July 2023

Dorothea Tanning, Chasm: A Weekend
Short novel by surrealist painter that was reworked over a 60-year period. This was a fascinating piece of writing, highly poetic, dream-like, violent, and beautiful.
David Hopkins, Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction
Good overview of these two movements that provides a chronology / acts as a point of departure for getting interested in particular artists.
Anna Watz (ed.), A History of the Surrealist Novel
Both highly useful, with regard to references to Surrealist prose works, but also highly frustrating. Very few of the chapters demonstrate any real learning on the part of the writers but rather mastery of a discourse that allows them to write at length but without depth. That this is the case is most clearly demonstrated by the chapter on Surrealism and Sci-Fi, which, in contrast, is full of genuine learning that must have developed out of (and propelled) extensive research.
Jeffrey H. Jackson, Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defeat the Nazis
Excellent recent book by a historian who provides an account of the resistance campaign carried out against the occupying Germans on the island of Jersey by two French artists, Claude Chacun (Lucy Schwob) and her stepsister/lover Marcel Moore (Suzanne Malherbe). Absolutely fascinating.
Leonora Carrington, Down Below
Carrington's account of an episode of mental illness and her confinement in an asylum in Spain, which include electro-shock therapy. Fascinating for the scale of the delusions she experienced, this book brings together three of my interests: French writing, surrealism, and illness narratives (although I've only got the English translation right now).
Unica Zürn, Dark Spring
A very interesting autobiographical narrative for at least three reasons:
1. It focuses on fantasy as much as reality and their complex interplay.
2. Much of this fantasy informs exploration of a child's sexuality.
3. Brings into focus how the act of writing is able to accommodate this interplay between fantasy and reality. It can be as simple as stating a fact and then negating it in favor of a fantasy that supplants reality.

Marguerite Yourcenar, Coup de Grâce
Short, brutal novel of considerable power. Recalled Lawrence's The Prussian Officer in some respects. Set during the Russian Civil War, it focuses on a triangle between the narrator and an aristocratic brother and sister.
Sir Walter Scott, Waverley
The "first" historical novel, published anonymously. Very rough in parts, but of interest for how few of the devices that Scott later used are present here.
Gunter Grass, Cat and Mouse
Short novel where, as one reads, there appears little justification for the story being narrated, which centers on a teenager, Joachim Mahlke, and the lives of the boys at his school, one feature of which is the time they spend lounging on and exploring a sunken Polish ship just outside Danzig harbor.
William Godwin, Caleb Williams
Excellent Gothic novel from 1794. Reaction video 2023/07/30 (w/ Edgar Huntly)
Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker
One of the first (the first?) Gothic novels to be set almost entirely on the North American continent. Fascinating.

Short Stories
Richard Matheson, The Best of Richard Matheson
Born of Man and Woman
Disturbing short story narrated in an uneducated English by some kind of monstrous offspring kept chained (unsuccessfully) in the cellar of the family home.
Counterfeit Bills
A bored husband builds a machine that duplicates himself, and assigns this duplicate the mundane tasks of a husband while he heads off to bars and brothels. This duplicate becomes bored in turn and a third is made. This goes on until there are several 'counterfeit Bills' wandering the town. These eventually have a fight at the brothel, whose madame trails them home and has the machine blown up. Extremely amusing.
Clark Ashton Smith, Out of Space and Time
The End of the Story
This is fascinating. The setting is France in 1789 and a young scholar visits an abbot, Hilaire, on his way to his betrothed. The abbot shows him the treasures in his library, among which is a short manuscript he warns is cursed. Undeterred, the young man contrives to read the short narrative the manuscript contains, which directs him to an underground passage beneath a ruin famed as a place of evil. Here he passes through several vaults and emerges into sunlight...
The whole effect is something like that of M. R. James's antiquarian ghost stories, though less witty, less erudite.