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Posts from the ‘Embedded photographs’ Category

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. [Added to on January 21, February 4, 5, 11, 2020.]

Barnes coat

Julian Barnes. The Man in the Red Coat. London: Jonathan Cape, 2019. Barne’s novel contains a number of reproductions of well-known 19th century paintings and cartes-de-visites of Parisian personalities.

Chlala paper camera

Youmna Chlala. Paper Camera. n.p.: Litmus Press, 2019. This Beirut-born, trilingual (Arabic, English, French) author combines poetry about life between languages, air strikes, real-life and possibly fictional bits of narrative… with a few photographs and a lot of stills from one of her Super 8 film projects. She deliberately chooses motion-blurred, overexposed, grainy frames that dialog with the text without there being an explicit link.

Christle crying

Heather Christle. The Crying Book. NY: Catapult, 2019. Brief prose pieces and excerpts from other writers about crying, interspersed with occasional photographs. 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.

A Stranger’s Pose

Iduma Stranger

Emmanuel Iduma’s A Stranger’s Pose is a discontinuous journey that zigzags across parts of north Africa. As a traveler who often lacks the local language, Iduma and the people he meets are constantly forced to assess each other with little or no language. The camera that he carries can be perceived as a threat or an invitation. Finding a common language—even if it is simply gestural— is the first priority.

The book consists of seventy-seven short pieces that include brief stories, conversations, dreams, reflections, poems, and photographs that are credited to Iduma and a dozen or so others. The book covers a swath of the continent that spans from Casablanca and Rabat in the North to Dakar in the West and Addis Ababa in the east. The seeming lack of structure, be it geographic or temporal, struck me as one of the book’s strengths, because it instantly converts the reader into a traveler, waking up in a new place daily, coming across strangers in a strange land every few pages. As Rebecca Solnit’s book A Field Guide to Getting Lost constantly reminds us, travel is a kind of dream state in which we are unmoored from almost everything familiar. Read more

Last Exit

Craig Panthers

I’m not sure why authors sometimes want to signal to us in advance what the experience of reading their book is going to be like. Maybe it’s a momentary crisis of self-doubt or an honest attempt to assist the reader. On pages 5 and 6, Jen Craig tells us what we should expect as we read her book Panthers & the Museum of Fire. “You have to imagine a book,” the narrator (also named Jen Craig) tells us, before clarifying that the book she is referring to is really a manuscript.

As soon as you started the manuscript, you would find yourself waiting for it to start, to really start. You kept flicking pages and reading and flicking—not skipping any pages, but flicking them all the same—and the whole time you were reading you were waiting for the story in the manuscript to start for real. This feeling, you have to realise, kept up the whole time. There was never a moment when you thought you had started on the section of the manuscript where the real part began. At first you would have been flicking the pages and thinking, well she could have cut these paragraphs and all of these pages here, cut all of it so far, and yet this feel of needing to cut most of what you were reading persisted until the end. In fact the whole of the reading seemed to be just the prelude to a reading; it pulled you along from one sentence to the next, and you held on for some reason, never doubting for an instant that the real part of the story would be about to begin; and even when you knew, later on, when it was evidently too late, that there was no real part—when you watched yourself holding on to your role in the reading like an idiotic fool, holding on for the real part to begin when all the time there never was a real part, all the time there was nothing but the reading of the manuscript one word after another.

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Photography-Embedded Fiction & Poetry 2018

Here is my bibliography of works of fiction and poetry published in 2018 containing embedded photographs.  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. [Added to March 6, 11, April 24, June 5, November 12, December 3, 18, 2019, January 21, 2020.]

Averill Found

Thomas Fox Averill. Found Documents from the Life of Nell Johnson Doerr. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2018. An entirely fictional biography told through journals, letters, photographs, drawings, notes, and clippings supposedly left behind by Nell Doerr, who lived in Lawrence, Kansas, between 1854 and 1889.

Chiykowski Postcards

Peter Chiykowski. Postcards from Impossible Worlds: The Collected Shortest Story. Peterborough, Canada: ChiZine Publications, 2018. Hyper short stories, often in the form of jokes or a brief sentence or two, typeset on postcard-shaped photographs.

cover

Forrest Gander. Be With. NY: New Directions, 2018. Contains a poem sequence called “Littoral Zone,” which consists of six photographs by Michael Flomen, each facing a section of the poem that, at least in part, includes verbal equivalents and/or references to the image. See my review of this book here.

decarava sweet flypaper

Langston Hughes and Roy DeCarava. The Sweet Flypaper of Life. NY: First Print Press, 2018. First published in 1955, this classic collaboration about life in Harlem began when Langston Hughes saw Roy DeCarava’s photographs and decided to base a new story around them. A beautifully-produced new edition that pays special attention to the printing of stunning DeCarava’s photographs. With a new Afterword by the photographer’s widow Sherry Turner DeCarava.

iduma pose

Emmanuel Iduma. A Stranger’s Pose. Abuja, Nigeria: Cassava Republic Press, 2018. From the publisher that launched Teju Cole back in 2007, comes this book of travel writing and b&w photography across parts of Africa. Iduma acknowledges that the book is an “imaginative gesture” and in his Foreword Cole calls the book “a ballad in which there is no need to separate dreams from the things which one experiences in a waking state.”

Jackson Riddance

Shelley Jackson. Riddance. n.p. Black Balloon, 2018. Jackson’s novel about a school for “Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children” contains many photographs.

bosun new juche

New Juche [pseudonym]. Bosun. Paris: Kiddiepunk, 2018. A book that reads at times like a 21st century version of Jean Genet, with photographs by the author of the aging, deteriorating architecture in Rangoon.

 

kluge temple

Alexander Kluge. Temple of the Scapegoat: Opera Stories. NY: New Directions, 2018. Contains more than a dozen uncredited photographs (many of which are film stills) and reproductions of several old prints – all opera themed.

kopf brother

Alicia Kopf. Brother in Ice. Sheffield: And Other Stories, 2018. English translation from the Catalan original Germà de gel of 2015 by Mara Feye Lethem. A hybrid novel blending research into polar explorations with a coming-of-age story of becoming an artist and having an autistic brother. Contains drawings and uncredited photographs.

Lerner Snows

Ben Lerner & Alexander Kluge. The Snows of Venice: The Lerner-Kluge Container. Leipzig: Spector Books, 2018. Poems, stories and conversations by Lerner and Kluge, along with a series of 21 photographs that Gerhard Richter took in Venice in the 1970s, as well as images by Rebecca H. Quaytman and Thomas Demand.

Lilley tilt

Kate Lilley. Tilt. Sydney: Vagabond Press, 2018. Poetry with three photographs and several other small images.

nguyen ghost of

Diana Khoi Nguyen. Ghost of. Oakland: Omnidawn, 2018. Poems with ten altered family photographs, several of which are used more than once.

Chronology Patterson

Zahra Patterson. Chronology. Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2018. The publisher calls this a work of “nonfiction/essay,” but Patterson’s book converses so directly with Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s 1982 book Dictee that I felt it has to be included in this collection. Chronology is about Patterson’s failed attempt to translate a Sesotho short story into English, which, among many other topics, leads Patterson to reflect on the relationship between language and colonialism. The book combines emails, bits o memoir, handwritten notes, press releases, other texts, lists of words in Sesotho and English that verge on poetry, and loose reproductions of photographs that are inserted between specific pages of the book as illustrations.

Prynne oval

J.H. Prynne. The Oval Window. Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, 2018. This “new annotated edition” of Prynne’s 1983 poem is now combined with photographs he made at the time and place of the poem’s composition.

robertson take

Robin Robertson. The Long Take. London: Picador, 2018. A book-length “noir narrative” poem that takes place in the US between 1946 and 1953, focusing on a D-Day veteran with PTSD. With nine historic photographs.

tillman men

Lynne Tillman. Men and Apparitions. NY: Soft Skull, 2018. Tillman’s narrator is an ethnographer of family photographs who embarks on a study of the “new man,” born under the sign of feminism. With numerous family snapshots reproduced.

Ybarra dinner

Gabriela Ybarra. The Dinner Guest. London: Harvill Secker, 2018. First English translation. A novel about the 1977 kidnapping and murder of Ybarra’s grandfather. With two photographs of the author’s father, the famous photograph of the Swiss writer Robert Walser lying dead in the snow, and a grouping of twenty-eight tiny photographs taken off a computer of the author’s mother and some gravestones. A translation by Natasha Wimmer from the 2015 Spanish original El Comensal.

 

Mothlight

mothlight

I needed her to say the words, I needed her to spell it out. But the conversation continued, driven by useless bits of information.

Adam Scovell’s Mothlight is a quietly unsettling novel narrated by Thomas, a young academic lepidopterist who specializes in studying and collecting moths. Growing up, Thomas was obsessed with two elderly women—Phyllis, a professor of entomology and a collector of moths, and her sister Billie. At first, Thomas’s obsession revolved around a mystery—why did Phyllis treat her sister with such open disdain? “What had Billie done, I thought, that Phyllis Ewans considered so awful as to behave so coldly towards her?” After Billie died, Thomas became the elderly Phyllis’s caretaker, and his obsession switched to something else entirely. “Our lives were somehow mimetic of each other,” Thomas noticed that he and Phyllis shared a “synchronicity.” Then, when Phyllis dies, Thomas inherits her house and her extensive moth collection. But her death “cast my obsessions into a startling cage from which I could not escape.” He feels that Phyllis’s memories are starting to intermingle with his own and that she is sometimes eerily present, even touching him. His obsession is now an illness and to cure himself he decides he must unravel the mystery of Phyllis and Billie. Read more

Littoral/Literal

cover

I been moving back and forth between three books by Forrest Gander recently, looking mostly at the various ways in which he has worked with photographs in his poetry. In Core Samples from the World (New Directions, 2011) there are four poem sequences in which photographs by Raymond Meeks, Graciela Iturbide, and Lucas Foglia are situated. The photographs are each given their own page, so they aren’t really embedded within the text of the poem. Instead, Gander seems to propose that the reader take in the photographs as a visual parallel to his words. Separate but equal. An earlier book, Eye Against Eye (New Directions, 2005), includes a poem sequence entitled “Late Summer Entry: the  Landscapes of Sally Mann,” in which Gander’s poems directly address their visual counterparts on facing pages.

Gander’s newest book, Be With (New Directions, 2018), is riddled with the “searing exquisite singularity” of death. In 2016, his wife, the poet C.D. Wright, died suddenly, and a number of the book’s poems deal with the “grief-sounds” and the “tetric silence” that he experienced after this loss. There is also a long, moving, deeply personal poem titled “Ruth,” about Gander’s aging, failing mother, who struggles physically and has memory issues. His response to familial grief is to write poems that are fractured and disjointed, that abruptly change direction, and have what he calls a “rhythm of farewell.”

For me, the most fascinating work in Be With is the closing poem sequence titled “Littoral Zone” in which Gander presents a combination of words and photographs in a new and more complex relationship than he has previously attempted. “Littoral Zone” has six parts, each consisting of a photograph by Michael Flomen on the left hand page and one section of Gander’s poem on the opposing page. The six sections have subtitles that alternate between “Entrance” and “Exit,” suggesting that the poem as a whole represents the influx and the ebb of the tide that is hinted at by the title word littoral, which, Merriam-Webster.com tells me, is “the shore zone between the high tide and low tide points.” Each of the six written sections of the poem is subdivided into three verse paragraphs, with the center one printed in italics.

Gander Be With

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River of Images, River of Memories

Kinsky River Blind Child

My days always followed the same route: downstream and back. I returned with photographs and small found objects such as feathers and stones, or the seed pods of withered flowers. Little by little the fluvial landscape took over my flat…The river itself would probably have been astonished.

What are we to make of the way that Esther Kinsky’s novel River begins? Immediately after the title page, the book reproduces the photograph shown above along with the dedication “For the blind child.” Then, after the Table of Contents, with the titles of the 37 chapters, there is an epigraph from the American poet Charles Olson: “Your eye, the wanderer, sees more.” Turn the page once more and there is a small reproduction of a photograph taken from the top of a hill, looking down on a line of trees and what appears to be a river in the distance. [If you haven’t read my earlier post on River, you might want to do so, as it will help provide context for what follows.] Read more

Rivers of Memory, Rivers of Language

River Kinsky

The Oder drew a border line up and down the country, writing a Here and a There in the sandy earth. Under it, however, countless watery question marks and intertwining letters tugged in both directions, east and west, a water-script of histories granted continuity through the river, under it, beyond it, its tributaries and ramifications annotating the landscape, reversing its sides with befuddling mirror images of the sky and its blues of Here and There.

Esther Kinsky. River. Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017, translated from the German by Iain Galbraith.

The narrator of Esther Kinsky’s luscious, elegaic novel River is an unnamed woman who is living, albeit temporarily, in a very liminal part of urban East London that edges up against Tottenham Marshes, a handful of reservoirs, Leyton Marshes, Hackney Marshes, and the River Lea. Alone and apparently jobless, she spends her time exploring and mentally mapping her environs.

South of Hackney Wick, beyond the lake-like stretch of unfrequented, placid water formed by the confluence of the Hertford Union Canal and the tame arm of the Lea, the town came close on both sides of the river, darker from the west, with bricks, stone and broken window-panes facing the river, and grass and weeds breaking up the surfacing of the riverside path…Scrap sidetracked for recycling now reinforced the borders of Bow, which the city had once declared to be its boundary, and where bricks from the clay pits and brickworks of London Fields were once loaded and began their journey upstream to Stamford Hill, there to mutate into the new arms, fingers and arteries of the city. To the east of the river had once lain Essex, green and flat…

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