• print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    RUDELY MECHANICAL

    “Many people answer with ‘Yes, but . . .’” wrote Marcel Duchamp in 1954, in a tribute to his great friend Picabia, who had died the year before. “With Francis it was always: ‘No, because . . .’” Inventor of the “machinist painting” and carrier of the Dada virus to New York and Paris, Picabia was editor of the journal 391 and author of numerous books of poetry and prose, along with manifestos, aphorisms, and scenarios for ballets and films. He impressed everyone who met him with a cocksure nihilism. “Anybody called Francis is elegant, unbalanced, and intelligent,” Gertrude Stein opined. Tristan

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    RANT PARTY

    Percival Everett—author, academic, fly fisherman, woodworker, painter, and mule trainer—has a talent for militant irony that feeds on variety and extremes. Refreshingly profane, his novels have nimbly led such sacred cows as African-American studies and Native American reparations to the abattoir. In Erasure (2001), he gave us the down-and-out novelist Thelonius Ellison, who, fed up with being told his fiction isn’t “black enough,” writes a book called My Pafology—and promptly garners Oprah-sanctioned fame. Everett’s new book takes on another worthy if easier target— George W. Bush’s America—but

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    Perhaps the title of Jason Brown’s second story collection, Why the Devil Chose New England For His Work, begins with an interrogative because this is a book that believes in right and wrong answers. Most of the eleven tales describe exceptional instances in the lives of the residents of Vaughn, a fictional Maine town. It might be more accurate, however, to say that the town does the telling. Right-minded, rigid, yet deeply conflicted, Vaughn’s inhabitants collectively struggle to repress their less virtuous instincts. It’s no wonder that the devil chose this semimythical rural New England

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    Shining at the Bottom of the Sea, the second novel by Stephen Marche, purports to be a compendium of Sanjanian literature, Sanjania being “little more than an invisible dot in the middle of the North Atlantic, almost in danger of becoming a phantom island.” Introduced by a scholar named Stephen Marche, this “anthology” illustrates Sanjanian literary development over several hundred years, from the distribution of pirate narratives and morality tales in the eighteenth century, to fiction’s engagement with the struggles of the colony under British rule, to the flowering of narrative that came

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    In Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s stories, the subjectivity of perception is often dramatized. His principal subjects—the gap between society and self; the conflict between tradition and modernity, religion and enlightenment—are transformed via various renderings. Mandarins, his latest collection, features fifteen tales, including three new English translations. In the title story, a man’s spell of apathy and ennui is momentarily broken when he witnesses the young peasant woman he’s been observing on a train throwing mandarins, “the color of the warm sun” and a symbol of Japanese daily life and hope,

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2007

    SEEKING IN TONGUES

    A beautiful man with violet eyes sequesters himself in a language lab and masters ten tongues yet barely has a word to say for himself. Abel Nema, whose last name, we’re told, translates as “the mute” or “the barbarian,” is a fugitive from a land that no longer exists, living a hand-to-mouth existence in an unnamed European country. Often lost, Abel is periodically deranged, bisexual in his appeal, and a magnet for mayhem; his natural state is ambiguity. In Day In Day Out, Terézia Mora—a fiction writer, playwright, and translator born in Hungary in 1971 who’s lived in Germany since 1990— has

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  • print • Feb/Mar 2006

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