Sea of Hooks (McPherson & Co) was nominated by Barbara Roether, author of This Earth You’ll Come Back To. In her review of Hill’s unusual novel, Roether writes, “There is a paradox that floats through the Sea of Hooks, which is that the experience of reading it is almost the opposite of how it is written. That is to say, while the story is told in its short collage-like segments, their effect is an almost seamless classical narrative. The way sections move from multiple perspectives, dreamtime, real-time, then meld together with such cohesive and penetrating storytelling, is a testament to the author’s insightful eye for detail and character.”
We can say that Sea of Hooks is a long narrative prose poem, which may be the essence of what it is to be a literary fiction novel.
Continue to Dactyl Review.
Throughout most of our lives, we can ignore our fears about the threat of non-existence that yawns beyond the casket with as much reality as the non-existence out of which we came into our cradles. But when facing death, our own or that of a loved one, we feel compelled to review the idea of after life. Believers ratchet up their beliefs and atheists, like Hal in Jim Snowden’s Dismantle the Sun (Booktrope, 324 pages), hang tough.
According to conventional wisdom, atheists are imaginary creatures. No one (except other atheists) believes they exist, certainly not in the foxhole of impending death. This is why deathbed conversions are expected, even in the most “literary” of end-of-life novels, despite the fact that one of the accepted roles of a literary fiction author is to question how we make sense of our lives. If most novels have the same after-life-affirming answer, I wonder if these novelists are really asking themselves the question, or merely posing it rhetorically for the sake of a denouement. Every deathbed conversion, it seems to me, is another failure to actually question the meaning of life.
Snowden’s courageous refusal to backslide into belief for the sake of an emotionally “satisfying” ending makes him a strong contender for this year’s Dactyl Foundation Award for Literary Fiction (nominated by Paul Xylinides, see review). If the award were given for lack of sentimentality alone, Snowden would win, hands down. The novel is about Hal Nickerson, a high school teacher in Michigan, whose wife Jodie is dying of cancer in the dead of a Great Lake winter. Defending his individuality, Hal largely resents others who try to console him with their own death stories: how accurate was it for them to mix their “pain with Hal’s, as if they and the rest of humanity were manufacturing some sort of agony hash? Surely every death had its own, flavor, its own texture and temperature.”
Continue to Dactyl Review.
In the last two weeks of the year, Dactyl reviewers posted seven excellent reviews of some very fine works of fiction. Thanks to all those who participated in Dactyl Review in 2015.
Sea of Hooks by Lindsay Hill
Posted on December 31, 2015
Lindsay Hill casts a magician’s spell across his Sea of Hooks (McPherson, 348 pages). On the surface his world is rendered in bright pixels of quivering light, while underneath a seamless narrative undercurrent pulls us into the mysterious depths of experience. For the reader willing to dive under, this journey is unforgettable.
Sea of Hooks is, on the one hand, a fiercely original Bildungsroman set in San Francisco in the 50’s and 60’s. Christopher is an overly imaginative boy, part Holden Caulfield and part Little Lame Prince, who lives in precarious affluence in a darkish Victorian on the edge of Pacific Heights. His delicate, high-strung mother is obsessed with Japanese culture and dead by suicide in the first paragraph. Dad works in finance on the Pacific Stock exchange, until he doesn’t anymore. There are prep schools, bridge games, Dickensian neighbors like the wise and wonderful Dr. Thorn; along with house fires, a very nasty tutor/pederast from Stanford, a trip to Bhutan and encounters with Buddhist monks. Hill’s rich prose makes us feel Christopher is someone we have always known, a boy who lives in a house we have been to, whose eccentric mother we’ve had tea with, whose city we are walking in. Continue reading →
This Earth You’ll Come Back To by Barbara Roether
Posted on December 30, 2015
This vivid, lyrical, character and place-based story (McPherson, 250 pages) begins with Rose Healy Koehner’s youngest daughter, Stephanie, searching a rural Ohio cemetery for Rose’s grave in 2008 while the deceased Rose watches from above and embarks on her life’s story told in the first person. The prickly, fondly contentious, mother-daughter relationship is apparent from the start in the underlying current of criticism that Rose levels at her daughter:
“Course you couldn’t find it right away…You should have used the sense God gave you and asked your brother…Why you always insist on making things hard for yourself I’ll never know; but it’s just like you to take a simple errand and turn it into a full-blown crusader pilgrimage.”
Stephanie, the youngest daughter of Rose’s ten children, has returned home after decades of wanderings, having run away at an early age, in part as a result of abuse that her family refused to confront. Continue reading →
Emma Who Saved My Life by Wilton Barnhardt
Posted on December 28, 2015
Every once in a while a reviewer receives a book he puts on the shelf and just wishes it would go away. Emma Who Saved My Life (St Martin’s, 496 pages) is that kind of book.
Cursed with what is arguable the worst title ever given a novel ( and double-cursed with a depressingly ugly dust jacket), it had press releases that touted it with superlatives that would make Gore Vidal blush. It’s in the fist person and has one of those woesome post-adolescent narrators. Worse, it’s a first novel by a guy named Wilton who is at Oxford working on a doctoral thesis about Henry James.
Eventually I opened it and started reading with a promise to break off after the first chapter (or 10 minutes) and go mow the lawn. When I reached Page 75 I realized that I hadn’t been counting either chapters or time but was totally caught up in this stunning, witty story of a young man’s attempt to become a New York actor.Continue reading →
Isaac: A Modern Fable by Ivan G. Goldman
Posted on December 27, 2015
How should we suppose poor Isaac felt — son of a father all-too-willing to sacrifice him at the suggestion of some voice in his head? Christians are wont to overlook the obvious horror and absurdity of the Biblical tale. According to some (less awful) Jewish interpretations of events, it was perhaps Satan, as an agent of God, who spoke to Abraham, which would make more sense to those who imagine God to be not quite so sadistic. Either way though, what kind of man would this traumatized son become? In Isaac: A Modern Fable (Permanent, 223 pages), Ivan G. Goldman has arranged it so that Isaac, after the mishap at the altar, has been granted the gift of eternal youth. The identity of benefactor is not clear; the gift may be from Satan or from Jehovah. Isaac himself has never been able to decide, as his immortality and eternal youth often seem to him like a curse.
Goldman’s Isaac has spent a couple thousand years bouncing around from identity to identity, never amounting to much, despite his miraculous powers of longevity. Continue reading →
Dead Woman Hollow by Kass Fleischer
Posted on December 19, 2015
In these Instagram days it seems any book can find itself tagged a #ForgottenClassic a little more than an hour after its published, and so the best books have to await the time when we find them, just beyond the nearest rise, waiting for us when we get to them. Kass Fleisher’s Dead Woman Hollow (SUNY Excelsior Editions, 194 pages) is one of the latter, a book for the ages, published just short of four years ago as I write, a historical novel in three parts and with two intermezzos, titled “Before” and “After” respectively and perhaps unsurprising. But that’s all that’s unsurprising about this tightly woven, triple-stranded, tragic yet transcendent, even triumphant, ages-of-women chronicle set in the mountains of twentieth century Appalachian Pennsylvania.
It’s a hard book to describe though an easy, and compelling, read. NPR luminary and poet Andrei Codrescu describes it as “tak[ing] its place alongside True Grit, My Antonia, and Deliverance,” a list that will strike the careful observer as taking a bloody turn at the end.Continue reading →
Wanderer Springs by Robert Flynn
Posted on December 13, 2015
Up in that part of state just east of the Cap Rock, south of the Red River and west and north of Wichita Falls is a region of the country the residents continue to call “East Texas,” although, even at 70 mph it is hours from Amarillo, Lubbock or Spur, a half-day from San Angelo and Odessa, and a long, hard, hot day from Ozona or El Paso.
It is a part of the country that rhetorician Jim Cordon once called “terra incognito,” forgotten by most of Texas, ignored by everyone else. It is a hard land, filled with rattlesnakes, mesquite, winters that freeze livestock and people, summers that dry the ground so hard it cracks.
It is an area where sandstorms, “blue northers,” tornadoes, floods, droughts, insects and wild animals are the norm, and where the greatest accomplishment many folks can boast about is their ability to seek prosperity in an environment that is at its best inhospitable and at its worst hostile. Continue reading →
California Rush by Sherwood Kiraly
Posted on December 11, 2015
Ted Williams once said that the hardest thing in the world was to hit a baseball with a bat. The second hardest thing, he continued, was to throw baseball where a batter couldn’t hit it with a bat.
Williams might have added that the third hardest thing to do is to write an original novel about baseball. Oh, it’s been done. But for every home run such as Ron Hays’ The Dixie Association or Ray Kinsella’s Field of Dreams, for every Bull Durham and The Natural, for every book by Ring Lardner, Jim Bouton and Lawrence Ritter, there are volumes of strikeouts. Continue reading →
Dactyl Foundation offers a $1000 award to any literary fiction author, writing in English, who has published a book-length work, novel or collection of short stories. To be considered for the 2016 award, an author must be nominated by a peer, another published literary fiction author who must submit a review of one of the author’s works to Dactyl Review by December 31, 2015.
The Dactyl Foundation Literary Award is designed to encourage authors to work together to promote literary fiction. The way the publishing and awards system is currently organized, too few people are in control of what books become known to the public. Too often the people making the decisions are more interested in the expected market performance of the work than in its literary merits. Dactyl Foundation wants to make it possible for more literary fiction writers to have a voice in deciding which works are recognized as literary. Dactyl Review does not have a staff of reviewers or judges; instead the literary fiction community is called upon to review and judge the works considered for the award.
See more: http://dactylreview.com/2015/11/09/nominate-your-favorite-literary-fiction-author-for-the-1000-dactyl-award/
March 23, 2015
We had many outstanding nominations for 2014 (and several late entries, hence the delay in announcing the award), and we are happy to congratulate Dennis Must for his fine work, Hush Now, Don’t Explain (Coffeetown Press in 2014), for which he will receive a $1000 prize.
In his review, Jack Remick called Hush Now, Don’t Explain, “a unique American novel, written in the language of the heartland before Jesus became a pawn in the political battle for the American soul. It is written in a subdued, subtle, understated lyrical style. It is as rich and diverse as America herself. It is at once a romance complete with trains, whorehouses, steel mills, and the death of the drive-in-movie theater.”
Here is Must:
These colossal land ships (trains) with spoked iron wheels taller than three of us…these were the engines of our dreams…Not like in the Pillar of Fire Tabernacle, where Christ hung on a cross and a single candle flickered under this feet…Everything inside the round house was glistening black, oil-oozing soot, except the hope curling out from under the bellies of those locomotives and their stacks, rising right up to the clerestory windows, then out to the sky and heaven. (109)
Thanks to Jack Remick for contributing the review. For more information about the Dactyl Award click here.
December 23, 2013
In the past three years, Dactyl Foundation has concentrated on developing the literary fiction community, which has dwindled over the past twenty years as publishing houses began to focus on big sellers ignoring the niche market of fine literature.
In 2010, we launched Dactyl Review, a community of literary fiction writers who review literary fiction and nominate works for Dactyl Foundation’s $1000 annual prize. The contest is open to any living literary fiction writer, regardless of date of publication or type of publication. We are especially interested in books that came out some time ago and have not yet received the recognition they deserve.
This year we decided to award two prizes. We are pleased to announce that the first award goes to The Double Life of Alfred Buber by David Schmahmann, published in 2011 by The Permanent Press. The second award goes to Cocoa Almond Darling by Jeffra Hays, self-published in 2011 on Kindle.
Support this worthy project now by becoming a member or renewing your membership. Click here. We’ve got a lot of interesting and important work ahead of us. We can’t do it without you. Thanks in advance for your support. Dactyl Foundation is a 501 c3 organization, and your donation is fully tax-deductible.
For a number of years, publishing has been dominated by commercial fiction. Literary fiction novels and short story collections by small presses or independent authors have little chance of being noticed by reviewers or placed on bookstore shelves. Even the literary fiction written by relatively well-known writers published by big houses has been pushed to the side by pseudo-literary fiction — written and reviewed by those who don’t know the difference between thought and sentimentality, poetry and the use of adjectives — such that the meaning of “literary” is lost. With the way the publishing system is currently organized, books aren’t given much time in front of judges and audiences. Those that don’t make it immediately are tossed in the remaindered bin. A deep pity, as literary fiction is slow-growing and takes time to find its audience. [continue...]
Now you can support Dactyl Foundation’s art-science programs next time you make travel reservations using any one of the major online companies, like Orbitz or Travelocity, or when you make any purchase on Amazon.com. 6% will go to Dactyl Foundation at no extra cost to you. Just use the links below to enter your favorite online site and make your reservation or purchases as you normally would, and Dactyl Foundation will receive a 6% donation. You will see the same low prices as you would if you entered these sites directly.
Next time you make travel reservations online, enter your favorite site through this page Hopetels.com
Next time you’re buying ANYTHING on Amazon.com, enter through this page
The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature, and Nature
We have an exciting conference and art exhibition on mimicry and crypsis planned for fall 2012. Stay tuned for the call for papers. Thanks for supporting Dactyl.
January 1, 2011
Shadowplay (Ellipsis Press, 137 pages) by Norman Lock is the 2010 Dactyl Foundation Literary Fiction Award recipient. A dense fable, mixing magic realism with self-reflexivity….. See Dactyl Review.
NORMAN LOCK is the author of The King of Sweden (Ravenna Press), Shadowplay (Ellipsis Press), A History of the Imagination (FC2), ‘The Book of Supplemental Diagrams’ for Marco Knauff’s Universe (Ravenna Press), The Long Rowing Unto Morning (Ravenna Press), Two Plays for Radio (Triple Press), and–writing as George Belden–Land of the Snow Men (from Calamari Press and in Japanese from Kawade Shobo). Two short-prose collections – Joseph Cornell’s Operas and Émigrés – were published by Elimae Books and subsequently issued, in Turkish, by an Istanbul publisher as part of its New World Writing series. Together with Grim Tales, they were brought out by Triple Press as Trio. Cirque du Calder, a hand-made artist’s book with afterword by Gordon Lish, was presented by The Rogue Literary Society. [continue...]
CLOSED: Awards Are No Longer Offered
Essay Awards Dactyl Foundation offers a $1,000 award for essays on literary theory, aesthetics, or poetics, which are grounded in science. The award is given periodically only when a suitable recipient is found. Awards are determined by the board. We are no longer accepting unsolicited entries. (The award amount was formerly $3,000 1997-2001)
Travel Award & Research Support Dactyl Foundation currently offers partial support (in the form of small cash awards, travel to conferences, and a think tank environment) for several scholars. We provide researchers with the opportunity to invite scientists and artists working in relevant fields to visit Dactyl Foundation in order to consult or collaborate.
“Creative Evolution: A Theory of Cultural Sustainability,”
forthcoming in Communications, Politics and Culture. Dactyl Foundation is please to award Wendy Wheeler this year for her essay which helps to bring the sciences back into the arts.
‘Under the name of something called postmodernism, or of a condition called postmodernity, the idea of the artist as someone possibly doing something special has been derided as romantic [continue...]
2005 Award Recipients for “Osmetic Ontogenesis, or Olfaction Becomes You: The Neurodynamic, Intentional Self and Its Affinities with the Foucaultian/Butlerian Subject,” Configurations 9 (2001): 509-541. Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for Literature and Science. The authors will present at Dactyl Foundation’s Poetics-CogSci Colloquy in September 2005. Walter J. Freeman, UC Berkeley, is a Professor of the Graduate School in Biophysics, Graduate Group in Bioengineering. See The Freeman Laboratory for Nonlinear Neurodynamic. Jennifer Ruth Hosek is a Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley in December 2004, for a dissertation entitled: Cuba and the Germans: A Cultural History of an Infatuation. In addition to work in cultural, gender, postcolonial and film studies, Jennifer is interested in representations of selfhood in scientific and literary texts.
May 19th 2005
Second Annual Spring Fling Benefit for the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning A progressive educational program for elementary school children in the Bronx. Private event featuring passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
David Herman received a travel award for his work in narrative theory
Lisa Zunshine was awarded travel support based on her work on
Why We Read Fiction
My title is inspired by the question that I asked myself about fourteen years ago, when I first came to this country and was going through one of those periods of reading fiction voraciously. It was then that I first started wondering what is this strange craving? Science can explain much of what happens in our brain and the rest of the body when we want to eat, to drink, and to sleep, but what about wanting to read? It can certainly feel as strong as a mild [continue...]
Sharon Lattig received travel awards and research support for her work on
The Perception of Metaphor and the Metaphor of Perception
Within The Prelude’s “Book the First” is nested the epic’s celebrated “boat-stealing episode,” the story of the boy Wordsworth¹s clandestine launch of a shepherd’s skiff discovered on a twilight ramble. This salient passage, in what Wordsworth referred to as a “preparatory poem,” charts what is effectively an archeology of the pathetic fallacy, rooting it in a breach of intentionality, as the term is revised by Walter Freeman to mean the neurological process by [continue...]
Angus Fletcher’s essay “Long Amazing Unprecedented Way,” appears in murmur Vol ii (New York: Donc Alors, 2000) and can be obtained for $10 by writing to email@example.com. The essay is based on a lecture delivered at Dactyl Foundation April 5, 2000 on John Ashbery’s “middle poetry.” More info.
Award Recipient: Dominick LaCapra, “Trauma, Absence, Loss,” in Writing History, Writing Trauma (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ Pr, 2000)
In his essay, “Trauma, Absence, Loss,” Dominick LaCapra shows a sensitive understanding of the subtleties of deconstructive technique, and then, without refuting any of its claims, he advances the next intellectual step that takes us beyond postmodernism and into a [continue...]
Wai Chee Dimock’s essay, “A Theory of Resonance,” which appeared in the October 1997 issue of PMLA, offers the concept of “noise” as a provocative analogy for interpretive contexts. Unlike many other writers on the same topic, Dimock makes the claim that noise is positive, “a necessary feature of a reader’s meaning-making process. [continue...]
In his essay, ”Listening to Pop.” Vincent demonstrates how the lesson of Claes Oldenburg’s work is distorted as it is reinterpreted today. According to the argument, representational art has reinforced the illusion of a knowable, static reality, while at the same time it has always explicitly deconstructed that illusion by its very nature of being artificial. Pop Art attempted to apply this lesson at large, showing how everyday objects should be seen as signs trying to establish an eternal logos. An important lesson indeed. But one that has backfired. As Vincent argues, these everyday objects have come to re-present themselves as signifiers of a signified, reversing Pop Art’s intention. They now “represent” the Mythology of the era in which they were produced. Vincent captures the eeriness involved in such a reinterpretation and reminds us how deeply invested the human race is in its will to believe. Copies of the essay can be obtained for $7 by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: Steven Vincent was murdered in Iraq in 2006 for questioning political practices in a NYTimes Letter to the Editor.