IN 2013, with the publication of Stephen Wiest’s Screeds, The Fortnightly Review began offering subscribers a collection of titles reflecting the diverse interests of the editors. We call our imprint Odd Volumes, a salute to The Sette of Odd Volumes, a celebrated and long-lived association of bibliophiles founded in London in 1878 by Bernard Quaritch and others. (Our colophon is in fact borrowed from some of the Sette’s early printed pieces.)1
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Stephen Wiest, born the day after Pearl Harbor, has worked as a janitor, bartender, Fuller Brush salesman, printer, and gardener for people who like flowers but not dirt. In the late ‘sixties, he was poet-in-residence at The Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars, under Elliott Coleman. He lives in Rock Hall, Maryland, an old waterman’s town on the Chesapeake Bay. Although he has written five books of poetry and four novels, this final version of Screeds is his first publication in twenty-six years.
The first French edition of Le roman russe, of which this essay is an extended chapter, appeared in 1886 and was perhaps one of the most influential books of literary comment in the nineteenth century, bringing Russian fiction to the attention of French, then English, readers, to whom it was new and interesting. As historian Owen Chadwick later wrote, “Le roman russe was so critical, and yet so constructive, so personal and yet so objective, so penetrating without being astringent, so prosaic and yet so haunting, that even after so many decades you cannot read it without wanting to go back to read the Russian novelists for themselves. If we say that Vogüé ‘popularized’ Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, that would be true. But the description is very inadequate both to explain what the book achieved and the way it achieved that effect.”
From the preface: ‘This is a book which synthesizes a lifetime of reflection on the origins of the modern world. Through forty years of travel in Europe, Australia, India, Nepal, Japan and China I have observed the similarities and differences of cultures. I have read as widely as possible in both contemporary and classical works in history, anthropology and philosophy.’ The Invention of the Modern World is based on a series of lectures given in China to introduce students to unique characteristics of British life. Prof Macfarlane is a Professor Emeritus of King’s College Cambridge, a Fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society and the co-editor of The Fortnightly Review. He is the author of The Culture of Capitalism, The Savage Wars of Peace, The Riddle of the Modern World and The Making of the Modern World, among many others.
This book contains the following essays, all published first in The Fortnightly Review: Essayism and Modernity | William Blake. | Therianthropes and vents. | Constellations. | Pattern recognition and the periodic table. | Extremities of perception in an age of lenses. | Demotic ritual. | Science and disenchantment. | The self-subversion of the book. | Newton’s prisms. | The Janus face of Metaphor. | Clues and labyrinths. | Ruin, the collector and sad mortality. Alan Wall was born in Bradford, lives in North Wales, teaches at the University of Chester, and studied English at Oxford. He has published six novels and three collections of poetry in addition to two more collections of essays also published by Odd Volumes and listed below. The three volumes may be purchased at a 15 percent discount if ordered directly from us. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oswald Sickert’s delicate examination of two middle-class, late-Victorian characters – an ambitious writer and his wife, a freshly liberated woman — and their rather modern relationship. It has been more than a century since this book first appeared (in 1894, in Unwin’s ‘Pseudonym Library’ — where Sickert’s pseudonym was simply ‘Oswald Valentine’) but the anxieties of modern lives lived in a period of transition will be quite familiar to most twenty-first century readers. Oswald Valentine Sickert was the younger brother of Walter Sickert, the famous painter and student of Whistler. The Sickerts were a very well-connected family. Their home was the social hub of an influential circle of artists and critics, and Cambridge-educated Oswald was the family favorite. Among his friends were Edward Marsh and Bertrand Russell. Introduction by Denis Boyles.
A note from the translator: ‘Marco Genovesi, like many young writers in Italy, has sought inspiration in outside sources. While he draws on a wide variety of English-language authors, from Bukowski to Woolf, he has also turned to Japanese literature, especially the haiku poets and the novelists Kawabata and Murakami. In Genovesi’s poems and stories, their focused imagery and clipped phraseology run counter to the exuberant Anglo-American strain. By adroitly combining these disparate elements, he achieves a wholly original voice. ‘ — Hoyt Rogers
“Genovesi makes use of diverse perspectives: spaces that are wide-open or infinitely small, present or post-apocalyptic, distorted by alcohol or clear as day. His harmonization of narrative rhythm with an acute sense of place quickly wins the reader’s empathy.” —Michele Casagrande
For more than 50 years, Peter Riley’s creative and critical voice has given shape and substance to modern English-language poetry as a prize-winning poet and editor and writer of imaginative prose. For the last few years, he has served as poetry editor of The Fortnightly Review, whence come these critical notices. Denise Riley, John Burnside, Peter Hughes, Alistair Noon, Andrew Jordan, Sandeep Parmar, Kelvin Corcoran, Anthony Barnett, Barry Tebb, Ed Dorn, Barbara Guest, Joseph Ceravolo, James Schuyler, Simon Smith, Carherine Hales, John Welch, Anthony Mellors, Andrew McMillan and Robert Duncan are among the more than two dozen poets surveyed here.
This is the first English-language translation of Brunetiere’s Science and Religion, which was originally published in 1895, and was one of the most controversial books of its time. Written by a leading French secularist (at the time, the editor of the influential Revue des Deux Mondes), Brunetiere’s public reconsideration of traditional Catholicism elevated the controversy surrounding science and faith by infusing the emotional debate with intellectual rigor. This debate rages on today, often with scientist-celebrities on one side and thoughtful theologians on the other. This book has as much relevance now as it did when it first appeared more than a century ago. Note: All orders placed by subscribers or ordered directly from us on email@example.com will also include a complimentary edition of Brunetière and the ‘monster banquet’ by Elton Hocking in an e-book format unique to Odd Volumes.
A good writer is a good reader. But of all the things a writer reads, nothing is more moving, more soul-wrenching than a slip of paper (or an email) reading “Rejected!” It’s a life-changing thing. Stephen Wade’s life has thus been changed many times. If you’re a writer you know what the experience is like. Out of a spirit of melancholy collegiality, Mr. Wade offers some hard-won advice — if not also consolation — for writers facing the opposite of acceptance.
Literary and speculative essays on the paranormal and other imaginative topics — ranging from Madame Blavatsky to make-believe musicians — by Fortnightly Review columnist and novelist James Gallant.
“James Gallant writes about some of the most intellectually challenging and inherently fascinating subjects imaginable: the UFO phenomenon, occult materializations and the like. His suggestion that invasions of occult influences become especially likely in disorderly societies like our own—in the gaps, in the interstices of what we think of as the real but which is in fact a social construction, and a wobbly one at that—is compelling.” — Jeffrey J. Kripal, J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religion, Rice University, author of Secret Body : Erotic and Esoteric Currents in the History of Religion
Philippe Jaccottet is the prize-winning, Swiss-born French poet who, in 2014, became only the third poet (after René Char and St. John Perse) to enter Gallimard’s Pléiade list while still living and working. “Truinas, April 21, 2001” is Jaccottet’s meditation on his long friendship with another essential French poet, André du Bouchet (1924-2001), provoked by Du Bouchet’s funeral — ‘an event that evokes memories of their first meeting a half-century earlier, their literary affinities (notably their common literary admiration for the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin), the particularly vivid perceptions of the natural surroundings of Du Bouchet’s house in the south of France, and, not least, the doubts–scruples–about the very possibility of writing truly and honestly about death.’ — John Taylor. This is a cloth-covered, limited edition of the first English translation.
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) was a German philosopher, essayist and critic whose work has grown in relevance and importance in the 75 years since his death by suicide on the French-Spanish border as Nazi invaders drew near. In his possession: a mysterious suitcase, now lost. The University of Chester’s Alan Wall examines many of the recent contexts for discussions of Benjamin and offers detailed explanations for the overdue resurgence of interest in this important writer.
When British poet Anthony Howell suffers a mid-day epileptic seizure on a train, he awakens to a reconsideration that ultimately leads to a unique novel-memoir, one that blends an added Palestinian narrative (‘Mutilation’) with a complex internal examination. By journey’s end, a recapitulation of historical events and current politics reveals a new and unexpected consciousness…
‘Rimbaud’s “I is another” is the crucial statement by the bad-boy genius, whose life prefigured the counter-culture and whose works have influenced many later writers, including Anthony Howell, elite bohemian, brilliant poet and performance artist. Howell’s new prose book, with a title that would have enthralled Rimbaud, incarnates otherness from within an ultra-inventive mind that creates, coolly and passionately at the same time, a coalition of the alienated or, more mildly, differentiated selves which make up this post-modern personality with its urban Jewish and rural Quaker roots. It took an epileptic fit to trigger Howell’s remarkable exploration of psychic chaos which is contained, not so paradoxically, in a super-formalistic structure, a systems network involving repetition as in a baroque poem, that would be a credit to French formalists such as Jacques Roubaud, Raymond Queneau and Alain Robbe-Grillet. Among many themes there is a harsh critique of Israel, but written as much in sorrow as in anger from within the goodly tent. The author intersperses his own text with his fluent version of a novella by Mamdouh Adwan, the tragic story of an old Palestinian who has been dispossessed of all he owns. This counterpoint complicates further the music of Howell’s earthly spheres, but such are his skills that we read the book as a straightforward story, a story whose unrevealed codes work on us subliminally so that we are transported, as if listening to Bach.’ —Anthony Rudolf
“A reading experience like no other…Pierre Chappuis’s ‘A Notebook of Clouds’ (in John Taylor’s nuanced translation) is by turns lyrical, playful, and philosophical. Magically, in a series of short prose pieces and poems, Chappuis evokes a bygone world of childhood when we could sit and stare and discover an entire universe in a passing cloud. At the same time, we are given fascinating glimpses into the hidden nature of the creative act.
“Taking his inspiration from Chappuis, John Taylor does not disappoint when he follows with his own ‘A Notebook of Ridges’. Its observations form the basis for a search into childhood memories of the flatlands of Iowa and for a subtle investigation into how the past haunts the life he leads now in Western France. Finally, in a sequence called ‘The Word and the Stream’, Taylor moves from the immanent to the transcendent in a series of compelling and poetically-charged fragments.
“Throughout this volume, there is the most wonderful sense of a genuine pilgrimage for our times.”
University of Chester
Author: New York Hotel
The inventory of a poet’s life, ‘drafted in a language of rare elegance, sensitivity, and precision,’ writes John Taylor. In this new collection, the author of Screeds, a gardener, professor, poet and printer meditates on aging, self-acceptance — and acceptance in a more comprehensive sense that bears on us all. Credo is a work of reminiscence and appraisal, a mirror held up to one man’s life at an angle that reveals something about every life.
Four poems from Credo are here.
A former poet-in-residence at The Johns Hopkins University, this is Stephen Wiest’s second collection published by Odd Volumes for subscribers to The Fortnightly Review.
The prose poem, as Jeremy Noel-Tod observes in the introduction to The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, ‘often makes its home among other forms and genres… such as the anecdote, the aphorism, the sketch, the dialogue, the essay, the fairy tale, the fragment, the joke, the myth or the short story.’ We could also add letters, diary entries, accounts of dreams. The texts in this collection of short fictions inhabit this edgy, unstable space and are hard to pin down. They may be dream-like or humorous. Some deliberately mirror each other, while others are linked by imagery or thematic content. Some texts form series, identifiable by their titles, others could be extracts from the constantly evolving, virtual novel described in the very last piece, ‘Medusa’.
Simon Collings lives in Oxford UK and is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. An archive of his work in The Fortnightly is here.
The essay has recently become one of the most exciting genres in contemporary literature. In whatever form, print or electronic, it allows for an intellectual experimentalism which exhilarates and avoids falling into an academic trench. Alan Wall’s essays are speedy, risk-taking pieces of writing, each one an urgent search for illumination.
This is the third volume of essays by Alan Wall of published by Odd Volumes, the imprint of The Fortnightly Review. As with the first two collections, these are thoughtful, unique — and contain considerable scholarship.
They are what the author calls ‘exercises in radical pattern-recognition’. Wall believes that the essay is the most perfect form for provisional explorations and intellectual forays into the often bewildering realities of the world today. The essay form is flexible and capacious. It can be bent in almost any direction. Wall shows how the essay flourishes through luminous writing, vivid imagery and an insatiable intellectual curiosity. These essays dance between macrocosm and microcosm on a single page.
We are happy to provide these thought-provoking essays to readers of The Fortnightly Review.
These two fables by poet-editor-translator Anthony Rudolf explore richly detailed imaginary landscapes situated far from each other in time and space…’not only elegantly done, but it is also moving; heartfelt in both construction and receipt.’ — Clive Sinclair
Pedraterra: ‘As in every country, there are intelligent people and stupid people, good people and bad people, susceptible people and potentially rebellious people. Not all have been brainwashed and some never will be. However, a serious rebellion will be quashed unmercifully. You, a democrat, a sweetheart, a child at heart, a man of gifts, are the most benign version of the stone-touched human imaginable, but you are straitjacketed.’
Angleterre: ‘The precocious Racine explained to Antoine that he had been writing poetry — in French and in Latin — for about a year but that his way of seeing the world could no longer be contained in poetry and cried out for the broader canvas of a play. If he did eventually write a play, he for one would naturally obey the proprieties.’
These eighty-one stories were fashioned during a single year by Michelene Wandor, a playwright, poet, fiction writer and cultural critic, who invited family members, friends — and some passing acquaintances — to give her four random words. These quartets signal each story as a kind of riddle: the solution in the title, the clues, Marple- and Poirot-like, embedded in each brief narrative. Punning, witty, scholarly, off the wall, each with its unique punchline, the pieces go beyond flash fiction and poetry, into freed association, with unpredicted and unpredictable motifs. The language becomes and is becoming: transformative and serendipitous in the writing and the reading.
Michelene Wandor is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. She has taught creative writing for more than three decades, currently as tutor for the MA at Lancaster University.
‘Igor Webb has written a light-touch (but not light-weight) book. With its knowingness, self-awareness and deconstructive focus, its anti-genre or non-genre composition, its un-self-defensive irony, it could only have been written now, yet it is sweetly old-fashioned: this fine critic and memoirist has produced a collection of essays, a volume of belles-lettres, like some of the books by Huxley and Edmund Wilson. It does not seek to be integrated and yet it is a whole thanks to the projection of a charming and seductive voice, whether writing about his friends, Robert Hass and Philip Roth, or a childhood favourite, such as Captain Hornblower, while taking in Dickens , the Brontes and James Bond en route — or the pandemic in journal form. Webb has produced an instructive and entertaining book that is deeply serious and yet does not take itself seriously.’ — Anthony Rudolf
Also by Igor Webb: Christopher Smart’s Cat. Published by Dos Madres Press. ‘Marvelous…inventingly told, full of intelligence, funny, often with a novelistic flair…as much like a literary miscellany as a memoir, with both genres having equally impressive heft.’ —Philip Roth
After a career of some fifty years, John Matthias pays homage in this book to a wide range of poetic masters, early teachers, friends, places, curiosities, fictions, and facts in a hybrid volume including several styles of verse and two essays. Ian Pople in Manchester Review has called Matthias “a kind of mid-Atlantic treasure,” and Guy Davenport declared him “one of the best poets in the USA.”
Matthias, an editor and teacher, as well as a prolific poet, has written some forty books of poetry, translation, scholarship, and fiction. His most recent volume is a book-length version of his memoir, “Living with a Visionary,” which was widely read when it appeared in The New Yorker. That account of his late wife Diana’s struggle with Parkinson’s finds a companion here in “Hacheston Halt,” about the poet’s early visit to Diana’s house in Suffolk. John Matthias is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review.
Ivano Fermini (1948-2004) was born in San Paolo, a small village near Bolzano, Italy. Most of his adult life he lived with his sister in a flat in the working-class area of San Siro in Milan. He suffered from recurring bouts of mental illness. Towards the end of the 1970s he joined the ‘Niebo’ group, which centred around the poet Milo De Angelis, and included Emi Rabuffetti, Antonio Mungai, Alberto Schieppati, Giancarlo Pontiggia, Cesare Lievi, Marta Bertamini and Roberto Mussapi. The Niebo magazine, founded by De Angelis, ran to nine issues from 1977 to 1980, and published work inspired by visionary poets, such as William Blake, Gérard de Neval, and Arthur Rimbaud. Fermini himself was especially drawn
to the work of Paul Celan. He would go onto publish two collections, Bianco allontanato (Banished White), 1985, and Nati incendio (Fire Births), 1990. Both these collections are now long out of print. He remains relatively unknown, both inside and outside Italy. This volume is published with the hope of helping to correct that.
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April 26, 2020
From Harvey Shoolman
I, and many others I know, very much enjoy the essays of Alan Wall and I’ve eagerly devoured the 2 volumes you’ve published so far.
However, I note there’s many essays by Wall on your website that have not been collected in the 2 essay volumes published to date.
Could we PLEASE have a third published essay collection by Alan Wall?
Reply: It took nearly a year, but the third volume of Alan Wall’s essays has now been published. See above on this page.
- An exhibition at William Andrews Clark Library, curated by Ellen Crowell, Associate Professor, Saint Louis University, of the ‘curious bookcase’ of one-time (1913-1918) Sette president Ralph Straus, a novelist, biographer and Sette archivist, is here.