde, this is not a road novel, but a story of imprisonment that is always present even if it sometimes changes form.
    Everywhere Anne is sitting or lying or strenuously trying not to limp. She does not move with ease. At once determined and resigned, she tells us “Jail is my right road,” and she never doubts for a moment that she’ll go back someday. While Astragal always maintains an edge of suspense as Anne teeters constantly on the edge of arrest or some other disaster, this is really a story of long convalescence and scraping by to just barely survive. Still, for all the tedious detail of hospital rooms and ankle casts, for all of the rectangles Anne can’t quite make her way out of, she remains an utterly romantic and engaging figure. We always want to spend more time with her. -


    There are author bios and then there are author bios. Try this:“Albertine Sarrazin (1937-1967) was a French-Algerian writer. At an early age she abandoned her studies and turned to a life of crime and prostitution. She wrote her first two novels in prison and was only twenty-nine when she died.”
    That’s from the inside back flap of Sarrazin’s 1965 novel Astragal, newly reissued by New Directions with an introduction by Patti Smith. It’s more of a grabber than finding out where someone got her MFA—but the real news here is that the book is so good it doesn’t end up being overshadowed by the author’s life story.
    Sarrazin knew how to start a novel. Astragal opens with a jailbreak, or rather, what looks very much like a failed jailbreak. Anne, the 19-year-old narrator, has just dropped herself from a 30-foot-wall that surrounded the women’s prison where she’s been locked up; on landing, she shattered her ankle bone—the astragalus or astragal, in case you’re wondering about that title—and can no longer walk. She manages to drag herself to the side of the nearest road, where, just before all is lost, help arrives in the hulking shape of a passing motorist, Julien, who seems curiously willing to help the mademoiselle in distress. There’s a reason Julien is so amenable. All through this hallucinatory opening scene, both flashbacks and Anne’s hardboiled argot (“I had escaped near Easter, and nothing was rising from the dead”) have established her as a tough piece of work; ruthless, amoral, a former petty thief and prostitute with no illusions about the fix she’s in. But she no sooner encounters Julien than the two of them experience a pleasant shock of mutual recognition:
    “... long before he said anything, I had recognized Julien. There are certain signs imperceptible to people who haven’t done time: a way of talking without moving the lips while the eyes, to throw you off, express indifference or the opposite thing; the cigarette held in the crook of the palm, the waiting for night to act or just to talk, after the uneasy silence of the day.”

    Anne’s only real lovers, we learn, have been other women, and her time turning tricks has basically taught her to despise men. But Julien’s membership in the criminal fraternity puts him in another league—and before long his “brotherly” attentions start to have an effect. “Julien was calling me back to men.”
    A teenage fugitive and her roughneck boyfriend taking it on the lam would seem to be irresistibly cinematic material, but in its first half Astragal is primarily intent on all the things that the movies usually leave out. To put it another way, this is a story about criminals, but it’s not a crime novel. The excruciating pain of Anne’s recovery and rehabilitation is matched by the excruciating tedium of the time she endures in hospital rooms and the increasingly shabby series of hideouts where Julien stashes her. The escapee appears to have traded one kind of prison for another.
    But Julien finally brings Anne to Paris, where she gets back on her feet and the narrative finds its legs, too. By now the couple’s affair has evolved into a no-questions-asked arrangement that sees Julien off on long absences where he’s pulling heists and tending to other filles. Pressed for cash, meanwhile, Anne returns to making money her way: by hitting the streets. Presumably because Sarrazin knew the life firsthand, Anne’s account of hooking dispenses with the sentimentality and the prurient appeal male artists often bring to the subject of prostitution. Here she is back on the job, and back on her back: 
    “I am absent, submissive, I don’t think about anything. I won’t even be late for lunch.”
    The detachment is chilling, but gradually we begin to realize that it’s a protective façade; for Sarrazin’s boldest gamble in Astragal is to convince us that Anne is in thrall to an intense inner life, one riven by a kind of romantic, even spiritual yearning.
    Initially that yearning is bound up with her previous lover, Rolande, a powerfully evoked presence who never actually appears in the novel. But as Julien’s absences grow longer and longer (he even does a stretch in jail), it’s evident that he is now the redemptive figure Anne needs to keep herself from teetering into the abyss. Finally, when the two of them reunite and hit the road as a prelude to a decisive getaway, Anne undergoes a humbling epiphany on the beach:
    “... a pain in my stomach or the pain in my leg I can put aside and move away from; but here there is no possible drug or dodge… I understand the terrible consistency of loving, and I am mad with pain.”
    But just as in a classical tragedy, the awakening always comes too late. From the scene on the beach it’s only a few pages to Anne’s long-deferred rendezvous with fate, in an abrupt climax that’s all the more wrenching for being so terse.
    This short novel, rooted in some of the grungiest, grimiest levels of experience, is an affecting parable of spiritual progress. Its depiction of an individual’s passage to grace amid a lowlife milieu is also inimitably French—as Gallic, you might say, as all the cigarette smoke that wafts from these pages—in a way that places Sarrazin in a long line of cultural heroes. To cite just one obvious reference point, while reading Astragal I was put in mind of Robert Bresson’s movie Pickpocket, but other readers may just as plausibly associate Sarrazin with a tradition of literary renegades stretching back to the 19th century.
    That makes it all the more appropriate for this new edition to come with the imprimatur of Patti Smith, the passionate advocate for Rimbaud and a host of other stalwarts from the too-cool-for-school school. Smith’s sensitive introduction, which describes how she first encountered Astragal in a Village bookstall in 1968 and later clung to a paperback edition for decades, also serves as a bracing reminder of how a good book can surface once and then disappear from sight for a generation.
    Here one also wants to hail the translator, Patsy Southgate, whose pungent idiomatic rendering of the original lets us forget that Anne isn’t, in fact, a native speaker of English, and to note that Astragal is as beautifully designed as most recent New Directions titles, a pleasure to hold and behold. (Less happily, the scandalous number of typos in the text makes one wish this publisher could take as much trouble with the insides of its books as it does with the exteriors.)
    I alluded to the sensational aspects of Sarrazin’s life story above, and even a quick search on her name suggests a more-than-passing correspondence between her biography and the events recounted in Astragal. But it would be a disservice to insist on an equivalence between the book and the life—as, evidently, some of its earliest readers did, in 1965. A fierce fictional presence like Anne deserves better than that, as does the woman who created her. Sarrazin’s career may have been tragically curtailed, but her legacy is a novel that grateful readers are discovering now, almost 50 years after her death. - Jeff Tompkins


    Albertine Sarrazin’s novel Astragal, originally published in 1965, is full of a free-wheeling, self-mythologizing attitude rare in modern fiction, but which evokes an era which thrived on heroes who took control of their own fates, seeking complete personal freedom even if it meant living beyond the law - an attitude which was a contributing factor in the conflicts of 1968. Albertine herself never made it to that date (she died in 1967 of complications following surgery, after a life spent in and out of prisons and reformatories), but the novel still reverberates with her energy and spirit.

    Albertine was born in Algeria in 1937, and was abandoned by her parents as a baby. Adopted and bought to France, she was an intelligent child, particularly good at Latin and Maths, but was abused by a member of her new family and placed in a reformatory school. This marked the beginning a life marked by transience and conflicts with authority. Escaping from the school, she travelled to Paris and worked as a prostitute, before being imprisoned in 1953 following a hold-up. She escaped from this prison, too, before meeting her husband. The two stayed on the run for the next decade, communicating by letters when one or the other was locked up. These are the experiences which went into the creation of the semi-autobiographical novel Astragal, written in prison in 1964, and published after her release.
    Astragal is narrated by Anne, a stand in for Albertine herself. The novel opens with her escape from jail, during which she fractures her ankle badly. She is picked up at the roadside by a man on a motorcycle, Julien. She immediately sees that Julien is a fellow outlaw, recognising ‘certain signs imperceptible to people who haven’t done time; a way of talking without moving the lips’. The opening passages are filled with a sense of possibility; ‘the sky,’ she says, ‘had lifted at least thirty feet’. As the couple drive away, she announces that ‘a new century begins’.
    This idea that one might meet one’s lover by chance, at the side of the road, go away together on the back of a motorbike via a series of safehouses and find your identity on the open road, is a common Sixties motif, referenced by everything from Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde and A Bout de Souffle to Natural Born Killers. Astragal, though, shows the experience from the point of view of the woman, frequently abandoned in a series of hostile or confining environments while her man goes off housebreaking. Held back by her damaged ankle, Anne spends her time on the run washing shirts, sewing ties and fending off pimps while Julian disappears for weeks at a time. She worries about being a liability to him, and about how she is going to pay for her board with the various opportunistic hosts Julian finds for her.

    Albertine’s prose is lyrical and impressionistic, filled with images of rebirth. Anne’s initial escape takes place at Easter, and she knowingly refers to her ‘resurrection’ after spending three days in a hospital bed. The narrative recognises that rebirth is not an easy process. While her healing ankle suggests development, or growth, it also holds her back, physically. In the first house they come to, Julien places Anne in a child’s bed. Here, she is nursed, and begins the process of learning to walk again. She doesn’t have the agency of an adult, struggling against the constraints she is placed under and the behaviour she has learned (‘prison still surrounded me: I found it in my reflexes, the jumpiness, the stealth and the submissiveness of my reactions… several years of clockwork routine and constant dissembling of self’).
    More important than this, though, is the mental effect of freedom: ‘suddenly I realised how much each cell, each drop of my blood meant to me, how much I was cell and blood, multiplied and divided to infinity in the whole of my body: I would die if I had to, but all in one piece’. In her introduction to this volume, Patti Smith, who encountered Astragal as a young woman thanks to a cheap edition in a Greenwich Village book stall, asks ‘would I have carried myself with the same swagger, or faced adversity with such feminine resolve, without Albertine as my guide?’ It is her powerful sense of self-definition, of control over her destiny, which gives Anne such strength. As a poor woman, on the run, many of the people she encounters are hostile, but she faces down individuals like the surgeon who treats her ankle but never ‘deigns to notice that, surrounding bone, there is a woman, an uncarvable being who works and thinks’.
    She is unwilling to compromise her sense of self in any way; in Paris, she begins earning money again, street-walking, and considers sending some of her earnings to Julien, who is in prison at this point. His family object, as she is not his wife and they dislike her association with their son, so she drops the idea completely, declaring that ‘to send Julien money under another name doesn’t interest me’. Gradually, Anne becomes more independent, but still continues to wait for Julien, believing that they are fated to be together, even as her lover becomes increasingly unreliable. Several times she almost breaks away, travelling to the coast, but she is always drawn back to the Parisian underworld they both inhabit.
    The narrative moves frequently between the present day and flashbacks, employing the kind of jump-cuts seen in a Godard film. Albertine never goes full stream-of-consciousness, but Anne’s interior monologue is brilliantly captured. She is also able to nail characters with a well-chosen phrase, such as Anne’s preening suitor, who is dismissed with the line ‘even the hairs of his moustache seem to have been planted’. Albertine Sarrazin is a rare literary voice, and Astragal is a compelling view of the counter-culture of her time, retaining a powerful sense of urgency half a century on from its creation. - 


    Upon completing Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal I was left to wonder why it ever fell from print. Aside from the location, Astragal could pass as the great American novel. Its edginess and rawness capture the angst and desires we all had in our 20s, while still bearing a literary feel that is more thought provoking than The Catcher in the Rye. Perhaps this is why Patti Smith, as described in the introduction, carried around the work in her travels for so many years.
    Astragal begins in a disruptive and disjointed style, evolving into a tragic love story and ending with the empowering breakup. The anti-heroine, Anne, escapes from prison only to injure her ankle after jumping from the prison wall. From there she crawls to the road, where she is picked up by a criminal, Julien, and taken to a defunct brothel on the outskirts of Paris run by Nini and Nini’s boyfriend, partners in crime. The longer Anne is in hiding the more necrotic her leg becomes, until she is eventually taken to the hospital by Nini, who poses as Anne’s sister to prevent recognition of Anne as the escapee. After numerous surgeries, Anne’s ankle bones are fused together resulting in a painful recovery and a permanent limp. This ankle injury, as you likely guessed, is a subtext for the innocence and often forgotten things in life that can cause inflated problems in our lives, i.e., prison, but once we overcome or move past them, they revert back to their innocent state—except now there is a residual existence manifested through memory and paranoia of their return.
    Of course Anne falls in love with Julien, who, of course, leaves often without any notice or indication of when he will return. The reader quickly gets a sense that Julien is involved in some form of smuggling and burglary, but always wins women through lascivious gifts so they will overlook the details of his existence.
    Anne, as expected, waits around a little too long and cares a little too much about Julien, causing her to withstand the prison-like conditions Julien has placed her in. That is, Anne has broken out of one prison only to willingly admit herself into a second created by Julien. To add fuel to the fire, the people she imposes on are only deferential when Julien is away or when Anne provides money. As Anne describes,
    I realize that my hosts feel a greedy sort of servility toward him, hidden under their friendly tone of complicity, poised between the two extremes of respect for the guy who knows how to steal, and condescension for the guy you’re doing a favor for.
    Eventually Julien is apprehended by the law and Anne is able to rediscover freedom, although through a man she is not attracted to and which she uses to hide the fruits of her own resorts to burglary.
    You have probably encountered slightly different versions of this story before, but Astragal is worth the re-exploration for Sarrazin’s frank yet poetical prose and lens of a life that cannot be led by the faint of heart. Astragal would not exist if it were not for Sarrazin’s tumultuous life. Like the characters, she was young, imprisoned, and died at 29 due to a botched surgery. (Is anyone reminded of Clarice?)
    As Patty Smith explains in her introduction, Astragal easily becomes a travel companion not only for its familiar love story, but also for its honesty on the daily life of someone hypersensitive to their relationship and also to physical pain, and who is now only identified by that relationship or pain.
    Due to the focus on slightly seedy characters living under the radar of the law, there is also something scandalous and addictive about Astragal. The reader is left to wonder why Anne never tries to escape from Julien’s arranged prisons or his life of crime. However, Sarrazin counters these feelings by leading the reader through Anne’s growth and maturation—“Little by little, I get organized, I have a steady income, shopping lists . . .” Despite maturity, Astragal leaves us to wonder whether we are all imprisoned through our loves and relationships. - Tiffany Nichols


    Laura Jordan: The Rebellious Artistry of Albertine Sarrazin




    Albertine Sarrazin (1937-67) was a French-Algerian writer. At an early age she abandoned her studies and turned to a life of crime and prostitution. She wrote her first two novels in prison and died at twenty-nine.Patsy Southgate (1928-98) was an integral figure of both the 1950s Parisian literary scene and the New York School.


    Albertine Sarrazin

    1/2/17

    Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned collects thirty-six tales, many newly translated, by writers associated with the decadent literary movement, which flourished in France in the late nineteenth century


    Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned

    Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned : Enchanted Stories from the French Decadent Tradition, Ed. by Gretchen Schultz and Lewis Seifert, Princeton UP, 2016.


    The wolf is tricked by Red Riding Hood into strangling her grandmother and is subsequently arrested. Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella do not live happily ever after. And the fairies are saucy, angry, and capricious. Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned collects thirty-six tales, many newly translated, by writers associated with the decadent literary movement, which flourished in France in the late nineteenth century. Written by such creative luminaries as Charles Baudelaire, Anatole France, and Guillaume Apollinaire, these enchanting yet troubling stories reflect the concerns and fascinations of a time of great political, social, and cultural change. Recasting well-known favorites from classic French fairy tales, as well as Arthurian legends and English and German tales, the updated interpretations in this collection allow for more perverse settings and disillusioned perspectives--a trademark style and ethos of the decadent tradition. In these stories, characters puncture the optimism of the naive, talismans don't work, and the most deserving don't always get the best rewards. The fairies are commonly victims of modern cynicism and technological advancement, but just as often are dangerous creatures corrupted by contemporary society. The collection underlines such decadent themes as the decline of civilization, the degeneration of magic and the unreal, gender confusion, and the incursion of the industrial. The volume editors provide an informative introduction, biographical notes for each author, and explanatory notes throughout. Subverting the conventions of the traditional fairy tale, these old tales made new will entertain and startle even the most disenchanted readers.


    "[F]un and intriguing . . . . [E]xcellent windows into a period in history, especially in France, when politics and world strife . . . made it hard to embrace the [happily ever after] of the popular fairy tales."--Heidi Anne Heiner


    "[S]ometimes sardonic, sometimes brutal, often blackly funny and possessed of a peculiarly modern sensibility."--Cameron Woodhead


    "It’s easy to see why Fairy Tales For the Disillusioned is capturing rave reviews. Our cultural climate is ripe for such a round of stories and, as the series from which it appears states, these are, indeed Oddly Modern Fairy Tales."--Once Upon a Blog


    "Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned brings together fairy tales by canonical and noncanonical nineteenth-century French authors. Many of these works have not been anthologized for an English audience--nor a French one--and these translated texts provide a complex view not only of the decadent tale but also of the possibilities of the fairy tale in general."--Anne E. Duggan


    "French fairy tales are too often associated only with the emergence of the genre, especially Charles Perrault's influential stories, and then much later with fairy-tale films. Where did all the fairies go in the nineteenth century? Featuring a wide range of translated decadent fairy tales from France, this welcome and entertaining collection fills a large gap in English readers’ access to such texts. It will definitely have a place in my library."--Cristina Bacchilega


    TABLE OF CONTENTS:
    TALES
    Charles Baudelaire
    Fairies' Gifts 3
    Alphonse Daudet
    The Fairies of France 6
    Catulle Mendès
    Dreaming Beauty 11
    Isolina / Isolin 17
    The Way to Heaven 22
    An Unsuitable Guest 27
    The Three Good Fairies 31
    The Last Fairy 36
    The Lucky Find 41
    The Wish Granted, Alas! 45
    Jules Lemaître
    The Suitors of Princess Mimi 48
    Liette's Notions 60
    On the Margins of Perrault's Fairy Tales: The White Rabbit and the Four-Leaf Clover 68
    Paul Arène
    The Ogresses 72
    Jules Ricard
    Fairy Morgane's Tales: Nocturne II 77
    Marcel Schwob
    Bluebeard's Little Wife 84
    The Green She-Devil 88
    Cice 92
    Mandosiane 95
    Willy
    Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned 101
    Henri de Régnier
    The Living Door Knocker 108
    Rachilde
    The Mortis 115
    Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen
    Sleeping Beauty Didn't Wake Up 128
    Jean Lorrain
    Princess of the Red Lilies 137
    Princess Snowflower 142
    Mandosiane in Captivity 148
    Renée Vivien
    Prince Charming 152
    Albert Mockel
    The Story of the Prince of Valandeuse 157
    The Pleasant Surprise 165
    Pierre Veber
    The Last Fairy 173
    Anatole France
    The Seven Wives of Bluebeard 183
    The Story of the Duchess of Cicogne and of Monsieur de Boulingrin 210
    Emile Bergerat
    The 28-Kilometer Boots 226
    Cinderella Arrives by Automobile 233
    Guillaume Apollinaire
    Cinderella Continued, or the Rat and the Six Lizards 238
    Claude Cahun
    Cinderella, the Humble and Haughty Child 243
    Bibliography 247
    Biographical Notes 251


    review by Richard Marshall excerpt:
    Pierre Veber’s ‘The Last Fairy’ includes an advert: ‘Get eternal youth with Z cream…’ It’s a version of our impassible contemporary world, all its freights, crew and cargo, where even champagne feels like prison water. A sensibility that grew out of the 19th century and the chaos of France: its perpetual revolution, regime change, two empires, two monarchies, three republics – these are this time’s fairy stories, and so ours too in a certain mood. Decadent fairy stories were popular between 1870 and 1914 and have been told ever after, versions of ourselves as ‘… diminished and more unhappy than before, because they have understood that mankind has succeeded in conquering supreme magic, and that there is no longer a place for fairies in the modern world.’ This is a beautiful book that features a wide range of decadent fairy tales from France that fills a large gap in English readers’ access to such texts. Gretchen Schultz and Lewis Seifert have done a wonderful job in bringing these together in what is increasingly becoming essential, the great Jack Zipes’ ‘Oddly Modern Fairy Tales’ series.
    The conte de fees appeared from the late 17th century to the Revolution and were aimed at adult readers. New versions of the familiar fairy stories appeared via writers such as George Sand, translations of the Grimms and Anderson, opera adaptions by Offenbach and Dukas, the films of Melies and so forth. A burgeoning children’s literature made Puss N Boots, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood etc ubiquitous and so distortion, perversion and deliberate tinkering with them became an effective vehicle for agendas political, social and aesthetic. So, for example, Charles Perrault’s ‘ Stories or Tales of Yesteryear’ of 1697, became mistranslated deliberately so that ‘spectre de la rose’ became ‘ spectrum of rose’ on wet nights, and the mood and atmosphere changes just like that. The innocence and enchantments of flowers were translated into something much more wild, sexual and violent in these writings. In Rachilde’s ‘The Mortis’ everyone becomes ‘… larval men wrapped in filthy rags, creatures struck with vertigo who spun faintly before dropping to the ground. Roses repopulated the deserted city. They came to life tumultuously, rushing forward with heads knocking together like troops of children in love with ruins for the disorder they provide. They were no longer bouquets, but rather gangs…’
    What drove this was a refined, desperate, reactionary and anti-modern, usually religious sensibility that asked in all seriousness sequences such as: ‘Who hasn’t dreamt of dying gloriously at the Battle of the Dunes casting dice upon a drum, smithereened by a cannonball? Of receiving inheritances from cousins of Outarde? Gazed on towers ruined on orders from Richelieu, pale and quaking, as if a dream without rain would not be anything less than an absolutist craving for rain as charm?’You get the gist. Here gravity is of the order of ‘an ogleful of tears’, a crooked homage to the gulf between the here and the light of an aristocratic beam of eternity, a hungered nice little whimper of the mystic strange and exalted death of a wronged Bluebeard by treacherous Pierre and Cosme, those two with him a syzygetic threesome who ‘… ran their swords through his body from behind and continued to strike at him long after he had breathed his last.’ It’s an imagination that tends towards a truncated and perverted version of what has been lost.So here the version of Bluebeard takes this infamous character from a different perspective where everything points to something else and gestures beyond itself to something which stands in its place not in allegorical glory but as a form of post truth realism. It’s a cavalier attempt that criminalises the wives, working like the uncanny feeling Freud’s wolfman feels witnessing the beating of horses, the same guy who asks Ninya whether God has an arse. It is the conquest of intellectual modernity filtered through some wild supreme magic and the queasy yellow of lost absolutism.
    This is the imagination of the decadent movement in France reacting to the Third Republic (1870- 1940), the flames of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and the Paris Commune of 1871. Devastating losses to Prussia, rapidly evolving class powers, the entrance of women to the workforce were all seen as the start of the last events of last times. Decadent fairy stories were squibs of savage irony in the face of fierce modernist mortality. Labour movements, women’s rights, education for girls and marriage, all these reforms were threats and forced the aristocratic imagination to go backhanded against the shift. Anticlerical ressentement pressed a right royal ‘auf dem Tisch’ ie show your hand, commit yourself to the way back to the ancient forests. Republican secularism led to a secular state by 1905 and Auguste Compte and positivism. Science and progress. Darwin and evolution, modernity, railroads, automation, electricity, medicine and Louis Pasteur’s germ theory, photography, x rays, transatlantic ocean travel, automobiles, the telegraph, these all contributed to an episode of personal engulfment for the ancient regime that lay nakedly exposed, doomed and confined without sanctuary before the influx. The crisis was a very real thing, though cast in terms of a very particular social setting, that of an Absolutist French Enlightenment in contrast to the Scottish Enlightenment across the channel which, sans Absolutism, responded differently. But Aristocrats and Positivists both were aware of the link between knowing and being, and the vernacular of life resists translation into any sacred new modern language of truth. The question for Positivism was what had humanism of any kind got to offer in terms of truth and for the Absolutist they too saw how Positivism eroded a link that sanctified their powers and privileges. Both saw that no matter how we live and what we seem to need to do so, nothing of that linked with science and what was actually true. How the world really is and how we dwell in it were rightly seen by both Positivists and Aristocrats as irrevocably irreconcilable. The enchantments we live by are condemned as false by science and the disenchantment leaves us as exiles. This cognitive and sociological exile is the modern predicament and is the predicament shaping these fairy stories of the disillusioned.
    The writers of these stories were serious and faced up to the crisis in their stories, posing the issue in terms of the end of fairies and fantasy worlds, but knowing that a whole new social order was being built out of the ruins of enchantments. So Ernest Renan recognized that ‘ … the richness of the marvelous endures up until the incontrovertible advent of the scientific age’ and Goyau wrote that ‘railways… put fairies to flight.’ Naturalism, hyperrealism, scientific approaches to literature championed by Zola required no irrationality, no talking animals, no naivety and wondrous didacticism. Science fiction such as that developed by Jules Verne worked with the acknowledgement that; ‘The good fairies of yesteryear are no longer among us… There is only one remaining today: the fairy Electricity, whose godson Jules Verne might well have been.’ Jean Lorrain wrote that the ‘… children of this generation read Jules Verne rather than Perrault,’ and as we noted at the start, Pierre Veber’s ‘The Last Fairy’ showed that any real fairies were now outperformed by technology.
    The Decadence movement literally was a move to ‘to fall away’ from this. It was politically conservative, harking back to the lost Absolutism of an Aristocratic Ancien Regime but was nevertheless aesthetically radical. Philippe Jullian wrote that decadence ‘… responds to the profound need for a change of scene; their magic wand is a protest against Edison’s discoveries.’ These decadent writers looked back to classic fairy tales. The stories are more perversions than revisions where villains relate their version of tales against the original victims. They challenge the seriousness and authority of Perrault using mocking ironical voices. They also, as might be expected from their politically reactionary standpoint, ignored the women writers who dominated 17th century vogue for fairy stories. All the writers collected here are men. They also referenced other traditions beyond Perrault such as Arthurian legend and fantastic literature. The fantastic according to Tzvetan Todorov ‘is predicated on a narrative hesitation about the reality of seemingly supernatural events’ and this reminds me of Beckett’s letter to Axel Kaun on Beethoven’s seventh symphony being a ‘ sound surface torn by enormous pauses.’ Decadent writers used this hesitation to realign and reset their tales, tearing holes in the original stories as if rending them strictly to their shattered other side, jazzier and mirrored.