“I was pleased to discover in myself an uncanny knack for interpreting the hermetic language of alchemy, as if my book learning had been but a preparation for decrypting enigmatic texts, reading meaning into that which, on the surface, seemed meaningless.”
So says the unnamed narrator of Charles Davis’ The Pilgrim of Love: a ludibrium, an obsessively researched and elaborately plotted parody of an historical romance. (Parody, as I understand the term, is best written by an author who actually loves his target, but who can put some ironic distance between himself and his subject.) The story is set in the abbey of the legendary Mont Michel in 1621, when the absence of roadway access meant visiting pilgrims had to make their way around quicksand between dangerously unpredictable tides. The landscape always plays an important and often symbolic role in Davis’ novels. The pilgrims must interpret the patterns in the sand to avoid sinking in the lise.
continue to Dactyl Review
The Talkative Corpse by Ann Sterzinger
Review by Frank Marcopolos
Lurking in the shadows of the seedy underbelly of the American heartland are the kinds of people you’re probably scared of. The kinds of people you, perhaps, don’t think of often. The kinds of people who just scrape by, praying for lottery-ticket miracles, and Heavenly rewards, and three consecutive days of tranquility and security. People like John Jaggo.
John Jaggo, of course, is long dead. He did, however, come up with an ingenious way to preserve his thoughts about his rough daily life circa 2011-2012—an electronic diary, unearthed by future geologists-cum-psychologists, which becomes the narrative of The Talkative Corpse (CreateSpace, 192 pages) an intriguing novel by Ann Sterzinger.
Continue to Dactyl Review
Norwich 1144 – A Jew’s Tale by Bill Albert
Review by Charles Davis
In the preface to his latest novel, Norwich 1144 – A Jew’s Tale (Mousehold Press, 256 pages), Bill Albert recalls the encounter that inspired his story:
“I was in a sixteenth century synagogue in Safed, a town 1000 metres above the Sea of Galilee. The rabbi, who looked as if he had been with the building since it was built, asked me where I lived. I told him I lived in Norwich, England. He looked alarmed, and then without missing a beat he turned and spat dryly over his shoulder three times. Having thereby ensured that the Evil Eye was placated, he told me the story of William of Norwich.
“In March, 1144, the body of William, a 13-year old boy, was discovered in Thorpe Wood, near Norwich. His death was blamed on the small community of Jews in the city who were alleged to have killed him as part of a religious ceremony. Mob violence erupted against the Jews. About five years later, Thomas of Monmouth, a monk in the Cathedral Priory, wrote a book that helped to transform William into a local saint. This was the first documented accusation of the ritual murder in Europe of a Christian child by Jews – what was to become known, in somewhat different circumstances, as the Blood Libel.
Continue to Dactyl Review
Dismantle The Sun by Jim Snowden
Review by PaulXylinides
“Someone had to die for Hal Nickerson to live in the house that he and his wife Jodie bought for a song seven years ago.” So begins this dry-toned, cool, and detached novel Dismantle The Sun (Booktrope Editions, 324 pages) with a line and a sentiment that prove to be something of a mantra for its main protagonist and a lynchpin refrain for the narrative arc. In the world of nature — in the world of man — something has to die for something else to live. Some persons — the Nickersons — include this in their ample proof of the non-existence of a beneficent Creator, while others — the fundamentalists — attribute the state of the cosmos to original and ongoing sin. Both take it all very personally. Hal Nickerson’s atheism in conjunction with that of his wife informs all of his sensibility while providing a certain distance from the most basic issues of life and death, love and hatred.
As rational nonbelievers they try to live as much in accord with the laws of nature as they perceive them. Their aforementioned house had been designed in the clean spare fashion of the architects Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright:
“The cold inhumanity of Bauhaus fit well with Lloyd Wright’s desire to build in harmony with nature because Upper Michigan was a frozen despairing waste six months out the year.”
Continue to Dactyl Review.
Save the Date: May 30th 2015
10AM – 5PM Millbrook, NY
“The Millbrook Literary Festival [is] the best possible way to spend a summer day–walking, talking, listening, and thinking about books. It’s great fun…” -Valerie Martin, local author, winner Orange Prize for fiction
Dactyl Foundation is proud to be a sponsor for this year’s festival which will present over 50 timely, thought-provoking, and thoroughly entertaining authors and illustrators participating in panel discussions, readings, and signings throughout the day at the Millbrook Free Library on Franklin Street in Millbrook New York, 80 miles north of NYC, accessible by Metro-North Harlem Valley line. More info. [continue...]
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.
As I begin to write this on January 20, 2015, the news from Buenos Aires isn’t good. Albert Nisman, the federal prosecutor assigned to finally uncover the truth about the 1994 bombing of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association, a Jewish community center, was found dead in his apartment. Nisman was about to reveal a high-level government conspiracy to cover up Iran’s role in the bombing, which killed 85 people. Argentina has long struggled with corruption and politicization of its government institutions, making it almost impossible for the nation to confront its demons—from sheltering Nazis to the 1970s/1980s rounding up and killing of leftists, communists, intellectuals, and Jews who became known as the desaparecidos opposed to the ruling right-wing Junto. The powerful are usually protected.
In the past four years, Dactyl Foundation has concentrated on growing 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.
Award recipients for past years are The Double Life of Alfred Buber by David Schmahmann, Cocoa Almond Darling by Jeffra Hays, and Shadowplay by Norman Lock. Read reviews of nominated works and vote for your favorite on dactylreview.org The final decision and announcement for the 2014 winner will be made early January.
Support this worthy project now by donating $100 or more. There are a lot of great writers out there who need encouragement. 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.
Your friends in art and thought,
Neil Grayson, Director, Visual Arts
Victoria N. Alexander, PhD, Director, Programs for Thought
One after one, exotic characters, each with a miraculous tale to tell, come to visit comatose Rosa and her troubled family in Karen Wyld’s When Rosa Came Home (Amazon, 238 pages). Many of these visitors are circus performers or former circus performers. Some are human, some not. The Ambrosia family home is a remote vineyard and becomes yet another magical character — reacting to and affecting the actions set there. It’s trees and gardens fall into shadows when trouble prevails, and burst with light and life when joy arrives.
Continue to Dactyl Review.
In Vox Populi: A Novel of Everyday Life (Texas Review Press, 211 pages) an unnamed narrator endures various brief encounters with strangers while out on errands—waiting for, paying for, or ordering something. Clay Reynolds must have been keeping a journal for years because his little tales ring true in their preposterousness. Truth is stranger than fiction. It is hard to believe people can be so rude, so tactless, so pushy, so dumb, and yet people are. Usually the unrelated event described in each chapter involves some implausibly insensitive and very loud person disrupting the normal course of humdrum business with performances that are as outrageous as they are unfortunately common. We’ve all have been shocked and appalled to witness such scenes in our own daily lives, and once home we say to our spouses, You’ll never believe what this crazy lady did at the grocery store, etc
Continue to Dactyl Review.
Flight (223 pages, Tramp Press) by Oona Frawley, is a novel set in Ireland, the United States, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe that explores how its characters have been affected by both old-style colonialism and the new colonialism–corporate globalism that began to rise in the 1990s. Themes center on migration and immigration, on feeling homesick and rootless at the same time. It’s about writing letters home, some of which are sent, some of which are kept.
Continure to Dactyl Review.
“This morning I crossed a river on a horse made of lightbulbs.”
That’s just another day (June 4, to be exact) in Bob Schofield’s The Inevitable June (theNewerYork Press, 120 pages), an agreeably strange book structured around an unnamed narrator’s calendar for the month of June. Using text, cartoons and distinctive graphics, it is unclassifiable in terms of genre but it manages to create a self-contained world of its own.
Continue to Dactyl Review.
Tokyo, 1994. Japan is now well into what observers will later call the “lost decade,” a downward spiral triggered by the Japanese central bank’s bursting the speculative bubble of the 1980s. The seemingly inviolable climb of the Japanese economy—and society—has reversed.
Triangle, the 2001 novel by the respected Japanese writer Hisaki Matsuura released in its first English edition by Dalkey Archive Press (233 pages) this month, is an attempt to transform the Japanese downward spiral into a metaphysical thriller. But novels—even literary ones—based on conceptual ideas rarely work.
continue to Dactyl Review.
Liam Howley opens The Absurd Demise of Poulnabrone (Jagged C Press, 344 pages) with an introduction to Cornelius Solitude Conlon, an aging man who, I assumed, was the primary protagonist. In fact, my assumption continued throughout a good portion of the novel, even though the narrative shifted to various other characters as I read along. Nevertheless, as the story progressed, Cornelius became but one piece in the game board that is Poulnabrone.
It is, in fact, Poulnabrone that is the centerpiece of this story. Primary and secondary characters appear on the scene, make an impact, and leave. Some return later on, some never appear again, yet others remain present to weave the fabric of the tale as it is spun along, carrying with them the thread of continuity without overshadowing the main premise. Continue reading on Dactyl Review.
Claire Vaye Watkins writes as if she scratches her stories from the grit and mining detritus of the Nevada desert she grew up in, then transforms the elemental by gathering language as rich and as natural as the sand or minerals found there like an alchemist. The work is as layered as the often brutal human history of the region, a history she both draws upon and to which she will surely add her own narrative. And like the harsh landscapes and histories that everywhere informs these brilliant stories, when you peer long enough, closely enough, at what seems an empty, heartless place, you not only see its unforgiving beauty within the parched hills and among the tailings castaway after decades of exploitation, you also find glitter among the hardscape, the glint of silver and gold. Like the characters in her story collection Battleborn (Riverhead Books, 283 pages), the truths Watkins unearths require strong stomachs and strong wills to digest but reward the reader with sparkling prose, hard but achingly accurate portraits of unforgettable characters, and gemstones of hope among the chaos of despair and interior pain.
Continue to Dactyl Review.
This is 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 and a coming of age novel in which the protagonist emerges from the chrysalis to transform into a singing butterfly.
Continue to Dactyl Review.
Death is always bearing down in Dennis Must’s somber, disquieting novel, The World’s Smallest Bible (Red Hen Press, 232 pages). Death knocks on the window above the bed shared by brothers Ethan and Jeremiah Meuller in the small town of Hebron, in north central Pennsylvania; death is in the hand-me-downs they receive as gifts from the parents of soldiers who have just been killed in World War II; death brews inside their suicidal mother Rose, who has been scorned by their father; death dogs at their Aunt Eva, a stripper at the Elks Club; and death badgers their neighbor, Stanley Cuzack, as he tries to invent a perpetual motion machine. Half suffocating himself, Must’s narrator, Ethan, tries to push himself away .
The boys are about ten and eight when their mother orders the younger Jeremiah back into the children’s bedroom. She’s had it sharing her bed with her son, just another reminder of the man who’s supposed to be there and isn’t. Continue reading on Dactyl Review.
As the twenty-fist century accelerates toward a new low point in modern political history, eighty-five people possess about forty percent of the world’s wealth (that’s not a typo),* second- and third-generation war-terrorized children are born to benumbed, dehumanized parents, and most news reports would probably seem horribly unreal to even Bradbury and Orwell.
Continue to Dactyl Review.
It starts in adolescence. The questions come to you while lying in bed (certainly now with a growing awareness of your sexuality), the walls of your room expanding into endless grainy darkness, as if the room itself could encompass the entire world: why am I here, why is there anything at all?
Continue to Dactyl Review.
January 23, 2014
VN Alexander interviewed on “No Lies Radio” about her new political satire novel Locus Amoenus, politics, Dactyl Foundation, Dactyl Review and the arts generally.
This wry, touching novel, The Grievers (The Permanent Press, 175 pages), takes an intelligent look at the meaning of friendship, a distinctly pertinent topic in an age when “friend” and “unfriend” are ubiquitous verbs referring mostly to people we’ve never met. It’s a novel of ideas that also dares to be funny, a dangerous strategy when so many critics see humor as a crime against literature. After all, doesn’t serious writing demand uncompromising hopelessness and despair?
Continue to Dactyl Review.
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.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
reviewed by Charles Holdefer
Dactyl Review Project
There’s a long tradition of writing about sport that tries to be more than writing about sport. Journalism, it seems, is not enough. The events of a game and the constraints of its rules become raw materials for allegory. Much fuss has been made in recent years about the rise of nonfiction and its power over the popular imagination—but when it comes to sport, the lure of myth remains strong….
Created by and for the literary fiction community. See our latest review Witz by Joshua Cohen. Review by Jeffra Hays.
June 6, 2012
Escher’s Journal by Norman Lock is now available from ravennapress.com.
“I wrote this imaginary journal to explain a genuine interest in Escher’s work and to think as profoundly as I am able about the grand metaphysical notions that spellbind even the most cynical practitioner of the arts in our time: truth and semblance, the finite and the infinite, the temporal and the timeless, natural law and the dictates of unconscious life, dreaming and the creative imagination. (Those of us for whom to write is to consider ideas, playfully more often than not, seem never to tire of these oppositions.) And so Escher’s journal is also mine.” – Norman Lock, from the Afterword
Click on the cover to purchase the book from Amazon and 4-6% of your purchase price (at no additional cost to you) will go to support Dactyl Review.
A new online review of strictly literary fiction, created for and by the literary fiction community. For readers. As literary fiction disappears from the pages of major book reviews, it becomes harder to find good books to read. With tags for style and influence and easy access to excerpts, Dactyl Review is unlike any other fiction review site, helping readers find the particular kinds of “literary fiction” they prefer. Because we’re not a commercial site, we don’t favor the newest books or books by best-selling authors. We publish reviews of only the best literary fiction, older and new, as judged by other literary fiction writers. For writers. Helping to promote and support the kind of work you admire will help build a readership for your own work. Reviewers with the highest percentage of positive feedback will be noted in the top ten reviewers section. Go to dactylreview.org
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.
Dactyl Foundation is pleased to announce the publication of Victoria N. Alexander’s The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature and Nature.
Teleology is like a mistress to the biologist; he dare not be seen with her in public but cannot live without her –J. B. S. Haldane
Drawing on her experiences as a complexity theorist, novelist and art-theorist, Victoria N. Alexander examines the history and practices of teleology, the study of purpose, in nature as well as in human behavior. She takes us “inside” paradoxically purposeful self-organizing entities (which somehow make themselves without having selves yet to do the making), and she shows us how poetic-like relationships—things coincidentally like each other or metaphoric and things coincidentally near each other or metonymic—help form organization where there was none before. She suggests that it is these chance language-like processes that result in emergent design and selfhood, thereby offering an alternative to postmodern theories that have unfairly snubbed the purposeful artist. Alexander claims that what has been missing from the general discussion of purposefulness is a theory of creativity, without which there can be no purposeful action, only robotic execution of inherited design. Thus revising while reviving teleology, she offers us a secular, non-essentialist conception of selfhood as an achievement that can be more than a momentary stay against the second law.
The book includes anecdotes about Dactyl Foundation’s artists and history. All proceeds from book sales will be donated to the foundation to help support educational programs and research in art-science.
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...]
October 31, 2009 6:00-8:00 PM
$10 donation; wine and hors d’oeuvres
Open to all writers and the general public. Uphook Press is currently accepting submissions for their second anthology of poetry. Come read your work, meet the publishers, listen to the current writers of Uphook Press, and celebrate over four years of Dactyl’s open mic series! [continue...]
Wednesday, Sept 24, 2008
POETRY SALON 6:30 – 8:30PM
Featuring Phillis Levin with Ciaran Berry: Poetry Salon
Seating is limited email@example.com, suggested donation $10 [continue...]