Thursday, May 05, 2005

"The Departure of the Shadow" by Guillaume Apollinaire

A young woman dies and it's all because she lost her shadow. Oh well, her lover was tired of her, anyway. It's easy to label stories such as this modernist and "surrealist" because after all Apollinaire called his work that himself, but there's something of an old-fashioned folk tale, as well, in this short piece translated by Ron Padgett. Read by Scoot.

No, Guillaume Apollinaire wasn't really French, at least by ancestry and birth. (He was really Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris de Kostrowicki, born in Rome, the son of a Polish countess and an Italian-Swiss nobleman.) And no, he didn't steal the Mona Lisa, though the French police once arrested him for that. (It was some other anarchist, wasn't it?) Yes, he did coin the word "surrealism" and had a profound influence as well on the cubist movement. But no, he never publicly admitted he wrote the racy novels that were banned in France until 1970, but, alas, yes, he did die of the flu during the 1918 pandemic, at the age of 38, and so wouldn't have been able to enjoy the profits for long, anyway.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

"The Scotty Who Knew Too Much" by James Thurber

Knowing too much can sometimes be as bad as knowing too little. A small but would-be-tough dog finds that out in this second of our Thurber offerings. Read by Stephen McCauley.

Is Sex Necessary? was James Thurber's first book (written with E. B. White), published in 1929; he continued to write humorous stories for children and adults up until his death in 1961. Incidentally, Thurber was partially blinded by a blow from an arrow shot at him by his brother when they were boys, so always listen to your mother.

Rumor has it that Stephen McCauley is very popular in France. He is owned by a small but very tough dog named Woodles.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

"Leave-taking" by Giorgio Manganelli

Here's our gift to all you graduating seniors (whether it's from high school, college, or the school of hard knocks) out there this month: Before suffering the indignity of birth, a wistful soul addresses his comrades and bids farewell. Both a pastiche of the typical valedictory speech and a metaphysical exercise, this story has an unexpected bitter edge. Read by Scoot.

Though widely known throughout Europe, the Italian Giorgio Manganelli, who died fifteen years ago, is still little-known elsewhere. Noted art critic and translator Henry Martin has recently introduced English-speaking audiences to this author, whose philosophical fiction and critical philosophy and philosophical criticism includes Centuria, a collection of one-hundred "ouroboric novels." (Fortunately, each of these novels is only two pages long.) Long live the difficult avant-garde writer and long live Manganelli!