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New York Review of Books

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  • Mark Dion: The Science of Art
    “Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist” isn’t comprehensive, but it offers a good overview of Mark Dion’s art. Viewers get an introduction to his primary method: gathering objects—whether on a self-conducted excavation or through the more...
  • The Rural Vision of Ravilious & Friends
    There is a palpable mood of nostalgia in England at present. This may have been expressed politically in Brexit, but it is also visible in the popular taste for “heritage” and lost worlds. In particular, Britain is awash with books and films about...
  • Democracy and the Machinations of Mind Control
    In both the US and the UK, investigations into the deployment of these shadowy forces are still in progress. In close contests, every influence counts. There is, therefore, an understandable temptation to emphasize that without secretive...
  • Modigliani: Fevered Life, Pure Line
    These sensual images, with curving shoulders, breasts, and thighs outlined in black, with clever references to both old masters and contemporary styles, were a bald commercial venture. But these nudes overcome the cynical appeal to a male gaze....
  • The Man from Red Vienna
    What a splendid era this was going to be, with one remaining superpower spreading capitalism and liberal democracy around the world. Instead, democracy and capitalism seem increasingly incompatible. Global capitalism has escaped the bounds of the...
  • Out of Control
    Mary Shelley’s original three-volume novel Frankenstein was published quietly and anonymously in 1818 to little acclaim. The Quarterly Review stonily observed: “Our taste and our judgment alike revolt at this kind of writing.... The...
  • Militants & Military: Pakistan’s Unholy Alliance
    Admitting extremist Islamists into the electoral process—groups that have not reconciled with the state and do not subscribe to the constitution or to democracy itself—will pave the way for an even more deadly cycle of violence. If a small fringe...
  • Bulldozing the Peace Process in Israel
    When Netanyahu claims, as he did recently, that Israel’s situation has never been better, he means, in part, that in his own mind he has smashed the Palestinian national movement once and for all. I have no doubt that this has been his goal all...
  • Rome on the Hudson
    The apparently hedonistic culture that emerged before World War I was a muddle of flagrant gestures toward personal liberation and subtle new forms of social coercion. Early-twentieth-century American society was on the verge of a reshuffling of...

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www.NeglectedBooks.com: Where forgotten books are remembered
  • Tomato Cain and Other Stories, by Nigel Kneale (1949)

    Nigel Kneale is best known now for his novels and screenplays featuring the alien-battling scientist, Dr. Quartermass, but his first book, the collection Tomato Cain and Other Stories was considered remarkable enough to merit a foreword by Elizabeth Bowen: Within the last few years, readers have become less shy of the short story. That this... Read more

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  • Selected Modern Short Stories, edited by Alan Steele (1937)

    Selected Modern Short Stories–the first of several collections that editor Alan Steele compiled for Penguin in the late 1930s–offers a good illustration of the random nature of literary fate. Let’s take at look at the authors listed on the cover: • John Hampson Hampson’s first-published novel, Saturday Night at the Greyhound (1931) was a surprise... Read more

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  • The Door in the Wall, by Oliver La Farge (1966)

    I picked out a yellow-jacketed copy of Oliver La Farge’s posthumous collection of short stories, The Door in the Wall, from a striking display in the window of Any Amount of Books, one of the few remaining used bookstores on Charing Cross Road, when in London recently. I’ve never learned just why so many British... Read more

    The post The Door in

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  • Private Opinion: A Commonplace-Book, by Alan Pryce-Jones (1936)

    There isn’t necessarily a template for a commonplace book, which Webster’s defines as “a book of memorabilia” and Wikipedia as “essentially a scrapbook.” But even if there were one, Alan Pryce-Jones’ Private Opinion wouldn’t follow it. Pryce-Jones, who is probably best known for editing the Time Literary Supplement from 1948 to 1959, was a precocious... Read more

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  • Rope Dancer, by M. J. Fitzgerald (1986)

    Many of the stories in M. J. Fitzgerald’s collection, Rope Dancer, read like unsettling dreams: vivid enough to provoke deep feelings but too full of bizarre, illogical transitions and events to be part of waking life. In “Mystery Story,” a woman finds herself returned, again and again, to the compartment of a passenger train, where... Read more

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  • Croatian Tales of Long Ago, by Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić (1922)

    One day late, but in keeping with the spirit of Halloween, which reminds us each year of the didactic benefits of scaring the crap out of kids, I want to celebrate a fine example of fairy tales told with the gloves off. As Bruno Bettelheim (perhaps somewhat plagiaristically) reminded us, uniformly pleasant and positive stories... Read more

    The post Croatian

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  • “In Sleep,” by Robert Kotlowitz (1954)

    In Sleep What do I see in my sleep? A steady seepage of life in dreams that are of no use to a practical body. I awake like you, sapped by a watchful reality, defined by a soft-boiled egg. Today’s newspaper tucked under my arm, swats invisible enemies on the fleeing subway. Time, then, is... Read more

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  • The Smoking Mountain, by Kay Boyle (1951; 1963)

    In 1948, the American writer Kay Boyle left France, where she had spent most of the previous 25 years to live in Germany. Germany was then an occupied country, split between the Soviets, French, British, and Americans into four zones of military administration. Whether she was making amends for sitting out France’s own time of... Read more

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  • Discovery, a Paperback Magazine (1953-1955)

    During my annual pilgrimage to the Montana Valley Book Store, I decided to dig around in the anthologies section, a section I’ve always avoided before. I’ll admit to a bias for original sources over compilations, and I’ve rarely found a good reason to overcome it. But it was hot outside and cool in the basement... Read more

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  • Selected Stories, by Martin Armstrong (1951)

    In his dictionary, Samuel Johnson defined craftsman as “”An artificer; a manufacturer; a mechanick.” When the first OED was published 150 years later, craftsman was still associated with assembly rather than creation: “A man who practices a handicraft; an artificer, artisan.” And even today, to refer to a writer as a craftsman is to assign... Read more

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locosLocos: A Comedy Of Gestures by Felipe Alfau. New York. 1936. Farrar & Rinehart. 307 pages

Talk about an unappreciated classic. Written in English by a Spaniard living in New York, this book languished in limbo from 1936 until it was reissued by The Dalkey Archive in 1988. From a cafe in Madrid to the pickpocket convention this book is a real gem and was way ahead of its time.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

The interconnected stories that form this novel take place in a Madrid as exotic as the Baghdad of the 1001 Arabian Nights and feature unforgettable characters in revolt against their young ‘author. ’ ‘For them,’ he complains, ‘reality is what fiction is to real people; they simply love it and make for it against my almost heroic opposition. By the end of this book my characters are no longer a tool for my expression, but I am a helpless instrument of their whims and absurd contretemps. In short, my characters have taken seriously the saying that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ and I have failed in my attempts to convince them of the contrary. ’ These fables of identity are enchanting despite Alfau’s frequent reminders that these are mere puppets, figures of the imagination; nor can the reader fail to find, despite Alfau’ s mock warning, ‘beneath a more or less entertaining comedy of meaningless gestures, the vulgar aspects of a common tragedy. ’ First published in 1936 and undeservedly neglected for the last fifty years, LOCOS anticipated the ‘magic realism’ of the Latin Americans as well as the inventions of such later writers as Jorge Luis Borges, Flann O’Brien, John Barth, and Donald Barthelme. Modern readers are now in a better position to appreciate Alfau’s ingenuity and art, and to wonder how such a book, whose place in modem fiction is now so clear, could have gone unrecognized for so many years.

Alfau Felipe

Born August 24, 1902

Felipe Alfau (1902–1999), was a Spanish American (Catalan American) novelist and poet. Like his contemporaries Luigi Pirandello and Flann O'Brien, Alfau is considered a forerunner of later postmodern writers such as Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme, and Gilbert Sorrentino. Born in Barcelona, Alfau emigrated with his family at the age of fourteen to the United States, where he lived the remainder of his life. Alfau earned a living as a translator; his sparse fictional and poetic output remained obscure throughout most of his life. Alfau wrote two novels in English: LOCOS: A COMEDY OF GESTURES and CHROMOS. LOCOS — a metafictive collection of related short stories set in Toledo and Madrid, involving several characters that defy the wishes of the author, write their own stories, and even assume each others' roles — was published by Farrar and Rinehart in 1936. The novel, for which Alfau was paid $250, received some critical acclaim, but little popular attention. The novel was republished in 1987 after an editor for the small publisher Dalkey Archive Press found the book at a barn sale in Massachusetts, read it, and contacted Alfau after finding his telephone number in the Manhattan phone book. The novel's second incarnation was modestly successful, but Alfau refused payment, instructing the publisher to use the earnings from LOCOS to fund some other unpublished work. When asked if he had written any other books, Alfau provided the manuscript for CHROMOS, which had been resting in a drawer since 1948. CHROMOS, a comic story of Spanish immigrants to the United States contending with their two cultures, went on to be nominated for the National Book Award in 1990. Alfau also wrote a book of poetry in Spanish, SENTIMENTAL SONGS (La poesia cursi), written between 1923 and 1987 and published in 1992, and a book of children's stories, OLD TALES FROM SPAIN, written in 1929.

 

 

 

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