Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Zach Smith & Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow

I started reading Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow about ten years ago and gave up a third of the way through. That wasn't because I didn't like it - I loved it - but I knew that if I carried on reading, my head would've exploded. It's such a mind-boggling book that I would guess most people who've started it didn't finish. I'd also guess that many of those readers were cut short due to their heads exploding.

As an alternative to actually reading the novel, every now and then I'll pull it off the shelf, select a page at random and read until I'm mildly dizzy. There's no harm in doing this, because the passages make as much sense out of context as would if I'd read the whole thing. There aren't any real characters, or plot, or anything you can tangibly grab hold of. For me, Gravity's Rainbow is all about Pynchon's extraordinary use of language.

I've never done this with any other book, but Gravity's Rainbow is a unique experience, and for me, it can only be treated in this particular way. It's possible that I've read the whole thing by now, and somewhere in the depths of my subconscious it's all been pieced together into something that makes sense. Or not.

Among the small elite of geniuses who've read the book from cover to cover is Zach Smith, who a few years ago, took it upon himself to illustrate every single one of Pynchon's 760-pages. Excitingly, every single one of these pictures is archived online.

You don't need to have read the book to appreciate this work, and if you haven't read it, Smith's work will make you want to.

I'd suggest treating this collection in the same way as I treat the book: through a process of random selection. Here, for example, is one I just clicked on: picture number 314:

Caption: "... Zwitter: stocky, dark hair parted down the middle, eyeglass lenses thick as the windows of a bathysphere..."

View the whole collection online here.

Monday, 27 February 2012


Here's a demonstration of the art of throat singing.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Web Lit Roulette #6

A semi-random selection of highlights from the world of online literature...

Beauty Remains Beside the Point by Paul Hostovsky (from Frigg Magazine)

Quarter Cherry Lips by Craig Pay (from Litro)

Deer Among Huntersa story from Kevin Brown (from Muscle and Blood)

Excerpt from A Mortal Affect by Vincent Standley (from Sleepingfish)

Four Poems By Melissa Lee-Houghton (from 3am Magazine)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Wrinkle Maker by Marcel Béalu

Here's a link to a classic short story, republished in the current edition of Cafe Irreal:
The Wrinkle Maker ("Le Fabricant de rides") by Marcel Béal

The biography...

Marcel Béalu (1908-1993) was best known for the delicacy with which he explored dreams and the unreal in poetry, prose, and painting. A retiring figure, he ran a bookstore by the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris named Le Pont Traversé after a novel by his friend, critic and editor Jean Paulhan. There he held readings for a small circle of surrealist and fantastical writers; it is said Lacan, among his first customers, purchased Shakespeare's complete works and forgot to pay for them.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

New review for Mr If's "Violence is the Answer"

Many thanks to Christopher Frost for his great review of Mr If's Violence is the Answer in Neon Magazine. (And thanks to Neon for continuing to support the Philistines.)

It was always going to be a difficult book to review, and this is a frank and fair assessment.

"Violence Is The Answer says some terrible things, but it’s one of the best chapbooks I’ve read in a long time. It is intimate, honest, and completely open. Having read it, I feel as though I’ve met and talked with the author in person, and though I didn’t actually like him as such, what he had to say was powerful, intelligent and shocking. Some will enjoy this book, and many more will simply be offended by it. Either way it gets a reaction."

Read the full review here.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Oktober by Vak Beakon

Another free online novel here: Oktober by Vak Beakon.

This is a pretty weird project. Weird in a good way - as you'll see from the author's explanation on the website. What isn't explained, however, is why all the letter Ks are highlighted in red. It's freaky, if nothing else. Freaky in a good way.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


A new discovery here:

Some extraordinary online literature, including the novels, "Consider What Becomes of the Ashes" and "The Komatsu Wombat and the Fantastical Anticlimax" - all available to read online for free (although you can also purchase them in print).

Who is the mysterious Pixelnyx? Very interesting question.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Fur-Lined Guettos

Writers of absurdist literature may be interested in this new magazine, created by Sophie Essex and Andrew Hook. They say:

"We enjoy the surreal, the absurd, the nonsensical, the complicated, the simple, the truth, the lies, the complexity of words, the ecstasy of genius, the delightful power we find in the spaces between and dancing at the discothèque."

They're currently accepting submissions for their first issue.

More information on their website,

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Campus on the Hill by W.D. Snodgrass

Up the reputable walks of old established trees
They stalk, children of the nouveaux riches; chimes
Of the tall Clock Tower drench their heads in blessing:
``I don't wanna play at your house;
I don't like you any more.''
My house stands opposite, on the other hill,
Among meadows, with the orchard fences down and falling;
Deer come almost to the door.
You cannot see it, even in the clearest morning.
White birds hang in the air between
Over the garbage landfill and those homes thereto adjacent,
Hovering slowly, turning, settling down
Like the flakes sifting imperceptibly onto the little town
In a waterfall of glass
And yet, this morning, beyond this quiet scene,
The floating birds, the packyards of the poor,
Beyond the shopping plaza, the dead canal, the hillside lying tilted in the air,
Tomorrow has broken out today;
Riot in Algeria, in Cyprus, in Alabama;
Aged in wrong, the empires are declining,
And China gathers, soundlessly, like evidence.
What shall I say to the young on such a morning?—
Mind is the one salvation?—also grammar?—
No; my little ones lean not toward revolt. They
Are the Whites, the vaguely furiously driven, who resist
Their souls with such passivity
As would make Quakers swear. All day, dear Lord, all day
They wear their godhead lightly.
They look out from their hill and say,
To themselves, ``We have nowhere to go but down,
The great destination is to stay.''
Surely the nations will be reasonable;
They look at the world—don't they?—the world's way?
The clock just now has nothing more to say.

More at The Compendium.