Compiling the Syllabus festschrift

The SyllabusCompiling the third VP festschrift was an agonising process of cruel discrimination and random elimination. At nights, in our beds, texts called out to us to be included in the final 100 . . . from across the room, Natalie Sarraute’s Tropisms sang its praises in a soft whimper, Carlos Fuentes’s Christopher Unborn stomped and howled in envious rage, Harry Mathews’s Tlooth slid under the covers for an attempted seduction. Dozens of texts were teased and rebuffed as the list solidified into the final 100 published in the volume. The screams and moans of those left behind still torment us in our sleep—we soothe their pains with promises for inclusion in The Syllabus II. Once the provisional list had been compiled we offered some of our regular contributors first dibs on writing about the texts, and began hunting down a varied range of readers, critics, and fiction writers to share their opinions. The positive and enthusiastic responses received were incredible and helped keep our spirits up during the process.

One of our challenges in locating contributors was, in some cases, to find those enthusiastic about the lesser-known books, such as I.M.S. Prado’s piece on Palinuro of Mexico, Nate Dorr’s on Erowina (reissued by VP), and Eddie Watkins on Urmuz. There are pleasing homages from friends of the authors, such as Steve Katz and Lance Olsen’s reminiscences on Raymond Federman, Ellen Friedman on Christine Brooke-Rose, and Rodge Glass on Alasdair Gray, and several contributors suggested unknown items to the editors, such as Wee Teck Lim on The Field of Life and Death and Ammiel Alcalay on The Hypocritic Days. Several translators share their thoughts on their art, including Alex Zucker on City Sister Silver, and Peter Blundell on Eden Eden Eden.

Each writer was permitted creative control of their response to the text. The results are electic: among the approaches, Pablo Medina outlines how Three Trapped Tigers shaped him as a writer, Lee Klein re-evaluates the stories of Barthelme as an older writer, Lauren Elkin takes a class of students around Perec’s Paris, J.A. Darlington prints and cuts up web content on Alan Burns in homage, Alec Nevala-Lee and Silvia Barlaam offer male and female perspectives on Dictionary of the Khazars, some critics offer passionate sketches of their favourite novels, such as Steven Moore on Darconville’s Cat, Nicolas Tredell on the B.S. Johnson Omnibus, and Nadine Mainard on The Avignon Quintet, while academics Keith Moser and Eugene Hayworth serve up defences of Terra Amata and Island People respectively.

Among the fiction homages are Rick McGrath’s excellent take on The Atrocity Exhibition (including a full-page Advertiser’s Announcement), Fionnuala Nic Mheanmán’s annotated poem on Finnegans Wake, Jason Graff’s Oulipian story, Ali Millar’s constrained tip-of-the-hat to Lydia Davis, Rosalyn Drexler’s snippet in the mode of José Cela, Anonymous’s disturbing nod to Bernhard, and Manny Rayner’s droll tribute to Gilbert Adair.

Space (and time) prevents me from mentioning the other fantastic contributions, all of whom can be perused and applauded on this page, where the festschrift can be ordered for the respectable price of £9.99 (plus £2) shipping. Our thanks to all those who contributed.

Compiling the Gilbert Adair Festschrift

(c) Justin Williams/ Rex Features

(c) Justin Williams/ Rex Features

The second VP festschrift posed multiple dilemmas due to the subject’s shapeshifting nature. A series of festschrifts could be compiled around Adair’s brilliant film and culture essays, or his staggering translation work (Perec especially), or his screenplays and other miscellany. We chose to focus on his literary novels, and his talents as a pasticheur (a title that cannot be overused), indulging in the meta-play from his Evadne novels, and the lit-theory cleverness from The Death of the Author, to blissful extremes. The collaborative piece ‘Disturbance at the Pastiche Playground’ nods towards Queneau’s Exercises in Style with a pass-the-buck series of pastiches on authors as diverse as Roald Dahl, Rabelais, Karl Edward Wagner, W.G. Sebald, and Georges Perec (a contribution from real-life Oulipian Ian Monk). To keep things respectable, we solicited various essays on his literary works, and received two fabulously detailed takes on his Evadne mysteries, along with pieces on The Dreamers and his lesser-known novellas. This festschrift, as with the preceding issue on CB-R, opened up a playful space where Adair’s impish intellectual spirit was riffed on and respectfully parodied with maniacal fervour. The novella-sized closer, ‘The Glibread Affair’ is an act of pitch-perfect pastiche work taken to such levels of affectionate mimicry, one suspects the author to have suffered a disturbing form of echolalia as a child. The first-time publication of the superb Pope pastiche The Rape of the Cock, and Kevin Jackson’s illuminating interview, helped us involve the absent man himself in the whole affair. Adair deserves more readers in the UK and the US. And the rest of the universe.

Festschrift Available Now!

The flagship festschrift is available to purchase! The sky-blue paper or hardback editions are available from various online retailers, or for (our) ease and convenience, orderable through the VP website here (using Paypal).

You may also find the book at the following outlets (updated as they appear):

Book Depository (UK)
Foyles (UK)
Waterstones (UK)
Fishpond (UK)
Bokus (Nordic region)
Barnes and Noble (US)
Indigo (US)
Alibris (US/UK)
Rakuten (US)

Perusable:

Google Books

Compiling the Festschrift

Compiling the flagship festschrift took us from Cabrières d’Avignon to the halls of the Harry Ransom and back to the filth-strewn streets of Glasgow, without having to leave our armchairs. We solicited submissions from a wide range of Christine Brooke-Rose enthusiasts, some of whom were unavailable, some of whom more enthusiastic than we could have hoped for, some of whom desperate, and some of whom merely there—it seemed rude not to ask. Our festschrift is an exhaustive (not exhausting) topological tour through the forking pathways of the Brooke-Rose intellect, navigated by our editor G.N. Forester’s illuminating career-spanning essay on her constraints—integral to the appreciation of CB-R as a critic and (Jo) reader is a basic understanding of her unshowy subtextual language games and metaphors. Forester’s essay is a lucid overview, assembled over six months of off-the-cuff scholarship and close reading, and we hope deglazes some of the “difficulty” attached to her reputation that has lead to her fate as a long-term unread experimentalist.

The kindness and encouragement of Jean-Michel Rabaté, whose remembrance opens the collection, has been indispensable to the launching of this volume (and our press), and thanks to his assistance, we were able to reproduce and reprint some terrific Brooke-Rose material. The long poem Gold is a piece of pure constraint—a scholarly and religious work with a strong social comment, based on the 14thC verse poem Pearl, caps her lesser-known skill as a poet (a skill she abandoned by the end of the 1950s, concentrating instead on the ‘poetry’ of her novels—anyone who reads Amalgamemnon will know instantly CB-R’s poetic credentials are not in question). The contributors run the gamut of critics, scholars, eager readers, and prose writers, and span her entire output from The Languages of Love to Life, End of.

Frances Winkler, our contact in Texas, kindly donated her time to poke around in the Harry Ransom archives, where we unearthed a trove of CB-R delights, including a selection of poems that are included here, and assorted paraphernalia that will appear in a later collection from Verbivoracious.

First author photo

First author photo

The swinging 50s

The swinging 50s

Writing space

Writing space

Retired in France

Retired in France

Further on Brooke-Rose from our contributors:

Natalie Ferris
David Auerbach
Scott Beauchamp
S.D. Stewart
Emily Rhodes
CB-R on Goodreads

Social Media Engaged

Verbivoracious Press has burst from its shell and now has an online presence at the standard networks, where all the vital information about our press and its books will be relayed as and when it happens:

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We intend to engage with readers as much as we can on all these media, rather than spamming with self-congratulatory content, so friend away. Keep an eye on our Goodreads page—friend us there for further chat about our forthcoming titles, links to our favourite reviews, and conversations about the authors we adore.