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Photography-Embedded Fiction & Poetry 2019

Here is my bibliography of works of fiction and poetry published in 2019 containing embedded photographs.  You can see bibliographies for other years underneath the pull-down menu “Photo-Embedded Literature” at the top of Vertigo. If you know of a book that I have not mentioned, please let me know in a comment. My thanks to the many Vertigo readers who have already pointed out books that I had not known about.

Croft Homesick

Jennifer Croft. Homesick. Los Angeles: The Unnamed Press, 2019. A novel with photographs by the author and her mother Laurie Croft. I reviewed the book in December.

Donoghue Akin

Emma Donoghue. Akin. NY: Little Brown, 2019. Her novel contains five photographs credited to various sources.

drndc eeg

Daša Drndić. EEG. NY: New Directions, 2019. Her final novel contains photographs, as did a number of her other titles. Translated from the original 2016 Croatian of the same title by Celia Hawkesworth.

users-manual Kolar

Jiří Kolář. A User’s Manual. Prague: Twisted Spoon Press, 2019. 52 poems paired with 52 collages that contain photographs, other types of imagery, and words. From the publisher’s website: “Taking the form of directives, largely absurd, the poems mock communist society’s officialese while offering readers an opportunity to create their own poetics by performing the given directions. The collages on the facing pages to the poems are composed of layered documents, image cutouts, newspaper clippings, announcements, letter fragments, reports, or decontextualized words, oftentimes forming concrete patterns or the outlines of figures, to create a sort of “evidential” report on the year. Text and image taken together, the volume displays Kolář’s enduring interest in extracting poetry from the mundane to demolish the barrier separating art from reality, or even to elevate reality itself through this dual poetics to the level of art.” A translation by Ryan Scott from the 1969 Czech original.

lab mallo

Agustin Fernandez Mallo, Nocilla Lab. London: Fitzcarraldo, 2019. Only this third volume in Mallo’s Nocilla series includes photographs. Translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead.

pavonne paris

Christopher Pavone. The Paris Diversion. NY: Crown, 2019. The fourth book in this mystery/spy series contains stock photographs of famous Paris’s tourist sites on the title page and at the beginning of each of the book’s five sections.

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Steve Finbow & Karolina Urbaniak. Death Mort Tod. London: Infinity Land Press, 2019. “A country-to-country death trip, a necro-travel guide, a Baedeker of bereavement, incorporating myth, folklore, maps, reportage, photographs, recordings, illustrations and poetry . . . A European Book of the Dead . . . All photographs, photomontages, collages, drawings and installations [by Urbaniak] were originally produced to illustrate the text without use of any external sources/materials. Clay, sand, ash, animal bones, blood, paint, salt, thread, mud, or human hair can be found among a variety of used materials.”

Shapton Guest

Leanne Shapton. Guestbook: Ghost Stories. NY: Riverhead Books, 2019. Short stories based around images that include drawings by the author, found photographs, stock photographs, and other images.

unsun zawicky

Andrew Zawicki. Unsun. Toronto: Coach House Press, 2019. Zawicki’s poems deal with “the possibilities and dangers of a ‘global pastoral,’ exploring geographies alternately enhanced and flattened out by digital networks, international transit, the uneven and invisible movements of capital, and the unrelenting feedback loops of data surveillance, weather disaster, war” (publisher’s blurb). Some photographs by the author.

Zawicki Waterfall

Andrew Zawicki. Waterfall Plot. Boston: Greying Ghost, 2019. A chapbook that excerpts a series of poems and photographs from his book Unsun (above). Zawicki’s poem is loosely based on the “Wheel-Rim River” suite by eighth-century Chinese poet, painter, musician, and politician Wang Wei. The accompanying photographs by Zawicki resemble landscapes and skyscapes, but were actually taken at a compound of chicken coops.

Dreamlife of Debris

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In an interview with London Jazz News, musician Kit Downes talks about how his two recent albums Obsidian and Dreamlife of Debris (both for ECM Records, 2018 and 2019, respectively) were inspired by W.G. Sebald and by Grant Gee’s film Patience (After Sebald):

LJN: And continuing the “place” theme in a more abstract way, can you tell us about W.G. Sebald (both albums contain references to his work) and his influence on the music?

KD: The title, Dreamlife of Debris, itself comes from a supposed quote by Nabakov, mentioned in a documentary film about W.G. Sebald’s book The Rings of Saturn. The quote itself alludes to the way we can project emotion and character onto inanimate objects, to the point where they feel like they have their own life, dreamt by us – like a musician and their instrument in a way, especially the organ (being the enormous chaotic collection of pipes, whistles and reeds that it is).

These objects could be mundane and everyday, or galaxy clusters and gas giants – whatever the scale. This quote (in reference to the book) is alluding to the way Sebald finds meaning in these isolated landmarks and events on his walking tour through Suffolk by using them as springboards for enormous mental leaps of association and story telling – to places across the world and from other times.

This resonated with me – these unlikely combinations of instruments, alluding to different styles and periods, with no established pretext, meeting together in a space with no singular character. I enjoyed the risk of diving into that challenge, and enjoyed the strange dream-like space that we often found ourselves in musically.

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Ghostland

Ghostland Parnell

Edward Parnell’s Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country is a highly personal exploration of the idea of “haunted” in literature and film. It’s also a bit of travel guide, a dash of history, and a family memoir. But as in so many things, it’s the blending that counts and Parnell is an expert bartender. I don’t think he ever uses the word but I felt as if he were trying to demonstrate how various terroirs affect the ghost stories and the strange folk lore that then show up in the fiction and cinema that he has loved since childhood. To do this, he guides us through large swaths of Great Britain in search of the sites depicted in these books and films. As we ride next to and walk alongside the thirty-something Parnell, making pilgrimages to locations where, for example, The Wicker Man was filmed or where some of the tales of Algernon Blackwood were set, we also learn bits and pieces of Parnell’s own life, how he came to love these kinds of books and films, of the difficult deaths of his parents, and the shock when he learns his own brother has a lymphoma that will eventually kill him, too. Read more

Homesick

Croft Homesick

“This book is a work of creative nonfiction. Names, identifying details, and places have been changed.” So reads part of the copyright page of Homesick: A Memoir, the recent book by Jennifer Croft, the widely known translator of 2019 Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Flights and numerous other books from Polish, Ukrainian, and Spanish. Homesick tells of the lives of Amy and Zoe, sisters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, over the span of about two decades.

In addition to the fact that the main character is not named Jennifer Croft, her “memoir” lets you know right away it is going to be an unusual work of “creative nonfiction.” The book begins with a pair of epilogues on photography by well-known photographers that are immediately followed by a color photograph of a bridge upon which parts of a phrase or sentence have been written in bright red marker, then four more color photographs, each of which are accompanied by a single sentence that forms a prologue in which the narrator recalls teaching her younger sibling to speak. This book—or so that scribbled-on photo seems to suggest—wants to be the bridge across which the two languages of words and images will cross as equals.

Croft Pont des Arts

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The Backlisted Podcast Visits ‘The Rings of Saturn’

Backlisted

My favorite literary podcast does Sebald! Yes! The crew at Backlisted: The Literary Podcast (John Mitchinson and Andy Miller) plus guests Philip Hoare and Jessie Greenglass discuss W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn in episode 105, which was let loose on the world November 11. Here’s the description of the full episode from the podcast’s website:

In this episode John and Andy are joined by Philip Hoare, a broadcaster, curator, filmmaker and writer whose books include biographies of Stephen Tennant and Noel Coward, the historical studies Wilde’s Last StandSpike Island: The Memory of a Military Hospital, and England’s Lost Eden.  His book Leviathan or, The Whale won the 2009 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. His most recent book, RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR, is published by Fourth Estate. Philip presented the BBC Arena film The Hunt for Moby-Dick, and directed three films for BBC’s Whale Night.  He is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Southampton, and co-curator of the Moby-Dick Big Readhttp://www.mobydickbigread.com.  

The second guest is the writer, Jessie Greengrass, the author of two books. Her first, the short story collection, An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, won the Edge Hill Prize and a Somerset Maugham award (and was enthusiastically praised by John in the episode of Backlisted devoted to Huysmans). Her novel, Sight, was published in 2018, and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and longlisted for the Wellcome Prize. Jessie lives in Northumberland with her partner and their two children.

The main book under discussion is The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald, first published in German by Eichborn Verlag in 1995 and in an English translation by Michael Hulse by the Harvill Press in 1998. Before that, John ventures back in timed space with The Years by Annie Ernaux and Andy is blown away by Vertigo & Ghost by Fiona Benson.

The foursome have an intelligent, wide-ranging discussion of the book, including Sebald’s use of photographs. Hoare, who goes swimming every morning at 3:00 AM (think about that for a moment!), talks about the “echo space” wherever photographs appear in Sebald’s texts—”where the words stop and the picture takes over.” Greenglass thinks of Sebald’s books as those “curious complicated cabinets” in which you can’t see the joints. I was so inspired by the comments on the books by Annie Ernaux and Fiona Benson that I immediately ordered both. Go have a listen.

‘The Blind Tourist’ Radio Program Does “The Rings of Saturn”

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The Blind Tourist With Adriene, a weekly program on the independent public radio station WFMU in East Orange, New Jersey, describes itself as “your weekly trip across the world with radio, stories, histories, languages and more. A travel show turning chaos into different chaos.” The most recent show (December 5, 2019) begins a two-episode program dealing with W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn.

“Bookclub! The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald” is an hour-long mashup of readings, lectures, music, film scores, and more. During the first hour you can hear the voices of Sebald, Theodore Adorno, and others, jazz, an excerpt from the film Woman in the Dunes, brief pieces by Brian Eno and Benjamin Britten, readings from Flaubert and Kafka, and more. I found the program extremely sophisticated and listenable. Adriene introduces her concept about seven minutes into the program. To show just how deep and far Adriene is seaching for material to be included in her program, take these two examples, which blew me away. The first is Winfried Mühlum-Pyrápheros’s “Musica Nova Contemplativa,” which was originally created in 1964 as a purely visual score with its roots in minimalism and Fluxus. It was recorded only once, in 1970, and has just been reissued. The second is the dreamy song “Papa Loco” by the Haitian singer Nathalie Joachim.

To listen to this wonderful program and see the playlist for Part I, go here and simply click on “Pop-up player.” The second part will appear December 12.

Sebald-Inspired String Quartet To Be Played in Brooklyn Dec. 5

Momenta Quartet

Contemporary American composer/musician Elizabeth Brown’s string quartet Just Visible in the Distance will be part of the Interpretations program at Roulette in Brooklyn Thursday, December 5 at 8:00 PM. It will be played by the Momenta Quartet, to whom the piece is dedicated. If you can’t make the concert, you can watch them play the fifteen and a half minute piece on Brown’s website. Brown says this about her composition:

Just Visible in the Distance (2013) consists of intuitively assembled small movements, each flowing into the next. Persistent musical material from some of my earlier pieces resurfaces often. The title is from W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, a book I love and have read many times.

That night’s event also includes compositions by Frances White, performances by baritone/narrator Thomas Buckner, and a video/sculpture installation by artist Lothar Osterburg. More information can be found here. Roulette is located at 509 Atlantic Avenue (Entrance on the Corner of Third Avenue; Accessible Entrance on Atlantic Ave).

Recent Music & Photography that Make Linkages to Sebald

Merz TrioPhoto credit: Nile Scott

The adventurous Boston-based Merz trio named themselves after the nonsense word that German artist Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) used for his collage and assemblage artworks that often included found objects. Their goal is to offer “passionate, original playing and thoughtfully curated programming, often in the form of interdisciplinary collaboration.” Two years ago they developed a project of chamber music paired with visual arts and readings from W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. Here’s the program description from their website:

On November 5, 2017, Merz Trio launched its first season with a “walking tour” through German diasporic art. Audience members were encouraged to explore a once-familiar recital hall now transformed into a gallery-like space. Reproductions of visual art by Kurt Schwitters lined the room; each was paired with a spoken excerpt from W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. Both the Schwitters and the Sebald commented on a core musical program of trios by Haydn, Schumann, and Johannes Maria Staud, weaving together a narrative of fragmented memory and reconstructed identity in two, distinct, German postwar environments. Listeners were encouraged to make their own connections between art, text, and music, while also experiencing the program of Austro-German classics through this unique and poignant lens.

There is a short YouTube excerpt from the program at their website. While Merz Trio doesn’t seem to be playing the Sebald-related program anymore, they are performing a program involving Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth at Boston’s Plympton-Shattuck Theater, Saturday, October 26.

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Belgium-based French photographer Bertrand Cavalier cites Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction for his interest in “the banality of space,” especially “brutalist architecture for its symbolic meaning of post-war trauma.” His work was recently featured on the website of the Photographic Museum of Humanity.

Concrete doesnt burn© Bertrand Cavalier

Sergio Chejfec’s The Incompletes

Incompletes

It’s the most innocent of beginnings: “Now I am going to tell the story of something that happened one night, years ago, and the events of the morning and afternoon that followed.” The nameless narrator of Sergio Chejfec’s The Incompletes (Open Letter, 2019) begins to tell us what happened on a pier in Buenos Aires when he saw his friend Felix off on a voyage decades earlier. But scarcely three pages elapse before the narrator digresses and begins to relate the strange tales contained in the postcards and letters that Felix has written him during the many years of his restless travels.

The Incompletes is Chejfec’s fifth novel to be translated into English and its my favorite so far. His narrator spends most of the book telling us about Felix’s strange experiences in Moscow and his interactions with a woman named Masha. But on nearly every page the reader is confronted with the fact that the narrator knows far too much. Like a magician who produces a live elephant from his top hat, Chejfec’s narrator not only recounts the details of Felix’s daily life and exposes us to his Felix’s innermost thoughts, he can also somehow account for the independent meanderings and thoughts of Masha. She manages the Hotel Salgado, where Felix stays in Moscow, a hotel which “innocently offered the traveler protection and shelter, though with the implicit warning that under certain conditions their haven might become a living hell.” Read more

Berlin Book Launch for Uwe Schütte’s New Sebald Book

Uwe Annaherungen

On Thursday September 26 at 8:00 PM, there will be a book launch for Uwe Schütte’s new book Annäherungen – Sieben Essays zu W.G. Sebald. at the Literarische Buchhandlung Der Zauberberg, Bundesallee 133, 12161 Berlin. Here’s how to register to attend, according to the bookseller’s website:

Anmeldungen zu allen Veranstaltungen in der Buchhandlung unter 56 73 90 91 oder per E-Mail info@der-zauberberg.eu.  Eintritt: 5 Euro

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