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RAIN TAXI @ AWP TAMPA

March 7 – March 10, 2018
2018 AWP Conference & Bookfair
Tampa Convention Center
& Marriott Tampa Waterside

Rain Taxi is proud to be a Literary Partner at the 2018 AWP Conference, March 7-10 in Tampa, FL. Find us at table T-1023 in the Bookfair, where we’ll have specials on subscriptions, chapbooks, t-shirts and more—stay tuned!

On Friday March 9 at 1:30 pm, join Rain Taxi editor Eric Lorberer as he moderates the featured event “Writing Place, People, and Culture: Nonfiction at its Finest” co-sponsored by Rain Taxi and Grove Press. The event features writers award-winning and critically-acclaimed writers Bob Shacochis, Kao Kalia Yang, and Molly Brodak, who will discuss crafting nonfiction narratives across myriad forms, explore the joys and difficulties of mining one’s personal history and bringing place, culture, and people to vibrant life on the page.

Writing Place, People, and Culture: Nonfiction at its Finest

Sponsored by Grove Atlantic Press and Rain Taxi Review of Books.
featuring Eric Lorberer, Molly Brodak, Bob Shacochis , Kao Kalia Yang

Friday, March 9, 2018
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
Ballroom C, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor

Join award-winning and critically-acclaimed writers Bob Shacochis (Kingdoms In The Air) Kao Kalia Yang (The Song Poet), and Molly Brodak (Bandit: A Daughter's Memior) as they discuss crafting nonfiction narratives across myriad forms. From journalism to memoir to travel writing, all three authors explore the challenges of mining one’s past and present, and the joys and difficulties of bringing place, culture, and people to vibrant life on the page. Moderated by Eric Lorberer, editor of Rain Taxi Review of Books.

2017 Rain Taxi Events

Paul Auster

Kagin Commons, Macalester College, February 15, 2017


At our first event of 2017, acclaimed author Paul Auster presented his new novel 4 3 2 1 to a crowd of nearly 250 people, reading an excerpt about the grade school newspaper editorship of one of his Ferguson protagonists. After the reading, Auster sat down with Rain Taxi editor Eric Lorberer for an onstage discussion about the novel. To commemorate the event, Rain Taxi published a limited edition letterpress broadside, signed by the author—for more information about the broadside, click HERE.

George Saunders

Parkway Theater, March 1, 2017

George Saunders, HarMar Superstar, Josh Cook, John Moe, and Eric Lorberer. photo by Jennifer Simonson

Nearly 400 people packed the Parkway Theater to hear the funny and wise words of George Saunders as he presented his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. Joined onstage by HarMar Superstar, Josh Cook, John Moe, and Rain Taxi editor Eric Lorberer, Saunders and company read the voices and citations that create this moving, unique work of literary art. Afterwards, Saunders sat down with Lorberer to discuss the novel and take questions from the audience. To commemorate the event, Rain Taxi published a limited edition letterpress broadside, signed by the author—for more information about the broadside, click HERE.

photo by Jennifer Simonson

photo by Jennifer Simonson


Susan Stewart and Ann Hamilton

Minneapolis Institute of Art, March 18, 2017


Rain Taxi's first ever event at Mia drew 200 people to see a unique collaborative and mesmerizing performance by poet Susan Stewart and artist Ann Hamilton. This event was presented by Rain Taxi and Mia in collaboration with the College of St. Benedict and Graywolf Press.


Asemic Translations

Minnesota Center for Book Arts, March 25, 2017

A standing room only crowd pushed into MCBA to experience Asemic translations with odd symbols, sounds, and nonsensical, boisterous words. Presenters included John M. Bennett, C. Mehrl Bennett, Tom Cassidy, Maria Damon, Jefferson Hansen, Scott Helmes, Elisabeth Workman, and exhibition curator Michael Jacobson, with musical by Ghostband.

Maria Damon with embroidered piece for Iggy Pop

Jefferson Hanson, Tom Cassidy, C. Merhl Bennet, Jonathan Bennett, and Eric Lorberer

Elisabeth Workman discussed asemic texts in her alley.

Jefferson Hanson

Michael Jacobson


Red Pine

Plymouth Congregational Church, April 3, 2017

Famed Chinese translator, Bill Porter, aka Red Pine, read excerpts from his new book Finding Them Gone: Visiting China’s Poets Of The Past, detailing visits to sites of the great Chinese poets, honoring them with pours of rye whiskey. He also sang some poems in the original Chinese (fortified with said whiskey) and read his translations to full house. Want to learn more? See our video interview with Red Pine HERE.




Somalis in the Twin Cities

Open Book, Target Performance Hall, April 18, 2017

From left to right, Jaylani Hussein, Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, Stefanie Chambers, R. T. Rybak. Photo by Jennifer Simonson.

Rain Taxi presented a discussion featuring authors Stefanie Chambers (Somalis in the Twin Cities and Columbus, Temple University Press) and Ahmed Ismail Yusuf (Somalis in Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society Press), and moderated by Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director of CAIR-Minnesota. The event was introduced by former mayor of Minneapolis R. T. Rybak, author of Pothole Confidential (University of Minnesota Press). The event was co-presented with Trinity College and Minneapolis Foundation.

From left to right, Jaylani Hussein, Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, and Stefanie Chambers. Photo by Jennifer Simonson

Stefanie Chambers and Ahmed Ismail Yusuf sign books.. Photo by Jennifer Simonson.

The Twin Cities are home to the largest Somali American population in the United States, and this community has made important contributions to the political, economic, and social fabric of the region. Given the current uncertainty about immigrant and refugee policy, combined with the challenges the Muslim community faces under the current administration, Rain Taxi hosted this important event at Open Book in Minneapolis. Book sales were handled by Milkweed Books.

Lit Community Picnic

The Commons, Saturday, June 17, 2017 12 to 2 pm

A gorgeous day for a picnic in The Commons! People gathered to learn about upcoming literary events and to celebrate the Twin Cities Literary Calendar.

Adrian Matejka

SooVac Gallery, Saturday September 16, 2017, 8:00 pm

As Rain Taxi’s contribution to the second annual Lit Crawl MN, poet Adrian Matejka read selections from three of his books, Map to the Stars, Mixology, and The Big Smoke. His animated style and big heart kept the audience entranced. To commemorate the event, we published a limited edition letterpress broadside of a new poem by Matejka — for more information about the broadside, see HERE.

Nicole Krauss

Uptown Church, Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 7:00 pm

Acclaimed novelist Nicole Krauss read from her new work, Forest Dark, which follows two different characters along journeys of escape and self-discovery. In intervening discussion moments and a riveting audience Q&A, she provided a fascinating look into her process as a writer as she navigates the uncertainties of creating a story.



Twin Cities Book Festival

Friday, October 13 and Saturday, October 14, 2017
See recap here

John Hodgman

Kagin Commons at Macalester College, Thursday, November 2, 2017


Author, humorist John Hodgman was joined onstage by local radio personality John Moe to discuss his new memoir Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches to an appreciative and well-disciplined audience. Members of the audience were instructed to help Hodgman plan the evening and keep him on time, with one person yelling "Question Time!" to stop the conversation and another to begin a standing ovation to stop the Q&A. As entertaining as ever, John Hodgman regaled with stories from his book, meticulous instructions on what types of spatula and pans one should use in the kitchen (OXO good grips and vintage cast iron), and his love of making breakfast sandwiches (back up career?).


RAIN TAXI AT MIA

Minneapolis Institute of Art, Thursday, November 16, 2017

Rain Taxi and other great Minnesota literary organizations gathered at Mia's Third Thursday: Art & Lit event for some interactive literary fun. Rain Taxi's editor Eric Lorberer and local poet Paula Cisewski offered Poetry Tarot readings, offering life advice with the aid of the Tarot and their poetic skills!

James P. Lenfestey

Plymouth Congregational Church, Tuesday, December 5, 7pm

James Lenfestey wowed the crowd with his reading from his new collection, A Marriage Book: 50 Years of Poems from a Marriage. Lenfestey was introduced by Milkweed Editions' editor Daniel Slager.

Anne Fadiman

The Soap Factory, Monday, December 18


Anne Fadiman discussed and read from her new book, The Wine Lover’s Daughter to a rapt and appreciative audience, listening to stories about her father, renowned critic Clifton Fadiman. Rain Taxi was ecstatic to have this award-winning author come to the Twin Cities to celebrate this amazing memoir.


MARY JO BANG & STEPHANIE BURT

Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 7:00 pm
Uptown Church
1219 West 31st Street, Minneapolis

Join us as Rain Taxi and Graywolf Press present two acclaimed poets reading from their latest works. Books will be available for purchase courtesy of Magers & Quinn Booksellers, and a reception will follow. Don’t miss this wintertime poetry celebration!

This is a ticketed event. Advance tickets are $5 each.
Purchase tickets via PayPal through the link below:

Mary Jo Bang’s most recent book is A Doll for Throwing, which takes its title from Bauhaus artist Alma Siedhoff-Buscher’s Wurfpuppe, a woven doll that, if thrown, would land with grace. Bang’s prose poems in this fascinating book create a Bauhaus-era speaker who witnessed the school’s shuttering by the Nazis in 1933. Since this speaker is not a person but only a construct, she is also equally alive in the present, and gives voice to the conditions of both time periods: nostalgia, xenophobia, and political extremism.

“A haunting exploration of a past world whose terrors still ring true today, A Doll for Throwing testifies to the permanency of art [and] the value in creating.” —Ms. Magazine

Bang is the author of six previous books of poetry, including Elegy, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has also published a celebrated translation of Dante’s Inferno. She teaches at Washington University in Saint Louis.

Stephanie Burt’s most recent book is Advice from the Lights, which asks the question: How do any of us achieve adulthood? And why would we want to, if we had the choice? With poems on politics, childhood, gender identity, parenthood, desire, pop music, and more, it’s an accomplished collection by someone who occupies an exciting and original place in American poetry.

“Burt’s year-by-year cataloging gives Advice From the Lights an immediacy within its nostalgia, a compelling ars poetica of self.” —The Millions

Burt is Professor of English at Harvard and the author of several previous books of poetry and literary criticism, among them Belmont and Close Calls with Nonsense, as well as the Rain Taxi chapbooks Why I Am Not a Toddler and All Season Stephanie.

Volume 22, Number 4, Winter 2017 (#88)

Volume 22, Number 4, Winter 2017 (#88)

To purchase issue #88 using Paypal, click here.

JOHN ASHBERY, 1927–2017:

John Ashbery & David Kermani | interviewed by Eric Lorberer
Lunch with John | by Thomas Devaney
The New Life | a comic by Gary Sullivan

INTERVIEWS:

Tatiana Ryckman: Love makes us all equally stupid. | interviewed by Caitlyn Renee Miller
A. C. Burch: The Act of Writing Itself | interviewed by Mari Carlson

FEATURES

Benjamin De Casseres: The Forgotten Critic | by Richard Kostelanetz
Claudia Savage: Immersed in the Elements | by Christopher Luna
Eugenio Montale’s Mottetti: A Brief Essay | by Dennis Barone
Behind the Scenes with Neal Cassady’s Son from Denver and Jim Morrison’s Brother-in-Law from Liverpool | by Zack Kopp

PLUS:

NONFICTION REVIEWS:

Tracks Along the Left Coast: Jaime de Angulo & Pacific Coast Culture | Andrew Schelling | by Patrick James Dunagan
Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions | Valeria Luiselli | by Will Braun
Great Plains Bison | Dan O’Brien | by Alex Starace
The World Broken In Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, and The Year That Changed Literature | Bill Goldstein | by Matthew Cheney
Autumn | Karl Ove Knausgaard | by Mark Gustafson
Mozart’s Starling | Lyanda Lynn Haupt | by Ryder W. Miller
The Bettencourt Affair: The World’s Richest Woman and the Scandal That Rocked Paris | Tom Sancton | by Douglas Messerli

FICTION REVIEWS

Forest Dark | Nicole Krauss | by Elizabeth de Cleyre
Moonbath | Yanick Lahens | by Bronwyn Averett
Rapture | Iliazd | by M. Kasper

Sweetbitter | Stephanie Danler | by Rachel Keranen
Goodbye, Vitamin | Rachel Khong | by Jenn Mar
Games & Stunts | Albert Mobilio | by Douglas Messerli
Veer | Kim Chinquee | by Ralph Pennel
Milena, Or the Most Beautiful Femur in the World | Jorge Zepeda Patterson | by Garin Cycholl

POETRY REVIEWS

Hallowed: New and Selected Poems | Patricia Fargnoli | by Janet McCann
The If Borderlands: Collected Poems | Elise Partridge | by Anshuman Mody
The Wilds of Poetry: Adventures in Mind and Landscape | David Hinton | by George Longenecker
How To Get Over | t’ai freedom ford | by Julia Stein
Reaper | Jill McDonough | by John Bradley
Dazzle Shipes | Jamie Sharpe | by Greg Bem
Map to the Stars | Adrian Matejka | by Jonathan Maule
Heart In A Jar | Kathleen McGookey | by David Nilsen
Roads Taken: Contemporary Vermont Poetry | Sydney Lea & Chard DeNiord, eds. | by George Longenecker
Whereas | Layli Long Soldier | by Matthew Pincus
I Know Your Kind | William Brewer | by Jackson Holbert
Chapbooks in Review | edited & designed by Mary Austin Speaker
Boys Quarter | Chukwuma Ndulue | by Ashleigh Lambert
Reset North America to Default Settings |
Richard Wehrenberg, Jr. | by MC Hyland
Flower Wars | Nico Amodar | by Ashleigh Lambert
Yes & What Happens | Hailey Higdon | by MC Hyland

ART & COMICS REVIEWS

The Stampographer | Vincent Sardon | by Scott Helmes
To Have & To Hold | Graham Chaffee | by Jeff Alford
Beowulf | Santiago García & David Rubín | by John Eisley

To purchase issue #88 using Paypal, click here.

Rain Taxi Print Edition, Vol. 22 No. 4, Winter 2017 (#88) | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2017-2018

Chris Monroe

Chris Monroe is an author, illustrator, visual artist and cartoonist. She is the author of seven children's picture books, as well as the illustrator of picture books by authors Kevin Kling, Jane Yolen, and Janice Levy. Her comic strip, "Violet Days" has been in print for over 19 years, and is featured in the collection "Ultra Violet: Ten Years Of Violet Days." You can visit her website for more information on the many books and gorgeous art available at chrismonroestudio.com.

2017 RAIN TAXI BENEFIT AUCTION

Rain Taxi’s End-of-Year Benefit Auction

Get great deals on signed first editions, chapbooks, and broadsides, and help our nonprofit organization drive into 2018 with a full tank! The auction takes place on eBay and 100% of the purchase price will be donated to Rain Taxi. Shop for gifts, or for yourself!

CLICK HERE TO GO TO EBAY AND START BIDDING

Bidding is open until 8 pm PST on Sunday December 17, 2017.
Here are the authors who have items in this year’s auction:

Hanif Abdurraqib
Sherman Alexie
Charlie Jane Anders
M.T. Anderson
Paul Auster
Robert Beatty
William S. Burroughs
Matthew Carroll
Roz Chast
Louis V. Clark III
Coffee House Press
Peter Conners
Yrsa Daley-Ward
Cory Doctorow
Stanley Elkin
Heid Erdrich
Brian Evenson
Michel Faber
Al Franken
Philip Glass
Albert Goldbarth
Patricia Hampl
Daniel Handler
Werner Herzog
John Hodgman
Denis Johnson
Lawrence Joseph
Allan Kornblum/ Kent Aldrich
Nicole Krauss
William Kent Krueger
Li-Young Lee
Thomas Lux
Adrian Matejka
Andrew McCarthy
Leslie Adrienne Miller
Ann Patchett
J. Otis Powell
Richard Powers
Claudia Rankine
Donald Revell
Salman Rushdie
George Saunders
Vijay Seshadri
Matthew Isaac Sobin
Annie Spence
Susan Stewart
James Tate
Scott Turow
Connie Wanek

Plus, original textile art, literary broadsides, and t-shirts!

A TRIBUTE TO DENIS JOHNSON

Friday, January 19, 2018, 7:00 pm
Moon Palace Books
3032 Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis

Join us as we celebrate the life and writing of Denis Johnson, who died on May 24, 2017. Best known for his 1992 work of fiction Jesus’ Son and his 2007 National Book Award-winning novel Tree of Smoke, Johnson was also the author many other works of fiction, poetry, drama, and journalism. This event celebrates the January 16 release of Johnson's posthumous book of stories, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden (Random House), which the author finished shortly before his death—and which is already being called "an instant classic" by advance reviewers (see below).

Free and open to the public, with reception to follow.

Participants include:

Charles Baxter is great American novelist, essayist, and poet who calls Minnesota home.

Venus de Mars is a multidisciplinary artist and musician, best known as the singer-songwriter transgender rock star fronting the band All the Pretty Horses.

Lynette Reini-Grandell is the author of Approaching the Gate and the forthcoming Wild Verge. She performs poetry with the Sonoglyph jazz collective and the Bosso Poetry Company.

Jim Roll is a Wisconsin-based musician whose discography includes the album Inhabiting the Ball, which features songs co-written with Denis Johnson and Rick Moody.

Har Mar Superstar is a Minneapolis-based songwriter & performer who is renowned for his live act; also known as Sean Tillmann, he "earns his keep with sweat equity."

Advance praise for The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

“Mesmerizing . . . psychologically revelatory, spiritually inquisitive, and grimly funny stories . . . Johnson will be remembered and revered as an incisive storyteller fluent in the comedy and tragedy of human confusion and the transcendence of compassion.”—Booklist (starred review)

“American literature suffered a serious loss with Johnson’s death. These final stories underscore what we’ll miss. . . . Johnson is best known for his writing about hard-luck cases—alcoholics, thieves, world-weary soldiers. But this final collection ranges up and down the class ladder; for Johnson, a sense of mortality and a struggle to make sense of our lives knew no demographic boundaries.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“An instant classic . . . A masterpiece of deep humanity and astonishing prose . . . It’s filled with Johnson's unparalleled ability to inject humor, profundity, and beauty—often all three—into the dark and the mundane alike. These characters have been pushed toward the edge; through their searches for meaning or clawing just to hold on to life, Johnson is able to articulate what it means to be alive, and to have hope.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Discovery in Darkness: An Interview with Samanta Schweblin

photo by Alejandra Lopez

by Allan Vorda and Liliana Avila

Samanta Schweblin was born in Argentina in 1978. In 2001 Schweblin published her first book, The Nucleus of Disturbances; this was followed by Birds in the Mouth (2009), Rescue Distance (2014), and a collection of stories called Seven Empty Houses (2015). All of her books were originally published in her native Spanish. At the invitation of the German government she moved to Berlin for a writing residency; there, she finished Rescue Distance, which recently was published in an arresting English translation (by Megan McDowell) with the new title of Fever Dream (Riverhead, $25).

Fever Dream is a short novel involving a deathbed conversation between a woman named Amanda and a young boy named David. The story itself is like a fever dream that moves in and out of both time and reality. Something in the rural countryside, possibly water or pesticides, is making the people very ill. When David was sick, his mother, Carla, took him to a woman “in the green house” who healed him by “transmigration”—moving some of the illness to another person. David’s focus now is to make Amanda understand the “exact moment,” while Amanda’s focus is to maintain a “rescue distance” from her daughter to try and prevent her from getting ill.

For this interview, Allan Vorda wrote questions in English and Liliana Avila wrote questions in Spanish. Avila then translated the English questions into Spanish, and translated Schweblin’s answers to both sets of questions into English. The result below is a window into one of the most unique Spanish writers at work today.


Allan Vorda: You were born in Buenos Aires in 1978. What was it like growing up there and what was your educational background?

Samanta Schweblin: I was born in Buenos Aires but grew up in Hurlingham, a neighborhood that at that time bordered with more rural areas. The route, for example, that is very present in my books, I took it every morning to go to school. In the same block one could have a pharmacy with its large neon sign, and on the other corner a chicken coop and horses tied to a light pole. I think that something of this area where the countryside and the city come together has been very marked in my texts. It was a very free childhood; I could leave home alone since I was little, and I had gangs of friends. These are unthinkable things for a ten-year-old to do now in Buenos Aires, with the violent and insecure place that the city has become.

My literary training began on my seventeenth birthday, when I began attending literary workshops in the capital. I also enjoyed the fifty-minute trip to the city by train, the personal feeling of independence that let me go alone with that excuse. Then, I did the film career, which was also a great push for writing, because I specialized in the area of the screenplay. I kept going to literary workshops until I was thirty.

AV: Since you were born in Argentina, the country of the great Jorge Luis Borges, did his writing have any influence on you? What about other South American writers such as the Brazilian Machado de Assis, the Columbian Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and any other writers?

SS: Of course. I always say that I fell in love with literature by reading the Americans. Borges has always fascinated me, but from the intellectual side, not so much from the emotional, which I believe is the one that penetrates deeper in my inspirations. I was fascinated by Juan Rulfo, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Julio Cortázar, María Luisa Bombal, Alfonsina Storni, Antonio di Benedetto. It is a tradition that I have learned a lot, and to which I owe my fascination for the strange, the unusual, and the dark.

Liliana Avila All of your previous works until Fever Dream have been published in Spanish. Before we get into Fever Dream perhaps you can discuss a couple of stories from Siete Casas Vacias (Seven Empty Houses). What inspired you to write this book? What do you want to convey to the reader?

SS: Several things. The loneliness and isolation that lead us to language, and how many times we fail to communicate what connects us. But I did not want a dense, dark book at all. Or maybe dark, but not a sad and painful darkness; rather the darkness to which one looks to discover new things. These characters have dragged their problems for a long time, and precisely because of the extreme situation to which they have come, each one discovers something like a “healthy location” that allows them to escape, or to heal themselves, or to think in a different way.

LA: In the first house, mother and daughter are lost in a neighborhood. Then they enter a house that they damaged a little bit with their car. Why does the mother not seem to care about this, yet is distracted admiring a sugar container? Why was the sugar container the point of her attention in all of the chaos?

SS: I think that’s part of what the story is about. These are decisions that I take from the intuitive, and I find it’s difficult to think from a more rational place. But perhaps, as readers, following these two women with this interrogation ringing behind our backs forces us to look at what happens with a different attention.

LA: It seems to me that in every house you try to reflect a situation of stress, such as when the inhabitants run naked through the house. This seems to be a daily situation. Why does the family see this as normal?

SS: The idea was to play a little with social and cultural boundaries. I think we live in a world where “the normal,” is just a cut that each society creates for itself, but leaves out a number of situations, thoughts, and events as part of what we catalog as normal. In this story, for example, it is considered acceptable for children to play nude. It is also considered acceptable that two old men—possibly with Alzheimer’s—run naked through the garden. But it is not considered acceptable that both couples play naked together. When the narrator sees his children and their parents playing naked, it seems to be the freest, most beautiful and sincere event that he has seen in a long time, but from the gaze of the rest of the family the situation is out of control, and the danger is imminent. Where is the limit then?

AV: What was the genesis for writing Fever Dream, which was originally called Rescue Distance (Distancia de Rescate)?

SS: Rescue Distance began as a tale of which I wrote dozens of versions, but it just did not work. It was in one of those many drafts that David’s voice appeared. When David spoke, he ordered everything. During my writing process, David asked Amanda “what’s important?” This is a question that is repeated throughout the book and that somehow I was also asking myself. Forcing me not to split, to advance as fast as possible but also attentive to every detail. I discovered that it was a story that needed a different time signature; I needed introspection, review, and the search that only an intense dialogue between two people could give me.

For me, even in the most subtle and introspective story, it’s all about tension: this is the thread that ties a reader to story, something in the rhythm and in the argument that hypnotizes and pushes us to read with great attention. As a reader, I love the storytellers who play with this, and as a writer it is something I always look for. I think I have learned to develop some of this in my stories, but Fever Dream was quite a challenge because I did not know if I would be able to keep that thread tense beyond the ten or twenty pages to which I was accustomed to working as a storyteller.

AV: The novel is set in a clinic where Amanda lays dying and conversing with a young boy named David. It seems in their conversations that the boy is more knowledgeable about the events they are recounting. Why is this?

SS: David is a boy who is only eight or nine years old. But at four years old he underwent a strong intoxication that almost took his life. Helped by a “healer” to which his mother took him (or perhaps by his own efforts to survive—I like to keep both possibilities open), David was able to survive. But something changes in him; he has been too close to death, maybe even touched it, and it is as if something of that darkness had been growing all that time in him. Now he is still a child, but seems to bring from that closeness with death some vital information, a knowledge that no one who has not travelled that route can have. That is why he is able to help Amanda, because the path she is making toward death is the same path he has made a few years back.

AV: And where did the idea of transmigration come from?

SS: That was my invention. As the healer explains, if you can migrate part of one body to another, you can also divide intoxication, and then, divided now into two bodies, intoxication loses strength, and could be neutralized. But the “healer,” “the woman of the green house,” is not an invention. In my childhood, I met many women like her, even in Argentina where I always lived in the city. And in the field these figures are even stronger. Our health system leaves us exposed to the most humble workers—especially those who work around the soybean areas—and these women are a great incentive, sometimes the only one they can access.

AV: Nina answers her mother, Amanda, in plural to what David says, “I like that. About the plural.” This seems to suggest the plurality of existence between David and Amanda.

SS: That’s right. It is a very subtle nod for the most attentive readers. But there is a sort of circularity in history, or perhaps a certain fatality in the destinies of these characters, which makes the idea of ”the plural” already in Nina even long before their migration is made.

AV: Amanda says to David, “I think about you, or about the other David, the first David without his finger.” Who is this other David?

SS: Amanda says this by recalling the strong sentence of Carla, David’s mother, who in her first conversation in the garden of Amanda’s house confesses that this David is no longer her son. The previous David was an angel, but the transmigration has not left anything of that child, and now it’s a “monster.”

AV: David wants Amanda to focus on the “exact moment,” which he says is: “It’s something in the body. But it’s almost imperceptible, we have to pay attention.” Why is this so important for David? Also, since Amanda is dying, then why can’t Amanda have the woman in the green house to do transmigration on her?

SS: David and Amanda try to understand together what has happened. That’s why we thoroughly review Amanda’s last days over and over, trying to see each step in more detail. The exact moment is when the disaster begins to unravel, the moment when the rescue distance is cut off forever. Amanda cannot do the transmigration because she is in the emergency room, very far from the green house. Besides, Amanda does not believe in those things. And finally, the woman in the green house is at that moment attending Nina—which Amanda discovers with desperation, in her own delirium of death.

AV: The story goes back and forth in time, which parallels the fever dream where Amanda has a hard time remembering everything. What made you think of using this device, and was it difficult to write scenes like this?

SS: It was a difficult structure to handle, not only for the three times, but also because there are three voices narrating each of those times: David, Amanda, and Carla (through Amanda’s memory). I knew I was building a complex text, but I didn’t want it to be complicated. I accepted its complexity, but I needed it not to be confusing at any time. So it was a very hard job of correcting, rewriting, and re-reading.

AV: Amanda says there is “a can of peas of a brand I don’t buy.” Amanda later states, “the can has an alarming presence. This is important, right?” To which David replies, “This is very important.” Can you tell us anything about this bizarre scene?

SS: Well, it’s a dream, so there’s no strong logic here. But I wanted to play with the symbolic: the idea of a mother who finds inside her house a product she would never choose to feed her family. The whole story is crossed by a landscape and a town that suffers the dire consequences of living near soybean fields, genetically modified soybeans, fumigated by strong agro-chemicals. This lethal combination leads to the tables of many families a dangerous diet. It’s a type of food that a well-informed mother would never choose for her children.

AV: At one point Amanda recalls Nina saying, “I’m David.” To which David replies to Amanda, “Is this a joke? Are you making this up?” And Amanda says,” No, David. It’s a dream, a nightmare.” Amanda later says to David that if Nina “won’t talk to me in your voice, there will be no perplexing can of peas on the table.” Now it appears that Amanda knows what is going on and David is not aware of the transmigration between him and Nina. Can you explain this?

SS: I do not think Amanda knows more than David knows. It is simply a reflection of Amanda, the idea that as long as she is able to feel the weight of her daughter in her hands, then she will have the certainty that what happens is not a dream. Perhaps the dream frightened her too much, and she does not want to confuse sleep with reality again. She is frightened and needs to escape, so she concentrates on the real, the concrete, and the only certainty she has at that moment is the weight of her daughter in her arms.

AV: There are numerous cases of deformed and dead children who have drunk the water. Why doesn’t the water bother Carla and her husband? Why haven’t the local people and authorities done anything to fix the water problem?

SS: There are many things at stake in that question. To begin with, at least in my imagination, it is not clear to people that poisoning comes from water (in fact, this is the case in many communities in rural Argentina). But in relation to these pesticides that the big companies use to fumigate—and that later contaminate the waters—it also happens that a great part of these communities work in those fields, and they cannot or do not want to denounce them.

AV: You are now living in Berlin—what made you move from Argentina and how long do you plan to stay in Germany? Will you continue to write in Spanish?

SS: I moved by an invitation from the German government, a one-year residence for foreign artists. In fact, it was during that year that I finished writing Fever Dream. But then, once the stay was over, I was invited to give some creative writing workshops, and soon I was already working, with new friends and, above all, in love with the city. It was very easy to stay. I feel comfortable and at the same time strategically isolated for writing. I think I’ll be here for a couple of years. But I will always write in Spanish; it is the language in which I think and in which I read.

AV: What can your readers look forward to with your next work of fiction?

SS: I’m afraid to answer this question, because I do not want to limit my next steps in any way. But I’m sure I’ll continue to write, and I’m sure I’ll also be very attentive to how tension is built and maintained in a story. I think this curiosity is the heart of all my texts, and it’s something vital that I also seek in everything I read.

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Endgame

Ahmet Altan
Translated by Alexander Dawe
Europa Editions ($18)

by Garry Craig Powell

Turkish writer Ahmet Altan has been in prison for over a year, accused in President Erdogan’s crackdown on the media of “sending subliminal messages” to encourage the planners of last year’s failed coup. Endgame, his first novel available in English, is a bold metaphysical thriller, critical not only of ruthless politicians, but also, arguably, of God himself.

The plot is a classic murder mystery in the style of Chandler or Hammett, except that instead of a private detective, the protagonist is an unnamed novelist who has gone to a small town to write “a book about murder. And so what if I turned out to be the killer?” This is an unusual twist—not until the end do we discover whom he has killed and why—but for the rest, it is the familiar story of an outsider whose lust leads him into a sinister web.

First he becomes involved with Zuhal, the girlfriend of Mustafa, the megalomaniac mayor (with whom she is still in love). In the seemingly idyllic seaside town there is an ancient church, which some believe is the resting place of Jesus, and which everyone believes is the site of hidden treasure. The narrator doubts this, but as Mustafa tells him, “This church is what makes this town. Even if there isn’t a treasure, well, there is as long as we believe in it.” He becomes friends with Mustafa, who doesn’t know he is sleeping Zuhal, and when the mayor asks him to write a speech justifying his decision to close the church to everyone, the narrator agrees but understands that he will be seen as his accomplice. Nevertheless, Mustafa’s rivals court him too: he is offered protection by Muhacir, Raci Bey’s tame gangster, and is seduced by Raci’s wife. He is now sleeping with the women of the two most powerful men in town. When the inevitable conflict starts, the narrator understands that he is in danger and resolves to leave, but the opportunity to have sex once more with one of his lovers changes his mind.

This summary fails to evoke the metaphysical and indeed theological flavor of the novel: imagine The Trial, but with less subtlety. In many of the chapters, the novelist-narrator ponders God’s nature and the problem of theodicy: “And why worship God if he granted me the power to kill? . . . You created us so you could taste emotions that you would otherwise never know.” The narrator never doubts God’s existence but many Muslims would consider his questions blasphemous. “Is the sinner more sinful than the creator of the sin?” he asks. “Is God a sinner? . . . And if God didn’t create sin, is there something in this universe that he doesn’t know? Is there a limit to his power?”

Such reflections may not be wholly original, but they become more engaging as the novel takes a metafictional turn worthy of Paul Auster. The narrator compares his novel with the book being written by the Creator, and increasingly the two are confounded. For example: “Who can condemn me for murder in a novel that I have written?” There are further narrative complications too: Zuhal helps him write the novel, based on their affair. When she visits a fortune-teller, who shocks her by knowing all about her life, she wonders whether their fates are sealed. The narrator answers:

God . . . rewrites destiny every day . . . sometimes he changes the ending he had in mind at the start . . . imagine yourself as a character in a book . . . characters in novels still have the right to speak up for themselves . . . after a point the characters determine what the writer will put down on the page . . .

Such musings may irritate readers who prefer their thrillers neat, and the novel has other weaknesses. Whole chapters are devoted to online chats between Zuhal and the narrator, which we are told are erotic, but which often seem trite and solipsistic, as in this example: “i constantly miss the feeling i have when i’m with you . . . it’s the feeling of someone pulling you out of the bottom of a well . . . the feeling of emerging from yourself and setting off on a journey . . .” None of the characters really comes alive, which may not be a great fault in a potboiler detective story, but surely is in such an ambitious novel. In the end, its greatest shortcoming may be that the philosophical underpinning is just not innovative enough. Still, Endgame is an entertaining book, seems ably translated by Alexander Dawe, and affords English-language readers the chance to read the work of a brave writer who has been imprisoned for his writings.

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Eduardo Paolozzi

Edited by Daniel F. Herrmann
Whitechapel Gallery ($50)

by M. Kasper

Since his death in 2005, Eduardo Paolozzi’s reputation as one of postwar Britain’s most versatile, productive, and celebrated visual artists has been further burnished by a stream of specialized publications and posthumous art exhibits. Of the former, mention should be made of the brilliant duet The Jet Age Compendium: Paolozzi at Ambit (2009) and Eduardo Paolozzi at New Worlds (2013) by David Brittain, both of which are about the artist’s literary contributions and collaborations in the 1960s and ’70s. Among exhibits, the Whitechapel Gallery’s early 2017 show was the second of two big retrospectives and its catalogue, as well as representing the show, is itself a significant addition to Paolozzi studies.

Paolozzi is often called a founding father of Pop Art, though the Dada revival he helped initiate in Euro-America in the late 1940s was closer to the Pictures Generation, more intellectual and more self-consciously avant-garde, than most American Pop. That, and the enduring spookiness of his Brutalist bronze cyborgs from the ’50s, along with the techno-psychedelic screenprints from the ’60s that so influentially forecast pixilated graphics, keeps him relevant.

In the scene-setting first essay in this Whitechapel catalogue, exhibition curator Daniel F. Herrmann thoughtfully lays out the artist’s life and long career: his difficult childhood in an Italian immigrant family in Edinburgh, his brief internment as a teenager during World War II, the focus and drive that led him to pursue a comprehensive art education in schools and out, his alignment in London in the early ’50s with the proto-Pop Independent Group, his bronze then aluminum sculptures, his technically inventive and richly evocative serigraphs from the ’60s, and the large public commissions of his later years.

The catalogue essays that follow, for the most part, consider unfamiliar biographical byways and lesser-known bodies of work from the artist’s fifty-plus years of prodigious output. They’re organized in four chronological chunks corresponding to distinct parts of his career. Standouts include Hal Foster’s treatment of the sources and ideas around Paolozzi’s early bronzes; insightful as always, Foster characterizes one of Paolozzi’s ambitions as “not to bring high art low in a parodic critique, so much . . . as to reposition both high and low in a horizontal continuum of culture.” Beth Williamson’s summary of Paolozzi’s pedagogical thinking and practice from his time teaching art to children in the ’50s is noteworthy as well, as is Lisa Maddigan Newby’s even-handed account of Paolozzi’s curation of “Lost Magic Kingdoms” in the mid-’80s at the British Museum, an ethnographic-Surrealist show that combined Museum holdings with works of his own and created a critical furor. Also, Anne Massey’s succinctly informative piece on the 1963 artist’s book, The Metallization of a Dream, and Elly Thomas’s on “repetition and recombination” in Suwasa, an outdoor metal sculpture that began life as part of a playground commissioned by Terence Conran, are among the sparkling one-page essays scattered in the catalogue. Using short-prose—that quintessentially experimental genre—is a wonderful editorial stroke, unusual but apt for an exhibition catalogue devoted to an avant-gardist.

The book is copiously illustrated, the quality of reproduction is high, and the picture selection is excellent. Especially, the inclusion of complete sequences of some of the print portfolios, notably all forty-five sheets from the 1972 edition of Bunk, will be widely appreciated. But too many of the reproductions are too small; that’s a particular problem with images of Paolozzi’s large screenprints, which are crowded with detail that gets lost in these reductions. Unfortunately, too, the book is marred by typos, and if you want to track down references in the introduction’s final ten footnotes, forget it, they’re missing. Despite those flaws this is an essential monograph, especially for libraries, full of fascinating new research about a prodigious artist whose full range is still being measured.

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