Michel Leiris

Publishing, Photography, Literature

Portraits of Spurl

Portraits of Spurl

Andy Adams  @FlakPhoto

Andy Adams @FlakPhoto

Kim Cooper  @kimcooper  / Larry Edmunds Bookshop  @LarryEdmunds1

Kim Cooper @kimcooper / Larry Edmunds Bookshop @LarryEdmunds1

Edward Carey  @EdwardCarey70  / bought at  @MalvernBooksTX

Edward Carey @EdwardCarey70 / bought at @MalvernBooksTX

Naomi Fry  @frynaomifry

Naomi Fry @frynaomifry

Stephen Sparks  @rs_sparks  / Point Reyes Books  @PointReyesBooks

Stephen Sparks @rs_sparks / Point Reyes Books @PointReyesBooks

Alex Maslansky / Stories Books  @StoriesEchoPark

Alex Maslansky / Stories Books @StoriesEchoPark

Kliph Nesteroff  @ClassicShowbiz

Kliph Nesteroff @ClassicShowbiz

Grafiche Morandi

Grafiche Morandi

Clare Kelly  @NewAgeSext

Clare Kelly @NewAgeSext

Denise Enck / Empty Mirror  @EmptyMirror

Denise Enck / Empty Mirror @EmptyMirror

John Coulthart  @johncoulthart

John Coulthart @johncoulthart

Kathleen Graulty and Julian Lucas / Mirrored Society  @MirroredSociety

Kathleen Graulty and Julian Lucas / Mirrored Society @MirroredSociety

Small Press Distribution  @spdbooks  / New Museum  @newmuseum

Small Press Distribution @spdbooks / New Museum @newmuseum

John Coulthart  @johncoulthart

John Coulthart @johncoulthart

J. M. Schriber  @roughghosts

J. M. Schriber @roughghosts

Ed Turner / Biblioklept  @biblioklept

Ed Turner / Biblioklept @biblioklept

Thank you to all of the wonderful, sensational artists who have taken part in PORTRAITS OF SPURL, and who are are not ashamed to read and sell our misfit books!

Literature, Publishing

Two Reviews of Michel Leiris

Two Reviews of Nights as Day, Days as Night
By Michel Leiris

In her article titledNocturnal Disturbances in Diabolique Magazine, Samm Deighan gave Nights as Day, Days as Night a fascinating (rave!) review. 

A book that largely resists classification, this is a combination of surrealist autobiography (literally, in the sense that is was written by a leading Surrealist and figuratively in the sense that it is predictably and wonderful surreal), prose poem (which is how translator Richard Sieburth refers to it), and dream journal. Anyone who has a fascination with the Surrealists or 20th century Paris will find much to love and the work’s appealing strangeness certainly lingers in the memory — I can’t stop thinking about it.
Spurl’s new volume captures the poetry, absurdity, and beauty of Leiris’s book thanks to a translation from Richard Sieburth. A comparative literature professor at New York University, Sieburth specializes in writing about and translating German and French literature; perhaps I’m biased, because he has translated a number of some of my favorite authors, from Walter Benjamin and Georg Büchner to Henri Michaux, as well as Nerval, and I suspect his knowledge of the latter assisted him here. Regardless, he does Leiris proud.

And in The Pepys of Sleep (in Strange Flowers), Berlin-based writer/translator James Conway talks about dreams and literature; Michel Leiris, Raymond Roussel, and André Breton; and the real-life dream of an Italian game show. A highly recommended read.

As language rests from its customary labours, Leiris takes words apart, comparing them, rearranging them, rousing the associative logic slumbering in their syllables.

You can also read an excerpt from Nights as Day, Days as Night online at The Brooklyn Rail. 

Literature

Lost De Quinceyean Dreams (Prose Poems)

Lost De Quinceyean Dreams

By Matt Schumacher

Illustration by Zhenya Gay of Thomas de Quincey’s  Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Illustration by Zhenya Gay of Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

LOST DE QUINCEYEAN DREAM NUMBER ONE

The 1821 revised Confessions were to contain “the crowning grace” of twenty to twenty-five dreams, but nearly all these prose poems were burned or lost. In one of these, De Quincey’s nightmare exiles him to a solemn, ruinous city.  Gargoyles guard its arched entrance, inscribed with a slogan from Ovid: Dolor Ipse Disertum Fecerat. The streets abandoned save for the sense no one lives here. Just when he’s sure no one’s about, a pallid gaunt man in a top hat and long black trenchcoat hurries out a small door and proceeds briskly toward the poet with pure purpose. The pale stranger nears, gray eyes staring maliciously into De Quincey’s. Then, like opiumsmoke, walks right through him.

A SECOND LOST DE QUINCEYEAN DREAM

Le flâneur magnifique, De Quincey dreams that, while walking down Parisian streets, he’s truly gliding backwards. The dream soon has him rushing faster in reverse, then flying head over heels, sire of some cyclonic gyre, flown down and swallowed by a south pole Symmes Hole, tumbling into hollow earth. Shivering high diver into stalictite caverns. Traveler, his sieve-like vessel leaking flames on subterranean rivers of fire. He wakes in the tower of Remedios Vara’s painting Embroidering the Earth’s Mantle. It’s frightening to be suddenly blinded by the glare of his threadbare suit, an incandescent gold. To see his shirtsleeves, now lava flows. His coattails fulgurite. And what a hat! An ash cloud plume, rising from the brim to sublime heights of cumulus. The crown stitched here and there with lightning.

LOST DE QUINCEYEAN DREAM NUMBER THREE

De Quincey dreams of sleeping cities long before electricity exists, cities whose steeples truly knew the moon. Cities seemingly deeply asleep, save for a scant lantern swaying down an alley, or a single flickering, candlelit room. He dreams of sleeping cities, silent cities which won’t let a rustle, not one whisper, slip. Not one hum from Northumbrian lowlands. With closed eyes like locked apothecary doors. A flock of insomniacs resume their posts as woe’s own nightwatchmen. He dreams of passengers restlessly sleeping on trains, perturbed, yet failing to complain, keeping to themselves. He dreams of sleep deprivation’s selling its last estate, sits betwixt narcoleptic auctioneer and hypnogogue who, drifting off, forgets to bid. Cities slide by in shimmering nightclothes, slow Barcelonas, languid Madrids, embark in darkness’s black fabric. De Quincey dreams of new dreams silently settling in, like a scarlet ibis retires to its nest. Strange visions dilate strange eyes, open the white flower of so many nightblooming minds beneath so many thousand eyelids.

THE FIFTEENTH LOST DE QUINCEYEAN DREAM

He dreams he’s a jockey galloping ahead of all of the other thoroughbreds on a steed named Celestial Hallucination, one of hundreds of horses the Zetas race in the United States to launder millions in fiendish proceeds. The horse gallops faster and faster, murdering the competition, then leaps steeplechase-style over the track and fence, metamorphosing beneath De Quincey into a manyheaded beast. Sudden heads of sabertoothed tigers and tyrannosaurus rex crane their necks to salivate on him. Their gleaming teeth can’t quite reach him. Burying his face in its mane, he grips the chimera tighter. Glancing down, he sees his legs and arms have fused into the beast. His limbs belong to the wild scaffolding and bellows of its wings, hot and loud as a jet engine, part of this monstrosity flying higher into the air, this thing shapeshifting all the while with fangs gaping, slavering jaws wide, soaring somewhere in the stratosphere, trying to eat him alive.

From Matt Schumacher’s unpublished collection A Missing Suspiria de Profundis


Matt Schumacher's collections of poetry include Spilling the Moon, The Fire Diaries, Ghost Town Odes, and favorite maritime drinking songs of the miraculous alcoholics. Managing editor of the journal Phantom Drift, he lives in Portland, Oregon.

Literature

The Fall (Short Story)

The Fall

By Virgilio Piñera

We had scaled the three-thousand-foot mountain. Not to bury a capsule there at the peak, nor to raise the flag of the bold alpine climbers. After a few minutes, we began the descent. My companion followed me, bound, as is usual in these situations, by the same rope that ringed my waist. I figure we had descended exactly ninety-eight feet when one of my companion’s cleated boots glanced off a rock, causing him to lose his balance and somersault ahead of me. Since the rope wound between my legs, it jerked me hard, and to avoid being tossed over the edge, I had to twist around backwards. He, in turn, directed his fall to the spot I had just occupied. His decision was neither ridiculous nor absurd; on the contrary, he was responding to a profound understanding of those situations still unlisted in the manuals. The force of his movement caused a slight adjustment, and I suddenly saw my companion passing like a meteorite between my legs, and then the jolt from the rope—fastened, as I mentioned, to his back—turned me around into my original position of descent. He, undoubtedly obeying the same physical laws as I, and having traveled the distance permitted by the rope, was flipped over backwards, which naturally brought us face to face. We didn’t say a word, but both of us knew that the headlong fall was inevitable. And so it happened that, after an indefinite period of time, we began to fall. Because my sole concern was to avoid losing my eyes, I put all my effort into preserving them from the terrible effects of the fall. As for my companion, his only worry was that his beautiful beard—colored an admirable gray like gothic glass—reach the plain intact, not even slightly dusty. So, with utmost determination, I covered the bearded portion of his face with my hands; he, in turn, placed his hands over my eyes. Our velocity was increasing by the second, as is required in these cases of bodies falling through space. Suddenly, I looked through the slight spaces between his fingers and saw a sharp rock raze the top of his head. Suddenly, I had to turn my own head to confirm that my legs had been separated from my torso by a rock, possibly of calcareous origin, whose serrated edge severed anything that came against it with the perfection of a saw used in the construction of ocean liners. With some effort, it is only fair to admit, we were saving my companion, his beautiful beard, and me, my eyes. It is true that now and then—every fifty feet or so, as I calculate it—a part of our bodies would be separated from us. For example, during five such intervals, we lost my companion, his left ear, his right elbow, a leg (I don’t remember which), his testicles, and his nose; I, the upper part of my thorax, my spinal cord, my left eyebrow, my left ear, and my jugular vein. But this is nothing compared to what followed. A thousand feet above the plain, all we had left respectively was the following: my companion, his two hands (only to the carpal bones) and his beautiful gray beard; I, my two hands (also only to the carpus) and my eyes. A slight fear began to possess us. What if our hands were torn away by another boulder? We kept falling. Approximately ten feet above the plain, a pole left out by a worker capriciously caught the hands of my companion. Seeing my orphaned eyes left totally unprotected, I must confess with eternal, unforgettable shame, I withdrew my hands from his beautiful gray beard to protect my eyes from any impact. I was unable to cover them, for my hands were immediately caught in the same fashion by another pole pointing in a different direction from the aforementioned pole, at which point we were separated from each other for the first time during the entire descent. But I couldn’t complain; my eyes landed safe and sound on the grassy plain and could see, a little ways off, the beautiful gray beard of my companion, shining in all its glory.

1944


This story is an excerpt from Cold Tales, by Virgilio Piñera, translated by Mark Schafer.

Virgilio Piñera (August 4, 1912, Cárdenas, Cuba—October 18, 1979, Havana) was a playwright, short-story writer, poet, and essayist who became famous for his work as well as for his highly bohemian lifestyle. His best collections are Cuentos Fríos (1956, Cold Tales) and Pequeñas maniobras (1963, Little Maneuvers). Piñera’s stories blend the fantastic with the grotesque, with touches of paranoia, and even with madness. [via Britannica

Mark Schafer has translated poetry, novels, short stories, and essays by many Latin American authors, including Alberto Ruy Sánchez, Virgilio Piñera, Jesús Gardea, Antonio José Ponte, and Sonia Rivera-Valdés.

Featured image from the series “Sick City” by John Brian King.

Literature, Publishing

French Writers We Love (Art by Félix Vallotton)

Thank you for making 2016 a very decadent year for us!

We released Jean Lorrain’s fever dream of a novella, Monsieur de Bougrelon
“A singular and intoxicating experience” – James Conway
Barbara Payton’s absurdist, seedy memoir I Am Not Ashamed
“A dime store (in the best sense of the term) Notes from Underground – the bellowing of the underground woman” – Kim Morgan
And John Brian King’s arresting second photography collection Nude Reagan
“Both a grotesque imposition and an ugly seduction” – Moze Halperin

And in March 2017, we will publish a brilliant work by French God-of-letters Michel Leiris:
Nights as Day, Days as Night
Translated by Richard Sieburth, with a foreword by Maurice Blanchot

See you in 2017!


Authors pictured from left to right, top to bottom: Comte de Lautréamont, Alfred Jarry, Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Félix Féneon; Jean Lorrain (the man himself), Joris-Karl Huysmans, Rachilde, Jules and Edmond de Goncourt; Pierre Louÿs, Stendhal, Honoré de Balzac, artist Félix Vallotton. – Illustrations by Félix Vallotton (1865–1925).