Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Forster & Salinger

What do E. M. Forster and J. D. Salinger have in common? Not a whole lot, one might think, but there are a few interesting parallels. Both men were new year’s babies, exactly forty years apart: Forster born on January 1, 1879, and Salinger on January 1, 1919. Both men lived to the age of ninety-one, passing away in 1970 and 2010 respectively. For authorial identification, each used his first and middle initials rather than his first name; each achieved major success as a novelist by his early thirties; and each became one of the most celebrated writers of fiction in the English language. And both men famously stopped publishing fiction in their mid-forties—but there the paths diverge, for unlike Salinger, who chose to remove himself from the public sphere, Forster continued to publish nonfiction, including biographies, essays, and frequent book reviews, and became a familiar, rather avuncular figure to the British public as a BBC radio broadcaster. Can you imagine Salinger with his own “book talk” on radio? Well, actually, I can—but in a different time and place, in a different life.

One other interesting parallel: Forster is often said to have “abandoned” fiction in midlife but he didn’t entirely; he went on to write a book’s worth of audacious short stories, he meticulously revised the first few chapters of an unfinished novel, and, most importantly, he continued to fine-tune, on and off for a half century, his novel Maurice, which, like the stories, could not be published in its author’s lifetime due to its homosexual theme. All of these works were left for posthumous publication; their relative merits and appropriate place in the Forster library have been debated, but their significance—to both their author and to those of his readers who cherish them—can’t be denied.

And this, perhaps, will be the most significant parallel with Salinger: works awaiting posthumous publication, likely to be disparaged and argued over and only fully embraced decades after their already long-deferred arrival. So here’s to another new year, another anniversary of the births of these two remarkable writers, another question mark as Salinger devotees continue the seemingly endless wait-and-see.

Image: James Wilby and Hugh Grant in the excellent film adaptation of E. M. Forster's Maurice. Here they contemplate their desperate desire for more books by J. D. Salinger.

For further reading:

More of my thoughts about Forster

My post about the film version of Maurice

A selection of favorite Forster quotations

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

That Hill

by Mark Saba

That hill. What was it about that hill?

It was a hill that made his heart jump, a yellow brick that seemed too bright for cars and busses. Too clean.

Today is a day for a dreamsicle, a quarter in his hand, a walk up the long, long hill up from his grandparents’ house and up to the flatter road, then on to that hill. He doesn’t often walk up that hill; he usually only sees it from the back window of their car.

But today he is walking with his sister Katie and yes they are going to walk up that clean bright hill. At the top there is a movie theater. Halfway up there is an ice cream store. But they will not go there, she says; they will go instead to the top and around the bend. There will be another store and that’s where all the dreamsicles are. He usually doesn’t want a dreamsicle but today he does.

They are going up. He watches the bricks and they are not really as clean as they look from the car window. There is a bit of paper here and there and tired looking grass every few bricks, and big oily spots. But there is ice cream at the top and now ice cream in a big store halfway up and they’re not stopping there.

Katie has a loud voice. Sometimes he thinks it is louder than his mother’s or his grandmother’s. Now it is very loud as she explains to him that they just don’t sell dreamsicles in the big ice cream store. They are passing it anyway and there is the yellow hill beside him.

A wide blue car is coming down, turning into the ice cream store which is really a milk store because Katie just said so. And she can read, or else she pretends to which is what he really thinks. But he doesn’t like to fight with her when there’s something to look at. The road.

But soon he has to think about breathing instead because Katie walks fast. And it’s summer and sometimes in summer you can’t breathe because the air is full of steam.

“Wait.”

They’re already at the top. Come on, come on, says Katie, but no he will stand right there and not talk but breathe.

Below them is the hill now, coming right up to their feet and to Katie’s twisted up face. God will get her for making those faces. Standing above the yellow road which isn’t yellow anymore, but brown or red.

There are hills far back. They are hills against the sky that is faintly blue and the hills gray. A little smoke comes up behind them—between him and the hills comes the yellow road turning brown or red, the old red school, black and gray and green rooftops, busses and streetcars. But he doesn’t see any of this; he only knows he must look at it while Katie pulls him by the shoulder. He will not know or see it for many years. After twenty years he will slowly come to see it, while living in a similar land very far away.

*****

Later they are on the streetcar. He, his sister, and his mother. His mother is sitting quietly the way she usually sits; Katie is asking her things and sometimes she answers Katie. But he has a big seat to himself. He has already looked at all the faces riding with them. Now it is time to look out the window. There are other hills—they go up and down and the streetcar goes back and forth. He doesn’t see the hills; he feels them because the streetcar feels them and he is with the streetcar.

Every single day he wishes he could ride a streetcar. On the streetcar he doesn’t feel like talking. When his mother talks to him he hears her but he doesn’t turn his head; he doesn’t talk. He’d rather say something to the people outside the window, and they can’t hear him.

Some stores go down and then come up again; then he is thrown back a little on the seat and he has to hold on. Sometimes a pigeon flies along with the streetcar; sometimes it is gray and purple or brown and white and one time it was mostly white. That was a good pigeon to see.

Then there is a pizza store with a little green man holding up a big circle pizza, with brown dots on it. Once he saw a big dark sky, and thunder he could hear, and smell. On a hill way out is a line of tall crosses, a place to put people after they die. And there is a place to put fire engines, a place to put a lot of cars, a place where grandfathers go that has dark windows and pink lights like worms, a place where his mother has a friend and they go to visit her.

Balls roll down streets after people lose them. If they are big speckled balls you can see them but if you’re in a streetcar you can’t get them.

Once when the streetcar stops there is a pet store. Now he will tell her he wants a parakeet. Like Lois next door has, but not that color. One that’s blue. He’ll tell her. Not now, after the streetcar ride. He’ll teach it to talk. To say shut up hello I want some pizza and ice cream.

But there is where the doctor is. He doesn’t like the doctor with the cold hands and bald head that gives him shots every week. He smells like new clothes. New clothes are bad to smell and wear. It’s bad to get them new on Christmas morning instead of toys.

There’s the place where all the new cars are parked with big price tags in their windows. New cars are good to smell. Candles are good to smell too and there they are in the window with statues of church people. Church people don’t live, but you can look at them and look at them until their faces shine. And the man with the big voice starts talking all around you. Everyone gets up and sits down and then again.

There’s an older boy on a red bike like he’ll have. He’s going so fast he’s bending down and passing up the streetcar because it stopped. Another grandmother is getting off slow. Nobody is saying anything until she is off and holding a bag hanging down her arm. She is walking away a grandmother like his down the new hill with big ugly toes coming out the front of her shoes like his grandmother’s, who smells good.

It’s okay to close your eyes if the sun feels like it. The streetcar’s going around a bend now with the sun on it.

She wakes him. The streetcar man is waiting for them to get off. He’s not friendly from behind but then he is if he turns around.

The ground feels moving. She has to use his hand to go across the street. Across the street where his father is sitting in the goodsmelling car with candy, waiting.

Copyright 2014 by Mark Saba. All rights reserved. Originally published in the Folio Club’s Drawing Issue (issue number seven) in 2014.

Image: Mark Saba, self-portrait, oil on canvas.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It’s Here... The Folio Club’s Drawing Issue!

For its seventh issue, the Folio Club reverses its usual proportions of text and art, to devote itself to the visual. The Drawing Issue features dozens of stunning black-and-white drawings by a variety of remarkable artists. These include the late American painter Louise Oliver, whose work is accompanied by an affectionately idiosyncratic appreciation by her son, the acclaimed performance artist and storyteller Edgar Oliver; New York actress and artist Regina Bartkoff, whose creepy-but-sweet surreal sensibility floats hauntingly into the issue while her affinity for the work of Louise Oliver inspires a superb prose portrait by Romy Ashby; Bosnian-born Sanya Glisic, marking her second Folio Club appearance with a dazzlingly imaginative set of chess figures; and Belgian cartoonist Max de Radiguès, whose frontispiece provides an irresistible image of the artist at work.

Cover artist Onsmith seals the issue’s identity with a glorious wraparound cover (pictured above) and an unforgettable sequence of drawings on the theme of loss. Short, highly distilled prose pieces by Mark Saba and Robert Pranzatelli bookend the issue with stories that double as considerations of visual perception. All this, and more, awaits readers in this distinctive volume, a literary magazine morphed into something akin to an artist’s book.

READ AN EXCERPT from the new issue, courtesy of the Paris Review. We are honored that the Paris Review chose to present on its blog two excerpts from this issue: Edgar Oliver’s remembrance of his mother, Louise Oliver; and Romy Ashby’s essay on Regina Bartkoff and her love of Louise’s work. The excerpts are accompanied by slideshows of drawings by Louise and Regina, also from this issue.

ABOUT US, in case you’re new here: The Folio Club is a literary magazine founded in 2009 that focuses on short fiction and story-like essays, presented alongside indie comic art. Named for an unfinished satirical sketch by Edgar Allan Poe that depicted a zany, dysfunctional writer’s group, it features a small handful of contributors on a recurring basis and combines underground influences, classic literary values, and indie comic art into a perfectly integrated whole. All issues are currently available in paperback book format, with vibrant, full-color wraparound covers, and can be purchased via Amazon or B&N.com, or requested from your favorite bookstore, online retailer, or library. (Beginning with its second issue, the Folio Club became available to booksellers via book wholesaler Ingram.)

Images, from top to bottom, by Onsmith, Louise Oliver, Regina Bartkoff, and Sanya Glisic.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Coming soon… The Drawing Issue

For its seventh issue, the Folio Club reverses its usual proportions of text and art, to devote itself to the visual. The Drawing Issue features dozens of stunning black-and-white drawings by a variety of remarkable artists.

It will be published in June 2014. More information will be posted here soon.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Pirates & Plans

This blog has been catching up on its beauty sleep for a long while, but the Folio Club continues to post on Facebook and is now in the midst of hatching secret plans for our next issue.

In the meantime, issue six has been generating hugely enthusiastic responses. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do.

Image: Preliminary sketches by Onsmith for the cover of Folio Club issue number six.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Folio Club - Issue Number Six

At long last, and just in time for your holiday shopping, the sixth issue of the Folio Club has arrived, replete with brilliant drawings by Bosnian-born printmaker Sanya Glisic and Folio Club cover artist Onsmith (including a dynamic collaboration between the two that morphs between abstract and representational art); two irresistible essays by Romy Ashby that touch on French subjects in New York; a dreamlike tale in French and English by Robert Pranzatelli; a charming autobiographical story by Mark Saba; and much more.

As you can see from the image above, this issue is wrapped in another great Onsmith original: a delightful depiction of one of the ways stories are made.

(Where to buy? FC6 is already available from Amazon here and will be available from other outlets soon. Better yet, ask you favorite local bookseller for it, and support the indie spirit this holiday season!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Painting a Disappearing Canvas

Readers of the Folio Club are happily familiar with the stories of Mark Saba, which grace each issue. What you may not have learned yet, however, is that Mark is also a noteworthy poet. Now, thanks to Grayson Books, everyone has a chance to find out. The marvelously titled collection Painting a Disappearing Canvas has just been published: its gorgeous cover, seen here, features a painting by the author. (Yes, Mark is also a painter!) Learn more about the book here.