Readers of The Quarterly Conversation need no introduction to Sergio De La Pava, author of A Naked Singularity. Our review of the book helped bring this self-published title to prominence, where reader after reader has attested to its high quality. De La Pava has written a second book, titled Personae and to be available soon on Amazon. (It currently can be ordered here from Xlibris.) We present to you the first eight pages in hopes that this second novel will not be as unfairly overlooked by publishing at large as the first.
To what extent is prose the medium that best allows Cormac McCarthy's particular talents to manifest? To what extent do his skills as an author depend upon setting down words on a page in order to coax out a distinct voice that mediates dialogue, character, and story with its own idiosyncratic ruminations? These questions seem speculative, I admit, but they must be asked because they haunt McCarthy's latest book from the first page to the very last. That book is The Sunset Limited, a verbatim reproduction of the script for a stage play McCarthy wrote in 2006—verbatim except for the addition of a cryptic subtitle, A Novel in Dramatic Form, with which it distinguishes itself from the stage play by making an issue of its own novelistic capacity for prosaic meditation.
Lenz, a partirarch of Gruppe 47, emerged with Hans Werner Richter, Ilse Aichinger, Günter Grass, and Heinrich Böll, along with other artists, out of war and collective shellshock. Gruppe 47 envisioned a new future for Germany, one that confronted the horrors of atrocity with compunction, responsibility, and reparations. Lenz's latest novel takes place perhaps twenty years after World War II, although this can only be derived from context. In a similar manner, we assume by the maturity of the prose that the narrator, Christian, writes from an advanced age, reminiscing about a formative relationship he had as an 18-year-old, when he fell in love with his 25-year-old English teacher, Stella. Their student-teacher flirtation evolves to sharing the past. She tells him, "My father was a radio operator in a bomber, his plane was shot down on its first raid, his companions died in the crash but he survived . . . so that's how I became an English teacher." She and Christian grow closer, in part, through literature, communicating by Faulkner, Twain, and Orwell.
The presence of this distinctive architecture alerts the reader to the fact that Cao Naiqian's collection of linked stories, There's Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night, is set in the same hardscrabble region of rural North China where the Communist Revolution had its roots. (The book's able translator, John Balcom, refers to this book as a novel, but it could just as well be seen as a collection of stories.) Born the same year as the People's Republic, 1949, and a veteran police officer, Cao Naiqian belongs to a generation that was raised on Maoist ideology and revolutionary thinking, so there is something rather sly about his portrayal of the peasants of the village called Wen Clan Caves.
It seems that more than ever Hölderlin’s question is in urgent need of a response. What can the purpose of poetry be in a world as barbarous and brutal as ours? Perhaps it can be our most contemporary aesthetic and poets our true contemporaries, especially if we conceive of “contemporaries,” following Giorgio Agamben, as those who look actively and with purpose into the dark in order to see what must be seen. Considering the cruelties of the age we live in, the anthology Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak, published in 2007, is remarkable for a variety of reasons, the least of which is the fact of its existence.